Mt. Hood Resort Review: A Fantastic Weekend Golf Getaway

For years I’ve been driving up and down Highway 26 outside of Portland, Oregon.  I’ll drive it when I go up to Mt. Hood to ski. I’ll head out that way when I go spend a weekend in Sunriver. Same thing when I go to Eagle crest.

Each time on that drive? I pass Mt. Hood Resort. And every time, I say, “man, I need to go play golf there sometime soon.”

Sowhen I got an email offering to let me come up and experience the Resort for a couple days, I was beyond excited.

What is Mt. Hood Resort?

I’ll behonest, before arriving, I really didn’t know what to expect.  I think I was expecting a half-hearted attempt at a resort, with a few mediocre golf courses, and not much else.

What I found was nothing even closely resembling that, and what is now one of my favorite destinations in the Portland area.

Despite it’s relatively generic name, Mt. Hood Resort is exactly that, a full-service resort about 20 minutes from the base of Mt. Hood.

It features 157 guest rooms, 3 9 hole golf courses, a spa, 18 hole putting course, and pretty much every other summer activity imaginable – oh, and it’s all only an hour away from downtown Portland.

In talking with the staff, it’s actually had a very interesting history.

The first 9 was built in 1928 and was one of the first golf courses in Oregon.

For decades this was the spot for Portlandians looking for a bit of an escape. Then as new destinations popped up, The Resort kind of became more of an oversight more than anything else.

I never experienced it back in the “old days”, but a lot has changed in the decade.

The entire facility has received a major $11.2 million renovation including completely renovated guest rooms, a new spa, and a revamp of all 3 courses by John Harbottle.

Not to mention the entire place is set in a valley of mountains and forests that I’d argue rivals any beachfront golf resort on the planet. You want outdoors, nature, and relaxation, this is the place to come.

Because I’m so excited about my time here, I’m going to do a full overview of everything I experienced, but I know this is a golfing crowd, so let’s just jump right into the stuff you probably care most about: the courses.

Collectively, the 3 9s here are called “The Courses” and they feature three very different 9 hole courses, that I’ve gotta say, totally impressed me.

I’m not entirely sure why my expectations were low, but I guess it was simply because don’t think I know anyone that has actually been up to play the courses lately.

“Pinecone” is known as the old course.

“Foxglove” is the signature course

And “Thistle” is the forgiving course.

Pinecone (The Old Course) at Mt. Hood Resort

The first 9 we played was Pinecone, and I’d been excited to tee off on #1 ever since I first saw it when I arrived the night before.

Set in a beautiful garden area where you can sit outside and grab a drink or lunch, the elevated teebox looks out over a straight out fairway with dense foliage on the left, and some sparse trees on the right.

It’s a fantastic opening hole as you’re really able to rip it, without worrying too much about the hazards.

Pinecone isn’t a particularly long course, measuring 3,173 from the blues (where I played) and 3,299 from the blacks – however this does make it the longest of the three.

Upon reaching the green, it was clear, their greenskeeper knows what he’s doing. In fact, I was told he’s been here for 20 years, so obviously, he knows how to handle the mountain weather.

I started to find my groove with a par at #2, which was a short and open par 4, but a fun hole nonetheless.

Then we hit my favorite stretch of holes on the entire property.

Three is a short par 4 that gives you a few different options to play.

Hole 3 Pinecone Golf Course - The Resort at the Mountain

Left or right of the tree? I was told right was the smartest play, but I birdied going right at the green.

Measuring right around 300 yards the green is reachable depending on your teebox and Wheaties consumption in the morning.  But what sets this hole apart are the towering pine trees in the center of the fairway.

I opted left, leaving myself a short 50 yard approach, but head pro Bryce, who was one of my playing partners, went hard to the right, and then had an easy pitch down from there.

Very interesting indeed.

It also doesn’t hurt that I dropped a 40-foot putt in for birdie.  Yes, I quite like this course.

Hole #4 is a 135 yard par 3 straight downhill and over water. Another really fun hole, and one we all managed to par.

Pinecone Hole 4 - The Resort at the Mountain

Don’t go short…or long.

