By Jim • 

Sports Fan: What are the best golf courses you've ever played?

Now, in my definition of "best courses," that could mean not only the highest quality courses but also the most fun tracks. Or maybe the ones with the greatest challenges, full of doglegs, strategically-place sand traps, narrow fairways, or what have you. Or, on the other hand, courses that are user-friendly for even the higher handicapper, like 20 and above.

I've played a few of those courses in the latter category, but it seems that I often make a relatively-open, short-yardage venue raise up its ugly head to become a monster, like my former home course of Cedar Bend, located north of Gold Beach on the southern Oregon coast. It's not long, there's currently only one sand trap and, for the most part, the fairways are generously wide.

However, with the ever-present creek that winds through the property, tall trees that separate the fairways and a few ditches that front greens, I've ended up with scores just like I posted at Bandon or Pacific Dunes, courses that are much longer and should be far more difficult because of the gorse and high grass that gobbles errant hits.

Of the first two courses constructed at the Bandon Dunes Resort, I prefer Bandon Dunes itself although I like some of the holes on Pacific Dunes that really challenge approach shots. On some of those holes, it's "high-and-soft" or immediate penalties since deep sand traps line almost the entire green. While I enjoy the challenges, I don't enjoy the occasional snowman, or eight, when it takes me three tries to evacuate my ball from a trap with steep lips.

But two of my favorite courses, at least in Oregon, are located in Florence. Sandpines is probably the most popular, but I enjoy the tightness of Ocean Dunes, too. Neither, however, has a view of the Pacific, which is commonplace at most of the Bandon courses. But at Sandpines, there's sufficient water to demand accuracy... accuracy with the right club since the wind does blow off the ocean at times. I've several times teed up on number 17 and realized that the wind is coming over the dunes at about 30 miles per hour.

Often, I've had to aim my drive 30 feet over the water, then watch the ball drift to the east to fall softly on the green. If the wind quits after the tee shot, though, it's dunk-time.

Just inland a few miles from Sandpines is Ocean Dunes, which offers players a great deal of variety. I especially like the hole that is fronted by a canyon; that's a real visual challenge unless you pretend the abyss is only a figment of the imagination. I also enjoy the par three where the tee box is situated high on a hill; here again, you have to know exactly how far you hit your irons, then hit the ball squarely.

In the Bend area, I like four courses, which are all a little different: Lost Tracks, Aspen Lakes, Widgi Creek and River's Edge come to mind. Most of these aren't real expensive to play, and for my game, they offer plenty of challenges. I have to admit I haven't played the Sunriver courses, but I have played all the tracks at Eagle Crest, including the par three course.

Another favorite is Salmon Run, located up the Chetco River just southeast of Brookings, Oregon. The problem is, I can't get any of my golf buddies to join me there because of the narrow fairways. The facility is tucked away in a pretty valley, and most days during the spring, summer and early fall, the temperatures are 10 degrees warmer, with very little wind.

I also like Bandon Crossings, located south of Bandon. The greens are excellent, and the wind doesn't blow as hard as it does at the Bandon Dunes Resort courses. Plus, it's much more user-friendly when it comes to fees.

So, those are some of my favorite courses, maybe not the "best" in all cases, but ones that I enjoy: now, what are your "best" or favorite courses, especially in Oregon?

Note: I've never played Michelbook, but I have played Bayou in the McMinnville area and enjoy that nine-hole venue. Now, if some member would invite me to play Michelbook, I'd have a hard time saying no.

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