Located less than 30 minutes northwest of Portland’s city center, Pumpkin Ridge is a beautiful golf venue that has played host to many big-time championship golf moments throughout the years, including David Duval’s win in the 1993 Nike Tour Championship, Tiger Woods’ final amateur championship and others including the Safeway Classic, Women’s Open Championship, US Girls’ Junior Championship, the US Junior Amateur, US Women’s Amateur and others.
Most notably of the club’s major golf moments is perhaps Tiger Woods’ climactic victory in a 36-hole match play before turning pro in the 1996 US Amateur. It was Tiger’s third consecutive US Amateur title, and his PGA career that would follow changed the world of golf forever.
An interesting side note: Do you know what Tiger’s first PGA event was? The answer is the Greater Milwaukee Open at Brown Deer Park, in my home area of Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
The big golf publications took notice of Pumpkin Ridge’s fantastic golf early and often, and even with the Bandon property also located in the same state, their courses continue to be highly ranked, including:
- Ghost Creek: 67th best public course (US)
- Ghost Creek: 13th best course (OR)
- Ghost Creek: Best new public course (US, 1992)
- Witch Hollow: 2nd best new private course (US, 1992)
- Ghost Creek: 7th best public course (OR)
- Witch Hollow: 151st best course (US)
- Ghost Creek: 56th best public course (US)
- Ghost Creek: 6th best public course (OR)
One of the things that really shocked me about Pumpkin Ridge is how small the greens are. The course is not overly long at 6,839 yards from the tips, but the fairways are rather tight and the greens remind me of ones that would have been designed in the 1920’s and 1930’s at great private clubs.
Ghost Creek is not a private golf club, though, while Witch Hollow is. Tight fairways with small greens means shots off the tee are not easy, but more importantly approach shots are unbelievably challenging.
The one thing I had on this day, though, was solid approach shots.
Ghost Creek leads off with a straight-forward par four to help golfers get warmed up. At 392 yards with a slight lilt to the right, this is an easy driving hole with a fairly benign green complex – softly risen with sand front-left, but otherwise level and hittable.
Don’t get too used to wide open driving areas with adjacent fairways to bail out poor drives, because the second hole tightens the fly zone considerably. Playing a yard shorter than the first hole from the blue tees, the second is 391 yards with a slim corridor through trees to one of the toughest greens to hit on the course.
The first of the par threes on the Ghost Creek course at Pumpkin Ridge, the third hole is an absolutely beautiful one-shotter downhill to a wide green that is miniscule from front-to-back:
The number one handicapped hole on the entire course, the fourth on the Ghost Creek course tees off through a chute of trees to a fairway running right to left with some extreme slope.
The fairway tightens toward the green, and climaxes at another small green that falls off on the left side.
The fifth is a crazily long par three that plays straight in to the wind. Ghost Creek cuts through the fly zone around 150 yards, and out-of-bounds runs the right side of the hole.
I hit hybrid from the tee, caroming off the tree limbs and just short of the right side of the green.
It was on the sixth hole that I met up with my playing partner for the rest of the day. Ghost Creek is called Ghost Creek, he told me, because it literally pops up out of nowhere. I would have been in a lot of trouble if I had any idea where the creek was on most of the holes, but instead I gripped it and ripped it all day, and made some incredible golf shots.
Ghost Creek runs right to left on the far side of the fairway on the sixth hole. I managed to play a drawn drive to within 20 yards of the green here, pitched the approach to within a few yards and had an easy, ho-hum par.
My partner for the rest of my round at Ghost Creek waited on the tee for me on the seventh hole. He was telling me how he’d watched David Duval hit his tee shot on this hole back in 1993 during the Nike Tour Championship, which he went on to win despite a double bogey on nine. The two of us both teed off terribly, well right, but were able to find our drives.
Again, Ghost Creek came in exactly where I thought it didn’t exist. My approach hit the right side of the green complex, and I saw it bounce hard right.
Luckily, my ball somehow avoided Ghost Creek – it might have been the most awkard lie ever, but I was able to get it pretty tight and secure my par.
The eighth hole on the Ghost Creek course is the course’s longest hole at 573 yards. With an intimidating driving zone, I managed to pipe my drive down the right side. My three-wood then got pretty close but with tree issues on the left side of the approach area.
The group ahead of us had lost a wedge a few holes ago, so with a gallery I made what I thought was a phenomenal swing on a 52-degree wedge to the right side of the green, straight at the pin.
The middle-right portion of this green is heavily mounded, making the back-right pin location a sucker pin. My ball hit the mound and ran off the back-right, which I then took another three shots to get in the hole. Ouch.
The ninth hole on the Ghost Creek course at Pumpkin Ridge might be the hardest par four in the history of the world. Playing straight in to the wind, the tips play to 469 yards, and the entire left side of the approach area is shrouded in water.
Ghost Creek, invisible from the tee boxes, comes in to play on the right side of the initial fairway.
There were no white caps on the pond during our round, but the wind was absolutely howling in our face. I flushed my driver off the tee, and was still left with about 220 in. My next shot I could only play to be safe – I hit hybrid well right, leaving a chance for par but assuredly bogey. I was playing too good of a round to try three-wood over the water!
