Golf Course Review - Black Butte Ranch (Big Meadow/Glaze Meadow)

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FACTS AND STATS: Glaze Meadow Course Architect: John Fought (Redesign, 2010-12), Gene Mason (Original design, 1982). Year Opened: 1982/2012. Location: Black Butte Ranch, Oregon. Slope: 133. Rating: 72.7. Par: 72. Yardage: 7,007.


1 - Par 4 395 Yds 10 - Par 5 549 Yds

2 - Par 5 583 Yds 11 - Par 3 196 Yds

3 - Par 4 319 Yds 12 - Par 5 612 Yds

4 - Par 4 411 Yds 13 - Par 4 483 Yds

5 - Par 3 164 Yds 14 - Par 3 158 Yds

6 - Par 4 452 Yds 15 - Par 5 545 Yds

7 - Par 5 525 Yds 16 - Par 4 440 Yds

8 - Par 3 172 Yds 17 - Par 3 191 Yds

9 - Par 4 380 Yds 18 - Par 4 432 Yds

Par 36 3,401 Yds Par 36 3,606 Yds

Awards Won: Four stars by Golf Digest - Best places to play, Audubon International Cooperative Sanctuary.

FACTS AND STATS: Big Meadow Course Architect: Robert Muir Graves (1970), Damian Pascuzzo (redesign/renovation, 2008). Year Opened: 1970. Location: Black Butte Ranch, Oregon. Slope: 125. Rating: 71.6. Par: 72. Yardage: 7,002.


1 - Par 4 385 Yds 10 - Par 5 535 Yds

2 - Par 4 365 Yds 11 - Par 4 409 Yds

3 - Par 5 555 Yds 12 - Par 4 379 Yds

4 - Par 3 190 Yds 13 - Par 3 185 Yds

5 - Par 4 427 Yds 14 - Par 4 401 Yds

6 - Par 4 439 Yds 15 - Par 4 349 Yds

7 - Par 5 583 Yds 16 - Par 5 514 Yds

8 - Par 3 243 Yds 17 - Par 3 234 Yds

9 - Par 4 396 Yds 18 - Par 4 413 Yds

Par 36 3,583 Yds Par 36 3,419 Yds

Key Events Held: PNGA Senior Amateur (2011).

Awards Won: Four stars by Golf Digest - Best Places to Play, Audubon International Cooperative Sanctuary.

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HISTORY: Although the history of Black Butte Ranch dates back thousands of years, the origins of golf at the residential resort community began in 1970, when renowned course architect Robert Muir Graves crafted the Big Meadow course.

HISTORY: Although the history of Black Butte Ranch dates back thousands of years, the origins of golf at the residential resort community began in 1970, when renowned course architect Robert Muir Graves crafted the Big Meadow course.

Graves, who passed away in nearby Bend, Ore., in the early 2000s after retiring on a ranch there, crafted and renovated hundreds of layouts around the United States, mostly in the Pacific Northwest, such as Canterwood, La Purisima, Quail Lodge and Sea Ranch Golf Links.

The thought process around Big Meadow was fairly simple: Mold the dramatic surroundings into a design that would provide a significant challenge to all levels of play.

Over the years, as with most courses, the layout began to weaken, so the powers that be at Black Butte Ranch brought in a Muir disciple, Damian Pascuzzo, who began his career working for the legendary architect back in 1991.

"Black Butte Ranch was a real special project for me," said Pascuzzo. "His last visit to any golf course was with me to BBR not long before his passing in 2003. BBR was always one of his favorite projects and there seemed to be a certain poetry to the fact that it was the last one he saw."

After three years of significant renovations, the course reopened in 2008. Not only was the layout lengthened over 150 yards, as new tees were added, but all of the bunkering was refined to include a high-faced splash.

"The routing of the golf course was solid and didn't require any adjustments," said Pascuzzo. "As is typical of courses of this age, the tees had shrunk and the bunkers were no longer in the right places. The ponderosa pines had grown to the extent they were impacting play and blocking long-range views of the mountains."

The second layout at Black Butte Ranch opened just 10 years later, as local- golf-professional-turned-course-architect Gene "Bunny" Mason crafted the Glaze Meadow course.

