An introduction to Portland
Portland in Oregon has been voted as one of the most popular cities to live in the U.S. A killer food scene, an emphasis on the outdoors and the fact it is super safe, you can understand why. There are also some pretty awesome golf courses in Portland which we’ll explore.
As the second largest city in Oregon, Portland has grown slowly but surely into one of the most desirable places to live. It’s a couple of hours from the Pacific coastline and right on the Washington state border.
But you can’t start talking about Portland without mentioning the craft beer scene. There are now over 70 breweries that have opened up in the city earning the city the moniker of ‘craft beer capital’!
Fair to say, Portland is a cool city. There is a chilled out and relaxed vibe that permeates through everything. Maybe a large part of that is how nature is intermingled with everyday life. Places like Washington Park and its 410 acres of green space which sits up in the highlands overlooking the city.
Following on the green spaces theme, unlike other major cities, there aren’t hundreds of golf courses. But where it maybe lacks in quantity, it makes up for in quality. Let’s explore the best golf courses in Portland.
The best golf courses in Portland
1. Waverley Country Club
Just south of the city on the banks of the Willamette River, is the upmarket and distinguished Waverley Country Club.
This fine country club has over a century’s heritage having opened way back in 1896. This makes Waverley one of the oldest country clubs in the United States.
Originally a nine-hole course, it was expanded to 18 holes just a couple of years after opening. It was also at this time in 1898 that the members sought a more appropriate spot for the course, which is its current riverside location.
So highly rated was Waverley that throughout the following century, it hosted numerous high profile tournaments. These included the Oregon Amateur Championship, the earliest U.S. International Golf Match and the USGA Championship. More recently, it is to host the U.S. Senior Women’s Open Championship.
But the layout we recognise today was largely due to the work of H. Chandler Egan. This design work happened across a number of years, from 1912 to 1924. This side of the millennium, Waverley underwent a comprehensive restoration under the watchful eye of the talented Gil Hanse.
This is a superb layout and without doubt the best golf course in Portland. Aside from the exemplary conditioning, there are subtle elevation changes. Strategic bunkering and elegant tilted greens.
A fantastic course with a fantastic setting.
2. Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club (Witch Hollow & Ghost Creek)
Just a half hour drive west of Portland, is the superb Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club.
Most people will recognise the name, as it was one of the clubs on LIV Golf’s 2022 nascent series. Yet this is a club with a fine heritage way before LIV came to town, having hosted many high profile events.
This includes the 1996 US Amateur Championship and multiple US Women’s Opens. And from 2014 to 2020 it hosted the WinCo Foods Portland Open on the Korn Ferry Tour.
There are two top class championship courses, Witch Hollow and Ghost Creek. Both were designed by the talented Bob Cupp with an emphasis on big, challenging layouts. There are certainly no easy pars here. Some would argue, there are no easy bogeys! Ghost Creek came first in 1992, followed shortly after by Witch Hollow.
The site is vast, easily accommodating the two 18-hole layouts. This pristine farmland has numerous swathes of dense woodland replete with maple trees, oaks and fir trees. Yet this greenery is at times contrasted with a number of windswept holes open to the elements.
The conditioning is outstanding as is the quality of the golf on offer. Unfortunately, the Witch Hollow course is private. But the Ghost Creek course with its separate clubhouse is open to the public.
This is a sensational semi-private golf club with a top class pair of courses.
3. Portland Golf Club
Close to downtown, the other side of Washington Park towards Raleigh Hills, is Portland Golf Club.
This prestigious golf club has been around for well over a century, having been established in 1914. Since then, it has remained one of the most desirable golf clubs at which to be a member in the North West.
Back in the day the surrounding landscape would have been relatively rural, with little urbanization and instead dense woodland. Today urban sprawl has caught up with the site, but it remains an oasis of greenery inside.
It is a traditional parkland layout with majestic fir trees lining most fairways. At under 7,000 yards from the back tees, it isn’t the longest track to contend with. But with tight fairways and tricky approach shots, you’ll need to be concentrating to score well.
The green complexes are delightful. Subtle yet penal. Firm and fast. They are highly regarded as some of the best in the state. It is these greens which Robert Trent Jones Sr. spent most time agonizing over.
There is also tournament pedigree. Foremost amongst them is having hosted the Ryder Cup in 1947 and a PGA Championship in 1946, which was won by Ben Hogan.
Other tournaments include numerous Portland Opens, Oregon Amateurs, a Senior US Open, a handful of LPGA Portland Classics….and the list goes on.
This is a delightful golf club with a killer routing. They don’t make them like this any more so if you do get an invite here, make sure you enjoy it.
4. Columbia Edgewater Country Club (Macan)
In our list of best golf courses in Portland, we move to yet another stalwart of the Portland golfing scene, Columbia Edgewater Country Club.
The club is located to the north of the city, a stone’s throw away from the bank of the Columbia River. Keep traveling north and you cross the state line into Washington.
This is a wonderful club which yet again has a rich history of hosting major tournaments. Amongst those is the Oregon Open and the PGA Tour event The Portland Open. The LPGA has also been here with the Safeway Classic between 1974-2008 and the LPGA Portland Classic.
The original layout was drawn out by the foremost designer of the time, Arthur Vernon Macan. It is an intriguing layout, with the front nine running anti-clockwise within the central part of the site. Whilst the back nine runs clockwise around the outside of the property. This ensures there are no consistent club selections!
