Head to Portland for great beer and golf at courses like Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club and Reserve Vineyards and Golf Club.
PORTLAND, Ore. - It's Monday night and Sarah, a friend of mine, shoots me an email: "We're headed to Mississippi Pizza Pub for drinks and a spelling bee ... you're welcome to stop by!"
Portland, Oregon, is a city where the combination of suds and a spelling bee raises few eyebrows.
Locals love their beer (three dozen breweries have earned Portland the nickname "beervana") as much as they love large vocabularies. Powell's City of Books, which bills itself as "the largest independent used and new bookstore in the world," is one of the city's top destinations, staying busy until 11 p.m. nightly.
"On a rainy day, it's what you should be doing," explained Sarah as we discussed her reading addiction.
During the winter months, sunny days are few in the Pacific Northwest, which explains all the reading, spelling and drinking. Portlanders know their beer and can confidently spell "Deschutes" - a Bend-based brewery and popular pour around town. At bars like Horse Brass, an English-style pub in the southwest district, the beer menu is long and chock-full of "I.P.A.'s," "Pale Ales," "cast-conditioned ales" and many other varieties from around the world. Waitresses can describe and spell them all.
From June through September, blue skies are plentiful and rain is rare. Parks in the Northwest district fill with drum circles and impromptu jam bands. Others stroll the Japanese Gardens or head north to hike Multanomah Falls.
One of the best ways to explore Portland is on two wheels. The city is rated by Virgin Magazine as the second most bicycle-friendly town in the world, just behind Amsterdam. It's liberal citizenry is also green-friendly and supports the "world's first vegan strip club," the Casa Diablo, which serves meatless dishes while dancers strut in clear heels.
Portland has plenty of great golf. The McMenamin's Group, an Oregon institution that owns dozens of unique resort and restaurant properties, expertly blends golf and beer at their Edgefield Resort just east of Portland. Their Pub Course, a popular draw, is modeled after the fantasy Burningbush course from the novel "Golf in the Kingdom" by Michael Murphy.
"Play the course with a beer in your hand, in a group of eight," says Jeff Wallach, a golf writer and Portland resident. "The greens are some of the best I've ever seen. You're almost afraid to walk on them!"
Portland-area golf courses
Tops in the Portland area is Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club, a semi-private facility with one public golf course, Ghost Creek. It's ranked among America's best by most publications and hosted the Nike Tour Championships in 1993 and 1994. Set through rolling hills and lined tightly with pines, the Bob Cupp design is a universal pick as the top public golf course in Portland; it attracts golfers from around the Pacific Northwest for a weekend round.
The Reserve Vineyards & Golf Club in Aloha features two courses located among the wine country just west of Portland. The two golf courses complement each other with different settings. John Fought's South Course at Reserve Vineyards plays through mature trees along the Willamette Valley, while Cupp's North Course at Reserve Vineyards is more open and links style in nature.
One of Portland's local favorites is the classic Eastmoreland Golf Course. This 1917 design by former World Amateur Champion Chandler Egan has become an institution southwest of the city. It's a beautiful, matured setting, bordering the Rhododendron Gardens and Crystal Springs Lake and is home to countless species of bird life and trees.
The Oregon Golf Association Course is another popular local track south of the city in Woodburn. It's set on 179 acres of converted farmland and built by Oregon-based architect Bill Robinson.
Hotel Deluxe: Where to stay in downtown Portland
No golf trip is complete without spending a little time in downtown Portland and inside the "fareless square," a zone where all public transportation is free of charge. Here, there is no more convenient - and stylish - option than the Hotel Deluxe (866-895-2094).
Located in the heart of downtown, Hotel Deluxe pays homage to the Golden Age of Hollywood. Recently purchased and upgraded by Provenance Hotels, it received the "Best Hotel Renovation" honor by Hospitality Design Magazine. Today, it's the kind of vibe that's more Arnold Palmer than Tiger Woods.
No two of the 130 guest rooms are exactly the same, but each is equipped with the latest tech goodies like flat-panel TVs and IPod docking stations. Unique to the Deluxe are a "pillow menu" where you can choose the ideal way to lay your head, as well as a "make it so" button on your phone, where staff is at your service 24/7.
One Sunday each month they even feature a "movie night," presenting films by local filmmakers (movies in color are welcome). For drinks, the Driftwood Room is a small, dimly candlelit bar, and Gracie's Restaurant pays tribute to legendary Hollywood eateries like Musso Franks and the Brown Derby.
Its location is perfect for exploring all of downtown Portland. Hadlock Field, home of the Portland Sea Dogs, a AA Red Sox affiliate is just down the street if you're up for a night game, and the MAX Light Rail red line just a block away offers a fast, direct route to the airport and other city spots.
For more information on golf in Portland and Oregon, visit OregonGolf.com.