The GbB Portland golf tour continues, today taking me to Stone Creek Golf Club in Oregon City. The club is about 20 miles SE of downtown and is easily accessible from the Eastside via I-205. The entrance to the property takes you through a very nice million dollar neighborhood with new homes that you find out border the course. The clubhouse is very modest with a separate facility for weddings and events.
I paid $32 riding on a Tuesday morning, with the walking price a measly $23. There is a narrow but long driving range, a chipping green with bunker and a giant and sadistic putting green. The practice green is Usain Bolt fast, which is nice because the course greens play the same way. The starter is friendly and keeps things in order, offering a couple friendly tips to me as a first timer.
When I stepped on to the 1st tee box, I looked out over the open and “linksy” front 9 and took in the views. The only problem is that there isn’t a whole lot to view from there. Just the course and the back side of some nice houses. This encapsulates the course for me; it’s a tremendous track that uses the land extremely well to create an aesthetically pleasing and tough round of golf. The course is a tale of two nines, the front an open layout with mounds separating the holes, all swarming with dense fescue. The back nine is carved out of a forest, with lots of elevation and lots of uneven lies.
The first six holes didn’t really grab me. They are all pretty straightforward links holes with cupped fairways and lightly bunkered greens, or so-so par 3’s where the real challenge is the undulation in the green. The 7th hole is a short par 4 that is reachable for extremely long hitters who can feed it between the bunkers on the really well protected green. It’s one of those holes where a 4 is just as easy as a 7. The 9th hole bursts into my favorite par 4’s list by virtue of its risk reward setup and clever design. It has a split fairway with the right side elevated and offering the better angle to the green. The left side offers a more direct route with the real chance of driving the green if you can perfectly place your drive about 230 yards out and just in one 10 by 10 yard area that will feed it right towards the hole. The green has a false front with a very deep collection area and small bunker up front to gobble up the grip it and rip it crowd.
The turn offers more of the same for the first two holes, and then, on the par 4 12th (pictured below), the course takes a terrific and surprising turn. I’m going to call it “Ramen Corner”, you know, like a poor mans Amen Corner. Get it? Good, well just pretend I didn’t say that. The 12th hole is a downhill par that feeds right to left off the tee with a ravine and trees ready to eat any drive that goes left of center. The second shot is into a large green that is lateral hazard left, bunkers right and is as receptive as my wife is to my prospective country club membership. The 13th hole requires a lay-up tee shot into a deep valley with a creek about 230 yards out. If you don’t get into trouble from the tee, your second shot is 150 yards away and 150 feet elevated on to a green that had me calling the architect (Peter Jacobsen) an inaudible string of profanities. If you haven’t thrown your clubs in the woods by the 14th tee box, you’re greeted with one of two holes. 14a is a 100 yard par 3 that looks like a rest from the torture of the last two holes. In fact it’s a difficult shot into a very hard green with hazard right and a collection area left that will eat shots even slightly off target. 14b is perpendicular to 14a and is a 130 something yard, uphill par 3 that looks like a much friendlier hole of golf.
With my refusal to play The Reserve, I can’t definitively say Stone Creek is the best public course in Portland. I can say that as far as the layout, it’s just a hair behind Langdon Farms (which is really similar to the first 11 holes actually). Stone Creek gets the edge because of the price. The $45 weekend prime time rate to play this course is a steal. By comparison, Langdon Farms is $59 Monday through Friday at the same time. This is the best golf value in Portland, and with true greens, well manicured fairways and rough and a creative layout that can be navigated when you leave your ego in the bag, it’s a no-brainer that you need to get to Oregon City.
Final Score: 87/100
Design – 20/25 (Two 14th holes are kind of weird, and routing could have been different to blend mix of styles together)
Test of Golf – 23/25 (If you let your brain beat your ego, this is a manageable course that is a blast to play)
Value – 20/20 (If you’re a golf purist, this is the best value in Portland Metro. If customer service and bells and whistles are your thing, you can find better options.)
Condition – 9/10
Amenities – 6/10 (Uphill driving range is dumb, but practice green is the best around.)
Experience – 9/10