If you're an avid golfer, you probably know the hotspots of the sport in the U.S.: Scottsdale, Arizona; Florida; and Southern California. But what about Oregon? If you've never considered a trip to America's beautiful Northwest, it's time to think about Pronghorn.
Located in Bend, Oregon, Pronghorn Club and Resort is one of those legendary places that offers up everything a golf fanatic could ask for. The resort, recently purchased by the Auberge Resorts group, owners of the renowned Inn at Palmetto Bluff in South Carolina and Auberge du Soliel in the Napa Valley, was already an award-winning luxury destination; now, with the new ownership, it can only get even better.
Auberge is sure to ramp up the service, amenities, and dining experiences offered at the 48-suite luxury lodge and spa or in the villas available for rent, but there's little they have to improve when it comes to Pronghorn's two world-class courses and state-of-the-art golf school.
The area of central Oregon around Bend offers a high-desert landscape. It is located to the east of the Cascade Mountain range, where Ponderosa pine forests give way to sagebrush and junipers. That climate makes for excellent golfing weather (although December through February might be on the chilly side), as the resort boasts of 300 days of sunshine a year
Both the Jack Nicklaus Signature Course and the Tom Fazio Course have been receiving high praise since they opened in 2006, including top rankings from Golf Digest, Travel + Leisure Golf, and Golfweek. When you step out onto either one, you'll immediately see why. Just the stone-and-timber clubhouse is impressive, but the impeccably maintained courses are truly a sight to see.
The Nicklaus course is a beautifully designed, par-72 links course, with just enough water, sand, and forest to challenge the best player. Landscaped greens are juxtaposed with the high chaparral desert, making it a slightly wild and incredibly scenic place that will test every aspect of your game. With a predominance of par 4 and 5 holes, some with over 620 yards of ground to cover, and fast greens that may bedevil your short game, it is definitely a place where you'll have to bring your A game. And look out for the 13th hole, where a massive lake looks gorgeous but just might eat a few balls.
The Fazio course is the real bear at Pronghorn. Once reserved only for members of the club (and owners of the homes that are also part of the resort), nowadays, packages are available that allow visitors to take on this beauty. Also a par-72 course, this one utilizes another element of this amazing part of the world -- the extinct Newberry Volcano offers up ancient lava rocks and even a lava tube as part of the course. The Newberry National Volcanic Monument is nearby and definitely worth a visit if you want to see some incredible rock and lava formations.
But you don't have to go far to end up in a lava tube. Fazio cleverly included two on the par-3 eighth hole of his Pronghorn course. That hole is a unique experience, as it also plays across a 45-foot-deep canyon, with those tubes on both sides. It's worth a climb down to see the caves the tubes have formed, even if your ball has made it safely onto the fairway beyond.
Fazio's course is seriously challenging, with plenty of elevation changes, water features, and bunkers to test your skills. Even the greens will keep you on your toes, as some are wide and sloping, while others are smaller, with fast grass that balls skim quickly across; they may add a stroke or two to your score.
And the best thing about Pronghorn Resort is that between rounds, you can head over to the Troon Golf Academy, where top teacher Tim Mahoney has created an experience that is sure to improve your game. They'll first take a physical assessment of your body, then take you into the Coaching Studio for a video analysis of your swing. There's also a putting lab, where your short-game stroke is assessed. Once your good and bad habits are pinpointed, the instructors give hands-on advice for specific improvements to your overall game. It's a fascinating experience and one that should help shave strokes off your final score, making a visit to Pronghorn a practically perfect golf vacation.