Review and Rating of Aspen Lakes Golf Course in Sisters Oregon
Situated a few miles outside the charming and quaint western themed village of Sisters is the family owned 7302 yard William Overdorf designed Aspen Lakes Golf Course. William carved a masterpiece that twists and turns through towering ponderosa pines, aspens, native grass, and some stunning huge mountain homes. What makes Aspen Lakes a must play is that it's a challenging yet very fair layout where each hole is a little different than it’s predecessor and the scenery is stunning. In fact, it’s hard to focus on golf when every hole presents a Kodak moment – the contrasting colors of the blood-red cinder bunkers, the lush green fairways, the clear blue ponds, the colorful trees and native grasses, and the majestic snow-capped Cascade mountains framing most holes. Wow!
The Aspen Lakes layout is one of the hardest in Oregon (a slope of 75.4 and rating of 141 from the tips) and it requires you to think your way around the course – you’ll need to decide when to leave the “Big Dog” in the bag, study the yardage card and plan your shots, decide when to take the risk reward shots and when to play it safe and lay-up, and you need to be deadly accurate on the approach shots. The layout is fair but challenging:
- it’s longer than normal from every tee box (there are six of them plus three combo tee boxes and yardages ranging from 5594 to 7302 yards) so don’t be macho, move up a tee box or two for a more enjoyable round
- the dog legs, ponds, and huge bunkers require some shot making unless you want to add a stroke to or two to your score
- the course puts a premium on the approach shots.
Keep the ball in play and you’ll fall in love with Aspen Lakes. It’s not surprising that Aspen Lakes has been on many “Best of Lists” (ie, 4.5 stars from Golf Digest, #7 for Best Value, and #2 Best Overall Golf Experience) and was recently named among the top 10 “hidden gems” on the Golf Channel's Morning Drive
The first nine Aspen Lake golf holes were constructed in 1996 under the watchful eye of architect William Overdorf. He worked with the existing 1084 acres to sculpt this incredible mountain view golf course into the existing Central Oregon landscape. As important natural features were identified during construction, the plans were modified to incorporate them into the golf course rather than destroy the feature. As such the front nine has two ponds, a creek that cuts across the fairway on five holes, and 30 bunkers to contend with. A couple of holes we really liked on the front includes
- #3 is a beautiful and fun 606 yard par 5 that will throw a lot at you: two big bunkers in your landing zone, a slight downhill dog leg left, a creek to cross, and an uphill shot to a 38 yard deep odd shaped green with 3 big bunkers guarding the left side and mounds and a pond on the right side – plus a magnificent view of the mountains
- #6 is your opportunity for a par or better – a 547 yard par 5 that’s reachable in two if you can avoid the cluster of 4 bunkers that pinch the landing zone, the creek crossing the fairway at 150 out, and the huge bunker on the left front of the green which also has a left and back bunker plus a pond waiting for your shot if it's long
The back nine is stunning with more scenic vistas, ten ponds that can come into play, several dog legs, 31 bunkers (most of which are huge), and views of all of the Cascade mountain peaks – the Three Sisters (Faith, Hope, and Charity), Mt Washington and Mt Jefferson, Three Finger Jack, Broken Top, and Mt Bachelor. Almost every hole on the back nine is outstanding and offers a great mix of opportunities for some great pictures and some shot making. Strategy, and course management are critical on this nine. For example:
- #10 is a 554 yard straight ahead par 5 with a green set off to the left side with a front facing pond and bunker that makes for a risky approach shot plus a bunker and a pond in back of the green if you're long
- #11 is fantastic – a 450 yard par 4 with a pond on the left from tee to green, a skinny fairway that turns left around the pond and long narrow bunker at 150 out and 3 bunkers and another pond off the back of the two tiered green
- #16 requires some shot making to avoid the 3 ponds and trees on the left side and a cluster of three bunkers that pinch the landing zone, a sharp dog leg left, and a shot to an uphill green with a large bunker on it’s backside
The bent grass tree lined fairways at Aspen Lakes were in near perfect condition (a few damaged spots) and they were like soft velvet – I felt guilty taking a divot. The fairways were so smooth that on the majority of my short approach shots I could putt from the fairway to the pin. The fairways range from wide open let-it-rip to some tight and narrow spots and most are flat but you’ll encounter some slight uphill and downhill shots, some mounds and swales, and plenty of towering trees. The rough was wide and cut thick which stopped any roll and made for a somewhat demanding shot. Miss the rough and you’re under the trees and in with the deer, squirrels, birds, native grass, and some huge beautiful mountain homes.
The bent grass greens, which at times were hard to distinguish from the fairways, are a variety of shapes and most are large – ranging from 28 yards to 40 yards deep with most in the 36 to 40 yards deep. They were in excellent condition, ran fast at around 11, held the ball well, and ran true. The breaks are subtle and surprising.
The blood red cinder bunkers, made from crushed red lava pumice, are not only unique but a joy to hit from. It’s light and thick and easier to hit out of than regular sand, as long as you remember to swing through the ball. The bunkers range from small to some multi-fingered huge monsters, some of which were big enough to swallow a tractor trailer and even had grass islands growing out of the middle of them. The faces are steep but flatter than most near the top and you might get lucky and roll out.
Aspen Lakes rents GolfBoards and if you haven’t tried a GolfBoard, which is a mix of a large skateboard and a small surfboard with room for your golf bag and it's all wheel drive, you should consider renting one – it’s adds a new fun element to the game.
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Service is fantastic – all of the staff is friendly, outgoing, and wants to make sure you have an enjoyable round. The practice facilities are great – spend some time in the bunkers before you head out. The club house is wonderful with a well stocked pro shop and an award winning restaurant and bar.