The par 5 5th hole is the signature for this 9, and truly was an experience.  The teeboxes are set back, waaaay back in the forest, leaving you a little game of thread the needle to get it out to the fairway – where you have plenty of room as long as you get past the trees.

The Resort - Pinecone Course - Hole 5

The Resort – Pinecone Course – Hole 5

I’ve never seen a chute quite like this, and it truly made for a fun tee shot.  I’ll spare you the details of how I ended up with a 10 on this hole and ruined my confidence for the rest of the 9, however.

6, 7, and 8 were also all solid holes, without being quite as unique as the previous ones, but certainly weren’t slacking.

A creek ran through the fairway on 6 placing a premium on your yardages, and both 7 and 8 were relatively wide open giving you a good opportunity to score – that I, unfortunately, didn’t take advantage of.

Then we get to the par 3 #9, which is a monster par 3.  Playing about 210 from the blues, you not only have to face a big wetland area in front of the green, but also sand as well.

Resort at the Mountain - Pinecone Hole 9

This photo makes this look much shorter than it is…

I sliced it pretty hard but found an opening to the right of the hole and was in ok shape to get it up on the green.

In the end I shot an astronomical 49 on Pinecone, but would also say that it’s may favorite of the three 9s. It has a little bit of everything, is extremely playable, and the ladies tees get rid of most of the forced carries if you’re playing with someone a little less experienced.

Foxglove (The Signature Course) at Mt. Hood Resort

For our second 9 we switched up our groups a bit, and for some reason I moved back from the blues to the blacks.

After seeing the black teebox on the first hole however, I realized why this was a good move.

The par 4, 1st on Foxglove is the signature hole of the entire Resort.  It features a giant, ancient monolithic rock right in the middle of the fairway.  Despite being a very opposing feature, the people I was playing with said in 4 or 5 rounds they’d never seen anyone actually hit it.

Foxglove Course - The Resort at the Mountain

From the blues…notice the giant rock.

The black tees were about 50 feet higher in elevation than the others, which made for one of the most fun shots of the day.

Similar to #5 on Pinecone you were hitting out of a narrow shoot, and then bending the ball over to the right above the giant rock.  I hit a solid drive that left me with just under 100 yards to the green – the rock never even came into play.

Despite the added length of playing from the blacks, and the fact that Foxglove is regarded as the most difficult of the three courses, the next 6 holes were pretty kind to me with 4 pars and 2 bogeys before finishing double, double, for a 43.

The second hole is a longish par 4, measuring 405 from the black tees.  While relatively straightforward, you better hit the fairway as trees line both sides of the hole, putting a premium on hitting your target. I just missed the green, but chipped to within a couple feet leaving me with a nice par despite the quick greens speed.

That was perhaps one of the biggest surprises at Mt. Hood Resort – the quality of the greens.

While there are a lot of important aspects to a golf course, arguably the most important are well-maintained greens.  When your putts make up half of your score on any given round, you want to have the most true greens possible, and The Resort delivers on all three courses.

Some had more undulation than others, but the speeds and maintenance levels were consistent pretty much all the way around, rolling around 11 on the stimpmeter – pretty impressive for a public course.

The Resort at the Mountain - Foxglove Course

The 2nd on Foxglove

Three was a short par 4, dogleg left that just begs you to unleash your driver.  Just beware of the trees down the right hand side.

Four was a short par 3, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t intimidating.

It was only after my pitching wedge cleared the deep bunker that guards the entire left-front of the green that I was able to take a breath.  The sand is light and fluffy, but that doesn’t mean the bunkers can’t be punishing to an errant shot.

The long 573 yard, par 5 5th requires some strategy from the tee.  With a pond running across the fairway, it’s totally reachable from most tees (271 yards from the blacks), so driver may not be the best play. That said you’ve got plenty of room to let a 3 wood rip on your second shot into a wide open fairway.

One of my favorite moments of my time at the Resort was turning around at the 5th green and seeing one of the most beautiful views on the property.

One thing I learned about the Resort is that they have some great par 3s – but many of them are hard. Notably 9 on Pinecone, 6 on Foxglove, and 5 on Thistle were all long and challenging.

