BURNS, Ore. - The Craddock course at The Retreat & Links at Silvies Valley Ranch comes from the mad-scientist mind of Dan Hixson, the Oregon-based architect best known for his work at Bandon Crossings Golf Course near the coast.
In 2010, while designing a course for Dr. Scott Campbell on his 140,000-acre working cattle/goat ranch in remote eastern Oregon, Hixson tossed out the idea of making a section of the course 'reversible'. Hearing how the Old course at St. Andrews can be played forward and backward, Campbell suggested making the whole thing reversible. The second routing, the 7,035-yard, par-72 Craddock course, was born in tandem with the original routing, the 7,075-yard, par-73 Hankins course.
It took seven years, but with July's soft opening, the duo now anchor golf's newest resort, located three hours from Roberts Field, the Redmond Municipal Airport near Bend. Silvies Valley Ranch has piqued the curiosity of golfers everywhere, much like another new reversible routing, Tom Doak's Red and Black courses of The Loop at Forest Dunes Golf Club in northern Michigan. While Doak's site was dead flat, Hixson used 27 greens, nine shared and nine new ones on each course, to complete the feat on rolling land with elevation changes upwards of 100-plus feet.
Hixson preferred to keep a rugged feel, so the bunker sand is what was found on the property. It's got more of a dirty look and heavier texture, details that might bother some country club stiffs. To lighten the mood, every hand-made bunker rake is adorned with whimsical messages such as "Yeehaw", "Need a Drink?" and "Sand sucks". There's even one with a four-letter word out there somewhere.
The Craddock course plays more difficult than the Hankins. It's got more bunkers in play near the greens, one more wetland hazard (to the left of the 18th fairway), one less par 5, fewer downhill tee shots and two more 420-yard-plus par 4s (grey tees) than the Hankins, all of which thwart scoring opportunities. But it also might have the most fun hole on property, the 260-yard seventh, a downhill hole I'm designating a "drivable" par 3.
More grow-in time will help certain fairways, although the greens already putt nice. The long-range views of the Oregon frontier covered in sagebrush and ponderosa pines last for miles, both from the courses and the "Hideout at the Links", a clubhouse sitting atop a hill overlooking the nine-hole Chief Egan par-3 course. Guests receive their own golf carts to make the short drive from the main hub of the resort to the courses, the range and another seven-hole short course, McVeigh's Gauntlet, that will open next year.
The resort's epicenter surrounds Otter Lake. Its new log cabin are anything but rustic, plush with bedroom sky lights, copper bathroom sinks, spacious rain showers and more. The main Lodge, home to a Saloon adjacent to a grand dining hall, is decorated with antler chandeliers, Old West paintings and a chuck wagon. More cabins will open soon with the spa and fitness center scheduled to debut in 2018. A fire pit near the lake beckons guests to gather after feasts of premier cuts of beef and Chevon goat meat for incredible stargazing and after-dinner drinks served from another wagon.
Cue the catchy tune, because golf's new "Home on the Range" is unlike anything most players have ever seen, a place where cowboy boots are just as welcome as Footjoys.
Staff rating of the Craddock Course: Review by Jason Scott Deegan