Why Pronghorn Resort is One of the Most Spectacular Destinations in Golf
I still remember the year Pronghorn Resort first opened. It was 2002, and I read an article about it in the local paper.
I was blown away by it – and I wasn’t even a golfer at the time.
Reading about the plans for the club, and seeing some spectacular photos of the courses made me say “one day, I’m going to go there.”
However at the time, Pronghorn was being built as a private club – and I figured any invite there would be a long shot at best (I wouldn’t play my first private course for another 11 years).
Little did I know just what an impact Pronghorn would have on my life a decade later. But more on that in a minute.
What is Pronghorn Resort?
Pronghorn is a golf resort in central Oregon that is situated on 20,000 acres of private forest service land, about 20-25 minutes outside of downtown Bend, Oregon.
A few years back, Pronghorn evolved from a fully private club, to a golf resort and community.
It features 36 holes of golf, a public Nicklaus Signature design, as well as a (mostly) private 18 hole Fazio track – the only one in Oregon.
The resort has a 104 room hotel called the Huntington Lodge, cabins available, a full service clubhouse with restaurant, spa, and just about everything else you’d want in a high desert vacation spot.
So clearly on paper Pronghorn looks pretty good, right? But with so many fantastic golf resorts around the world – is it worth visiting?
Spoiler alert: The answer is yes.
Read on to see why I love Pronghorn so much.
Why Pronghorn Has Special Meaning Here at Breaking Eighty
So before we go any further, I need to tell you a quick story about why Pronghorn does hold a special place in my heart.
Like I said ever since I was in high school and I saw that they were building the resort, I knew I wanted to visit.
It finally happened in 2013, less than a year after I started Breaking Eighty.
I was over in Central Oregon with my wife’s family, and I stumbled upon a $50 hot deal tee time at the Nicklaus Course on Golf Now.
This was my chance. I recruited my father in law, and we drove out to the resort and I got to play for the first time.
It changed the way I thought about golf.
It was the first truly world class course I’d played, and despite the grass being dormant from early season – it was in impeccable condition.
It was the first top 100 public course I’d played, and I’d go on to play 20 more between then and the rest of the year.
Pronghorn is the reason I first actually became interested in the architectural side of golf. I talk more about how this influenced our Eighty Club community here, but suffice to say, Breaking Eighty wouldn’t exist in its current form were it not for that round.
However don’t think that just because of my slight bias that Pronghorn isn’t worth a visit – as you’ll see, it very much is.
The Pronghorn Resort Experience
Before we can talk about the golf, it’s important to set the scene for what a visit to Pronghorn is like.
First off, because it sits on 20,000 acres of protected land, it truly feels remote.
The resort essentially features a 4 mile long entry that winds its way through the high desert, adding to the allure you experience once you arrive.
Everything at Pronghorn is done right. It’s among the most luxurious golf resorts I’ve been to, and the high desert setting makes it feel not just unlike any other resort I’ve been to in Oregon, but unlike any other place I’ve been in the world.
The resort is fancy, but not pretentious. When you’re out there you feel like you’re actually able to relax, have fun, and enjoy the surroundings without
The Nicklaus Course at Pronghorn
The Nicklaus Course at Pronghorn is the public side of the resort, and the only Jack Nicklaus Signature Course in Oregon.
Completed in 2002, it’s widely considered the best (non-Bandon) public course in Oregon – and I’d agree with that.
After all I have it listed at #51 on my personal Top 100 list, as well as one of the 10 most underrated golf resorts in the country.
It’s routinely listed among top 100 public courses in the United States (currently at #37 and #38 on Golf Digest, and Golf Magazine respectively.)
So I’m not the only one who thinks the course is good, it has the accolades to back it up.
The Nicklaus Course has a little bit of everything.
Uphill holes, downhill holes, short holes, long holes, risk/reward shots – and so on.
But the back 9 is where it really starts to shine. 11-15 is one of my favorite stretches of golf anywhere. You’re met with holes that are as strategic and challenging as they are scenic.
With various teebox options, you can play the course any number of ways and it’s the kind of place you’d gladly play three or four times on a trip and not get sick of it.
