Pumpkin Ridge has something for both travelers and residents in the Portland area.
Recently, I hit the road and cruised on up to Portland, Oregon, to play the Ghost Creek course at Pumpkin Ridge. It’s the furthest I’ve ever traveled to play golf, and right from the get-go it was an experience. I set out immediately after work on Friday afternoon, with Led Zeppelin blaring, “Babe, I’m gonna’ leave you.” Anyone who’s driven through Oregon on the I-5 corridor will tell you how beautiful it is, and I will tell you no different. I lost count of how many times the monotony of driving was shattered by breathtaking views of forested hills and mountains that seem to go on to the ends of the Earth.
The Pacific Northwest is one of golf’s finest and most scenic locations in the country. Located in North Plains, about 45 minutes west of Portland, and nestled in the abundant Douglas-Fir forests, Pumpkin Ridge has something for both travelers and residents of the area, housing two 18-hole courses, Ghost Creek for the public, and Witch Hollow for members only. A course that boasts, “Welcome to Pumpkin Ridge, Where Champions Play” as their tagline, they certainly are giving a high caliber impression to visitors even before they set foot on the first tee.
The vast majority of golf courses can be considered “good.” Good courses have their flaws, maybe even too many, but still offer a worthwhile experience. These are courses you usually play, like your home turf, where you get a quick round in after work. Then there are “nice” courses that are a step above. Nice golf courses are the ones you reserve for special outings like birthdays, bachelor parties, business meetings, or a day trip.
And then, there are courses that can’t be topped, only matched. Resorts, country clubs, legendary courses whose name doesn’t even need “golf club” because everyone already knows them. Pumpkin Ridge falls into that category. A young course, not even thirty years old, Pumpkin Ridge has already been host to its fair share of championship events, including the 1996 U.S. Amateur Championship, where a young Tiger Woods won his second of three U.S. Amateur titles.
Case in Point
The pro-shop offers a massive selection of golf product, covering every aspect a golfer could want: apparel, balls, bags, accessories, and even cigars. They also stock the most recognizable brands.
They have Nike for the Rory & Tiger fans, and Oakley for the Bubba Watson enthusiasts. If you’re a golfer who enjoys souvenirs, like me, the pro-shop will leave you breathless. When I arrived, I was greeted by Justin who after ten seconds felt like an old friend as we chatted about the recent Ryder Cup and golf in general. He made my little souvenir dash a great, friendly experience.
Across the hall from the pro-shop is the restaurant, the Champion’s Grille. On the turn, I enjoyed a bacon cheeseburger and fries. Sarah was manning the bar, and greeted me with such enthusiasm and sincerity that I couldn’t help but smile (even after double-bogeying the 9th hole). The burger was expertly cooked to my preference and the French fries were nice and crispy. The entire staff in the restaurant was incredibly helpful.
The real grass driving range was a treat. No mats here (and no archipelago of divots either). Generous and wide open, the range features several color coded flags for players to analyze their golf shots.
The amenities off the course at Ghost Creek are among the best I’ve seen, and I’d match them up against any in the country. But, as any good course should, the actual 18 is where the real value comes in. Stretching a massive 6,357 yards from the blue tees, Ghost Creek winds its way through centuries old forest, often making you forget that you’re within an hour of the largest city in the state, and within fifty miles of 2.25 million people. Each hole is meticulously manicured. Even after a rainy week, the course was in great shape. The fairways are crisp, narrow, and definitely long. Errant shots have a tendency to be claimed by the forest. I made my share of sacrifices to the golf gods.
On the chance that your sacrifice is rejected and you find your ball in the rough, it takes considerable skill to recover. Rough at Ghost Creek is abundant in the forest environment, but each lie in the tall grass has a tough, but makeable recovery shot. The holes of Ghost Creek are the epitome of ‘high risk, high reward.’
The tee boxes are a point of pride for this course. The maintenance crews recognize that for many the tee shot is the strongest part of the game, and therefore they go through great lengths to ensure that each of the four sets of tees are well taken care of.
On the other end of each hole lies the most challenging part of Ghost Creek–the greens. In a word, the greens at Ghost Creek are subtle. They’re well maintained, like the fairways and tee boxes, and certainly are very fast, leaving it up to you to make considerable calculations and adjustments so as not to send your ball into exile on the other side of the putting surface. But their true beauty is their layout. Reading the breaks and hills is a challenge. Several of my putts broke too much, or not enough. It takes a skilled putter and near surgical precision to execute one-putts here. The greens at Ghost Creek are a delight for those who relish the chase of low scores. And, one of the chief reasons I want to go back to Pumpkin Ridge.
I have played maybe a dozen different golf courses, of varying qualities, all around Oregon in my brief golf career, so when I say that Ghost Creek is the nicest I’ve ever played, I’m not sure what that means to reader’s who’ve spent years playing and traveling. What I can tell you is the truth from my heart. Ghost Creek at Pumpkin Ridge was a privilege and a pleasure to play. I don’t say that as a critic trying to score brownie points with the management, but as a pure lover of the game. Not long ago I realized the game of golf saved my life. My round at Ghost Creek taught me why.
Colin Cardwell lives and writes out of Medford, Oregon. He holds a degree in English and History from Southern Oregon University.