SISTERS, Ore. -- The signature of Aspen Lakes Golf Club's architect isn't going to be splashed across its scorecard in bold font or on stone plaques around the golf course.
That's because unless you're familiar with the many golf courses of the Pacific Northwest, you've probably never heard of him. But that's not a bad thing.
The layout is in fact a William Overdorf design, known for a few courses regionally but none of national fame. However, the land owners, the Cyrus family, constructed the course, beginning with the first nine holes in 1997 and later completing the 18 in 2000.
Aspen Lakes has become a successful answer to the name-brand golf course designer who builds showy courses but usually demands a high fee, which of course gets passed on to the golfer.
Not here. Aspen Lakes is a real bargain and a knockout golf course in central Oregon, located in the village of Sisters, just around the corner from Bend.
What's remarkable about the course is that the Cyrus family had little-to-no golf experience - other than the idea they wanted to build a course.
"No one in my family golfs, except for myself, and that wasn't until after the course was built," notes Grant Cyrus, now general manager at Aspen Lakes.
They even used a unique reddish sand, comprising crushed volcanic cinder, found on the property, which has now become one of the course's signatures. Upon first inspection, golfers may tread into this foreign soil like its molten lava, but in fact it's not all that different from the sand on your home course.
What visitors to Aspen Lakes will discover is a layout with fantastic hole variety, good conditions and futuristic GPS systems in its golf carts, complete with pre-hole fly-overs and pro tips.
Each hole looks widely different from the next on every tee box. Play this course just one time and you'll still remember plenty of holes months later.
This includes, bar-none, one of the friendliest opening holes around. It's just a short par 4 at 378 yards from the championship tees. From about 270 yards, it trickles downhill toward the green. Hit a decent drive, and the ball will roll all the way down to the front fringe.
It's the perfect early round confidence booster, without being straight and boring.
The 18th is the exact opposite, a long, dog-legging par 5 with a tight fairway guarded by a cluster of traps on the right and a shallow, difficult to hit green. You may not even notice the hole, however, thanks to the gorgeous Sisters Mountains in the background.
Aspen Lakes Golf Club: The verdict
Aspen Lakes, though somewhat under the radar compared to these nationally acclaimed courses, succeeds brilliantly in a more low-key way. There is a lot of variety and several stand-out holes. And you're not going to play a more pleasant opener, especially if you're a right-to-left ball flight.
It's become a favorite of local Sisters residents, and the new clubhouse restaurant has become a local favorite for post-church brunch on Sundays.
Aspen Lakes is also a great bargain. Peak season fees are $60-$75 plus cart.
Sisters, Oregon hotels
Just down the road from Aspen Lakes is the Five Pines Lodge (866-974-5900, FivePinesLodge.com), a small, classic-feeling lodge with spacious rooms complete with modern amenities and unique touches. Kohler water fixtures highlight the bathrooms, and bathtubs are filled not with a faucet but a waterfall tumbling down from your room's roof.
Guests of Five Pines have access to the fitness center and movie house next door. For dining head to Pleiades for a menu full of locally grown and organic dishes. Three Creeks Brewing Company is also scheduled to open next door in the summer of 2008.
Spa buffs will love nearby Shibui's array of Asian therapies and treatments.
Five Pines also specializes is conferences, groups and weddings.