Sunriver Resort: The Ultimate Northwest Destination
There is so much I could write about Sunriver, Oregon, that I’m almost not even sure where to begin.
Sunriver is a resort destination in Central Oregon, about 15 minutes outside of Bend.
If you don’t live in the Pacific Northwest there’s a good chance you’ve never heard of Sunriver – and I think it’s about time we change that.
Hands down, there simply isn’t a place with more to do than Sunriver Resort.
If you’re a diehard golfer, then obviously nothing is going to live up to the quality of courses at Bandon.
But if you’re looking for the one resort that can do it all, and do it all well? Sunriver is the place.
Buddies trip, romantic getaway, week with the family? Sunriver has you covered.
How do I know this? Well, this past week, I kind of did it all.
It started with a 4 day trip with my best college friends. We got a house in Sunriver, and played the pinnacle of Sunriver golf, Crosswater, as well as the fantastic Woodlands course. We also got in rounds at nearby Pronghorn and Aspen Lakes.
The following weekend I was set to also be in Sunriver with my wife’s family. Kids, grandparents, everyone.
Rather than head back to Portland, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to have some time with my wife.
So we got a room for two nights at the Sunriver Lodge, and then got a house for another two nights before meeting up with family.
Romantic getaway? Check.
And frankly, it’s been the highlight of my year.
Ok, so clearly you can tell I like Sunriver. But why? What makes it so great?
Let’s get into it.
Sunriver Golf: Northwest Style Golf at It’s Finest
Considering this is a golf blog, it makes sense to devote a large chunk of this review to the golf.
I’m not sure there’s a more “northwest” golf resort out there than Sunriver.
Towering pine trees, meandering rivers, snow capped mountains – these are hallmarks of all 4 courses at Sunriver Resort.
The first two courses the Meadows and Woodlands have been around since 1969 and 1982, respectively.
In 1995, however, the Resort entered the big leagues when they built Crosswater. Crosswater is a semi-private club (play is available to resort guests and members), and was one of the first courses that put Oregon on the map as a golf destination.
More recently, the resort built Caldera Links a 9 hole par 3 course that is perfect for new and experienced golfers alike.
Together, the quartet makes up one of the most enjoyable stable of courses in the State and one of my favorite places in the world to visit.
Not to mention, Sunriver Resort has the single best stay and play deal in the golf world. Yes, I said it. And at the end of the post I’ll tell you what makes it so great.
But first, let’s look at the courses a little bit more.
Crosswater Golf Club at Sunriver Resort
Crosswater was one of the very first courses I played when I began my quest way back when to play the top 100 public courses in the country (a quest that has evolved quite a bit since then.)
At the time, Crosswater was the single best course I’d ever played, and it still ranks among my favorites.
Designed by Bob Cupp in 1995, it has played host to a Champions Tour Major, the NCAA Championships and many more tournaments.
From the tips it stretches out to nearly 7700 yards, and it crosses the Deschutes River over half a dozen times (hence the name).
The course is always in immaculate condition, and is truly the best representation of NW golf there is.
In my mind there’s a holy trinity of Central Oregon golf courses in Pronghorn, Tetherow, and Crosswater. All top 100 public in the country, yet the three could not be more different from each other.
The course has a little bit of everything, and has some truly interesting greens that reward accuracy on your approach.
I could go on, but well, I already did. See my full Crosswater review from my first trip there. I’ll be updating this soon based on my more recent round.
Meadows Golf Course at Sunriver
The Meadows Course may be the most prominent course of the bunch, as the course begins right in the heart of the resort outside the Sunriver Lodge.
You’ll immediately understand where the course gets its name, as the opening holes meander through the meadow near the River, with green forests and mountains as the backdrop.
It was the first course built at the Resort and was designed by John Fought and opened in 1969.
The Meadows Course in many ways is the perfect resort course. If you play it from the whites, the course is manageable for all skill levels, while moving back will give you a pretty significant challenge.