Over the seasons, the course deteriorated and was in need of a major overhaul. Even Mason's original design was in question, especially the first hole, which was often referred to as the worst opening hole in the state.

Several architects were in the running for the redesign, but it was Oregon's own John Fought who got the contract.

The former two-time PGA Tour winner and U.S. Amateur champion has had a long history in the golf profession, first as an amateur, when he played four years at BYU and competed for the United States in the Walker Cup. His seven years on the PGA Tour earned him a pair of wins and Rookie of the Year honors in 1979.

When injuries shortened his playing career, Fought began a new chapter in his life, working with Bob Cupp golf design before starting his own firm in the 1990s.

Fought has made quite a name for himself in the golf design business, especially with his work at Pumpkin Ridge and The Reserve Vineyards & Golf Club in Oregon and his restoration work at Pine Needles Golf Club in North Carolina.

With a fairly extensive budget of $3.5 million, Fought began the redesign in 2010. "It was a fun process to get started in," he said. "When I saw it for the first time, I thought, 'Wow, this can be so much better, we can really make a difference.'"

His first order of business included a change at the start, redesigning the first hole from a double-dogleg par-5 with trees in the middle of the fairway to a downhill par-4 that bends to the right, with sensational vistas of the region.

In addition, the second hole was transformed from a par-4 into a 583-yard par-5 with an elevated tee and a turn to the left.

Oh, there were other changes, like the rebuilding of all 18 greens and teeing grounds, all new bunkers and one of the biggest differences, the removal of trees.

This certainly did not come easily, but Fought and his team assured all property owners and concerned management, that this, although quite sensitive to the locals, was a necessity.

Fought removed almost 4,000 trees from the course. "Thousands upon thousands were removed," he said, creating robust corridors and enabling the rough to thicken for a more natural feel. "It's still a tree lined golf course, but now there's such wonderful views of the mountains on, so many different holes and a lot of that was made possible by just thinning out the trees.

"This enabled us to get it back to where we can now condition it and build some strategy back into the golf holes," Fought added.

The end result is a course that was increased almost 500 yards to over 7,000 from the black markers with a slope of 133. Shotmaking values were heightened, sightlines were improved and the conditioning of the course was significantly enhanced.

"We did almost no grading on this golf course, nothing," Fought said. We just let it sit where it sits. Most of the stuff we did basically utilized the land that was there and we just expanded it and built features like you would see on a classic Donald Ross or Harry S. Colt course.

"I believe in the more classical architectural values as opposed to the modern movement of moving millions of yards of dirt," Fought added. "There are very good designers who move lots of dirt, and they like to make all kinds of creative artistic landforms. It's easier to do that than it is to take land that is natural and find those places and actually embrace them, and move as little as possible to make a natural course."

REVIEW: GLAZE MEADOW COURSE - The opening hole is a wonderful, downhill, dogleg right par-4, which is a stark contrast to the initial start that was designed by Gene Mason in 1982. When the course was first designed, Mason crafted a double-dogleg par-5 with trees in the middle of the fairway. Many commented that the first hole at Glaze Meadow was the worst opening hole in Oregon. That is no longer the case, as the opener is a solid par-4. With tall Ponderosa pines guarding both sides of the fairway, you'll need just a 3-metal to navigate the landing area. Avoid the left side bunker and you're home free with an easy approach to a very long and canted (back to front) putting surface. One word of caution - do not miss long, as a steep slope will propel your shot toward trouble. The first ranks as the third-most difficult on the course. Thanks a lot.

Not only was the first hole changed dramatically, but the second was replaced with a robust par-5. From an elevated tee, No. 2 bends slightly to the left and features a fairway bunker down the right and a forest of trees to the left. Your layup is where this hole becomes tricky, as sand guards the right once again as the landing area narrows. If successful, this will leave just a short pitch to a long, elevated and narrow putting surface. Sand protects both the right and left front portion of the green, so make sure you take enough club for your approach.

No. 3 is a great risk-reward par-4 of just 319 yards. Water runs along the entire right side of the hole and tightens significantly at the 100-yard mark. Decisions, decisions, decisions. The sensible play is just a fairway metal to the fat part of the landing area, leaving a sand wedge to get close. The fun aspect is to take driver and smack a high cut toward the left, greenside bunker. Worse case scenario, it leeks and you end up wet, but you can still get up and down for par. Best case, you knock it on the green and you're putting for eagle.

