Tetherow Golf Club Review

50 Words or Less

Tetherow Golf Club, located just outside Bend, Oregon, is a tough test of all phases of your game.  Immense replay value.  Lots of fun for the creative shot maker.  Beautiful natural setting.

Introduction

Tetherow Golf Club is not the most famous David McLay-Kidd design in Oregon – that’s Bandon Dunes [review HERE] – but, depending on your taste, it might be his best.  If you’re looking for a firm, fast test of your ball striking and strategy, it’s time to head to Bend, Oregon.

Practice Facilities

The practice facilities at Tetherow Golf Club aren’t just excellent, they’re visually stunning.  Most driving ranges stand apart from the course – wide, flat, dull.  When I first got to Tetherow, I thought that the driving range was part of the course – that’s how much effort was put into matching the aesthetics of the range to the course.  Also, the putting greens are elevated, giving you great views to go with all the slopes you need to prep for the course.

On the practical side, the driving range is a adjacent to the first tee, which is exactly where it belongs.  There are two sides to the range, so it might require a short drive to hit balls.  The two practice putting greens – one under construction at the time of this writing – are located just behind the range.  Finally, Tetherow has one of the best short game areas I’ve seen.  This area has all the wild elevation that you’ll see on the course, so you can get your short game truly prepared.

Fun fact: the driving range turns into a par 3 course on Mondays…and it’s free to play!

Amenities & Customer Service

Tethrow Golf Club offers players traditional golf carts – with excellent GPS units – as well as Finn Scooters.  I’m a huge fan of the Finn Scooter [review HERE], and I saw more golfers on Finn Scooters than in golf carts at Tetherow.  This makes sense since Tetherow has the largest fleet of Finns anywhere.

The pro shop is fairly compact and more focused on soft goods than hard goods.  You’ll be able to find a replacement putter but not a full set.  There is also a drive thru turn stand where you can refuel for the back nine.

While the Tetherow Golf Club is a first-tier course, Tetherow Resort has much more to offer.  There are three restaurants – I ate at The Row numerous times and never got tired of it – an outstanding fitness facility, a pool, miles of hiking and bike trails, and much more.  The hotel rooms are spacious and well appointed, and there are rental homes if you want more space.  There are only 50 hotel rooms at Tetherow Resort, which gives the place a great feel – intimate, never crowded.

Beauty & Scenery

Tetherow Golf Club is in a unique spot.  It sits on 700 acres that borders the Deschutes National Forest but is just minutes from downtown Bend.  Both elements are on display, as you’ll see quite a few houses on the course (safely set back from play) as well as the Cascade Mountain Range.

The real star of the show is the dramatic movement of the land.  This high desert landscape was left rough and wild.  What I love about this look is that it’s directly related to the way the course plays.  The slopes and elevations not only entertain your eye, they’re also what tests your game.

Tee Shots

A player might look at the wide fairways of Tetherow Golf Club and think, “This course is generous off the tee.”  Another player could see the forced carries and waste areas full of plants and think, “This course is tough off the tee.”  Neither player is entirely right or wrong.  Off the tee, Tetherow is a mixed bag.

I rated almost every fairway at Tetherow as “Wide” and just one hole as below average in width.  But that doesn’t tell the entire story.  The fairways snake left and right, split and dead end.  There are definitely holes where you can swing away, but most demand that you choose a specific line and distance.  If you’re really precise with your drives, you can gain huge advantages by using the slopes to gain distance.  In our group, one player hit a 400 yard drive on #2.

Missing the fairways comes with a steep price.  While you can find your ball in the waste areas, you won’t find them all.  You might draw a playable lie, but it’s more likely that your ball will be suspended in a shrub.  There are numerous center-line hazards at Tetherow, but, for the most part, you’re better off in a fairway bunker than taking your chances with the waste areas.

Tetherow Golf Club offers players five sets of tees ranging from 7,283 to 5,230 yards.  There are also three sets of combo tees.  The fairways are fast and firm, which can add distance to your drives, but you should also take into account the wind.  While I would not say that length is a major factor at Tetherow, you can make it one by biting off more than you can comfortably chew.

Approach Shots

The fairways at Tetherow Golf Club are firm and fast with undulations that range from subtle to enormous.  Unless you find a divot, your ball will have a perfect lie, but your stance is likely to be less than ideal – uphill, downhill, or sidehill.   Getting comfortable over the ball is just the first part of the challenge.

Next, you’ll need to deal with elevation changes and wind.  It’s rare that you’ll ever play the GPS yardage on an approach shot.  The elevation changes range from modest to “I’m supposed to hit it up there?!”  Beyond adding distance, those uphill shots can take away your vision of the target.

The final piece of the approach shot puzzle is the green.  Tetherow Golf Club has uniformly large greens, but they’re heavily segmented and undulating.  You can easily hit a green in regulation but be a long way from a par.

