In the early part of the 20th century, Portland boasted more golf holes per capita than any other city in the nation. (A caffeine capital, it currently boasts the most double lattes.) In recent decades, population has outstripped course development as folks have been drawn to the laid-back lifestyle, multitude of outdoor sports, and high livability of what is variously known as the Rose City, River City, and Puddletown. But golf around Portland is still accessible and excellent, especially since a construction boom during the 1990s brought a handful of great courses on line. Orgiasts can mix a cocktail of old classic designs with sparkling new venues, easily play 36 holes a day in the late light of summer, and then relax in — or outside of — a lovely, quirky city bustling with microbreweries, coffee houses, tasty ethnic dining, homegrown music, and the world’s largest bookstore (Powell’s).
Portland’s golf courses are always lush and green from the ample rainfall, but summer weather is reliably sunny and warm. Autumn delivers crisp days, changing leaves, and often plenty of sunshine through October. In winter and early spring, locals slog around the fairways in knee-high clamming boots fit with golf spikes. Bring plenty of Gore-Tex outerwear if you visit between November and May. Better still, go in summer.
WHERE TO PLAY
Pumpkin Ridge (Ghost Creek) (888-594-4653). A world-class layout even before Tiger won his third Amateur title here, Ghost Creek harkened the start of upscale public golf in Northwest. On numerous holes, a mysterious stream gobbles golf balls like Halloween candy. But Bob Cupp’s well-groomed treat is still worth the scary price.
Heron Lakes (503-289-1818). Facility’s Great Blue Course is Robert Trent Jones Jr.’s unflappably challenging links-style course laid out in riverside lowlands with views of Mt. Hood. The three watery finishing holes alone would be worth the $35 green fee. Recently hosted the U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship.
Langdon Farms (503-678-4653). John Fought and Bob Cupp partnered on this farm-themed layout 15 miles south of city. Langdon plows through a pastoral Willamette Valley setting with recessed fairways that run like canyons between high grassy mounds.
Oregon Golf Association Members Course at Tukwila (503-981-6105). This Bill Robinson design — opened in 1996 — boasts a great variety of holes, a couple of reachable par fives, a huge double green, and some of the finest putting surfaces in the region.
The Reserve Vineyards & Golf Club (503-649-2345). Two distinctive designs at a club with a wine-maker theme: longer, tougher Fought Course (7,196 yards, 134 slope) is the bold Cabernet with more than 100 bunkers; Cupp Course — like a crisp Chardonnay — is open and linksy, but sly.
Persimmon Country Club (503-661-1800). Formerly private club 25 miles east of Portland attracts players with its fast greens, rugged terrain, and stellar mountain views.
THE SECOND TIER
Eastmoreland (503-775-2900). Classic 1921 Chandler Egan layout is entwined with Crystal Springs Rhododendron Gardens. Walter Hagen said par-five 13th, with a ravine and huge green-fronting swale, was one of the best holes he ever played.
Heron Lakes (503-289-1818). The 6,608-yard Greenback Course is a typical early Trent Jones Jr. design with elevated, bunker-framed greens, a handful of forced carries, and an easygoing demeanor.
Forest Hills (503-357-3347). Built in 1927/1950, the two nines duck between giant firs and play beside fruit and nut orchards. Many holes end at steeply elevated greens; all carry Scottish names.
Quail Valley (503-324-4444). Designed by John Zoller, this short, wind-blown layout in the shadow of the Oregon Coast Range places a premium on accuracy.
BEST OF THE REST
Glendoveer (503-253-7507). East and West courses, built in 1920s, are short and easy, but lined by hugely impressive trees. Small greens.
Red Tail (503-646-5166). Formerly Progress Downs and one of the nation’s busiest munis, Red Tail reopened last summer after a total redesign.
Rose City (503-253-4744) Local octogenarians’ favorite, built on former Rose City Speedway in 1921; just don’t expect a speedy round on this muni.
Broadmoor (503-281-1337). Several big elevation changes on wetlands course close to airport and industrial zone. Beware the “Lake of Despond” on ninth hole.
WHERE TO EAT
Upscale restaurants such as Wildwood and Lucy’s Table attract diners to the trendy Northwest district. Typhoon serves up the most varied and creative Thai menu this side of Bangkok. Pazzo in the Governor Hotel and Assagio in Westmoreland pile perfect pasta in warm, festive surroundings. Jake’s Crawfish House has been purveying fresh fish and exemplary service for 100 years. Hot Lips Pizza proffers highly original pies made with local, organic ingredients. Clay’s Smokehouse turns out the best ribs in town.
The McMenamin brothers are famous for their string of microbreweries in combination with vintage movie theaters (Mission Theater, Bagdad Theater), concert venues (Crystal Ballroom), and unique hotels. (The Kennedy School is actually in a converted grade school; check out the “Detention Room” cigar bar.) Their Edgefield complex even has a short “pub course” where you can stop at cozy bars between golf holes. Open-air concerts occur in Tom McCall Waterfront Park and at Oregon Zoo. ComedySportz pitches fast improv comedy on weekends.
Made In Oregon shops (there’s one located at the airport for emergency purchases) sell smoked salmon, Pendleton blankets and woolen products, other local specialties. Downtown Portland houses Columbia Sportswear’s flagship store. Shop for antiques in the quaint Sellwood district, pick up a bottle of pear brandy from Clear Creek Distillery, or peruse 250 booths for original crafts at Portland Saturday Market.
Motor through Columbia Gorge National Scenic Area to Multnomah Falls, 35 miles west. Hoof it to top of falls and then recover your strength with huckleberry pie in lodge. Portland’s Washington Park is abloom with roses in summer, has a tranquil Japanese Garden, and owns the best views over downtown with Mt. Hood in distance. Mount Tabor Park is an old volcano cone grown over with huge, lovely firs. Rent a bike at Fat Tire Farm and cruise Forest Park’s trails.
The Heathman (800-551-0011). Elegant old Portland favorite features original artwork by regional painters, French-accented Heathman Restaurant, tea court. Evening jazz in lobby lounge. Call for current rates.
Paramount Hotel (800-426-0670). New European-style hostelry in heart of downtown offers summer specials. Call for current rates.
Silver Cloud Inn (800-205-6939). Nice budget hotel in Northwest district with easy freeway access. Call for current rates.