PORTLAND, Ore. -- The sights of Portland certainly are weird: It's tattooed, pierced populous never found an activity that couldn't be done on a unicycle. It's strong cultural scene -- to go with great restaurants, microbrews and great expanses of nature -- make it a one-of-a-kind city to visit.
Its golf scene is strong, too.
Portlanders have great munis they can play every day such as 36 holes at Heron Lakes Golf Course or historic Eastmoreland Golf Course. They even have a top semi-private course at Pumpkin Ridge, the club that hosted Tiger Woods' third and final U.S. Amateur victory and home to the lauded, semi-private Ghost Creek Course.
But what's most striking to me about Portland (besides Darth Vader riding a unicycle playing bagpipes -- just Google it) is how varied the golf gets if you head an hour in any direction.
West of Portland: Reserve Vineyards Golf Club in Aloha
Ditch the riverfront hillsides of the city and head west of town along a scenic greenbelt past Beaverton, and you'll eventually come upon the gently rolling, quiet farmland of Aloha.
Here, Reserve Vineyards Golf Club features 36 scenic, natural holes on timeless parkland property. It's the former home to the JELD-WEN Tradition and the Fred Meyer Challenge, hosted by Peter Jacobsen.
The semi-private club has side-by-side championship courses designed by John Fought (South) and Bob Cupp (North). Each course, while of tournament standard, has a different method of showcasing the best of this terrain. The North Course is bunker-laden, while the South Course more links-inspired.
East of Portland on the Columbia River Gorge
The first two times I visited Portland, I made the big mistake of not making the drive along I-84 on the Columbia River Gorge, instead bee-lining south to Bandon Dunes on the Oregon coast.
Who could blame me, right? But driving along the gorge, up to 4,000-feet deep and 80-miles long, is equally gorgeous. It's home to sights such as Multonomah Falls, Triple Falls, Bonneville Locks and Crown Point. You can find some good golf on this drive, too.
If you head just east of Bonneville Dam and over the river on the Bridge of the Gods into Washington, you'll find one of the West's great revamps, Elk Ridge Golf Course. Elk Ridge, once shuttered and finally reopened in 2012, boasts a gorgeous setting high above the gorge. It's elevated, sloping location creates the driest course in this part of the Northwest.
Out here, you don't have to drive back to Portland. You can stay and play at Carson Hot Springs or the historic Bonneville Hot Springs Resort. Also, Skamania Lodge is just minutes down the road and home to its own 18-hole course.
Further east in In Hood River, which is a popular wind surfing destination, you can play Indian Creek Golf Course, another affordable, friendly course that has both mountain views and vies of the gorge.
Southeast of Portland: Resort at the Mountain
From Portland, it's less than an hour into the Cascade Mountains where you can visit one of the state's historic resorts, the Resort at the Mountain.
The property has been revitalized in recent years -- including touch-ups to the golf course by architect John Harbottle -- and is a quiet and cozy retreat. The Courses at the Resort at the Mountain is a traditional, 27-hole routing that features holes playing along the rushing Salmon River.
It's a picturesque setting and a must-play for golfers who love traditional design -- not to mention those who love to find a great value.