The fourth hole is just 411 yards from the back markers, but the real decision will be about how much of the dogleg right you want to cut off. From the tips, you'll need to blast a 256-yard tee ball to clear the water hazard. If you play away to the left, then you run the risk of running through the fairway and either into the bunker or the thick rough. A short iron should remain to a slightly elevated putting surface that runs from back to front with sand left. Miss right and you run the risk of ending up in a steep, 20-foot dropoff.

The first par-3 on the course is the fifth at just 164 yards. Pretty straightforward with a wide landing area; however, the putting surface is just 31 paces in depth with sand on the right. Oh, and by the way, miss long and you'll end up in the pond that runs extremely close to the green. Listen intently to the babbling brook that meanders down the left side and cuts in front of the tee box. The sounds of serenity are throughout the course.

One of the most difficult holes on the course, the sixth reaches 452 yards in length. A sweeping draw is best of the tee, as the hole bends to the left. Avoid the fairway bunker down the right and you might be able to reach the green. Trees guard the entire right and left side of the fairway, so accuracy is keen. A mid- to long iron will remain to a very difficult green to hit. A bunker down the left side is well short of the putting surface, but very much in play, while the right trap fronts half of the green. The roundish green is fairly benign, but tricky in the rear portion. A par here goes along way on the card.

It certainly is possible for the big hitters to get home in two on the par-5 seventh, but realistically, this is a three-shotter. Just 525 yards in length, this hole bends sharply to the left from the tee, so a solid right to left play is required. Miss right and you're out of bounds, while left might find trees or the nasty fairway bunker at the corner of the dogleg. A successful tee shot can leave less than 250 yards, but your approach is straight uphill toward the green, so a layup is the smart choice. Two traps guard the layup zone, so be wary, but a bold play can set up a simple pitch. The green, which sits well above the fairway, is one of the smallest on the course at just 26 paces in depth, but it can be had. If you get a chance, take a look back down the fairway and gaze at Black Butte mountain. What a site!

Slightly longer than the first par-3 on the course, the eighth plays just a bit downhill from the tee box. Trees in the rear of the green were removed to bring in more air flow to the hole, not to mention bring out the natural beauty of the rock formations in the rear hillside. The 36-paced Redan-styled green slopes from left to right and back to front, making club selection and placement critical. A back-left flag will create incredible consternation, as the surface falls off to the left. Avoid the bunker, short and left of the green, as it sits well below the putting surface.

The outward nine closes with a short, but uphill, dogleg right par-4. Just 380 yards in length, No. 9 requires a pinpoint tee ball, as trees and sand guard the right and slope protects the left. Cut your tee shot over the left corner of the bunker and you'll leave just a short iron approach. However, run through the fairway and you'll have an incredibly awkward second. The undulating fairway will produce a uneven lie and you'll need to take an extra stick to compensate for the elevation. The green is circular and just 30 paces in depth, but make sure you stay below the hole for your best shot at par.

A par-5 greets the players on the start of the back nine, this time bending to the right and reaching 549 yards in length. The old, Jack Nicklaus power fade is the play off the tee, avoiding the bunker down the left and, of course, the tall trees down the right. A small bunker stands guard at the 100-yard spot, so avoid at all costs to give yourself the best chance at birdie. The putting surface is slightly elevated and requires a deft touch with a back-left pin. Take dead aim with a short club in hand, but always remember, par is a good score.

The longest par-3 on the course, the 11th can be stretched to almost 200 yards and plays uphill from tee to green. Two wide and extremely deep bunkers guard the left portion of the putting surface, so make sure you have enough stick to get home. Although the green is just 32 paces in depth, it is extremely wide and slick from back to front. Missing on the safe side when the pin is left will most definitely bring a three-putt into play, but better safe than sorry.

There is no question that the par-5 12th is one of the longest holes in the region, as it reaches a whopping 612 yards from the black markers. From the tips, you need to crank a 260-yard sweeping draw to cover the corner of the bunkered dogleg. The sensible play is a layup just short of the right fairway bunker, leaving another 100-yard play to the angled green. Not the biggest of targets, but certainly one in which you can get close. It comes as no surprise that this is the hardest hole on the back side.

