Wednesday, August 19, 2015

#56 (Public) - Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club (Ghost Creek)

December 5. 2014

During the four years I lived in the Pacific Northwest, I had driven through Portland at least a dozen times. It has always been on my way to somewhere else, and at most, I would stop for lunch or dinner.  I had known and read about Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club, and always noted that I wanted to play it some day, but plans never seemed to line up to allow that opportunity.  That all changed when I planned my annual trip to Bandon Dunes.

When I scheduled my annual trip to Bandon, I knew I would be driving to my office in Seattle at the conclusion of the week. I made sure to build two extra days at the end of the Bandon trip so I could specifically stop for a round at Pumpkin Ridge. It was worth the stop.

The entrance sign to the Ghost Creek Course.
Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club has two courses. The nicer, private Witch Hollow Course (that makes an appearance in the The World's 500 Greatest Golf Holesand the Ghost Creek Course that is open for public play. Even though it was early December, the weather was fairly nice for golf, with temperatures in the low 50s and scattered rain.  Unfortunately, it had poured rain for the previous few days and the course was soppy wet.  Everywhere I stepped, other than tee boxes and greens, I sank an inch or two. There was a good deal of mud about which made for some interesting shots. Luckily for me, it didn't rain much at all during my round, and since the course was in the very wet conditions, there was hardly any other golfers on the course the day I played. Even though the conditions were not ideal, I was still excited to play the course after reading the night before that it served as home to the 1993 Nike Tour Championship, where David Duval came back from a double bogey on the par-4 ninth hole to win the golf tournament. The event was apparently a catalyst for an exceptional run of professional and amateur championships that have taken place at Ghost Creek.

The flag used on all holes at the Ghost Creek Course.
Due to the sloppy and wet conditions, I decided to play from the white tees since there would be little to no roll on any shot, and I would likely get several plugged shots during the round.  The white tees play to 6,132 yards and have a rating and slope of 71.0/136.  All distances below will be from the white tees.

Ghost Creek starts tough with par four that plays to 372 yards. It has a large green that is difficult because it is raised. Placing an approach shot over the back of the green would likely make for a poor start. The hollow behind the green is six feet deep in places.

A look down the fairway from the 1st tee box.
Several bunkers lie on the right side of the fairway around the 220 yard mark.
A look into the 1st green from 75 yards out.
A look onto the 1st green from behind.

The second hole is a 364 yard par 4.  The hole requires a good tee shot because it is slightly uphill and there is a succession of trees both right and left. It is difficult to judge distance to the second green, because the green is a few feet higher than where you will be hitting your approach shot. It looks smaller than it really is so aim for the middle.

A look down the fairway from the 2nd tee box. 
A look into the 2nd green from 150 yards out. 
A look onto the 2nd green from just short and front right.

The third hole is a par 3 that plays to 126 yards downhill.  It has some surprises because of the elevation change and the subtleties around the green are difficult to read from the elevated tee. In the final round of the 1993 Nike Tour Championship, Duval had a hole-in-one here on his way to winning the tournament.
A look into the green from the 3rd tee box.

The fourth hole is a 495 yard par 5. There is a definite birdie possibility if you position the drive and then don’t get too greedy with the second shot. From the tee box, the hole is not what it appears. The fairway is a lot wider than it looks, and it is a good idea to get within a sand wedge because the green plays like three different putting surfaces. If you’re going to birdie here, it will likely be because you played smart. Trying to overwhelm the hole may give you a big number because there is plenty of trouble left of the green.
A look down the fairway from the 4th tee box.
A look into the 4th green from 100 yards out.

At 193 yards, this par 3 is tough, and it played well over par in the last amateur championship they hosted here. It takes a long iron but the green is immensely wide. It can be possible to have a 120-foot putt, however, so shoot for the flag.

A look into the green from the 5th tee box.

Hole six is a par 4 that plays to 341 yards. This hole provides a bit of a breather though a little nerve wracking with the creek and the woods along the fairway. If the tee shot is too safe, the shot to the green is precarious. Missing to the left puts you 30 feet below the green. Missing right is in the creek. Play up to the bunkers in the fairway with whatever club you need to get close. From there it’s just a wedge.
A look down the fairway from the 6th tee box.
A look into the 6th green from 80 yards out.
A look back down the hole from behind the 6th green.

The seventh hole is a 384 yard par 4. The tee shot should turn a little left to catch the slope, and remember the bunkers at the green are “fore bunkers.” They are well short of the green and the purpose is to likely diffuse the perception of distance to the green. Since the bunker blinds the distance to the front collar, the tendency is to be a little short. No matter what your yardage chart says, the tendency will be to hit it softer. It’s just a curious little feature that Donald Ross liked and it might make you think a little harder.

A look down the fairway from the 7th tee box.
A look towards the 7th green from 200 yards out. 
A look into the 7th green from 45 yards out.

The eighth hole is a is a textbook par five that plays to 497 yards. Put it by the bunker on the tee shot and the view to the green is complete. You will know what to do from there, but remember the green is the smallest on the course and looks a little farther than it is. There is plenty of trouble at the green so the best chance at birdie is to wedge it close enough to one-putt. Because of the green size, getting on in two is not a high percentage shot, and the hollows and bunkers at the green are tough enough to keep you from making birdie.

