Fore! With spring in the air—and with every other fun activity from a Normal American ChildhoodTM having been already co-opted for ironic enjoyment then played out—over the next week WW brings you reviews of Portland-area putt-putt courses. We're also pretty excited about Brewvana's putt-putt event next Saturday.
1. Sunset Golf Center
3. Oaks Park
20400 SW Cipole Rd., Tualatin, 691-8400. 8 am to 10 pm.
Cost: $5 for 18 holes
Alcohol: Yes, draft and bottled beer and wine, $4-$4.95. Pitchers are $14-$16.
Other club amenities: Driving range and short game area, as well as golf shop and grill.
Our scorecards: 77, 84, 88, 90 while par is only 70.
Overall ambiance: The name Tualatin likely means “sluggish” or “lazy” in a Native American language, and that’s a vibe channeled at Island Greens—in the very best, vacation-inducing-tranquility sort of way. In a sea of office parks and oversized shopping malls, this is an island of serene respite, however contrived. Each hole is modeled after one at a famous course, including Carmel Valley, Pebble Beach and the Disneyworld Palm Course. Don’t ask me how accurate they are—I’ve never golfed on a real course (I prefer my golf with bumpers), much less at any of these. But Island Greens abounds with calming greenery and mostly well-pruned bushes, though watch out for the blackberries (“we should rename this the invasive species hole,” a participant quipped at one point). Plenty of bird poop-speckled benches invite weary golfers to rest their bums.
Clientele: Mostly suburban families, with a few über-competitive power couples scattered throughout. One, dressed in matching navy polos and khaki shorts, quibbled over who had gotten the double birdie. Also overheard, from a large family approaching the first hole:
Kid no. 1: “I’ve got green!”
Kid no. 2: “I’ve got black!”
Dad: “I’ve got a headache.”
Biggest challenge: One of the things that makes Island Greens so bucolic (well, as bucolic as an artificially constructed landscape in the suburbs can be) is also its most dangerous: the abundance of water features. And unlike that “sluggish” Tualatin River, some of these streams practically invite white-water rafting. Between the babbling brooks, mini-waterfalls and marshy areas (cattails! goldfish! frogs!), you’re bound to end up wading for your ball at some point—one of us fell in the creek while doing so. The hazards don’t stop there, though: Several holes have large boulders on the course, others are overgrown (“This is the Vietnam hole!”) and almost all have “sand bunkers”: patches of carpet that are like a cross between shag-rug and moss.
Pro tips: I’m not the one to be dispensing them (I made par or better on only six holes), but I did learn a few things from my day on the green. First: Walk each hole before you tee off. There are hidden dangers in the terrain, and those many dips, drops and undulations threaten to turn your birdie into a quadruple bogey. And no matter how much that hole resembles Harbor Town or Pebble Beach, don’t whack your ball too hard: We found that our balls hopped the cement rails far more often than we would have liked. Still, a too-tentative putt on the 18th hole knocked my ball into the river, while news reporter Andrea Damewood's more skillful swing scored her a hole-in-one.