Each week this season TravelGolf.com is highlighting a key college football matchup and looking at the golf options around the home team's campus. This Saturday, the University of Oregon hosts Washington. Here's a look the top golf courses in Eugene, Ore.
Eugene and the University of Oregon is sports country. The birthplace of the Nike Swoosh, the city hosted the U.S. Olympic Track & Field Time Trials this summer - not to mention the U.S. Women's Amateur Golf Championship at Eugene Country Club.
So Eugene sports fans have had a busy summer hosting some of America's best athletes. For the Oregon Ducks football squad, the summer was likely spent figuring out how to replace last year's stud quarterback and Heisman candidate, Dennis Dixon.
With Dixon at the helm last year, the Ducks appeared headed towards a sure national championship game. But that was before Dixon tore his ACL late in the season, thus neutering the Ducks' potent spread offense.
Expectations aren't as lofty this season, though Oregon carries a No. 20 preseason ranking into their season opener versus conference foe, the University of Washington Huskies, which has its own young stud QB, Jake Locker, who seems poised for a breakout season.
Conference match-ups don't generally happen this early in the year, which is all the more reason to head to Eugene for Week 1 of the college football season. And don't forget to bring your golf clubs!
The undisputed king of Eugene golf is Eugene Country Club. It's a mainstay on Golf Digest's "Top 100 in America" ranking and hosted this summer's U.S. Women's Amateur. Unfortunately, it's private. They offer reciprocal play, however, so, if you have a home club, ask your head professional to make the phone call to get you a tee time.
Eugene's public offerings, on the other hand, are very laid-back (don't feel the need to pack slacks, jeans seem to be pretty common around here) and are a good value for the money. You can play any of the public courses in Lane County for less than $50, even on weekends.
There's Diamond Woods Golf Course, near the airport. It's all-natural, rolling and of championship pedigree. The front side plays through mostly flat lowlands, before the back plays up into the hillside, making for some steeply uphill and downhill holes. It's capped with a 600-plus yard 18th monster.
Emerald Valley Golf Club is the home of the University's golf teams and its yearly invitationals. The club recently reopened after extensive renovations.
But many locals' favorite course is actually about a 40-minute drive along the Mackenzie River: Tokatee Golf Club. The allure of Tokatee is a setting entirely different from the gently rolling, parkland Eugene area. Tokatee is set into the Cascades, at the base of steep mountains and with the Sisters Mountains in the background. Tall pines line holes tightly, requiring finesse and accuracy over brute strength on this classic beauty.
No one's going thirsty in Eugene, and microbrew lovers especially are going to be tickled pink here. The entire state prides itself on its many local brands. Eugene offers its fair share of local pours and large, tailgate-friendly venues.
Set inside a big brown barn, the Cooler (www.thecoolerbar.com) is just a half mile walk to Autzen Stadium. It has a 15-foot projection screen the owners claim is the biggest in town, so you'll be able to catch every snap if you don't have tickets to the game.
If variety is your thing, head to the Bierstein (345 E. 11th Ave., tel. 485-2437), which serves more than 100 beers on tap. That's not all.
"The food is, by far, the best bar food in all of Eugene," says Chris Holman, a faculty member at the University of Oregon, who advises pub-goers to get there early, as Bierstein is one of the smaller bars in town.
Also, no trip to Oregon is complete, whether it's in Bend, Eugene or Portland, without going to a McMenamins. The McMenamin brothers have grown a chain of more than two dozen properties in the state but all entirely different from one another. Eugene has two locations: McMenamin's North Bank, with a beautiful setting on the Wilammette River (it's a little more subdued and relaxed versus the campus bars). Or check out the McMenamin's East 19th Street Grille on campus.
In downtown Eugene, Steelhead Brewery (www.steelheadbrewery.com/eugene) is another large venue with its own collection of local beers, from its Bombay Bomber IPA to its Hairy Weasel Hefeweizen. There is a full menu and plenty of TVs to boot.
Eugene and Lane County's golf is somewhat limited. Thankfully, Oregon's golf scene can offer about as many different looks as the Ducks can offer wacky uniform combinations. Eugene is just a quick drive to all of it. If you're looking to combine your trip to Eugene with something else, gas up the van and head two-to-three hours to either Bandon on the coast, Bend on the high desert or Portland to the north.
Next week: A look at golf in Gainesville, Fla. in advance of the Gator's Sept. 6 showdown with Miami in The Swamp.
August 25, 2008