An introduction to Aspen Lakes for the uninitiated

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Sisters golf course to host the Lithia Pacific Amateur Golf Classic this week

Aspen Lakes is in prime shape to challenge hundreds of golfers from around the country and beyond who will be taking part in the 2016 Pacific Amateur Golf Classic.

Being a Pac Am host course is always a fun adventure for Aspen Lakes, and the annual tournament gives us a chance to challenge a varied group of golfers, some of whom have never played the course before. For them, we want to offer a little introduction.

Central Oregon certainly has more than its fair share of heralded golf courses, some of which are hosts to the Pac Am. And Aspen Lakes tends to hold its own with the elite courses of the area. Not only is Aspen Lakes considered one of this country’s Hidden Gems, it is also considered one of the best in Oregon by both national golf magazines AND locals.

Aspen Lakes’ beauty is often cited as among Aspen Lakes’ top attributes, and with good reason. With incomprehensibly gorgeous views of the surrounding Cascade Range from most any point on the golf course and frequent visits from wildlife, the scenery is impossible to forget.

But architect Bill Overdorf designed a beauty, too, and it’s not quite like any other golf course in Central Oregon. So before you tee it up, we would like to share a little knowledge about Aspen Lakes Golf Course.

Here are some things to think about:

  • There is little doubt to what is Aspen Lakes’ signature feature. Our red-sand bunkers are as unique as they are beautiful. They are also nothing to be weary of. The texture of Aspen Lakes’ bunkers is a bit different, especially for the uninitiated. But playing from them is not unlike playing out of more conventional sand. And the sand won’t do any harm to your wedge, either.
  • Aspen Lakes offers a wonderfully fair challenge that most any golfer will enjoy. But that does not make the course easy. In fact, Aspen Lakes provides one of the stiffest challenges in Oregon. Choose your spots to be aggressive, and be careful not to attempt too much. In particular, use sound strategy on Aspen Lakes’ two toughest holes, the par-4 fifth hole and the par-4 14th hole.
  • All four par 5s at Aspen Lakes have teeth, but each provides a unique challenge. From the back tees, the holes stretch from 554 yards (No. 10) to 606 yards (No. 2). Water dictates the second shots on both the second and sixth holes. The approach on No. 10 into a shallow green, which is guarded by water in front and wetlands in back, is among the most difficult shots on the course. The finishing 583-yard 18th hole, was designed to separate two closely matched players.
  • The mountain views from the par-3 eighth hole are pretty spectacular. Make sure to take an extra second to take it all in:

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  • The par-4 11th hole, is pretty gorgeous, too:

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  • The view from the 15th tee box, a 222-yard par 3 played over water and massive bunkers, can be intimidating. The hole also presents a chance for golfers to shake free of their competition.
  • Few golfers walk off of Aspen Lakes disappointed. Something about the combination of beauty, design, top conditioning, and great service tends to endear itself to golfers.

Aspen Lakes is family-owned and operated, and we are proud of our heritage. That includes the naming of our Brand 33 restaurant, which is named after the Cyrus families’ brand that dates back to the 19th century.

We want every golfer to have a great visit to Aspen Lakes. Enjoy the course!

Of course, you don’t have to be a participant in the Pac Am to enjoy Aspen Lakes. To book a tee time, call 541-549-GOLF or book online at www.aspenlakes.com.

 

Conditions report: Aspen Lakes expected to be in peak golf shape at least through September

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Greens at Aspen Lakes won’t be aerified until Oct. 17,
leaving smooth surfaces for weeks to come

With less than two weeks before summer officially ends, the march to fall is upon us here in Central Oregon. But you might not notice it by gazing at Aspen Lakes Golf Course.

At Aspen Lakes, the turf is emerald green and the firm and fast conditions are optimal for golf. And the best news is that the course will be that way for the foreseeable future.

“It is in pretty great condition,” said Josh Knapp, the superintendent for Aspen Lakes Golf Course. “We are at the point that we can safely say that we will make it through the season really well. We are in the last month of play and I expect us to be in peak condition through September and beyond.”

The conditions are so good that the Aspen Lakes maintenance crew has decided to hold off on aerating the greens until Oct. 17, allowing the bulk of the season play out with smooth putting surfaces.

