Guest: Steven Bell
“Great day for a trip to the beach” – A phrase often sarcastically grumbled by golfers after hitting a less than stellar shot into a bunker. Well, at the Oregon Coast, it really can be a great day for a trip to the beach while you’re golfing; there are some stunning courses up and down the Oregon Coast, some famous, some hidden gems – all worth exploring. These highlighted courses are not intended to be a complete index of golf courses on the Oregon Coast, as there are many other courses to play depending on your location, available time, and the type of golf experience you are looking for (and for those who are in the ‘In’ crowd, there are some superb private golf clubs along the coast as well) – this is just a curated sample of some of the golf that the Oregon Coast can offer.
A note of caution for golfers new to coastal and links golf – expect a different style of play than your typical inland ‘American’ course layout. These courses allow for more creative shot styles and ‘bump and runs’ are more common than high-flying, high-spinning shots. This becomes especially true when the weather turns foul and winds rise – typically in these conditions, you’ll see many players opt to use ‘punch shots’ and low, flighted trajectories to keep their ball out of the wind. Deep and treacherous ‘pot-hole’ bunkers are common, and these courses typically use undulation and clever bunkering to defend par instead of long holes with long rough and water hazards or forced carries. Expect to see and experience a different, more historic, style of golf and if the weather report calls for rain, bring a rain jacket or a sturdy umbrella and perhaps some rain gloves.
Growing up in Oregon with a father who loves the game of golf, I’ve learned to love it myself and can personally attest to the quality and timelessness of the courses on this list. I started my own journey of golf when I was in middle-school (although I played around once a year or so before that with my family), but I became enamored with the game and pushed myself to become a scratch golfer during high school and early college (later in college I stopped playing the game for several years, but have recently returned to the game and currently hold a 2 handicap). Personally, golf is a great excuse for me to get outside, hang out with friends, experience beautiful parts of the world, and challenge myself both mentally and physically. It can be an infuriating game, but the challenge and feeling of a pure shot or a long putt going in keeps me coming back time and time again. Having played some of these courses both then and now, I can safely say they, and others at the Oregon Coast, are well worth the visit.
BEFORE WE BEGIN; A FEW MORE USEFUL TERMS TO HELP ILLUSTRATE THESE COURSES AND MAKE SENSE OF THIS FOR NON-GOLFERS:
Bunker: Sometimes referred to as a ‘sand-trap’, a hazard that is found on golf courses, often a hollowed-out pit that holds sand and collects wayward shots.
Green: The area of the golf course where the hole is located. Greens are often the flattest, smoothest surfaces on the golf course and are intended to allow golfers to ‘putt’ their ball into the hole using a club called a putter, giving them the greatest chance of successfully making their shot.
Fairway: The area of the golf course that is mown short to allow golfers to have a generally preferable position to hit from on their next shot.
Rough: Long grass that poses difficulty for golfers who find their ball in it. It is more difficult to successfully hit their shot from this grass than shorter, maintained grass in the fairway.
Par: The recommended number of shots on a particular hole. Some people see par as a ‘strict guideline’ and others see it more as an abstract construct, but regardless it serves as a reference for ‘good’ on any given hole. The number following “par” indicates what par is for that hole or course.
“Links” golf: A term used to describe a certain style of golf play or golf course design, modeled after courses in Scotland and Ireland where the game originated, that were known colloquially as “Links”. There are differences in golf course design between modern ‘American’ course design (long holes with long rough, narrow fairways, elevated greens, and a particular emphasis on forcing players to play higher shots with forced carries or bunkers that require the ball to come in high and land soft to stop within a short distance) as compared to “Links” style courses that are typically very wide and forgiving, and allow for and encourage lower, running shots but often use more ‘natural’ features to penalize golfers, like large undulations and hills, deep penalizing bunkers, very few level areas, and long fescue grasses if players are particularly errant on their shots.
