Date Played: June 2014
When people think of Oregon golf, Portland often comes up as “that play you have to fly into” to get to Bandon or Bend. However, it was not that long ago, in 1992, when the Bob Cupp designed 36 hole complex dubbed Pumpkin Ridge opened to much fanfare. It’s somewhat overlooked 22 years later, but at the time it was a major revelation for the regions golf scene.
The USGA immediately fell in love with the complex, awarding the 1996 U.S. Amateur, the 1997 and 2003 U.S. Women’s Opens and the 2000 U.S. Girls and Boys Junior Amateur Championships. WIthin just 11 years of it’s opening, Pumpkin Ridge was one of the elite golf complexes in America. And while the hype has cooled since then, the course has not.
Witch Hollow is the longer, tougher private side of the facility. Clocking in at over 7000 yards, with a rating of 75.2/143 from the tips, this beast will host a new event on the Web.com Tour in the form of the Winco Foods PDX Open. When you arrive at the facility, you immediately see the history adorning the walls. Pictures of Tiger Woods winning his historic 3rd straight U.S. Amateur and Hillary Lunke becoming one of the biggest underdogs to ever win a Women’s major.
The clubhouse is fantastic, but setting out on the course is the real test here, and Witch Hollow does not disappoint.
The course terrain is more akin to the plains of the midwest than to that of it’s home in Cascadia. Elevation is very modest, but used well to create dramatic and difficult shots. Trees can be found lining the entirely of the complex, but for the most part they are not a threat to gobble up balls. They do however act as proper punishment if you are careless with your driver.
The best holes on the course are the par 5 18th and the par 4 8th. The 18th, which Nancy Lopez has called “her favorite hole on the planet”, is fairly short at only 445 yards from the back tee. What makes it so hard is the position of the shots. The landing area for drives slopes from left to right, and getting it to “reachable” range requires you to sacrifice your preferred angle to the green. The green complex is small, slender and hard sloping from right to left. Shots from the collection area to the low left side of the green require a deft touch in order to recover.
The short par 4 8th hole is great for two reasons. First and foremost, it is a welcome break between the very long and demanding par 5 7th and par 4 9th holes. Secondly, the short hole offers great risk/reward options from tee to green. The fairway is fairly straight, with bunkers right that can be flown about 280 yards and bunkers left that jettison into the fairway at about 300 yards to protect that vulnerable right bunker. If you find the fairway, you’ll surely have a wedge in hand for a short approach to a back to front sloping green with a massive ridge dissecting the right and left portions. Shots long have little hope of par with such severe slopes, while chips from the front edge can be made due to the aggressive lines an uphill line can yield.
The entire course is very well routed and is replayable and enjoyable due to the dramatic approaches on nearly every hole. The practice facilities are top notch, with a double sided driving range that lets you tee off towards the plebs over at the public Ghost Creek side, as well as 2 putting greens and a large chipping green with practice bunker. Final Score 86/100
Bottom Line: While it’s not quite as thrilling or beautiful as Chambers Bay, and it doesn’t require quite the variety of a Tetherow or Gamble Sands, it’s a fantastic course in it’s own right and it deservedly finds itself in the pantheon of great Northwest golf courses. If you ever find a chance to play this course, jump at the chance. If you can’t, go check out the public side, Ghost Creek, which offers a similar course and is 100% accessible. Final Score: 86/100
Design – 23/25 – A fantastic routing with dramatic and demanding shots from tee to green. Very walkable.
Test of Golf – 23/25 – It can be a little unfair at points. It could use some tree removal, which would remove some of the bad breaks, but all in all it’s a very fair sort of hard.
Value – 13/20 – Very private and very swanky. According to Wikipedia, membership costs in 1992 were $37,500…that’s a lot. That said, if you’ve got it, there is no better place to spend it in Portland.
Condition – 9/10 – Very mature turf, thick rough and healthy greens. Reports are always great for conditions on Witch Hollow.
Amenities – 9/10 – 36 holes total. 2 putting greens, a chipping green with bunker, a restaurant/clubhouse and pro-shop specifically for Witch Hollow.
Experience – 9/10 – Amazing staff, amazing course, amazing time.