I played with my father-in-law and my brother-in-law, the latter of which is still a beginning golfer – and he did great getting around the course.
There are a handful of forced carries, but overall you’re able to run the ball up the fairways and onto the green in most cases.
The course is beautiful, with the first 4 holes having water and mountain views before heading into the trees, and popping out again at 9.
The greens were more interesting than I remember, and the bunkering is also very well done – giving you plenty of options for risk/reward shots throughout the course.
The short par 4 5th, was one of my favorites, as well as the par 4, 15th.
Sunriver Resort: Woodlands Golf Course
The Woodlands Course opened in 1982, and was designed by Robert Trent Jones Jr.
When we got to the starter, he said “You’re in for a treat. A lot of the members find this to be the most enjoyable course to play because it’s the most user friendly.”
I told him that’s great, because after playing Crosswater and the Nicklaus at Pronghorn, I could use some “user friendly” in my life.
I’d only played Woodlands a couple times before, and one of those was for my bachelor party, so let’s just say my memory was a bit hazy.
Within the first few holes, I was pleasantly surprised.
Next to Crosswater and some of the other more high profile courses in the region, you don’t hear as much about Meadows and Woodlands, but I thought this had some excellent holes.
The 2nd, a dogleg right par 4 I thought was particularly interesting as it forced you to take on the water to the right to give yourself the best position for your approach.
The 9th is also a beautiful par 4 with a lake carry, and a second lake beyond the fairway. This forces you to hit a precise shot, or bail out right for a safer tee shot, but a longer approach.
There’s also a fantastic stretch of holes in 15-18 that are scenic, strategic, and very enjoyable.
While it’s still a residential resort course with homes on most of the holes, I found that I enjoyed the course more than I expected to and that it should get more recognition.
Crosswater tends to be the course that gets the national love when you think about golf in Central Oregon (next to Pronghorn and Tetherow).
Each of those courses are beautiful, challenging, and world class in every sense.
But the Meadows and Woodlands shouldn’t be overlooked. They are both fun courses, with good views, and nice greens. These two courses feel…comfortable. Meaning they feel super relaxed and unpretentious. Sunriver is a very chill place, with tons of families and lots going on. These courses emanate that vibe in a way you don’t necessarily get at many high end courses, and the Crosswater members who are lucky enough to be able to play all of the courses as part of their membership should consider themselves very fortunate.
If I lived in the area, for as much as I love the other courses in the region, this might be the membership and area I’d choose.
Caldera Links at Sunriver
Caldera Links was built in 2007 as part of the Caldera Springs development. Located across the street from Crosswater and about a mile from the main area of Sunriver, it’s the newer more high end area of the resort.
The short par 3 course has interesting greens, and beautiful views of Mt. Bachelor in the background, and is exactly the type of course I think every resort should have.
The one where you can bring your kids out to play without worrying about it being too intimidating or holding up other golfers.
The one where you can grab 3 clubs and some beers and knock it around after 18 (or 36).
One of the great things about the Sunriver courses are the diversity among them. Crosswater is the crown jewel with a spectacular, beautiful setting for golf.
Woodlands is the course with the most elevation and is a nice journey through the high desert forests, while Meadows opens up a bit and has more holes out in the open and along the river.
If you stay at the resort you have to play Crosswater, but you’ll find the other tracks to be worthy siblings and well worth playing in their own right.
Sunriver Lodge and Resort
One of the fun things about this particular trip is the fact that despite coming here dozens of times in my life, this is one of the first times I’ve stayed at the Sunriver Lodge.
We considered ourselves lucky to be able to get the two nights we did, as due to COVID more people are traveling regionally rather than taking longer trips abroad or across the country – so the resort is very busy.
However I’ve been surprised by just how many out of state license plates I’ve seen. Washington, Idaho, Nevada, California, and more than I’d expect from even farther away proves that while Sunriver feels like a regional place, it certainly hosts its fair share of national travelers.