You can read a more in depth course review here. I’ll be updating it sometime soon as a lot has happened since I originally wrote that!
The Fazio Course at Pronghorn
Pronghorn is one of those rare resorts where you can have a legitimate debate about which course is best. Usually there’s a pretty clear front runner, but in the case of Pronghorn the Nicklaus and the Fazio courses are both equally as good in my mind.
A little bit different, but both fantastic.
As I mentioned, Pronghorn was originally built as a private club, and there still is a private membership at the resort. The membership provides unlimited play on both of the courses – but that doesn’t mean that resort guests can’t play the Fazio course.
Both courses are among the most well manicured in Oregon, but the Fazio is next level.
The course doesn’t get nearly as much play as the Nicklaus, and you often feel like you’re the only one on the course if you’re fortunate enough to play it – in part because, well, you might be.
The Fazio is a little bit easier than it’s Nicklaus brother, but is by no means easy.
While 11-15 on Nicklaus is probably my favorite stretch of holes at Pronghorn, I probably give the slight edge to the Fazio on the whole if you look at the full 18.
The Fazio is also home to the signature hole at Pronghorn – the par 3, 8th.
When they were blowing up rock to build the course, at one point they discovered an ancient lava tube on the property.
So obviously they did what any big budget golf club would do, they spent a ton of extra money to redesign the hole to leverage the new found lava feature.
And the result is one of the coolest, and most unique par 3s in the world.
Fun fact, this image was the very first one I ever posted on my Breaking Eighty instagram account.
Resort guests are able to play the Fazio Course, and I’ll tell you how to do that in a minute).
The Golf Academy and True Spec Studio at Pronghorn
Pronghorn has one of the best practice facilities of any club in the state. There’s a massive grass driving range, beautiful chipping and putting areas, and an even larger area for members.
But the Academy team led by Jeff Ritter is about as good as it gets.
I haven’t met Jeff personally, but after recently posting I was out there, I got 3 separate messages saying how great he is.
I also got three separate messages saying how great Jason Owens is. Jason is the master club fitter for the True Spec Fitting Center at Pronghorn – and the guy who fit me during my time there.
I say this with zero hyperbole: it’s worth visiting Pronghorn if for no other reason than to get fit for clubs.
My whole experience with Jason was phenomenal.
Check out my True Spec Golf Review of that fitting process.
Accommodations at Pronghorn
Pronghorn has three main options for resort guests who want to stay on property:
- Vacation Homes to Rent
- The Residence Club (1-3 bedroom town houses)
- Huntington Lodge
I’ve never rented a home while at Pronghorn, but I have stayed in both the new lodge and the Residence Club.
Residence Club at Pronghorn
The Residence Club accommodations at Pronghorn are a series of townhouses that surround the 18th green on the Nicklaus Course.
They’re anywhere from 1-3 bedrooms, and are very nice.
They have everything you’d expect for a vacation rental: comfortable beds, a grill, and access to a beautiful pool with restaurant and bar service.
It’s a fantastic option for a family or buddies trip if you don’t want to spring for a full house.
It’s also great for larger events. I stayed in one for 5 nights for a wedding a couple years back, and it was excellent to have so many people in the group so close.
The New Huntington Lodge at Pronghorn
The Huntington Lodge is the new hotel that opened up in April of 2019 at Pronghorn. It has 104 rooms and suites, and is as nice as you’d expect it to be.
Like the Residence Club units, it’s extremely close to the Clubhouse and all of the primary Clubhouse amenities, as well as a playground and tennis court.
When they built it, they did it right. There’s a beautiful bar area in the lobby with areas to lounge, and then right outside there’s a pool with cabanas and firepits to sit around.
Not to mention the ghost tree forest.
Why build a ghost tree forest? I have no idea, but I’ve gotta admit, it’s pretty cool to see it all lit up at night and is a nice tie-in to features on the golf courses.
On my most recent trip I stayed in one of their standard rooms, that was exactly what you’d expect. Well decorated, extremely comfortable bed, and modern amenities.
Unfortunately during my trip, we were still right on the fringe of quarantine time so some of the typical services like the mini bar, the hotel pool, and the lobby bar weren’t available.
