Tip: It takes more than just hitting golf balls to make perfect

Aspen Lakes professional says simple drills will help get the most out of a practice session

The scene on the Aspen Lakes Golf Course practice range is a familiar one: Golfers in line sending golf ball after golf ball into the blue Central Oregon sky, then watching as the white spheres come crashing down on their emerald-green resting place.

Golfers working on their games like this can be seen at most any practice facility. But for Howie Pruitt, Aspen Lakes PGA director of player development, he sees a different kind of practice session … something less productive.

“I walk the line and ask what they are working on, and I usually get a blank stare from golfers,” Pruitt said. “But for a practice session to be productive, you can’t just be spraying balls down the range. Every shot has to have a purpose.”

What’s a golfer to do to get more out of a session? Well, Pruitt suggests a few easy drills.

It starts with a simple training aid: driveway markers. With driveway markers, or at least a suitable replacement, golfers can:

  • Practice their alignment by setting up a single stick to align the stance.
  • Set two markers up, one for your stance and another set up parallel to the first stick, create a target path for each shot.
  • Set up two sticks perpendicular to one another to check ball position.

In addition, golfers should set two golf tees along the line of the range and then place a golf ball between the two tees. Then golfers should practice hitting the ball with the goal of not touching either tee. As a golfer improves, the tees should be moved closer to one another until it is at a width just longer than the clubface.

The idea of each drill is to retrain yourself to think differently on the range.

“You want to get away from thinking about the results of the swing, and instead focus on the process of the swing,” Pruitt said. “That is where real improvement can be made.”

Of course, every golfer should devote more time to practice their short games.

“I see so many golfers go to the range, hit balls, and then walk right past the putting green,” Pruitt said. “That is a mistake.”

Remember what Vince Lombardi said: “’Practice does not make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect.”

Private, group lessons, classes and clinics with Pruitt are all available through the Aspen Lakes PGA Learning Center. Call the Aspen Lakes pro shop at 541-549-4653 for more information. To book a tee time call the golf shop or book online.


Late August a prime time at Aspen Lakes


Aspen Lakes is in peak condition, the summer crowds are thinning, and the weather remains spectacular

The dog days of summer are well underway here at Aspen Lakes. But like most every August, things are just a bit quieter around here than the rest of the summer.

June, July, and the first part of August teem with golfers looking for a postcard-beautiful golf experience under the famously warm, dry summer sun here in Central Oregon. With the kids back in school in September, the golfers typically return en masse with an eye on the mild Indian summer that so often visits the High Desert.

Each August before Labor Day, though, brings with it a narrow window where Aspen Lakes quiets just a bit while the weather remains near perfect. Call it a Central Oregon phenomenon that makes the final weeks of August perhaps the primest of the peak golf season.

“For whatever reason, right about now turns into the perfect time to play,” said Rob Malone, Aspen Lakes director of golf. “The crowds tend to be a bit smaller, so you have more choices on tee times and play tends to be a bit quicker. You have a better chance to get on one of our GolfBoards.

“There are not many better times of year for golf then right now.”

How can that be when the weather in Sisters is so ripe for golf?

Well, August tends to be a time for family-oriented vacations. And while Aspen Lakes prides itself on being friendly to families, family time can also mean less time on the course.

Also, longer midsummer days allow for more tee times, spreading golfers across the tee sheet. Typically, that provides a bit more freedom for a golfer to play at his or her own pace.

More than that, though, the August window makes it easier to grab a prime morning tee time or to snag a bargain. Our popular discounted early bird tee times ($42 before 7 a.m.; $48 between 7 a.m. and 7:50 a.m., Monday through Thursday; $53 between 7 a.m. and 7:50 a.m., Friday through Sunday) are just a bit more open this time of year.

Another insider’s tip: The late afternoons and early evenings are particularly beautiful at Aspen Lakes. Oh, and those times are discounted, too ($68 between 1 and 3 p.m., $52 after 3 p.m., and $43 after 5 p.m.).

“My absolute favorite time is when I make the turn at around 6 p.m.,” Malone said. “ It is JUST GORGEOUS. You miss the hottest part of the day. The does are out with their fawns. The sun begins to set. There is no other time quite like it.”

The late-August window closes quickly, though. September after labor Day weekend is usually among the busiest times of the golf season. Larger groups of golfers travel to Central Oregon. And empty nesters hit the road once the kids are back in school.

All the more reason to get some rounds in while the course is still in peak condition and the crowds are relatively thin.

“Right now the golf experience is spectacular,” Malone said. “Plus, you have the Brand 33 Restaurant that is open every day, seven days a week. You can come out watch the sunset and enjoy a drink on the patio.”

Click here or call 541-549-4653 to book a tee time.

