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Why Tetherow is the most polarizing course in Oregon

Tetherow golf course hole 6

Guest post by Sean Ogle

When people hear about my quest and they hear that I’m from Oregon, one of the questions I’ve been asked a lot (after, the inevitable, have you played Bandon) is “have you played Tetherow?”

Why do people ask about Tetherow? Well aside from being a top 100 course, it’s one of the more polarizing courses in Oregon, if not the country.

Located in Bend, it was built in 2008 on land that was decimated from a forest fire right outside of Bend, and is distinctly different than any of the other top courses in the high desert of Central Oregon.

The first major distinction was the designer – David Mclay Kidd – who is obviously known for more Links style designs like Bandon and Nanea.

Fortunately for us, that’s pretty much what we got – a links style course in the high desert, that is unlike any course I’ve played.

The closest comparison for me was actually Diamante Dunes in Cabo – you know, minus the ocean.

At Tetherow you’ll find rolling mounds and elevation changes abound, fescue turf everywhere, and the greens, well we’ll get into that in a second.

When playing the course you have to play with a forecaddie if you’re not a member, and since I was playing by myself, my forecaddie decided just to play with me.

If you’re not used to having a caddie or forecaddie play with you, trust me, this is a good thing at Tetherow. The greens can be extremely hard to read, and the best path to the green off the tee is not always perfectly clear.

I was even more fortunate in that my guy Rusty, had been around Tetherow since day one, and not only knew the course extremely well, he was a blast to play with.

I was really excited to play Tetherow for a couple reasons. The first is that I don’t think I’ve found a more polarizing course (with the possible exception of Tobacco Road). People either absolutely loved it, or absolutely hated it. I didn’t understand how one course could draw such different responses from both amateurs and more accomplished golfers.

That is, until I played it.

Off the tee, Tetherow is one of my favorite courses I’ve played. You have a variety of options, elevation changes, blind shots – to put it simply, every single hole has interesting and unique features – even more so than some place like Pronghorn which is a little bit more out in front of you.

A good example of this, is the 10th,  a short par 4 where my three wood almost drove the green. This left me in that nefarious position where I was putting up a very steep ridge that could end in disaster if I hit it too hard or soft.

10th hole at Tetherow
10th hole at Tetherow

I over compensate and blast it up the ridge, through the green and back down the other side.

This wouldn’t be the only time.

The best way I can describe the greens at Tetherow would be that they took 4 elephants on almost every hole, buried them, put grass on top – and called it a green.

At it’s best, they were some of the most fun putts I’ve ever had. Occasionally even reminiscent of my favorite hole at Bandon Trails, the par 3 5th. Lots of subtle (and not so subtle) ridges and backstops to give you multiple options on your putts.

At it’s worst it was 3 putts galore through a grassy field of giant boulders.

Often a perfect approach would result in rolling off the green or into a deep swale leaving a you the choice of putting from off the green or chipping from an extremely tight lie.

If you’re a pro, you’ll love the tight fescue fairways. If you’re a high handicapper who isn’t used to such tight lies – you’ll struggle to adjust.

Overall it’s extremely easy to see why Tetherow is ranked as one of the Greatest 100 Public courses in the country – but it’s also not hard to see why it isn’t ranked a little bit higher.

At its, best it rivals any course in the country, at its worst it can feel a little gimmicky at times and the greens can prove to be frustratingly sloped.

So while I don’t think it’s quite as good of a true test of golf as Pronghorn or Crosswater, I don’t think it would be tough to make the argument saying it’s the most fun golf course in Central Oregon.

It’s one of the most scenic courses I’ve ever played, and it passed the true test of a good course in my book: It made me want to run right back out and play another 18.


All distances from Tan tees.

Favorite Par 3 (Hole 3, 146 yards)

From the moment you step on to the teebox at #3 something about it just feels unique. It could be the shrubs and brush built into the teebox, or the water carry, but I really liked this hole.

The bunker in front of the green really forced me to think about my club selection – more so than any of the other short holes on the course.

Hole 3 at Tetherow
Hole 3 at Tetherow

Close second (17th Hole, 174 Yards)

The original green on 17, was tiny but a few years back the enlarged it. Depending on the pin location you can have one of the most fun tee shots on the course.

If you hit up to the hill on the back left, you’ll watch it roll all the way back down to the green. Gotta love those backstops

17 also has without a doubt one of the most scenic views from the tee of any course I’ve played.

17th hole at Tetherow (the hole has been redesigned a bit since this photo was taken)
17th hole at Tetherow (the hole has been redesigned a bit since this photo was taken)

Favorite Par 4 (6th Hole, 379 Yards)

This is not only my favorite par 4 at Tetherow, but it’s one of my favorites anywhere.

From the tee you see two distinct fairways, one upper and one lower.

The lower fairway has a shorter approach and more clear view of the green, but it brings the water into play.

6th hole from the lower fairway at Tetherow
6th hole from the lower fairway at Tetherow
6th hole from the tee
6th hole from the tee
6th hole from the upper fairway
6th hole from the upper fairway

The upper fairway will leave you with a longer, blind approach – so it really forces you to make a smart choice.  

6th hole behind the green.
6th hole behind the green.

Favorite Par 5 (2nd Hole, 514 Yards)

The first par 5 on the course is my favorite because of the options it provides. If you really bash a tee shot over the ridge on the left, you’re going to get a ton of roll making a birdie or even eagle a legit possibility.

Strategically placed grass bunkers in the middle of either side of the fairway make placing your second shot in the right spot really important.

Looking back at hole 2.
Looking back at hole 2.
Hole 2
Hole 2


  • Par 3 Course – They can convert the driving range to a 9 hole par 3 course, that actually looks like it would be a ton of fun to play.
  • The 19th Hole – Rumor has it that hitting from the 15th green back on to the 13th green makes for an excellent, half island 19th hole
  • I ranked Tetherow #68 in 2018 on my annual list of my personal favorite top 100 courses in the world.

Guest post by Sean Ogle
Sean Ogle is on a quest to visit the Top 100 golf courses in the world and documents his travels at Breaking Eighty. He's also the Founder of the Eighty Club, a golf society for private club members all over the world.