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GEARHART GOLF LINKS
Gearhart Golf Links
LOCATION | Gearhart, OR
Starting farthest North on our list, the first course on our journey down the Oregon coast is Gearhart Golf Links. Recently renovated in 2015, Gearhart has an open, links-style layout with gentle but constant mounds and very few level lies to be found. Gearhart holds the distinct honor of being the oldest continually operated golf course West of the Mississippi. It was founded in 1892 and has maintained a steady level of play ever since. This course stays true to links nature, playing firm and staying dry in all but the worst of rainy conditions with small to mid-sized greens and no significant forced carries. The nice bonus with this course is that it is attached to a McMenamin’s Hotel, so golfers can stay here for a night or two, play some golf, or just grab food and drink from the hotel pub. Nearby are the tourist meccas of Seaside and Cannon Beach, with plenty of shops, restaurants, and beaches to explore. This makes Gearhart a great stop for those with non-golfers in the group too.
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MANZANITA GOLF LINKS
Manzanita Golf Links
LOCATION | Manzanita, OR
Heading further South along the coast is one of the smaller hidden gems on this list – Manzanita Golf Links is a classic municipal 9-hole course with a fun routing and great scenery. Manzanita Golf Links is a nine-hole course in the center of the small town of Manzanita, winding through the coastal hills and set back in the shore pines to escape some of the ocean breeze. Manzanita Golf Links was built long before 300 yard drives were the norm and is much more about playing the right shot off of the tee box than dominating the course with raw strength, as most of the par 4’s are relatively short. The greens are fairly small, and there are no major hazards or forced carries between the tree-lines, just make sure you are keeping the ball in front of you. Possibly the most memorable hole is #5 (pictured above), a short (~260 yard) par 4, from an elevated tee with a clear view to the green below you. Overall, Manzanita is a great, relaxing 9-hole course and one that should be on your list for a refreshing round by the beach.
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CHINOOK WINDS GOLF COURSE
Chinook Winds Golf Course
LOCATION | Lincoln City, OR
Heading down the coast, Chinook Winds Golf Course is attached to the Chinook Winds Casino and Resort, and plays as an executive style golf course, with a par of 65. The course has a number of challenging holes, with some difficult forced carries, large hills, and winding fairways that will certainly test your shot-making ability despite its short layout and low par. This course has several very memorable holes, but players should particularly be cautious on the short par 3 4th that has a bunker surrounding the entire green, and the par 5 10th where three very precise shots are required to reach this difficult green and distance control is a must. This course is associated with the Casino and Resort and is situated on the North end of Lincoln City near outlet shopping, beaches, and plenty of food and drink.
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SALISHAN RESORT AND GOLF COURSE
LOCATION | Gleneden Beach, OR
Continuing down the coastline, just a short drive South of Lincoln City lies Salishan Resort and Golf Course. Salishan is a great resort course that meanders through trees on the front side and feels like a true resort course until reaching the back nine, where it heads out towards Siletz Bay and gets a bit of links inspiration. The course continues to impress, and the challenging layout hosted the Oregon Men’s Stroke Play championship this year. Expect great conditions and pure greens, with a fun layout and a peaceful setting – most holes are tree-lined, and there are a few waste bunkers that come into play on the back nine, but largely this course doesn’t throw any tricks your way. One of the signature holes at this course might be the Par 4 9th hole, a dogleg left that descends well down the hillside after making a sharp left turn – be sure to be precise on your distance to the corner if you can’t take the ball around it with a draw.
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AGATE BEACH GOLF COURSE
LOCATION | Newport, OR
Further down the coastline lies another small, quaint 9-hole course just outside of Newport – Agate Beach Golf Course. This course opens with a few short and relatively easy par 4s, bringing the player in to the course with a few great looks at opening birdies or pars. Overall, this course isn’t long, but there are scattered trees that line the fairway that can wreak havoc for wayward tee shots and errant approaches, and the small, sloped greens don’t always yield birdies. The par 3 8th is one of the more memorable holes on the course, with a short, but sloped hole that seemingly has the green carved into the hillside. Distance control and accuracy are important here, but don’t fret over any bad shots – the 9th is a very short par 5 that is reachable in two with two well struck shots, and while it demands precision off the tee, it is still a great closing hole that will leave you with a smile on your face at the end of your round here, or a kickstart into a second turn around for those playing 18. There are certainly many opportunities here for birdie for longer hitters, and this is a very approachable course for beginner golfers – it is actually one of the first courses that my Dad took me to play at when I started my own journey with golf, and it is close enough to Newport to get in a morning 9 or 18 and still have plenty of time to explore the town and hit the beach.
