By Andrew Mariman
There is nothing like the feeling of a great golf shot, especially if it is executed under sunny high desert skies with a light breeze in front of your most scrutinizing golf buddies and the beauty of the Klamath Basin as a backdrop.
Six-time Masters Champion Arnold Palmer has designed more than 200 golf courses. One, the Arnold Palmer Signature Course at the Running Y Ranch, is the only Palmer-designed course in Oregon and it’s right here in Klamath Falls.
When asked to reveal his favorite course, Palmer simply couldn’t name just one, so he listed 16.
Arnie’s “Sweet 16” includes the long, undulating, tree-lined and bunker-strewn course at Running Y. This renowned course attracts people from all over the world between March and December. It is a true gift to have in the Basin’s backyard.
Keeping with the Sweet 16 theme, the course celebrates its 16th year of challenging golfers, first opening its fairways to the public in 1997.
Palmer had this to say about his creation on the course’s website www.runningy.com:
“The Running Y Ranch Golf Course showcases the spectacular natural landscape of Oregon’s beautiful unspoiled outback. Ambling along meadows and through restored wetlands on the front nine; you will play besides lakes, woodlands and into Payne Canyon on the back. The vision of “leave the land as it lies” played out well in the course design, and I consider it one of my best tracks. If you’re in the area, it’s well worth the visit.”
With five tee placements, this course can play anywhere from moderate to extremely challenging. And with plenty of room to meander, there may be very little out-of-bounds. But rest assured there are many opportunities to find yourself saying, “dropping two, hitting three, fellas!”
You’ll likely rely on all of the tricks in your repertoire, asking yourself, “should I lay up here or just go for it?” You’ll be tasked with flying a water hazard or two, hitting it from the bunker, putting from the fringe, knocking a low shot from the rough, hoping to roll it up on the green. This course will test you, but leave a smile on your face the whole time.
All the holes on this course are fun to play, but there are several that will stand out for one reason or another.
The photogenic par 3 No. 5 calls on golfers to really know their clubs. This signature hole, with its slightly elevated tee, entices golfer to take direct aim at flag, while ignoring water down the entire length of its right side. Guarded by large pines and a steep natural embankment at the green’s back, club selection is key.
Hole No. 9 is a short and steep par 4, reachable from the dramatically elevated tee, if you’re a long ball hitter and can somehow manage to avoid the eight bunkers surrounding a green that is invisible from the tee. Many tee shots roll out in a collection area allowing a great chance to get close to the pin on your approach.
After making the turn, the gorgeous par 3 No. 12 with its extremely elevated tee locations lures golfers into lobbing their tee shot out and praying it carries and holds the green.
The par 5 17th is an amazing hole. You’re faced with a choice; go the long way to the left or risk it all and go right to a much smaller fairway, a move that could earn you a shot at reaching the green in two. Take careful aim; the green is well protected by rough from this angle.
This beautiful course, surrounded by large homes and vistas of Upper Klamath Lake and mountain peaks, draws people into the area and is a regular spot for local golfers. The pros are eager to offer advice and line you up with whatever you may need from a well stocked club house.
Other Courses In the Area
n Harbor Links at Harbor Isles
This short, tight, flat, 18-hole public course can be walked very easily in just three hours if you’re hustling. With as many dog legs as water hazards there are ample opportunities to knock your ball out-of-bounds and lose a stroke. This affordable city park-like course will make you a better player.
n Reames Golf Country Club
This private course is located on 200 acres of rolling, twisting land with many mature trees, just outside the city limits. Although membership is relatively affordable, if you’re simply looking to try the course, you can play as the personal guest of a club member - if you can find one. This is a challenging, yet fun course, with small and slippery fast greens that require a delicate touch. This could be our area’s toughest course (beware of No. 9).
n Shield Crest
This moderately challenging public course has a little bit of everything. Though most of the 18 holes are straight and relatively flat, there are a few that will call on you to choose your club wisely as they dogleg or drop from tee to green. This is the most affordable public course, but still worth every penny.
For those in the area looking to work on their short game, Indian Camp Golf Course near Tulelake; and, Round Lake Golf Course near Keno offer golfers a chance to grab their 8-irons through sand wedges and their putters and brush up on their approaches and putting for very affordable rates.
CONTACT THESE COURSES:
Harbor Links Golf Course
601 Harbor Isles Boulevard
Reames Golf Course & Country Club
4201 Highway 97 South
Running Y Golf Course
5790 Coopers Hawk Road
Shield Crest Golf Course
3151 Shield Crest Drive