As you stand on the 13th tee, you go from the longest par-5 to the longest par-4 on Glaze Meadow. Although fairly straight in stature, this 483-yard behemoth, sports two fairway bunkers, strategically placed on the left (212 yards to clear) and on the right (250 yards to clear). The place of the second bunker pinches the fairway, making it that much harder to hit. Bunkers front and rear make for a tough approach, especially when the pin is back right. Despite playing slightly downhill, a long iron approach will be hard to hold and the fall off right is quite severe. Good luck!

The simplest of the par-3s, the 14th is as straightforward as they get. Just 158 yards in length, four bunkers adorn the left and right sides. The difficulty of this hole is that the green is long and narrow with a rise in the center. Club choice is of utmost importance in an effort to make a three. Remember, below the hole for birdie.

The final par-5 on the course is certainly no gimme, as the 15th sweeps hard from left to right. The tee shot is quite taxing, as a fairway bunker on the far side of the dogleg sees plenty of action. As the landing area rises for your second shot, it also narrows, putting extra pressure on your layup. Although your third will be a short one, the green is very shallow, just 28 paces in depth. Sand protects a left portion of the putting surface, the most difficult side on the green, as it slopes severely left. And you thought you were going to make a birdie.

If you thought the pines were thinned out, you won't think so as you reach the 16th hole. Bending to the left, this dogleg of 440 yards is cut through the thickest portion of Ponderosa's on the course. Bunkers left and right frame the fairway, and you'll need to favor the right side of the landing area for your best angle to the green. The putting surface is accessible, but miss on either side and the fall off is quite severe. A double-bogey waiting to happen.

The 17th hole is the final par-3 on the course, and although it stretches to 191 yards, it plays downhill from the tee box. Bunkers on either side of the putting surface pinch in the front section of the green. As long as you clear the front trouble, a par should fill your scorecard.

The closing hole on the Glaze Meadow layout features an uphill tee shot to a well-protected fairway. Bunkers on either side of the dogleg right par-4 must be avoided. There is more room to the left, but this will leave a longer approach to the green. Your second shot will play ever so slightly downhill to a putting surface sandwiched by sand. Stay focused as the sight of Black Butte mountain is in full view.

BIG MEADOW COURSE - No. 1 on the Big Meadow layout is a solid starter, doglegging to the left and just 385 yards from the tips. Having said that, you'll still need to place your tee shot in the proper location, otherwise a longer approach will be required. The large fairway bunker down the left side is to be avoided at all costs, as this will set up a short iron to a small target of just 29 paces in length. Sand short is no bargain, so bail left if you must. The green falls away to the right, so be careful not to leak.

The second hole is, simply put, a birdie hole. Just 365 yards in length, it features a very wide fairway, so driver or three-metal will leave a short iron to a long, but narrow putting surface. The key here is to avoid the right, fairway bunker at the 250-yard mark and you're home free.

No. 3 is a fairly, straightforward par-5. The landing area off the tee is generous and devoid of sand, but the tree-lined fairway tightens your visual feel of the hole. The large bunker down the left side of the layup area is a key attribute of this hole, as it comes into play at the 150-yard mark. Play down the right side to avoid, as this will leave a simple pitch to a very accessible green. Although just 29 paces in depth, the surface is wide open in front and can be had. The real trouble is deep, but should not come into play.

The first par-3 on the course is the fourth, a wonderful, uphill gem that generally plays into the wind. Take an extra stick or two, otherwise you're certain to end up in the fronting bunkers, which sit well below the putting surface. The green is quite wide, but very shallow, so club selection is crucial.

The second-longest par-4 on Big Meadow, the fifth bends slightly to the left and reaches 427 yards from the tips. A gentle draw off the tee is the play, leaving a mid-iron to another minuscule green. Any approach on the putting surface will yield a birdie attempt, but misfire and two bunkers, one on each side, will gather your errant play.

