Ghost Creek Course at Pumpkin Ridge in North Plains, OR
Tee Time: September 22, 2013, 12:20, 61 F, rain
Designer: Robert E. Cupp (1992)
Playing Partners: Jon Johansen
Tees: Blue, Par 71 (72.1 rating/139 slope/6,386 yards)
Course Handicap: 11 (9.0 index)
Stats: 93 (50-43); 34 putts; 6/13 fairways; 4/18 greens; 6 penalty strokes
Ahh rain. My luck of dry days in the northwest this year finally ran out as autumn began. I guess it’s my fault for tempting mother nature with a round 3 weeks into the NFL season. I’ve gotten frustrated living in the desert; 100 degrees day in and day out gets old after four or so months. You have to golf at the crack of dawn and still drink like a camel just to avoid heat stroke. Even working in the garage or taking the dog on a quick walk gets you sweating enough to need a cold shower. But 18 holes and 4 hours in a steady, 60-degree downpour?
Within one hole your hands are pruney. After the fourth, your towel is useless. Tee shots turn into knuckleballs as the film of water on both the ball and club face send drives all over the course. Phil Niekro would be happy, but it’s not as pretty on a golf course. And then there’s that miserable feeling that comes with being drenched. Your sleeves get heavy and immobile. Your socks squish with every step as puddles slosh inside your shoes. And your ass is soaked to the bone from sitting on a rain-covered seat after every shot. I guess I know why cats hate water so much. It’s definitely worth playing in the rain every once in a while though. I still like rain better than high winds. Club up a little, keep a steady supply of towels on hand and invest in some Gore-Tex. At least the round goes quicker. The heavier the rain, the emptier the course. And if the restaurant’s open, a delicious hot chocolate is waiting in all its foamy goodness.
It’s gonna be tough to write a fair review of Ghost Creek at Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club in North Plains, Oregon about a 45-minute drive west from Portland. Even under a few inches of rain and low, dark clouds, I could clearly see this is a high-end spot for golf. There are two sets of 18 here. Ghost Creek is the layout I played, and that has hosted events such as the LPGA Safeway Classic, US Amateur and US Women’s open. There is also a private course, Witch Hollow. The setting is amazing. It’s a quick drive out of the city of Portland and immediately feels like somewhere hundreds of miles away. Driving through farmland and past rustic barns, the course shines through the trees and agriculture like the Field of Dreams.
Elevation changes are prevalent and can make holes play longer or much shorter. The 205-yard 5th plays uphill over sand and is longer than the yardage, for example, while the 219-yard 14th is downhill and to a massive green. Of course, with the rain, anything over 200 yards was basically unreachable. Most of the par 4s play around 400 yards, with various doglegs and slopes to keep everything interesting. The layout is pretty open, and it is a great setup for tournament crowds. Coming down through the home stretch, there is a lot of opportunity for drama in those events. Water becomes prevalent beginning the the par-4 9th, a brutal 443-yard hole with a creek running through the landing zone and water all along the left. It is a beautiful creek, with polished river rock and a gentle murmur that sounded even more peaceful with the heavy patter of raindrops on the grass.
Oregon has quickly become known as a destination for great golf. Bandon Dunes and Pronghorn come to mind, but they range from 3 to 6 hours away from PDX, the closest major airport. For a quick trip, it doesn’t get any better than Pumpkin Ridge. There is spectacular scenery. Even in this heavy northwest storm, the early colors of fall began to show. Pumpkin Ridge must turn into a kaleidoscope of yellows, oranges and reds when pumpkin season rolls around. The layout is varied and challenging, but not brutal, even with the waters rising to such levels that I think I saw someone loading two of every animal onto his ark at point. If I can ever make it back out here on a dry day, I will have more details. I spent most of my time focused on keeping my grip on the golf club and chasing my ball to really remember every hole. I wish I had, because what I do remember is pretty sweet. Also, it was a nice surprise to see Jon again after all these years since my Portland Beavers days. I’m glad someone was willing to brave the rain, too. It was a fun experience.
#18 , Par 4, 428 yards, 4-handicap, My Score: 5
Layout: A-; a nice mix of doglegs, uphill and downhill, and a variety of greens. Some were large and relatively flat, while a couple others were smaller and had some more break to them.
Amenities: C+; there is a small restaurant with good food selection. But somehow they ran out of towels in the carts. There were only 4 to last us the entire round.
Staff: B; the staff is helpful and knowledgable, but it was easy to see they really wanted to just go home on this rainy day. I don’t really blame them, I hated working shifts on rainy days at Round Hill.
Difficulty: C+; it won’t rain every day of the year (just 300 of them…) so that won’t be a major factor. Aside from that, there are spots where the course can get tight, but overall didn’t appear to be too difficult.
Scenery: A-; all the trees, creeks and lakes, along with the calm atmosphere from being so far from any major highways or cities makes for a fun place to play.
Value: C+; it’s $68 for a round, which isn’t too bad, though a weather discount would be nice. Worse is that cart rentals are $18 a person. It’s not a tough course to walk, but since I left my galoshes at home a cart was necessary.
Overall GPA: 2.88 (B-); I think I can confidently say there is not a better course within 3 hours in any direction of Pumpkin Ridge, which is pretty impressive.