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Sunriver Resort, Oregon

The Courses at Sunriver Resort
Click to read the full article on the CROSSWATERS
Click to read the full article on THE WOODLANDS

Where to Stay - The Sunriver Resort

Golf in the Pacific Northwest has its hot spots. Napa and Northern California, of course. In and around Reno and Lake Tahoe. The outskirts of Seattle. Even across the 49th parallel, Vancouver’s lower mainland and British Columbia’s interior has seen a surge of great golf facilities in the last decade or so. The state of Oregon, snugly set between all of these popular golf regions, is beginning to adapt likewise, with a climate and topography offering a dramatic setting for the game. It is what brought David McLay Kidd and designer Tom Doak to Bandon Dunes on the Pacific Coast, and what brings guests year-round to Sunriver, a superb 54-hole resort on the dry, interior side of the Cascade Mountain Range. 15 minutes south of Bend, the evolution of this rugged but charming county from military training ground to four-season wonderland is as nice a backdrop as the soft, snowy peaks that creep up to its western boundary. 

Geologically, the area is a former lake that dried into a mountain meadow thousands of years ago. Noting the isolation of the area, the U.S. Army built Camp Abbot there in the 1940s for the training of its recruits. When the troops departed in peacetime, they left a series of bridges over the Deschutes River that made the meadow into a workable area; one that burst with potential as a wilderness resort destination in the Pacific Northwest . By the mid-1960s, prominent businessman John D. Gray had paired with Portland attorney John V. MacCallum and set Sunriver in motion, creating the resort and residential community that exists today. Its success today is attributable to their prescient foresight and vision—the original plans demanded that the number of homesites be limited, and total municipal services were to be offered within the region. It became a self-sustained vacation community with a strong allegiance to the preservation of the environment, borne of its name and the aesthetic appeal Sunriver had held since the days of the earliest trappers, settlers, and explorers.

Considering the renewed vitality of the terrain, golf at Sunriver was a natural fit. With the addition of the Crosswaters Course in 1995 – among Golf Digest's '100 Greatest’ in the 1999-2000 rankings - Sunriver became a 54-hole complex, enhanced by the Robert Trent Jones Jr.-designed Woodlands Course and John Fought's Meadows layout. While the latter two are strong and enjoyable courses, the addition of Crosswaters seven years ago was a watershed moment for the Sunriver Resort, merging the stature of the resort with its golfing facilities. Once a resort whose strength could be find in its diversity, golf has now become Sunriver's drawing card, and for good reason.

Sunriver's setting in the Cascade Mountains doesn't hurt, either. On the dry side of the range, and bisected by the Deschutes and Little Deschutes rivers, the Sunriver resort offers better-than-average weather in one of the most stunning regions in the world. A recent three million dollar renovation to the accommodations offers guests three distinct lodging options. The River Lodges, a series of two-story mountain townhomes with 33 deluxe rooms, feature traditional Northwest décor with a few unusual and luxurious touches—like a stone wall gas fireplace with raised hearth, in-room coffee maker featuring locally harvested Sunriver Coffee Co. beans, and private decks from which guests can enjoy the views of the sprawling valley. Rooms in the main Sunriver Lodge, where most of the renovation dollars were sunk, are equally impressive, and located close to the resort’s central lodge, the outdoor pools and hot tubs, and all other amenities. For larger groups or longer stays, groups also have the option of renting private vacation villas spread sparsely around the 3300-acre site, all of which have full kitchens, gas barbeque, and exclusive access to all of Sunriver Resort’s amenities and facilities. It’s like owning a glorious vacation home in the Pacific Northwest , for as long as you want.

Even if private lodging is your choice, dining out is still a favourite activity at Sunriver, if only because the resort’s restaurants offer some of the finest regional fare available anywhere in the state. The Meadows At The Lodge, by all standards Sunriver’s principal dining room, is exquisite, with a creative emphasis on dishes that draw their flavours and textures from the locally available ingredients. Starters like pan-seared razor clam and lamb sausage with an olive basil feta compote are inspirations to the palate, while the selection of mains, including a roasted elk loin in a blueberry merlot glaze and a pan-seared rainbow trout, highlight the bounty of the region. The wine list is strongly represented by Pacific Northwest wines, and even features a particular winery’s products for specific seasons. Prices are good, and the range is modest, filling out a unique Northwest dining niche that ought to be embraced for its uniqueness.

A trio of other options complement the main dining room perfectly. The Grille is a carnivore’s dream, with a robust, Northwest-flaired menu. The in-house smoked steelhead is an unforgettable starter, while bold mains like the double-cut pork chop with melted blue cheese and the muscovy duck flatter Damon Jones’ no-frills approach to Northwest cuisine. At Owl’s Nest, casual fare is the order of the day, though the food is just as good. Here, the Washington lamb shank is a highlight, as are the twice-smoked pork ribs, but stick around for nightly live music on weekends. Downstairs, the Merchant Trader is reminiscent of the Wild West’s old outposts, where guests can grab a morning java, breakfast snack, or a sandwich and salad for lunch.

Beyond the dining and the golf, Sunriver Resort is equipped with all the recreational options and amenities one would expect from a mountain resort. In the summer months, mountain biking, hiking, white-water rafting, and horseback riding equipment is all at the guest's disposal. Sunriver is also thrilled to announce the recent opening of The Sage Springs Club and Spa, a fully-equipped luxury experience with treatments and facilities that reflect a healthy routine in backwoods Oregon.

When most golfers contemplate the best destinations for a mountain golf vacation, the Rocky Mountains, either in Western Alberta, interior British Columbia, or Colorado, typically come to mind. What Oregon's Sunriver Resort has to offer is the same invigorating environment in a more tranquil and serene setting. With 54 holes of golf and world-class accommodations, Sunriver is a welcome member among the elite golf resorts in North America, in a section of the continent that is all too often overlooked.

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