“Right now we are not going to think of putting anything to bed,” Knapp said. “After the Pacific Amateur Golf Classic next week we will start thinking about winterizing more. But until then, overall, we will be in really good condition.”

That is not to say that the seasonably mild weather has not changed the maintenance practices.  Chief among those changes is that the staff has cut back water usage by a significant amount. In fact, Thursday marked the first course watering in nine days.

That made a noticeable impact on the playability of the golf course.

“It really firmed up the golf course and gave it those firm and fast conditions that every golfer seems to want,” Knapp said. “It made the course more playable.”

Of course, firm and fast applies to the greens, too. In fact, at one point last week the greens were so quick that they were nearly rolling at a speedy 13 on the Stimpmeter. Since, the greens have been throttled down a touch, Knapp said.

The pace of the greens are a sign of health and an inevitable result of the maintenance staff’s ongoing program to improve turf condition, especially on the putting surfaces. That program include tighter mowing, rolling the greens every day during the summer months, and the regular use of a drag brush.

“The greens certainly create a lasting impression,” Knapp said. “Really, we have been getting a lot of compliments.”

The uninformed may think the golf season ends after Labor Day, but the savviest among us know that September really is the best month of the year to play Aspen Lakes. And we have the peak conditioning to prove it.

Don’t let the finale of the golf season pass by without a trip to Aspen Lakes. To book a tee time, call 541-549-GOLF or book online at www.aspenlakes.com.

 

AimPoint instruction at Aspen Lakes can help golfers read the greens better

Aspen Lakes pro the only certified AimPoint instructor in Central Oregon

Putting can be one of golf’s great mysteries. It seems so easy. What’s so hard about slowly rolling a ball toward a hole down a relatively smooth surface, right?

Yet, it is on the greens that so many amateur golfers struggle most. According to research in Golf magazine: “High handicappers require about 30 percent more putts — or roughly 8 strokes — per round than pros do.”

For amateurs, the culprits are many, from poor strategy to less-than-ideal speed to an inability to “read” the greens correctly. Perhaps the key to improving on the greens is to whittle that list of culprits down.

We know instinctively that the more time we devote to the practice green the better our putting stroke will be. But learning how to properly read a green is a skill not many higher handicappers possess. That is why learning how to read greens using the AimPoint Express method can be so valuable.

Pioneered by Mark Sweeney, an amateur golfer who himself struggled with putting, the AimPoint Express method works to simplify reading greens by teaching golfers how to feel the slope of the green with their feet and how to use your arm and fingers to aim. AimPoint Express has quickly gained favor on the professional tours, used by such players as Adam Scott and Christina Kim. (If the name sounds familiar it might be because AimPoint Technologies, which Sweeney founded, produces some of those graphical marks that show viewers the line of a putt during professional golf broadcasts.)

It is a method that Aspen Lakes’ PGA Director of Player Development Howie Pruitt, the only certified AimPoint instructor in Central Oregon, knows well.

“AimPoint is just a simple way to read greens,” said Pruitt, who earned the certification in January 2015. “You will still have hit the putt at the right speed and on the right line to be a successful putter. But by eliminating one of the factors that lead us astray on the greens, most golfers quickly save strokes.”

Trusting that gravity is a constant, AimPoint attempts to define the correct putting line by relying on three basic factors: distance from the hole (calculated by pacing), the amount of slope (which is usually a 1 percent to 4 percent grade, judged by feel and practice), and the angle of the putt across the slope (uphill, downhill, etc.), according to a Bend Bulletin story.

It might sound complicated, but in actuality AimPoint is a relatively simple method to learn, at least with the right instruction. In fact, Pruitt says it only takes about an hour for a golfer to get reasonably proficient.

Once adopted, the benefits become clear. By understanding the basic physics of putting, golfers gain more confidence. In turn, that confidence can lead not only to a better line toward the hole, but more consistent strokes that improve pace and lead to better decision-making around the greens.

In other words, it will save strokes.

“As a player, it definitely improved my confidence,” Pruitt said. “ I knew exactly what the ball was going to do once it started to roll.”

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.

 

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

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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

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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

 

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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.”

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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.