A look down the fairway from the 8th tee box.
A look towards the green from the top of the hill.
A look into the 8th green from 120 yards out.
The photo doesn't do the view of the mountains justice. They are magnificent.

The ninth hole is a 419 yard par 4. It is perhaps the most difficult hole on the entire course. The bunkers tell you the best angle to the green is from the left side of the fairway, unless you enjoy hitting it with a long iron or a fairway wood to a target with water left and slightly behind which is what you will have from the right side. From the left, the green is backed by dry land. The putting surface is somewhat forgiving with space to the right of the green. Be advised that the average score here for two years in the Nike Tour was a half a shot over par.

A look down the fairway from the 9th tee box.
A look towards the green from 200 yards out.
A look into the 9th green from 80 yards out.

The back nine starts with a 453 yard Par 5. If you hit a good tee shot, the approach may well be with a medium long iron because you are with the prevailing wind. The creek winds its way across the fairway, but it is really not in play. There is some trouble around the green, but it is a definite birdie chance.
A look down the fairway from the 10th tee box.
A look into the 10th green from 65 yards out. 
A look back down the 10th hole.

The eleventh hole is a par 3 that plays to 145 yards. It can be a disastrous hole with the creek in play. It seems to break up the perception of length because it is slightly uphill. Club selection is everything, especially if the hole is back right. Much like twelve at Augusta, getting on the stick when the hole is back left takes some courage and talent.

A look into the green from the 11th tee box.

The twelfth hole is a 370 yard par 4. It shows you the line off the tee, but the tendency is to try to cut the corner; that is not a high percentage shot. A little drifter down by the bunkers on the left side of the fairway works well. The green has a nose that juts into the putting surface from the left and separates the back flagstick. If you don’t hit it well off the tee and the flagstick is in the back, you might be better advised to just play to the middle of the green and take four. When the hole is in the back, the best approach is from as close to the green as possible. In other words, grip it and rip it, or just play for par.
A look down the fairway from the 12th tee box.
A look into the 12th green from 150 yards out.
A closer look at the 12th green. 

The thirteenth hole is a 329 yard par 4. Thirteen can give up some shots, but don’t get it off line on the tee shot or you’ll find yourself hitting some trick shots to get on. If the flagstick is back, it’s best not to be too bold because over the back is a likely bogey. It falls away and when a shot comes in to a target higher than where the shot was hit, it’s in the top of the arc and hits the green at a lower angle, like a longer club.
A look down the fairway from the 13th tee box.
A look into the 13th green from 60 yards out.

The fourteenth hole is a par 3 that plays to 201 yards. It is the introduction to a stretch of holes that were designed specifically for championship use. It is a long downhill par three that plays tough. It is followed by three holes where the scores can go in either direction depending on the player’s courage or degree of desperation.
A look into the green from the 14th tee box,
At this point, my camera battery died and I had to use my phone to take photos of the last four holes. If the quality looks diminished, the combination of a phone camera and rapidly losing light are the causes.

The fifteenth hole is a 498 yard par 5. It can yield some birdies and your chances are enhanced if you play up around the tee shot bunker to the right fairway bunker on the second shot. This will put you in position to play into the slope of the green with a short iron. The green is not complicated.

A look into the 15th green from 110 yards out.

Sixteen is a par 3 that plays to 113 yards. It is intended to be one of those devilish par threes that entices you to shoot directly at the flagstick. That might be just a little too dangerous, especially if the wind is blowing. Over the back here is a sure bogey. It’s downhill so over-clubbing is a real possibility.
A look into the green from the 16th tee box, 

The seventeenth is a 273 yard par 4 that is perfectly placed for championship use. Those who play safe may perhaps criticize the hole, commenting that it is too short. Those players will probably make a par. If you want to make three, you need to go after it with a driver. Players walk away from seventeen either completely pumped or fairly devastated. At the 1994 Nike Tour Championship, Mike Schuchart double-bogeyed this hole in the final round yet still prevailed to win the championship.
A look down the fairway from the 17th tee box.
A look into the 17th green from 190 yards out.

The eighteenth hole is a 381 yard par 4.  On the tee at eighteen, all you have to do is hit a perfect drive about four miles and then a long iron into the prevailing wind with water on the right side of the green, just to get on the big dance floor and hope for a par. As a matter of fact, some may be more aggressive at seventeen just to make up for what they might do at eighteen. With daylight lacking, David Duvall drained a 17-foot putt for birdie to cinch the 1993 Nike Tour Championship. One other amazing feat is that he birdied this hole three out of the four rounds.

A look down the fairway from the 18th tee box.
A look into the 18th green from 100 yards out.
A look back down the 18th hole.
Even under the muddy and wet conditions, Ghost Creek still played really well and was a ton of fun.  I hope to get back one day to play it under better conditions, and perhaps add a round at Witch Hollow. I recommend this course to anyone who has an extra day in the Portland area.

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