The Rooms at Sunriver Lodge
Most of the rooms at Sunriver Resort are spread out around parts of the Meadows golf course.
Each room as a patio or a balcony with rocking chairs, and some of the larger units have lofts and kitchenettes.
I’ve visited a lot of golf resorts that were built in a similar time period as Sunriver between the 60s and 80s.
A lot of them can feel dated and tired.
One of the things I appreciated most about Sunriver, is the rooms actually felt very nice and quite up to date all things considered.
They’ve clearly been remodeled at some point recently, and the massive 55 (65?) inch tv, king size bed, and fireplace in a standard King Room, were welcome amenities.
We had a second floor room which had high lofted ceilings. I’d personally recommend this, as it made the room feel bigger and the balcony felt more private than the first floor patios.
For bigger groups you can rent condos or houses through the Resort, or there are a plethora of options through other rental sites – but you’ll lose some access to resort amenities like the Cove Pool.
Dining in Sunriver
For a small community there are quite a few dining options at Sunriver Resort, and within the village of Sunriver.
At the Lodge there are two nice options in Twisted River Tavern and Carson’s American Kitchen. The latter of which is the more formal of the two (which still isn’t very formal), and the food there was fantastic.
They’ve done a good job accounting for COVID and have added plexiglass between booths and spaced out things nicely.
The Backyard is a great spot for outdoor dining or having a drink after your round, and for Resort guests who are looking for more fine dining you can head over to Crosswater.
If you want to get outside of the resort, there’s a brewery, pizza spot, Italian restaurant, Mexican restaurant and more in Sunriver Village. So within 5 minutes of the Resort you have over a dozen solid options for food.
What Else is There to Do In Sunriver?
As a I mentioned earlier, Sunriver is the kind of place you can go with anyone. Friends, family, a romantic getaway – I did all 3 over the course of 11 days and was reminded of just how much there is to do there.
With the family we floated the Deschutes River in tubes, before heading back to BBQ on the deck.
The next day we rented jet skis and spent the day at nearby Cultus Lake.
We rode bikes all over the place, went for a hike, and spent some time at the park.
With my wife, we had a couple nice dinners, strolls through wilderness, and shared cocktails at the Cove pool.
And we didn’t even scratch the surface of all the things you can do.
Golf, tennis, pickleball, spa, pools, stables, marina, biking, hiking – I could literally go on like this for pages of the stuff there is to do here, and that is one of the reasons I love Sunriver as a destination. It truly is a Choose Your Own Adventure type place, and whether you’re there in the summer or winter, there are plenty of options.
The Best Stay and Play Deal in the Country
To wrap all of this up, there’s one more thing I need to mention: The Sunriver Stay and Play Deal.
In the shoulder season after Labor Day and before Memorial Day there are times where you can get the Sunriver Stay and Play golf deal for $79 a night per person.
This includes a night at the Lodge, unlimited golf on Meadows, Woodlands, and Caldera Links – as well as one round a day at Crosswater.
I can’t even begin to describe how amazing this deal is. To play Crosswater alone during peak season is $200 for resort guests.
Then you throw in all of the other stuff to do while you’re here, and it becomes one of the most no-brainer vacation options I’ve ever seen.
This post isn’t sponsored, and I’m not getting paid to say any of this. I just truly think the value in this deal is so good that it’s worth taking a look at.
Final Thoughts on Sunriver
I’m not even trying to hide how much I love this place. Yes, there’s some bias as I’ve been going there for years, but there’s a reason for that: it can be whatever you want it to be.
Relaxing retreat in nature? Done.
Hectic family holiday with each day fully planned? Yep.
Golf bender with the boys? Easy.
Bachelor or Bachelorette party? That’s where I had mine.
Romantic escape? Yep did that too.
Factor in the close proximity to Bend and the Redmond airport which is less than 45 minutes away? You have a flexible, accessible, and absolutely beautiful resort destination that features world class golf, in a casual environment.
I’m not sure what else you could want in a week away than that.