TETHEROW AT 15, STILL A COURSE LIKE NONE OTHER
Set in Central Oregon’s High Desert, the David McLay Kidd gem continues to wow golfers from all over the world as it celebrates its 15th birthday
BEND, Ore. — By Scottish Links golf standards, 15 years is merely a blink of an eye. But even the Old Course at St. Andrews was once just a teenager. Since the day Tetherow Golf Club opened in July 2008, David McLay Kidd’s links-style gem has made an impression on every golfer who has ventured onto its fescue fairways. The determination to bring the traditional game to the volcanic High Desert landscape of Central Oregon proved to be groundbreaking.
Tetherow, which opened for the 2023 golf season on April 9, has been a considerable success, even if the course is still in its relative infancy (by some standards). Tetherow opened under the weight of the Great Recession and weathered a pandemic, only to emerge as one of the most unique golf experiences in the U.S.
Golf Magazine named Tetherow the Best New Course You Can Play in the Country in 2008 – Kidd was also named the Architect of the Year that year – and Tetherow has never ventured far from the glaring eye of the golf world since. It currently sits at No. 82 on Golf Digest’s list of America’s 100 Greatest Public Courses, a list Tetherow has made consistently since 2011.
More importantly, Tetherow bustles with members and guests during the golf season. Dozens of vacation rentals and Tetherow’s own 50-room luxury boutique hotel, which opened in 2014, are filled with golfers who yearn to discover something other than an ordinary round.
“We’ve been incredibly fortunate to have had so much support over the last 15 years, and to have so many golfers fall in love with Tetherow despite it being so different than a conventional American parkland golf experience,” said Chris van der Velde, a partner in Tetherow who has been with the project since its inception in the mid-2000s. “We set out to create something that has never really been seen before in the U.S. — a links-style course set in a high desert environment. And we couldn’t have asked for a better result.”
Tetherow has evolved over the years, at times calling on Kidd, who has lived in Bend since 2006, to adjust the original design. Those tweaks have helped make the challenge of Tetherow more welcoming to more golfers. But Tetherow’s Scottish Highlands inspiration — the faded fescue fairways, thin lies, firm-and-fast conditions, striking bunkers, and pronounced elevation changes — remain unchanged.
The club has long embraced a modern approach, too. Tetherow was the testing grounds for GolfBoards, which are still surfing the fairways today, and it is currently home to one of largest fleets of Finn Scooters in the U.S.
Tetherow also integrated environmentally sound philosophies and practices into nearly every aspect of the course development and still does with its current agronomic practices. Tetherow was the first course in Oregon to become an Audubon International certified signature sanctuary golf course, one of just a handful of courses worldwide to earn the certification. Its water-sipping fescue grasses have proven to thrive in a dry climate, too, with just a fraction of the irrigation demands of bentgrass.
It all came together to create a golf experience unlike any other and one that is only getting better with age.
“We had a piece of land in a microclimate that was allowable, an architect who was pushing it, and a developer who was amenable,” said Kidd. “Chris Van der Velde, a Dutchman and an ex-European Tour player, totally gets it. You really need the stars to align to be able to create a golf course like Tetherow.”
TETHEROW GOLF CLUB
Architects: David McLay Kidd
Current ranking: No. 82, Golf Digest’s America’s 100 Greatest Public Courses
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For more information about Tetherow or to book a stay, visit tetherow.com.
Photos courtesy Visit Central Oregon