Driving from Redmond to scenic Sisters in Central Oregon, you can’t miss the sign for the Aspen Lakes golf course from Highway 126.
A couple of right turns leads to the well-appointed clubhouse tucked among the pine and cypress trees. Aspen Lakes and Sisters are the transition point from the high desert landscape that surrounds Redmond and the irrigated pasture to more forested land as the Cascade Mountains approach.
The course routing takes full advantage of that with most of the holes running through the forest. That includes a gated community with large custom homes set well back from the golf course. The homes are unobtrusive on the course although worthy of admiration, but the residents enjoy some fine course views.
As the name suggests, lakes come into play on six holes, including No. 13 where a marshy wetland bisects the par 3. It’s part of the wastewater treatment system that makes a nice hazard with reeds growing a few feet high over the water.
The course is pretty wide open from the tee and then requires more precision with the approach shots. The signature hole is No. 2 with a water hazard all down the left side of the fairway and protecting the green as well. Another water hazard looms over the back. It takes a well-placed drive and then a precise second shot to get home on the 450-yard par 4. Sisters is just over 3,000 feet in elevation so there’s some adjustment necessary for longer carries—about 5%.
The course can provide plenty of challenge from the tips at 7,300 yards. The slope from the blue tees is 134 at 6,900 yards, while the women’s tees play to a slope of 133 at 5,594 yards.
The course conditions on a mid-July Wednesday were, for the most part, good. It was a very relaxed day so we literally went into the clubhouse at the turn and sat down for in the bar and did not lose our place. There’s a full bar with a limited lunch menu in Brand 33 that offers four pizzas plus sandwiches, fish and chips and fried calamari. I chose the calamari that was fine, but my wife loved her fish and chips. The double-fried French fries were particularly good and the breaded and fried fish hit the spot for her. We’d return.
I asked Howie Pruitt, the pro running the golf operation, about the uneven conditions on some fairways and tees. He frankly responded that they’d changed some maintenance staff during the summer in 2021 and the current superintendent, who came on board in the fall, was finally getting the course rounded back into its normal condition. The challenge was heightened because the irrigation system failed for a month during the hottest time of the summer and some turf did not survive.
For those who have played the course a few years ago, the management flipped the nines last year.
Aspen Lakes provided an enjoyable and challenging round. For the final three holes, you emerge from the forest and can see the magnificent Cascades—Three Sisters and Mt. Bachelor with plenty of snow—standing as sentinels nearby.
Aspen Lakes complements the two courses on the westside of Sisters at Black Butte Ranch, mixing the tree-lined holes of Glaze Meadow with the more open Big Meadow track.
By Tim Hunt