Conditions report: Aspen Lakes handling ups and downs of Central Oregon summer well


Firm, fast conditions at Sisters golf course have been received well

Aspen Lakes Golf Course Superintendent Josh Knapp likes to say course maintenance comes with a certain truth: “What can happen, will happen.” That is doubly so in Central Oregon’s High Desert climate where high temperatures can soar to near 100 degrees, and just a few days later fall back to low temperatures that nearly touch freezing. (Don’t worry, though. The days remain beautiful!)

Turf reacts differently to all those conditions, obviously, always keeping a maintenance team on its collective toes.

“Last week we had that little hot spell, which is stressful on the golf course,” said Knapp. “For us, that was our first real hot stretch of the summer, which means it was the turf’s first real test. And the course came through well. The fairways are good. The greens are rolling well. We are right on par with where we should be this time of year.”

A superintendent’s job is never easy. If last season was about improving the maintenance practices of Aspen Lakes for the maintenance crew, this season the focus has turned to playability.

To that end, Knapp and his staff have worked hard on firming up the fairways and keeping the greens up to speed.

“The response to that has been really good so far this year,” Knapp said. “We might get a few more of those Central Oregon brown spots by firming the fairways, but overall it appears golfers have really enjoyed the conditions.”

The greens are rolling briskly, too. Knapp typically shoots for green speeds of around 10.5 feet to 11 feet on the Stimpmeter. But with an OGA Tour event over the weekend, Knapp pushed the green speeds to a range of between 12 and 12.5 feet.

To the layman, that might not sound like much difference from Aspen Lakes’ typical green speeds. But the combination of summer heat and shortened green heights can be troublesome.

“You definitely want to be careful,” Knapp said. “When you speed up the greens you have to double-cut them and/or roll them, and that can be stressful to the turf. So can extreme heat. So we give the greens a bit more water and try to be careful with them.”

Healthy turf is the key. Without it, greens are far more susceptible to changing conditions.

In practice, that means the staff must keep the greens well fed with fertilizer. In addition, the staff regularly verticuts the greens, top-dresses the turf regularly, and uses a drag brush weekly to control thatch.

“That definitely gives us more leeway in being able to move the green speeds up and down,” Knapp said.

It all adds up to another great summer at Aspen Lakes.

Peak-season rates are as low as $43. To book a tee time, call 541-549-GOLF or book online at www.aspenlakes.com.


Aspen Lakes’ Community Fun League only growing


Aspen Lakes’ Director of Player Development Howie Pruitt, at right, readies a group of Community Fun League golfers for a marshmallow long-drive contest.

Community Fun League, which throws out the Rules of Golf,
has steadily grown in popularity

The Community Fun League has been a growing curiosity here at Aspen Lakes. More and more questions are being asked around the Pro Shop inquiring about Aspen Lakes’ odd new take on golf, a testament to the word-of-mouth the Fun League has sparked.

There is one truly important question that should always be asked: What makes the Community Fun League, well, so fun?

Perhaps it is the long-drive contest … using a marshmallow. It could be that the league format is so open, that the higher score in a shamble is what ends up being the better score. Or maybe it is the nonchalant and rather loose interpretation of the Rules of Golf.

“Because this is the Fun League, there are no rules,” Howie Pruitt, Aspen Lakes Director of Player Development, said. “It has really been a hoot.”

A golfer addresses the marshmallow.

The Fun League continues to grow: From its infancy last year to at least more than a dozen, and sometimes more, who reliably show up each Wednesday at 5 p.m. for a pressure-free, four-person scramble.

“Howie has being doing a great job with it,” said Rob Malone, Aspen Lakes director of golf. “It’s been growing by an order of magnitude, and it’s been getting more fun.”

The idea was born out of a simple idea: In order for the game to grow, it needs to find more fun ways to introduce the game to new golfers.

That is easier said than done, of course.

But Pruitt created the Community Fun League with the thought if you stripped away many of the formalities of golf and took away the pressure of scorecard, that golfers would respond.

That has proven to be true so far with the Community League. Not only has it attracted relative newcomers, it has also managed to draw more experienced players who would just as soon play for fun, too.

“It is a blast, and it is exactly what the game of golf needs,” Malone said. “I really see a lot of promise with the Fun League, and my hope is that it will continue to grow.”

Community Fun League tournaments are held every Wednesday at 5 p.m., through Aug. 24, which means there is still plenty of time to join and enjoy the rest of the season.

The tournaments are inexpensive, too. The cost is just $20 per player to join a team, and each player pays a reduced green fee of $25 (including cart!). Sign up at Sisters Park and Recreation District.

Call the Aspen Lakes pro shop at 541-549-4653 for more information. To book a tee time call the golf shop or book online.

Sunset Serenades coming to Aspen Lakes

Sunset view from lodge

First free concert is Sunday with swing band The Notables

Everybody loves an exceptional after-round experience. Whether it’s grabbing an exquisite bite to eat at our Brand 33 restaurant or simply sharing a drink with friends, Aspen Lakes certainly has the 19th hole covered.