On 6 I dropped a five iron pin high into the rough, chipped, and knocked in a tricky ten footer for par.  Pars don’t come easy on the par 3s here which, while difficult, are very fair.

After parring the par 5 7th, things started to unravel for me on Foxglove.

I doubled both eight and nine, but was particular impressed by the 9th hole. It features 4 rocks, similar to the giant monolith on 9, that I think really add to the aesthetic of the hole.

I was told during the course renovation 5 years ago that they tried blowing them up with dynamite – but to no avail.  With nearby homes, they could only use so much, and the drill holes from the blasts are still evident.

Foxglove Course Hole 9

Not even dynamite could blast away that rock…

A perfect tee shot here favors the right side of the fairway, or else you’ll run into a nasty tree with your approach to the green.

One of my favorite aspects of Foxglove is when you’re out there, you truly feel as if you’re on your own.  The Pinecone and Thistle courses tend to weave in and out of each other at times, but on Foxglove, you rarely, if ever, see any other holes. This makes for a truly relaxing golf experience, you know, as long as you aren’t hitting it in the trees or hazards…

Thistle (The Forgiving Course) at Mt. Hood Resort

For some reason, Thistle is known as the most forgiving of the three courses.  I’m not sure who came up with this idea, but I found Thistle to be quite a challenging course.  Now I was playing it from the blacks, which is something I rarely do, but to say the course gave me some trouble would be an understatement.

It’s worth noting that when playing from the tips each of these courses are still relatively difficult in comparison to their short-ish length, but the womens tees are actually very forgiving, making this a resort that all levels can enjoy.

Thistle Golf Course at The Resort at the Mountain

#4 on Thistle

To be honest this was my least favorite of the courses.  It seemed to wind through itself and Pinecone a little more than I would have liked, whereas on Foxglove for instance, you’re all on your own out in the beautiful mountain wilderness, save for a few houses.

That’s not to say there weren’t some stand-out holes, however.

The head golf pro told me his favorite hole out of all 27 is the par 4, 351 yard 7th hole.  It’s a dogleg right that takes off downhill about 2/3 of the way through the hole. It’s a great risk/reward hole, especially if you’re a low handicapper.

Personally, I liked 8 and 9 on Thistle. #8 is a mid range par 3 over water, with trees overhanging the entire lefthand side, making accuracy key.

Hole 8 on Thistle Course at the Resort at the Mountain

Par 3, #8 on Thistle

9 was also a really enjoyable par 4.  Nothing too crazy, the fairway is wide open save for a bunker about 300 yards out.  As you come into the slightly elevated green, the clubhouse is towering above you, and you have the added pressure of fans as the people eating lunch out on the patio can watch you come in.

One of the great things about The Courses at The Resort is that they’re so unique to each other and will appeal to different people.  While I thought it was my least favorite, my playing partners loved it and went back out for another 9 as soon as we finished.

I enjoyed Pinecone the most, but two other people in our group liked Foxglove.

Bottom line, you can’t go wrong with any of them, and each have interesting, challenging, and beautiful golf holes.

The Resort at the Mountain Golf

The finishing hole on Thistle

Even if you don’t stay at the Resort, this is a fantastic day trip from Portland.  It’s 27 holes make for a unique value in Portland, and I could see many golf lovers finding this to be the perfect balance between an 18 or 36 hole round.

The Spa at Mt. Hood Resort

Now, we should make one thing abundantly clear before we go any further with this: I’m not a “spa guy”.  The only other time I’ve been to a spa was when I was at the Dead Sea in Jordan, and while that experience was incredible, it still didn’t help me get over my nerves going into this one.

But in the spirit of thoroughness, I plowed through 🙂

The spa facility at The Resort was relatively new having just been built within the last 5 years, and it is a true value add for all resort guests.  The complex has one of the better weight rooms you’ll find at a hotel, an unbelievable Swedish steam room, and the best shower I’ve ever been in.

Oh, and that’s all free for Resort guests.

From the moment I walked in, I was taken care of. I didn’t waste any time telling them I “wasn’t exactly sure how this worked”.  The manager Nate gave me the quick tour, told me to experience the steam room (which was quite literally, breathtaking), and said he’d come grab me when it was time for my massage.