With the course playing firm and fast, the ground game is available on most holes.  The caveat is that you need to make a choice.  If you’re going to use the slopes and play a running shot, you need to commit to that path.  Alternately, you can play a precise, target golf shot, but it needs to be really high with plenty of spin.  Taking the middle route – average trajectory with no plan for what happens on the ground – is the fastest way to missed greens.

Greens & Surrounds

The surrounds at Tetherow Golf Club are just like the rest of the course: big, bold, dramatic.  There are perilous false fronts, towering mounds, and steep drops off the sides of greens.  Large, wild bunkers protect many of the greens.  Though the bunkers are often the focal point visually, more strokes will be lost to slopes than sand.

While there are spots of light rough, the majority of the surrounds are tight and fast like the fairways, leaving you the ability to putt from almost any distance.  The speed of the playing surfaces and the size of the undulations allows for tremendous creativity on and around the greens.  During our round, numerous shots were played well away from the cup to utilize a friendly slope.

The greens are outstanding, running at a smooth 10 or 11 on the Stimpmeter.  This enhances the effects of the large undulations, making every lengthy putt an adventure.  Putting from one segment of a green to another can feel more challenging than an approach to an island green.  The reads are not difficult, but you need to have your speed under control.

While great shotmaking and precision are always useful, the critical ability around the greens of Tetherow Golf Club is discipline.  During your round, you will face situations where you need to take your medicine.  That might be a chip that’s likely to run back down a false front.  It could be a birdie putt you can’t be aggressive with.  Whatever it is, make the smart play immediately and get on to the next shot.  Trying to fight this course is not going to be good for your score.

Overall Design

Tetherow Golf Club is a litmus test for who you are and what you like in a golf course.  If you like playing the victim, you won’t like this course.  You’ll have ample opportunities to whine when your “perfect” shot rolls off the green.  However, if you appreciate the ground game, creativity, and the natural interplay of luck and skill in golf, Tetherow could easily be in your personal top five.

The day that I played Tetherow Golf Club, the wind was blowing unusually hard, according to the staff.  For me, this just added to the fun.  The course absolutely wore me out, but I had a smile on my face the whole time.  But perhaps I’m a golf masochist.

Regardless of your taste, what you must appreciate about Tetherow Golf Club is its immense replay-ability.  Because the greens are so big and have so much character, a new set of pin positions means an entirely different playing experience.  Couple that with the flexibility in the tee boxes and you can easily see why the members never get sick of this course.

The other thing that makes Tetherow a great home course is the depth of the local knowledge.  Some courses give up all their secrets after one round.  Tetherow Golf Club is not one of them.  Every time around this track, you’re going to find a new wrinkle to avoid or take advantage of on future trips.

Favorite Holes

#2 – Par 5 – 546 Yards

Looking at the flyover, the second hole seems fairly normal – a medium length par 5 with a divided fairway.  In person, the amount of elevation change is jaw dropping.  Depending on the distance and line of your drive, you can have a long, blind second shot or a wedge to set up eagle.  And like virtually every hole at Tetherow Golf Club, getting to the green is only half the battle.

#6 – Par 4 – 424 Yards

The sixth hole also features a split fairway.  Playing to the right limits how far you can drive it, and it takes away your view of the green.  Going to the left gives you a better shot, but it brings water into play.  You can also hit it perfectly straight and end up in the garbage like I did.  This is a hole that you’ll want to play again the minute you putt out.

#7 – Par 3 – 226 Yards

This hole made the cut for its green and its tee boxes.  It’s only a long par 3 if you’re playing one of the back two tee boxes – it drops to 163 for the middle tees.  This is something more courses should do.  The green is a masterwork, encapsulating everything that’s fun and maddening about Tetherow Golf Club.  To get a great result, you need a solid plan and precise execution.

Conclusion

If you’re up for a challenge and you enjoy putting your creativity to work on the course, Tetherow Golf Club is a must-play.  This is a gorgeous course that’s going to test every part of your game while giving you the opportunity to fashion shots you wouldn’t be able to play anywhere else.

Visit Tetherow Golf Club HERE

Matt Saternus

4 Comments

  1. No offense but that course is at best the sixth best course in Bend.

    • Matt Saternus

      Jeff,

      I’m not DMK, so you’re not offending me.
      What courses do you think are better?

      -Matt

  2. In this order and that is funny. DMK has been on record saying he was going through a divorce and drinking a lot when he built Tetherow. They have spent over 2 or 3 million since it opened to “make it easier”. Ok the order…
    1) Pronhorn (Fazio)
    2) Bend Golf Club (best greens you will ever play)
    3) Crosswater
    4) Brasada
    5) Pronghorn (Nicklaus)
    6/7 Big and Glaze Meadow
    8) Broken Top

    • Matt Saternus

      Jeff,

      I got to play several of those on my recent trip. I didn’t like any of them as much as Tetherow, but Crosswater was my #2. The beauty of opinions!
      Have a great day.

      -Matt

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