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LCGG: Sandpines Golf Links

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Sandpines is a legitimate golf destination. Designed by Rees Jones, it was named Best New Public Golf Course in America when it opened in 1993 and has received numerous other awards and accolades since. In 2006 the clubhouse was added, along with the stunning Tavolo Restaurant and Lounge.

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Naturally sculpted, the course looks effortless. It’s as though some grass was planted, a few trees were removed and then someone dug a few holes.

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The flow of the course is surreal. Each hole is unique, which I guess came as a surprise because the vegetation was so uniform. Every blade of grass was exactly as long as it should be. It was obvious that serious care is taken to keep the course in excellent condition.

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Sandpines checks all the boxes of a traditional links course. It’s near the ocean, built on sand and players face constant wind. Bunkers at Sandpines are so deep and frequent you’ll want to keep a headlamp and some climber’s rope in your bag so you can get back out.

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Though the fairways, rough and bunkers look and feel like a traditional Scottish links, the course is distinctly Oregon. Stunted pines, a staple of the Oregon Coast, line many fairways and frame tee boxes. Rhododendrons make up much of the underbrush you’ll be rummaging through to find any errant tee or approach shot, and wide ponds play a prominent role on many holes.

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The first few holes of the course are very open and players are able to see quite a distance, which gives the initial illusion of the course being somewhat flat.

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It is an illusion, because many holes play with serious elevation changes. Even when the course isn’t changing elevation it has many “hillocks and undulations” which provide variety and a sense that the main architect responsible for the course layout was Mother Nature, not Rees Jones.

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Sandpines, like many other courses near the ocean, has ideal playing conditions year-round. Freezing temperatures are rare at the coast, and because Sandpines is built on sand drainage is excellent. You would have to look very hard to find any mud at Sandpines.

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The styling and branding at Sandpines is professional and understated; reminiscent of what I’ve come to expect from downtown Portland law firms. It’s the simple things. Like the clean and minimalistic scorecards, free from the ubiquitous course map. It reminded me of a menu with no prices; it asks you to just play golf and promises you will enjoy it. And I did.

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The difficulty of the course can vary dramatically based on which of the five sets of tees you choose to play from. A single group comprised of experienced and novice golfers can play a round together, have fun and feel like they were each appropriately challenged.

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Location, style, well manicured and a reasonable challenge: all of this makes Sandpines a perfect place to bring groups for functions like business retreats and fundraisers.

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It’s a course that will impress.

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Only about an hour drive from Eugene, and less than three hours from Portland, it’s remote enough to make visitors feel like they’ve gotten away, but close enough that no one will be burned out from traveling.

Sandpines has banquet facilities to accommodate up to one hundred people and outdoor spaces large enough for more than that. It can handle most post tournament luncheons and raffles or the typical team-building exercise to compliment your company’s achievements on the course. With tournament and group packages available, Sandpines can meet the needs of most groups.

The staff at Sandpines is willing to help their clients with their more, well, unique requests. During my round, on a wide flat are of the 18th fairway between the large pond and some hills about 75 yards in front of the green, I noticed large circles painted onto the grass. They were only just beginning to fade and couldn’t have been more than a few days old. “Hmm, that’s an interesting way to mark a drop zone,” I thought. When I returned to the clubhouse after my round I asked Dick Shores, Director of Golf at Sandpines, about his unique drop zone. He laughed and said it was a drop zone of sorts, but more than that it was an interesting take on your average closest-to-the-pin challenge. You see, players at a recent tournament, rather than hitting shots to the target in the fairway, tried to drop their ball closest to the middle of the target…from a helicopter.

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After hearing that I assumed if a client could dream it up Sandpines can probably make it happen.

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Each hole at Sandpines is distinct except one: the home hole is a clear riff on the 18th at TPC Sawgrass. The fairway curves left, hugging the water nearly from tee to green. I guess if Sandpines was going to pay any amount of homage with its design to another course, TPC Sawgrass wasn’t the worst choice to imitate.

Sandpines is beautiful. I believe it is well worth the cost of $55 a round for Oregon and Washington residents during the summer. If you are planning your next trip to the coast, your next fundraiser or your next corporate retreat I recommend working a round at Sandpines into your schedule. You will not be disappointed.

— Mark Apker, Eugene Daily News

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