No. 6 is the longest par-4 on the course, reaching 439 yards from the back markers. Bending hard to the left, the tee shot must avoid the 40-yard bunker guarding the left side, as to set up a reasonable mid-iron to a small and slightly elevated green. The tree-lined fairways will narrow your view, but stay focused to mark par. The right greenside trap makes for a difficult up and down.

The longest hole on the course is the par-5 seventh, a robust 583 yards and bending to the left off the tee. There are no bunkers in play off the tee; however, a straight tee ball can run through the fairway, making your layup a little difficult. Not only does the landing area bunker at the 100-yard spot tighten the fairway, but the trees and out-of-bounds right are no picnic, either. With a successful layup, just a gap wedge should suffice, as you attack the flag. Although rated the hardest hole on the course, this is birdie time.

I'm always amazed that par-3s are ranked as the easiest on the course. This should not be the case, especially on the eighth. Not only is this the longest one-shotter on the course, but it stretches to 243 yards and has the longest green at 36 paces in depth. The putting surface runs from back to front and features a bunker on either side, so not only is length important, but accuracy as well. It's hardly the 15th-hardest hole at Big Meadow.

The outward nine finishes with a great, dogleg right, deceptive par-4. Just 396 yards in length, the visual aesthetics is what might throw you off. From the tee, the player can mostly see sand and more sand covering the dogleg, but don't be fooled, as a wide swath of fairway sits well beyond the traps. You'll still need to bust a driver around 240 yards in the air to cover the sand, but there is plenty of bailout left for those less powerful. Having been successful, you'll have just a short iron left to a very undulating putting surface that slides in several directions.

A wonderful, risk-reward par-5 starts the backside at Big Meadow. Bending hard to the right, you'll be enticed to cut the corner, but beware the out-of-bounds and the severe mounding on the right. The prudent play is a powerfade at the fairway bunker in the distance, setting up a reasonable shot at the green in two. The landing area for your next shot is generous, but be leery of the crossing bunker around the 100-yard mark. From there, just a simple pitch to a very long, but narrow, kidney-shaped green. This is the first of three of the hardest holes on the back nine, but it can be had.

One of the best views at Black Butte Ranch comes in the form of the 11th tee box, as the Three Sisters peaks is in full view. Although just 409 yards in length, this par-4 has two key ingredients: avoid the right fairway bunker and stay below the hole on your approach. A three-metal off the tee will place you short of the bunker, but will leave a little longer approach. The putting surface is fairly benign, unless you underclub your second shot.

The second-most difficult hole on the course, and rightfully so is the par-4 12th. Although just 379 yards long, this tough dogleg left requires extreme accuracy off the tee, as the fairway rolls away and to the right. Next comes the approach, which is straight uphill, some 30 feet, to a very long and extremely quick putting surface. Any approach above the hole will most likely result in a three-putt, unless the speed is judged to perfection. Pascuzzo and Co. made several changes on this hole. "Originally, players could both fade and draw the ball off of the tee," he said, "but over the years the trees grew to the extent that a draw was the only play. We did as much tree clearing as we could to open the views back up, create alternate lines of attack and create room for tee expansion."

Another reason why a par-3 should not be rated as an easy hole is the 13th. Playing uphill from tee to green, this 185-yarder requires at least one extra club or maybe two, depending upon the wind. The most-difficult aspect of this hole might be the putting surface, which features two tiers, falls off sharply on the right and is as narrow as a women's waist. Good luck making three here.

You'll be hard-pressed to find a more picturesque spot than the 14th tee box, with Three Fingered Jack as a backdrop. The stunning site is as good as it gets and the par-4 is not too shabby, either. From an extremely elevated tee, the player has two choices on this 401-yard hole: Take driver to cover the bunkers down the left or lay back with a fairway metal to the right side of the fairway. Either way, a successful tee shot will be rewarded with a short to medium iron to a decent-sized target. The putting surface is guarded in front by two traps and right and rear by another two, so bail out left if you must. Be careful not to stray to far right off the tee, as thick rough and OB await.

Without a doubt, the 15th hole has to be my favorite at Big Meadow, and it has nothing to do with the characteristics. The fact of the matter, I holed my second shot from 100 yards out for an eagle and screamed like a little child. Why not? Not quite as exciting as the birth of the my son, but really, really close. In a word, this par-4 is fun. Just 349 yards from the tips, you'll need a slight draw to negotiate the fairly tight landing area, as trees adorn both sides. Your approach will be just a short wedge to a slightly elevated green with three massive fronting bunkers. The green is just 22 paces in depth, but quite wide, so distance control is key.