Every once in awhile during the summer we try do something a little more special with our Sunset Serenades. The first of the season is set for Sunday, July 17, when area swing band The Notables perform from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. on the deck of the Aspen Lakes clubhouse.

Also scheduled is David Cooley from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 21

The Sunset Serenades are free to all. And each is always a show to remember.

For more information, call 541-549-GOLF or visit www.aspenlakes.com.


Aspen Lakes having a summer to remember

GO-01162Feedback from golfers has been immensely positive so far this year

Rob Malone, the director of golf at Aspen Lakes, fondly recalls a couple from Ann Arbor, Michigan, strolling into the clubhouse. The couple was pleasant, and eager to talk golf.

They were at Aspen Lakes as part of a West Coast golf trip of a lifetime. A requisite trip to Bandon Dunes Golf Resort (we love it there, too!) was already cross off their to-play list, as were some of the other big names in Oregon golf.

But the couple had a message for Malone: “He told me, ‘I play a lot of golf, and I had never heard of Aspen Lakes. But the beauty and the design are just fantastic. I put it in my top 5 all-time.’”

Such words are music to our collective ears at Aspen Lakes.

This has been quite a season for Aspen Lakes so far. It had quite a start, with best-in-Oregon recognition from the state’s largest newspaper as well as Golfweek magazine.

Of course, lofty rankings are fun. But rankings would not matter much if golfers themselves disagreed. Well, if growth in play is any indication, it looks like golfers are pretty fond of Aspen Lakes, too.

July was filled with golfers, many traveling to Central Oregon on vacation with family. The Fourth of July weekend was among the busiest anyone can recall at Aspen Lakes, and July golf rounds appear to be headed toward a 10 percent uptick through July.

The verbal feedback from golfers has been stellar, too.

“We always get good feedback, but this year it seems like it has been at another level,” Malone said.

Malone offers two main reasons for the excitement around Aspen Lakes. First, the conditioning at Aspen Lakes has steadily improved over the last two years.

“I think play has definitely grown on the coattails of our conditioning,” Malone said. “Our superintendent, Josh Knapp, and his team have done such a wonderful job. And golfers are noticing.”

Malone added that Aspen Lakes’ customer service could be a factor, too. It’s true, the staff at Aspen Lakes has always made a point of making golfers feel comfortable before and after their rounds.

“The bottom line is that we try to make Aspen Lakes feel like everybody’s home course,” Malone said.

Indeed. Come see why so many golfers are raving about their rounds at Aspen Lakes. Peak-season rates are as low as $43.

To book a tee time, call 541-549-GOLF or book online at www.aspenlakes.com.

Conditions report: Evolving maintenance program at Aspen Lakes continues to pay dividends

GO-0609Crew shifts its focus over the summer to maintaining peak conditioning

Just as the warm, dry Central Oregon summer weather appears, Josh Knapp’s life becomes a little simpler.

It’s not that the work of Aspen Lakes’ superintendent gets easy. Far from. Instead the maintenance work this time becomes more routine and predictable.

That might not sound like much. But for Josh Knapp, who changed many of Aspen Lakes’ maintenance practices two years ago when he was promoted to superintendent, it is a reflection of the hard work he and his staff have put in.

“We finally have the golf course right where we want to keep it, and that is a pretty good feeling,” Knapp said. “We are in our usual summer maintenance program, which is sort of like auto-pilot. And hopefully it will be that way until the end of the golf season.”

Yes, with July now in full bloom, Aspen Lakes is showing its true red-sand and emerald-green colors.

For golfers that means greens rolling at between 10.5 and 11 feet on the Stimpmeter, a perfect speed for greens to instill confidence in most average players while challenging the better golfers.

The fairways are immaculate, too. The tee boxes are well-manicured.

About the only immediate item on the Aspen Lakes maintenance staff’s to-do list is a round of fertilizer, something that has not happened since early spring.

One of the maintenance practices that has really taken hold at Aspen Lakes is the deep and infrequent irrigation program. Instituted by Knapp, the program calls for longer but fewer waterings each week.

The infrequent watering program helps turfgrass grow deeper roots and overall fosters a healthier plant. And Knapp can see clear signs that the program is working.

“The turf does need quite as much water and the water we use is draining better, which tells me that the roots are indeed taking a deeper hold,” Knapp said.

Of course, this is Central Oregon so the weather can’t always be predictable, even in the summer.

The temperatures have already soared near 100 degrees at times. And this weekend, Sisters is expected to enjoy a relatively significant cool down (that might just be perfect for golf!).

Despite the unseasonably cool weather, and perhaps even a touch of rain, Knapp said the turf is healthy enough that it needs no adjustment.

“It has been a really up-and-down year so far in regard to weather,” Knapp said. “But no matter what Mother Nature has thrown at the course, the turf has handled the challenge beautifully.”

Come enjoy the conditions. Aspen Lakes’ peak-season rates are as low as $43.

To book a tee time, call 541-549-GOLF or book online at www.aspenlakes.com.