Golf has a reputation as the milieu of rich assholes. In sweater vests and moisture-wicking slacks, these MBAs, junior VPs, brokers and indolent heirs roam rolling oases of manicured Tennessee bluegrass, emerald lagoons and white sand. But there is another breed of golfer, one who plays dusty, unkempt public courses where no one in white pants taps his watch or sneers at the time-honored ritual of shotgunning a Busch Light after every triple bogey.
This golfer knows that no matter how lush the course, how advanced the titanium club-head technology, how serious and solemn the golfer, this game is at its heart brutal and frustrating, never ceding more than the minimum satisfaction necessary to bait you into one more round. This golfer knows the only way to laugh at the ugly joke at golf's center is to not give a fuck. To fill your bag with cheap beer, to improve lies, take mulligans, fudge scorecards, to swing 1980s hand-me-down clubs. This is philosophers' golf, where handicap refers to blood-alcohol content and par is just a number. So for you tank-top-clad sophists of the sand trap, here's one man's scorecard for a few of Portland's cheapest public courses.
Heron Lakes Golf Club
Too posh for a drunken rampage, but Portland's best golf value. Of the two courses available, Great Blue is the more difficult and more scenic, but Greenback ain't bad; play twilight—starting three hours before sunset, as many holes as you can get in before dark. Fiery sunsets over willows and industrial warehouses are awesome.
$26-$42 for 18 holes;
$20-$23 for 9; $22-$23 twilight
I'm squatting in the tiny patch of shade afforded by a lopsided maple, sucking foam from the rim of a lukewarm Rainier tallboy and watching one-third of our party hunt for serviceable tees in the tee box of the sixth hole at Broadmoor Golf Course. After inspecting and discarding a few, Dan squints at a dusty yellow spike, splintered two-thirds of the way down its shaft. He deems it suitable, sinks it in a narrow strip of grass between myriad divots and delicately balances a 50-cent salvage ball on top.
Wildwood Golf Course
Second to Heron Lakes in quality. Creeks come into play, greens are tough, there's lots of elevation change to account for and it's extremely hilly. Carts are for pussies, but they're tempting here; there's an incredibly hot drink-cart girl.
$25-$30 for 18 holes; $14-$16 for 9
Dan waggles my Spalding Executive Series 7-iron. His head jerks back and forth between the ball and the pin, and he lifts his feet alternately like a dog preparing to take a shit.
Glendoveer Golf Course
A spacious course lined with soaring Doug firs. The east course is harder and more interesting. Despite being on the border of Gresham, it's, weirdly, home to the RingSide and its amazing happy hour.
$31-$37 for 18 holes; $20-$21 for 9
Just as Dan has settled into his stance, a pair of twin-prop Chinook military helicopters come zipping in from the southwest, slowing and turning as they approach the tee box.
Broadmoor Golf Course
Nutria—giant swimming rats—abound along the scummy stretch of Columbia Slough that bisects this course; call it a water biohazard. Holes 1 and 10 drop precipitously from Columbia Boulevard, leaving you with steep climbs back up to the greens of 9 and 18; watch for low-flying aircraft.
$28-$34 for 18 holes; $15-$17 for 9
The deadly looking birds hover, ready to drop shock troops armed with Tasers and black hoods. I slide the 3-iron from my bag, firmly gripping the evil club never meant to be actually swung at a golf ball; its dime-sized sweet spot and unforgiving steel shaft are only suitable for hand-to-hand combat.
Eastmoreland Golf Course
Flat and easy with few traps or hazards; a fine drinking course for the modest golfer; hard to lose balls, but you still will; little shade means things can get sweaty.
$26-$31 for 18 holes; $20-$21 for 9; $22-$23 twilight
Dan rocks forward, rolling back onto the soles of his feet, and brings the club wildly to bear on his Bud Light promotional Titleist 4, which takes off straight as an arrow and never more than 8 inches off the ground, skimming 80 yards up the fairway. The choppers, likely suspicious of Dan's swarthy, vaguely Arab complexion, have assessed that we pose no threat. They bank over the cyclone fence that separates the course from the Portland Air Guard Station and disappear.
Colwood National Golf Club
Flat, wide and largely boring, but very low-key; get ready to dodge traffic—the course is split into thirds by Northeast Cornfoot Road and Northeast Alderwood Road.
$29-$33 for 18 holes; $16-$19 for 9
"Where'd you end up?" asks our third, Pat, nodding at Dan and buckling his belt as he emerges from behind a bush.