Another wonderful risk-reward hole at Big Meadow is the par-5 16th. Just 514 yards in length, this hole double-doglegs through the trees in an s-shaped pattern. A sweeping draw is required off the tee, but make sure you avoid the right fairway bunker and hug the left side, as trees will partially block your second shot on the right. A fairway metal should enable the player to get home in two, just avoid the bunkers - left, right and rear - and your home free. If you miss the fairway off the tee, you'll have to contend with a crossing bunker at the 120-yard mark, which juts out on the right. This hole is probably your last real chance at birdie.

The easiest hole on the course is the par-3 17th ... not. From the back markers, it's 234 yards and can reach as much as 250 with a back pin placement, so easy, it's not. A fairway metal will get you home, but the 34-yard long putting surface is the real issue. Sand on either side of the narrow green gets plenty of action, so realistically, the best play is short of the green and chip up for par. If only I would listen to my own advice.

No. 18 is an sensational finishing hole which bends to the right and stretches 413 yards. A massive bunker complex encompasses the right corner, so a blast of over 270 yards will be needed to reach the fairway. Most mortals will play toward the left side of the landing area, but this will set up a longer approach to the green. Water down the left is in play, but rarely reached off the tee. A mid-iron remains to a very long, but narrow putting surface. Bunkers on either side will pinch your line, but you should be able to negotiate the trouble from 160 yards out. The green is undulating, so stay below the hole if you can.

FINAL WORD: Black Butte Ranch is certainly not going to compete with that other Oregon golf resort on the coast that features 85 holes of Pacific Ocean golf.

What Black Butte Ranch is going to do is give the golfer and outdoor sports enthusiast a place to hang his or her hat and enjoy the spoils of life. No pressure, just peace and serenity.

What many people don't realize is that Central Oregon has been rated by Golf Digest as one of the 50 greatest golf destinations in the world, and Black Butte Ranch sits smack dab right in the middle.

During the summer, golf is most definitely the focal point, with 36 sensational holes of golf, as the playing season runs from late April through October.

But it's the other amazing intangibles that make Black Butte Ranch a must visit.

Cycling is an enormous part of the landscape at the resort. From the simple 1.5-mile Aspen loop to the more rigorous Lodge Loop of five miles. With a little coaxing, I would have tried this, but the Spa was calling.

Trust me when I tell you that a journey from the East Coast out west requires some work to the body. They have couples massages, bridal packages, back treatments, facials and more, but the kicker is the "Hot Stone Massage" for 90 minutes. Stay awake if you can, this is a must.

In addition, swimming, canoeing, kayaking, fishing, river rafting and horseback riding are other avenues of recreation at Black Butte. Talk about a serene experience.

If tennis is your game, there are 19 courts bandied about the resort, where you're sure to find a match or two.

Black Butte Ranch features 1,251 homes, with 350 in the rental program. They offer terrific stay and play packages, like four rounds of golf and lodging for four nights for just $255. If you need just a day away, how about a round of golf and dinner for $69. I'm not kidding.

Although there are plenty of places to visit nearby, like Bend and Sisters, Ore., there is no reason to leave the property. From a general store, complete with all of the necessities to a post office, and even a police and fire department.

Black Butte Ranch functions like any traditional resort, but is highly seasonal and that's what makes it a must visit. Can you imagine what central Oregon and the Cascade mountains are like in the winter?

When all is said and done, golf is but a small segment of Black Butte Ranch, but certainly a focal point.

The two courses have been brought into the 21st century, with the wonderful restoration and renovations by John Fought and Damian Pascuzzo.

Magnificently maintained, Big Meadow and Glaze Meadow are sure to find their way back into the state and national rankings.

With a variety of tee boxes and varying layouts, both golf courses bring quite a challenge to the single-digit player, as well as an enjoyable round to the novice golfer.

You could never tire from golf in the Northwest, especially at Black Butte Ranch, a golfer and sportsmen's paradise.

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