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FLORENCE GOLF LINKS
LOCATION | Florence, OR
Our next two courses are almost side by side – both residing in the town of Florence, OR. Florence Golf Links, previously known as Sand Pines Golf Course, is a championship caliber links layout with a great collection of golf holes. It would easily fit in at Pinehurst or one of the many links style courses back East in the Carolinas, and it was selected as the “Best New Public Course in America” in 1993 by Golf Digest. This course has tees that range from 5200 to 6800 yards, meaning it is approachable for new and experienced golfers alike, but remains a good test of golf with several shots requiring carries over wild areas and one par 3 over water. The first 9 holes undulate and wind through trees, while the back 9 emerges from the trees and routes through large dunes, with the finishing holes among the best that can be found – 16, 17, 18 are routed around a large inland lake that persists in the back of the players’ mind, but provides great and dramatic scenery for the finishing few, especially near sunset if you play a later afternoon time. The attached clubhouse is a large, modern design that is a great fit for the course and has an attached restaurant and lounge.
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OCEAN DUNES GOLF LINKS
LOCATION | Florence, OR
Ocean Dunes Golf Course, the second of Florence’s two courses, is a shorter course that winds its way through the dunes and trees of Florence. Precision and ball control here are crucial, as errant tee shots typically find their way into pot bunkers, large dunes, dune grass and trees. This is an old-style links course, with a couple of blind shots that reward picking a precise line over raw power, and the hazards are specifically designed to extract penalty for mis-hit shots. This course has one very memorable par 5, as it is only 450 yards, but incredibly narrow – it might be prudent to play 3, 150-yard shots here instead of risking the hazards with longer clubs.
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BANDON DUNES GOLF RESORT
LOCATION | Bandon, OR
Finally, heading farther South, what Oregon Coast Golf Guide would be complete without mentioning Bandon Dunes Golf Resort. Bandon, for those who are uninitiated or unaware, is a haven for golfers and a mecca for the weekend warrior and aspiring pro alike. It brings some of the best views that the Oregon Coast can offer along with classic and timeless links-style design into five majestic and demanding courses. These consistently receive high praise and awards from Golf Digest and others, with every course making it on the ‘Top 100 public courses in the US’ list every year (Pacific Dunes: #2, Bandon Dunes: #7, Old MacDonald: #12, Bandon Trails #14, Sheep Ranch: unrated, opened June 2020.) Bandon Dunes also hosted the 2020 US Amateur, the most prestigious and coveted Amateur tournament in golf. Bandon Dunes is a sprawling resort, situated right on coastal cliffs, with large practice areas, including a large driving range complex complete with a massive putting green, and ‘Shorty’s’, a series of short par 3 holes that test your wedge accuracy and short game. Bandon Dunes has five full length courses – Bandon Dunes, Bandon Trails, Pacific Dunes, Old MacDonald, Sheep Ranch, and a 13-hole par 3 course – Bandon Preserve. There are shuttles that carry resort guests between the main lodge, courses, practice area, McKee’s pub, and their cottage-style rooms that are situated in neighborhoods throughout the property. Most courses have an attached restaurant and gift shop, as well as a putting green. The putting green at Pacific Dunes is known as ‘The Punchbowl’ and is a massive putting green that has a series of holes players can putt too, carrying their ‘To-Go’ drinks from the nearby restaurant with them as they make their way around the green attempting to best one another
in a friendly competition before or after their round. To say that Bandon Dunes is a golfer’s paradise is to put it lightly – it is heaven for anyone who appreciates the game of golf, and it is a must see for any weekend warrior or avid player. The timeless layout provided by the designers of these magnificent courses is one that will continue to capture the hearts and imaginations of new and old golfers alike and show them the best of what golf at the Oregon Coast is like.
To say that the Oregon Coast holds a number of must-see golf destinations is an understatement. These courses offer something for everyone and allow for countless memories to be made with the backdrop of the Pacific Ocean nearby. With numerous coastal towns to stop and explore along the way as well – to put it simply, the Oregon Coast is a golfer’s dream.