The back nine starts parallel to the first, and is one of the shortest par five holes I have seen at a world-class golf course. At 492 yards from the tips, and 474 from the first tees in, this hole is straight away and green light for birdie/eagle opportunities. I wanted to go big, and almost hit the right-side fairway traps right on the first hole.
Considering the heat wave in Portland at the time of my round (95-105 degrees), the courses were cart-path only, so I backed my cart up and back around to the first hole fairway. From where my drive was, I was only 220 yards out from the green on 18, and with no idea where to go hit a four-iron just left of the first hole green and within 20 yards of the tenth hole green.
About twenty minutes of cart driving later, I had a reasonable putt for birdie that I missed, but was happy with par. I can only imagine that in a PGA or Web.com Tour event that this hole would be played as a long par four.
The eleventh hole is a mid-range par three with Ghost Creek running through the middle of it. Make a confident shot here, as anything else has a chance of finding it’s way in to the creek.
I hit a half-shot, which somehow avoided the creek on the right side and left an easy flop shot. Another par.
The twelfth hole on the Ghost Creek course at Pumpkin Ridge is an absolutely beautiful par four, with fantastic bunkering leading up to the green complex.
The driving zone looks tight, but is quite liberal. It tightens quite severely around the green, though, with a multitude of sand traps leading up to another small green that breaks hard.
The thirteenth is one of the tightest holes on the entire course, save for the second.
The safe shot is to the left side of the green, and the right-side pin placement we had was a sucker pin to be sure.
A long downhill par three, the fourteenth is a beautiful hole heading toward the clubhouse. I hit five-iron off the tee, and held up a little on the backswing, leaving an approach from the front right.
My shot of the day came next – I saw it the entire time, though, as an eight-iron uphill with a right-to-left break. It’s funny for golfers how we know when we’re going to make shots. For me, I knew this was going in the second I hit it. It was 25 yards and with pace, but there was never a doubt. Birdie, and still on track for a great round on a classic American golf course.
The fifteenth is a long par five that runs right to left. The challenge on this hole comes on the approach area, pleading for golfers to stay right on a hole that is littered with sand traps left.
In typical Pumpkin Ridge fashion, the green is small with great bunkering short, while this tiny putting surface runs dramatically from left to right.
I hit my approach left over the traps, leaving the only option a flop shot over the front-left trap. I managed to pull it off and it trickled toward the hole, about eight feet from the pin. Anything else would have been impossible.
The sixteenth is the shortest hole on the course, at 133 yards from the tips at 125 from the first tees in. Greenside traps abound everywhere, and down-wind this hole was ready for the taking.
The issue with that is that like every hole at Pumpkin Ridge, the greens are far from easy to hit – they have to be some of the smallest greens I have ever seen, including classic old country clubs.
The great thing about the greens, though, is that they roll unbelievably true. They were slow for my rounds at Pumpkin Ridge because of the heat (rolling them could wreak havoc on the grasses), but rolled perfectly. At the same time, though, hitting them was incredibly difficult but felt very natural to me – the size of these greens are very similar to the greens at my home course at North Hills Country Club in Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin.
The seventeenth on the Ghost Creek course at Pumpkin Ridge is the ultimate drivable par four. At 329 yards from the tips, and 301 from the first tees in, Ghost Creek runs from the left side across to the right.
If hitting driver off the tee, the aim has to be to the left side of the fairway to minimalize the chances of ending up in water.
My playing partner told me to stay a little left, so I did. I wailed on the ball, and had no idea whether or not I cleared the water, but ended up in great shape just short of the green.
Ghost Creek ends in dramatic fashion, with a long par four that finishes over water. Similarly to the eighteenth at Bay Hill, the driving zone is best played left to avoid the water and create a more straight-on approach avoiding the pond.
The green on eighteen runs hard toward the water, so discretion is important for staying left.
A family of deer on the opposite side of the pond on eighteen:
We somehow managed to finish our round just before the sprinkler system went off:
Ghost Creek at Pumpkin Ridge is a fantastic parkland golf course. With mountains in the backdrop of almost every tee shot, and small but undulating greens, this is a fantastically challenging course that requires a great game off the tee, as well as around the greens.
I somehow had a bit of both during my round, as well as a bit of luck. As an 11.4 handicap going in to my round, I could not have been happier with my 80 (with an asterisk – I dropped balls around where I thought they would be on two holes during the back nine to make sure we had time to finish the round).
My tee shot on the course’s first long par three caromed off a tree to within a few yards of the green; my approach shot on seven somehow banked off the right side of the green over Ghost Creek and was within half a foot of being in the water; my chip shot birdie on fourteen was ridiculous; my two worst drives of the day were on two (banked off a tree about 30 yards left of my aiming point in to the middle of the fairway) and ten (sliced so hard that it almost went in to the first hole right-side fairway trap)… If I know anything about golf, it’s that you’re always one great shot away from a great hole. That was how my round at Ghost Creek was – a lot of great and bailed-out awful shots on a wonderful Oregon course that requires precision.
I’ll take it.
Location: North Plains, OR
Yardage: Black-6839, Blue-6386, White-5921, Red-5111
Slope/Rating: Black-147/74.5, Blue-139/72.1, White-136/69.8, Red-132/71
Weekend Rates: $125