When the time came he introduced me to Rochelle, who I also told I wasn’t sure about this whole thing.

She was completely understanding, and then once I figured out whether or not I was supposed to take my clothes off, she gave me a massage that I still feel relaxed from two days later.

Not only did I enjoy it, but it’s a great feature for the wife or girlfriend who may not be a golfer, but loves a good day at the spa.

Food and Amenities at Mt. Hood Resort

There’s a certain level of quality that you come to expect when staying overnight at a golf resort.  Upon walking into my Fireside Studio room, I knew that I was going to be taken care of.

The room was much bigger than I’d expected, and it seemed to have the perfect marriage of rustic cabin and modern hotel.

My room featured a fireplace with Duraflame logs, that were perfect after a long day on the course. My room overlooked the pool, but it was never obnoxious, and the bed was one of the most comfortable I’ve ever slept on.

The Fireside Studio at The Resort at the Mountain

My Fireside Studio room.

The extra living space was perfect for when I was working by the fire, and all things considered, was a place I would have been more than happy to spend a few extra days at.

The bathrooms were nice as well, with rainfall showers.  There wasn’t a tub however.  I was told that each building has two rooms with small tubs, so if that’s something you want, you may want to specifically request it.

Dining at Mt. Hood Resort

This was perhaps the biggest surprise of all.

There are two main dining options at The Resort. Mallards is more casual and is located next to the golf clubhouse near the first tee on Pinecone.  Altitude is the fine dining option and is located in the main resort building near the lobby.

Both were absolutely spectacular.

I consider myself a bit of a cocktail snob, and main man behind the bar at Mallards, JD, really knows what he’s doing.  He’s been experimenting with a few infusions, and his pecan bourbon was nothing short of spectacular, especially when mixed in a Manhattan.

Mallards Pub

Mallards Pub

The bar itself is a great place for a post-round drink while watching people tee off, or simply catching the latest tournament on their big screen tvs.

Service at Altitude was also fantastic, and their Elk Ossobuco was one of the better meals I’ve had in recent memory.  Coupled with a wine list that was more robust than I would have expected to find, it’s a great option for a special occasion, or simply a date night.

I will say that I found the cocktails at Altitude to be a bit lacking – and considering this is one of my only complaints, the place is doing pretty well.  My first night I had an excellent old fashioned at Mallards that was a bit unique, but met my number one criteria for a good old fashioned: no club soda.

The next night at Altitude, tasted more like club soda with a splash of bourbon. Minor complaint, and one that’s easily solved by drinking in the other lounge.

Final Thoughts on Mt. Hood Resort

Everything at The Resort at the Mountain was first-rate.  The staff was always friendly and helpful.  The golf was among some of the best I’ve played in Oregon, and the food and drink were equally as impressive.

As I mentioned, my expectations weren’t particularly high considering I’d driven past the place dozens of times but never actually stopped in.  However, I’m already planning a trip back for later in the summer with a group of friends.

And sure, let’s be honest here. It’s not like the hotel was akin to something like the Ritz Carlton Half Moon Bay. Or that the golf was the same caliber, as say Pronghorn.

But it’s a fantastic experience if you’re in the area and looking for a little getaway in the Portland area.

As a guest of Mt. Hood Resort, I visited the property for 2 days in Mid-June. While my accommodations were sponsored, all opinions are my own.

There are 3 comments

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  1. Cindy (Bowman) Nylen

    Loved your story on this resort.
    My family owned the resort for many years and sold it to Red Lion in 1979.
    My husband and I visit often and in 2010 my husband Chris and I held our Sandy High School 30 year class reunion. So many alumni which grew up on the Mt. ” Bowmans Resort” was their first job.
    Great memories for sure.


  2. Paul Coppa

    I too am an avid golfer that loves the “Courses”. It is one of the best kept secrets in the Portland metro golf world. Most people think its on the other side of the moon and too far away. I don’t mind driving 45 minutes to an hour to play golf at a quality course. I play all over, from Woodburn to Banks to Woodland, Wa and to Welches. I don’t like hacked up, over crowded poorly maintained courses that charge a premium price. I will pay a premium price but I want a premium course.
    I like all 3 courses and my favorite is Pinecone and Foxglove.

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