BLUE RIVER, Ore. - There isn't much around Tokatee Golf Club near Eugene.
Spend a sunny weekend afternoon at Tokatee, and it will make you wonder where the golfers are coming from.
Located at the base of the Cascade Mountains, a winding, two-lane highway along the Mackenzie River takes you west towards Eugene. Or head east into the mountains about an hour and a half towards the Bend high desert.
In just over 40 years of operation, Tokatee Golf Club has earned quite the reputation in Lane County. The Ted Robinson design is set at the base of the Cascade Mountains and weaves through tall pines with the Sisters Mountains as a backdrop.
Todd Sweeney and Kelly Fitzgerald, both residents of Eugene, say Tokatee is their favorite area golf course.
"It's always our first choice if we have the time to come here," said Sweeney. "It's more picturesque with the mountains, and the greens are nice and true.
"It's a lot flatter in Eugene."
The drive back to Eugene along the Mackenzie River, in fact, leads you out of the mountains and back into more rolling countryside but absent of the best snow-capped peaks, which can be seen in the distance from some points on a clear day.
Golfers finding haven in this pass through the Cascades from Eugene is nothing new. In fact, that's how the course was founded. N.B. Giustina, a lumberjack from Eugene, took a liking to golf in his 40s, and one day in 1962, found and purchased a prime, 160-acre piece of land to build it. Construction began in 1964 by Robinson, and the first nine holes were open for play in 1966. To this day, the Giustina family owns and operates Tokatee.
Though playing at the base of the mountains, the golf course itself is mostly flat, but it is hardly boring. After three straight-forward, confidence-swelling holes to begin the round, Tokatee tightens up in a hurry. Suddenly, the beautiful skinny pines stop becoming aesthetic and start getting penal.
On the par-4 fifth hole, trees guard the entrance to the green on each side, so the narrow fairway is even cut in half, as you must find the left side in order for a clear shot in.
The par-4 seventh is another especially tight hole, where sunlight seldom hits the fairway thanks to the tall pines on either side.
"I don't know what it is about this hole, but I can never hit the fairway," remarked Fitzgerald.
The back nine is highlighted by a solid par-5, 3, 4 finish. The 17th is the shortest hole on the course, played also from the most elevated tee box and over water.
Tokatee Golf Club: The Verdict
Tokatee is a Eugene-area favorite, thanks to its scenic views of the Sisters Mountains and value, at just $42 for 18 holes. Because it's relatively flat and an old-school design, the course is walker-friendly, something most Oregonian golfers favor.
The best stretch of holes is when the fairways are their tightest, guarded closely by stunning pines. No.'s 4 through 8 are especially scenic - as well as difficult to hit the right landing areas.
Valley River Inn: Where to stay in nearby Eugene
There isn't a whole lot going on around Tokatee. Your best bet is to head into Eugene.
The Valley River Inn (800-543-8266) is located right in the heart of Eugene, across the street from the Valley River Shopping Center. But on the other side of the hotel is the scenic Willamette River and an outdoor pool and gardens, making for a quiet and scenic escape from the action. It also has 24-hour recreation facilities, from a fitness center to swimming pool, whirlpool and sauna.
The restaurant, Sweetwaters on the River, features a full menu of Pacific Northwest cuisine and a list of microbrews to choose from set overlooking the river.
The Inn's conference facilities, with over 15,000 square feet of meeting space, attract a wide range of events, from corporate and outdoorsmen events to greyhound dog lovers, such was the case during the time of my visit.