Although, I did get a kick out of the letter in my room detailing these COVID-19 related changes. It was signed by the Director of Housekeeping: David Corona.
Oh, the irony.
Food at Pronghorn
On this recent trip we had a relatively limited experience with the food at Pronghorn, but there are some solid options.
The main dinner experience is in the Clubhouse at Cascada.
The setting is nice, and particularly enjoyable if you sit outside on the patio and enjoy the views.
For dinner I had a wedge salad and the Chili Smoked Steelhead – that I have to say far exceeded my expectations. It was fantastic.
My dad who I was traveling with had a pizza, which was also very good.
The cocktails left a bit to be desired however – I’d stick with their solid selection of beer and wine.
My biggest disappointment when it comes to food is the lack of a good breakfast option. Cascada isn’t open for breakfast, and their grab and go snack bar did have a breakfast burrito which was good, but not $15 good – that being the price they charge for it.
On this trip the Trailhead, a more casual dining spot wasn’t reopened yet, but I remember having a great experience there when hanging out by the pool and and when wanting something less formal for food.
Other Amenities at Pronghorn
Pronghorn has pretty much everything you’d expect from a resort like this: golf, great lodging, food/drink, tennis, trails, pools – and so on.
But one of the best parts about spending time here is just how close you are to everything else in Central Oregon.
Bend is a mecca of outdoor activities. Whether it’s skiing in the winter, or hiking/biking/boating and so on in the summer – there’s literally a limitless number of things to do.
Not to mention a great food and drink scene in both Bend and nearby Redmond.
Pronghorn is an excellent home base for all of these things. Or if you’re just looking to truly get away and be in a remote place and forget about the outside world? Well, you can do that too.
Why Central Oregon is a Must Visit Golf Destination
I’ve said it many times before, but I think Central Oregon is one of, if not the most underrated golf destination in the country.
Part of it is the high quality of courses and the variety you get.
At Pronghorn you’re getting the true remote, high desert golf experience.
Tetherow is about 35 minutes away and you’re getting a completely different experience. Fescue grass, links golf in the high desert, wildly unique golf holes and a fun experience that borders on over the top.
Then about 45 minutes away with Crosswater at Sunriver Resort – you get a true Northwest style golf course that has serious tournament pedigree (Champions Tour major, NCAA Championships among others).
Towering trees, meandering river, scenic mountain views. When you think of Oregon? THIS is what you think of.
A near perfect week for me would be two nights at Pronghorn, two nights at Tetherow and two nights at Sunriver.
I’ll hold that up against any other golf trip you could put together in terms of variety and fun. And I didn’t even mention other fantastic local courses like Brasada Ranch or Aspen Lakes.
But if you’re looking to visit just one? It’s hard to argue against the experience at Pronghorn.
How to Play the Fazio Course at Pronghorn
As I mentioned, getting access to the Fazio Course at Pronghorn is a little bit different than the Nicklaus Course, as you can’t just go online and book a tee time.
If you book the Pronghorn Experience Stay and Play Package at the resort, you’ll get 2 nights at the Huntington Lodge, as well as two rounds of golf each for two players: 1 on Nicklaus, and 1 on Fazio.
Add in an extra round on the Nicklaus, and you have a fantastic 3 day buddies trip.
But when you add in a round on the Faz? No brainer.
Even with this, the course is limited to very little guest play, so it’s not like they’re booking out dozens of these a week.
I’ve looked at a couple mid-week dates in both June and July, as well as in the Fall and rates range from around $1250 in October to $1550 in the summer, after taxes and fees.
While $600-800 per person isn’t exactly cheap it’s also an incredible value for an experience like this.
Final Thoughts on Pronghorn
I’ve now visited Pronghorn with my dad, my father-in-law, my wife, and one of my best friends as part of his wedding – all on separate trips.
Every single one was memorable, and extremely enjoyable.
There’s just something special about being on the property there.
So if you’ve been thinking about visiting Central Oregon, or maybe trying to find a spot for your next buddies trip, it’s worth giving it a look.
Have questions about the resort? Let me know, happy to help give any insight I can!
And if all you’re doing is looking to get away and escape the craziness of life? Well, there’s room for you to do that here as well: