Date Played: February 19th, 2013
After a roller coaster of experiences at The Reserve, I got a chance to finally play the North Course of the property. The South Course, which is generally considered the tougher of the two tracks, is a polar opposite in terms of design from the North. The North Course is a Bob Cupp designed, links style layout with some real character. Bob Cupp has some nice courses in the Northwest, including both Newcastle tracks, Crosswater (Sunriver, OR) and Langdon Farms, which he designed with South Course architect John Fought. This course is similar in a lot of ways with the courses listed above, but some quirky wrinkles help separate this one from the rest.
The first thing you notice about the course is the links styling. Fescue covered mounds separate the holes and close cut collection area offer options to putt off almost every green. The front 9 plays pretty long for they lay man at 3340, but most of the greens are pretty receptive and the wide fairways offer a chance to go at a lot of pins. There were a few holes that stuck with me, notably the par 3 3rd hole, which is a 150 yarder over water with a backstop that you can really spin it on for tight pin positions. There are two similar par 4’s in the 290 yard 7th and the 325 yard 13th. They both dogleg sharply left, and while the 7th offers woods left of the green the challenge on the 13th is that the shot in is blind due to a 15 foot mound that surrounds the front of a tiny green. While I wasn’t totally enamored with the course as a whole, that 13th is one of the cooler holes I’ve seen as you need to land your approach (which should be nice and short) on the number to avoid spilling down in to the collection area long of the green.
There are only two gripes I have about this place, but they are pretty significant problems. First off, this course does not drain well. I found myself taking huge divots and finding plugged lies throughout the course. It had been dry for the better part of two days, so while I wasn’t expecting desert conditions, it was sloppier than average. The second problem is the rough. While the grounds crew does a fantastic job with the tee boxes, fairways and greens (certainly top 3 greens in the area), the rough is extremely lumpy and has a ton of holes which are an inch or two deep. Whenever I was in the rough, it seemed like I was in one of these holes which makes any sort of decent ball striking impossible. Rough should be penal, but this was ridiculous.
All in all I was a fan. I started out swearing I would never golf here, and ended my experience actually enjoying myself. The whole scene is a bit too hoity-toity for me, but if you’re into the high-end golf experience, not many places do it better in Portland. I’m not sure the price is worth it, as your cheapest winter green fees are $45 walking, and a bag of balls is another $6. The bottom line is that if you’re looking to get snazzy and be seen, impress clients or join a club; I’m not sure there is a better option in Portland. If you just want to play good golf on the cheap, I think Stone Creek is a better choice. Final Score: 46/60
Design – 8/10
Test of Golf – 7/10
Condition – 7/10
Amenities – 10/10
Value – 7/10
Experience – 7/10