The Golf Road Warriors only 36 holes-in-a-day adventure saw us tackle the Jack Nicklaus Signature Course one afternoon. Pronghorn Resort General Manager Spencer Schaub was kind enough to accompany us on our walking/swinging tour of this fantastic layout with its pristine conditioning and views of the Three Sisters mountains (“Faith, Hope and Charity,” from north to south, to the locals, as named by the early pioneers of this area). But Spencer’s true hospitality shone as he managed to make a messy double bogey on the finishing hole to hand me and my balky putter the match, and a fabulous beer to be named later.
The 7,379 yard, par-72 Nicklaus course combines supreme variety with the need to make smart choices. DECISIONS. The architect himself was famous – and rather successful, winning 18 Professional Majors (along with 19 runner-up finishes), two U.S. Amateurs and 73 PGA Tour events – for actually making conservative strategic selections and aggressive swings; most amateurs do the opposite: aggressive lines, directions and choices, coupled with tentative and indecisive swings. Combine Nicklaus’ thinking and his unparalleled abilities with the driver and putter, golf’s two most important clubs, and one has a brilliant recipe for success. Let’s look at how Jack’s ways could help you navigate a few holes at his offering in the high desert of the great state of Oregon…
The image to the left is of the par-4 13th, a testy little hole that can play anywhere from 308 yards (gold tee markers) to 378 yards (the tips). Other than the breathtaking sunrise, what do you notice about this picture? Well, it’s taken from the green looking back towards the fairway and teeing areas. That’s how Nicklaus analyzed and dissected golf courses he’d never seen before: he walked them backwards from the 18th green to the 1st tee. It’s a great way to get a feel for for the golf course, its nooks, its crannies, its hiding places. The 13th can be played in many fashions. If you drive the ball well, a la Jack, keep it down the left side and leave yourself a pitch or wedge in. Otherwise, take less club off the tee for safety and negotiate the remaining yardage with a slightly longer iron. Oh – and take a quick look at the hole placement on the green that day before making your final decision.
To your right, the same hole, different time of the day (the hues are magnificent in Central Oregon, aren’t they? They’ll fill you in further on the colors and sights of the this picturesque area at the Central Oregon Visitors Association), taken from approximately 100 yards away from the green. Imagine this is where you’ve hit your tee shot… Confident from this distance? Go ahead and fire at the pin – that means hitting it at the South Sister; if not, play towards the center of the green – that’s Broken Top to the left, or south, of the South Sister. The Broken Top line takes the water out of play; you then must rely on your putting to make your par (Jack was a phenomenal lag putter, by the way). The takeaway? KNOW your strengths and weaknesses as a golfer and play the course accordingly.
The Nicklaus Signature course is full of such options and flavor throughout. A handful of 400-yard + par fours with the trademark Nicklaus raised greens blend in with some tantalizingly short-ish ones, like #’s 1, 12 & 13. The par-5’s and 3’s are simultaneously versatile and vexing. Frankly, how can one not enjoy this layout?
I haven’t forgotten my victory beer. Problem is, how can I speak to just one, when there are some many delicious options at Crux Fermentation Project? Co-owner Paul Evers lead us on an epic tour of the space, just prior to our sampling. Just go, taste and savor the whole vibe of Crux, keeping in mind that you are chilling in an old transmission shop. Not kidding. Like the Nicklaus course at Pronghorn, you’ll just want to return for more.