Bargain Retreats and Staycations
Written by Eric Flowers
Avid golfers know that the best time to play golf is whenever there is room for a backswing. That is to say that real golfers don’t let weather or seasons determine if or when they play. For the rest of us though, there is a sweet spot. Perhaps a mid-summer afternoon or a perfect late spring weekend when winter storms seem a distant memory appear ideal. In Central Oregon, though, autumn is the underrated season. It’s a time to savor what remains of summer as if it were the last sip of wine from a bottle found deep in the cellar.
Come October, months of mercury-popping heat give away to mild days. It’s a time when you want to linger in, not flee, the midday sun. Tourists have scattered like the smoke from the wildfires and a quiet settles over the region’s trails and fairways. The days are made more perfect because there are so few of them and they aren’t always predictable. Knowing winter is around the corner makes it all the better.
“Fall, for me, is one of the best times to play golf in Central Oregon,” said Rob Malone, Aspen Lakes director of golf. “It’s cool in the morning. It’s beautiful and crisp and normally blue skies.”
There’s also another incentive to get out after Labor Day—the shoulder season is chock full of bargains. Whether you are a local looking to play 18 holes on one of the region’s award-winning courses or a visitor looking for a stay-and-play resort experience, there is a destination to fit just about any itinerary and budget. If you want to play golf at any of the premier destinations, without paying top shelf prices, now is the time. But don’t wait too long. Winter really is just around the corner.
Summer may be the busy season here for local golf courses, as evidenced by the $80 greens fees, but it’s also the busy season for locals who pack their calendars with road trips, hiking, camping and exploration. Golf is usually put on the back burner for busy moms and dads and others who choose to spend their time somewhere other than the practice green. As kids return to school and weekends are freed, resorts are looking to pull in locals to fill tee sheets and overnight rooms. Now is the time to round up your golf buddies that you’ve blown off all summer and schedule a man-cation. Here are a couple of itineraries:
A guys’ weekend doesn’t necessarily have to entail a stay at fancy lodge or resort room. Creating your own home base also gives you the flexibility to choose from a variety of golf courses. We recommend grabbing somewhere centralized that will let you spread out, but also somewhere that offers a kitchen for meal prep and snacks, ideally with a barbeque on site. (Bonus if you can find a place with a hot tub.) McMenamins cottages make an attractive option with the soaking pool and fire pits for evening gatherings, but your best bet might be a vacation rental. Like resorts, they are also looking to fill rooms in the shoulder season and deals abound.
In terms of golf, we recommend looking into some of the courses that consistently rate high with locals and visitors, but drop their rates in the shoulder season. Our shortlist includes Aspen Lakes near Sisters, which offers some of the best views and most enjoyable golf in the region. In Bend, Widgi Creek—which always offers a great evening special—will drop rates come October. Tetherow will also be open until the end of October and offers one of the most memorable experiences in Central Oregon. It’s also one of the few courses in the state to make the illustrious Golf Digest Top 100 list.
If a resort stay is in the cards, Black Butte Ranch with its two golf courses and wide range of home rentals is a perfect option. The resort’s newly upgraded pools and gym facilities located at the main lodge. Two award-winning golf courses, including the recently renovated Glaze Meadow, mean you never have to leave the property to get your fill of fairways. There’s even fly-fishing on the resort lakes, as well as on the nearby Metolius River.
“The first few weeks in October are spectacular,” said Jeff Fought, director of golf at Black Butte Ranch. “Not only do the rates drop, but you have a September feel of being a little colder in the morning and then getting up to 75 degrees.”