It is a traditional parkland, much like Portland Golf Club. And many of the challenges you’ll encounter are similar to a degree. Tight exquisitely fashioned fairways, with tree-lined vistas leading you down to the greens.
This is a stern test of golf and a delightful Golden Age layout.
5. The Oregon Golf Club
The award-winning Oregon Golf Club is set just eight miles from central Portland. But boy does this feel a million miles away from civilization.
This location is pure bliss, hidden away amongst a dense woodland of Ponderosa pines. In the distance there are views over to the Cascade Mountains. Whilst you’ll no doubt hear the Willamette River serenely snake past. Beautiful.
This is a private club with a selection of other amenities including tennis, swimming, fitness and dining facilities. But as with most of these clubs, golf takes center stage.
The 18-hole championship layout was designed by Peter Jacobsen and opened for play in 1992. Jacobsen ensures he never takes on too many projects in a given year, no more than 3 or 4. This allows for a level of personal involvement in the project.
Well it’s crystal clear here at The Oregon Golf Club it has been given that same attention to detail.
Great care was taken in preserving the natural environment and maximizing the vistas and views through the valley’s rolling hills. Traditional square tee boxes lead to tree and wildflower flanked fairways. There are occasional creeks to avoid and elevation changes to contend with.
The signature hole is without doubt the 12th, a par-3 where you’re hitting over a large bed of roses to the framed green.
6. The Reserve Vineyard & Golf Club (South & North)
As I said at the beginning of this post, there may not be hundreds of golf courses that surround Portland. But what it lacks in quantity it makes up for in quality.
Well we continue this delve into Portland’s best with the superb Reserve Vineyards & Golf Club. We’re now about a half hour drive west from downtown just past Aloha and Reedville.
This fine club has two 18-hole championship golf courses. The North which was designed by the late Bob Cupp of Pumpkin Ridge fame. Whilst the South course was designed by John Fought, the two-time PGA Tour winner and now respected architect.
Both of these are superb courses albeit very different.
The South course is a big, bold American-style parkland layout. Wide meandering fairways are flanked by stately Oregon trees. There are over 60 white sand bunkers with no less than eight of these strategically dotted along the 605 yards of the par-5 6th hole.
Scoring well on the South course is about strategy, big accurate driving and avoiding the water on the 17th hole!
As for the North course, Cupp has designed the polar opposite to the South. Open to the elements, this is an inland coastal-style layout with large swathes of long native grass flanking fairways and greens.
These two courses together provide an awesome test of golf. I’d also like to say this is a great day out. But although both are open to the public, they’re not during the same days of the month.
The South course is open to the public from the 1st to the 15th of the month. Whilst the North course is open to the public on the 16th to the end of the month. This is a novel and really inclusive way to open the doors of this semi-private club.
So if you’re not going to play a second round here, I would suggest instead spending time in the Vintage Room Restaurant. This is both a premium yet casual dining experience and without doubt one of the best clubhouses in the Portland area.
7. Tualatin Golf Club
About 20 minutes drive south of Portland down the Interstate 5, you’ll come across the modest city of Tualatin. In the northern part of the city, hugging the Tualatin River and overlooking the verdant Cook Park is Tualatin Country Club.
The private Tualatin has a fine reputation locally and is a popular retreat for its members. This is partly due to the modern 32,000 square-foot clubhouse which has two full service bars, a ballroom, Grille restaurant, cardroom and much more.
But central to the club is the majestic woodland layout which was designed way back in 1912 by the emblematic H. Chandler Egan.
In 1992, the course was renovated by Jon Fought, Bob Cupp and George Junor. This much needed upgrade gave the course a confident makeover to embrace the twenty-first century.
The routing is divine, meandering through the large elegant woodland. Likewise the club prides itself on the quality of its surfaces, from tee boxes, through to the fairways and of course the greens.
The topography is relatively flat but the design keeps things interesting, both fun and challenging at the same time. There are occasional blind tee shots and tight little approaches to the pristine greens.
8. Langdon Farms Golf Club
And on to the last in our list of best golf courses in Portland. This is the wonderful Langdon Farms Golf Club considered one of the finest public golf facilities in northern Oregon.
This superb club is located just under a half hour drive from downtown Portland, due south on Interstate 5. You don’t have to veer far as a few holes actually run parallel to the freeway.
Langdon Farms is hugely popular amongst the locals. The layout is interesting and fun, with a real variety of unique holes. For example the 9th and 18th greens, which wrap around the northern edge of the lake in a horseshoe shape.
But this is not gimmicky. Not at all. This is a fine track designed by some of the best out there. The initial design work was a collaboration between Bob Cupp, John Fought and David Johnson and opened for play in 1995.
In 2000 Todd Schoeder returned to remodel some of the greens. There was even a second 18-hole course mooted, but as of yet no signs of movement.
As for the playability of the course, the fairways are relatively spacious whilst the bunkering has been really well thought through. Mounds and undulating ground flank most fairways and because of this, the greens all look like they’re sloping or falling away.
Worth noting is the superb condition of the course. For a public facility, the management should be proud of the maintenance and condition the course is kept in. This is without doubt one of the finest golf courses in Portland.
What is the best golf course in Portland, Oregon?
The best golf course in Portland, Oregon, is Waverley Country Club. One of the oldest country clubs in the US, it was established in 1896. The course was designed by H. Chandler Egan, with more recently, Gil Hanse overseeing a restoration.