IN THE PUBLIC EYE: Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club (Ghost Creek), in North Plains, Ore.
THE LAYOUT: Pumpkin Ridge opened in 1992 to great acclaim, with Ghost Creek named the top new public course in the nation by Golf Digest, and Witch Hollow the No. 2 new private course.
The tracks have gone on to play host to numerous amateur and professional tournaments. Tiger Woods won a record third consecutive United States Amateur title in 1996 at Witch Hollow, which also was the venue for the 2003 U.S. Women's Open and an LPGA tournament from 2009-12, among others.
Pumpkin Ridge was designed by Bob Cupp to have the feel of playing links golf in England and Scotland. While there isn't a slew of hazard trouble, the rough is dense, fescue lurks not far from many fairways, most holes have subtle elevation or directional changes, and the sloping greens are fast and challenging.
Ghost Creek began a pilot program of allowing carts to go off the paths for the first time in the spring of 2013. For the previous 21 years, the fairways were immaculate in part because they didn't receive wear and tear from thousands of golf carts pounding them throughout the year.
However, management feared the course was losing golfers, so carts are now allowed -- with a strong caution to be mindful of protecting the course.
What makes Ghost Creek arguably the best public experience in the greater Portland area is Cupp's design. He did an excellent job of creating a unique experience on nearly every hole. Ghost Creek features a fun mix of long holes with narrow fairways and shorter holes with well-placed bunkers. Cupp weaved creeks into the layout, carved par-5s around tree-lined fairways and left enough getable holes to card a few birdies.
Ghost Creek has four sets of tees and can be stretched out to 6,839 yards from the tips, with a 74.5 rating and 147 slope. The blues are an excellent test at 6,386/72.1/139, and the whites are still sneaky tough at 5,921/69.8/136. The reds play 5,111/71.0/132.
Bottom line, Pumpkin Ridge is a must-play when in the Portland area. Cupp's design is unique, challenging without being brutal, and you'll rarely run into other groups while weaving your way through the property. It's still rated the No. 63 public course in the nation in 2013 by Golf Digest, which said playing host to a major PGA tournament is within the course's grasp.
GENERAL MANAGER: Roger Aggson.
LOCAL KNOWLEDGE: If you can keep the ball in the fairway, you can post a solid score at Ghost Creek. The fairways are kept in pristine condition and the greens roll extremely true, albeit with a good amount of tilt to many, rewarding those who can leave uphill putts.
Naturally, finding the short grass is easier said than done for most amateurs, and Cupp's design features many holes that narrow near the typical landing zone.
Almost every fairway has at least a modest turn, if not a strong dogleg, and those that are straighter typically boast a well-placed bunker or rolling creek that you must be aware of off the tee.
The flavor of Cupp's design really begins to show itself on the 158-yard par-3 third hole. It plays short to a large green, which has a massive tier that can easily turn a birdie opportunity into a potential bogey with a poor club selection.
That's followed by easily the most difficult hole on the course, the 515-yard par-5 fourth. The tee shot plays uphill with red stakes to the left and white to the right. Anything off the fairly narrow fairway gets snagged by very dense rough. Depending on the lie, it can be extremely difficult to reach the green in three following an errant drive. And lengthy approach shots are tricky to a three-tiered green protected by fescue and trees to the back and left.
Another distinctive hole on the front nine is the 366-yard par-4 sixth. A straight drive is rewarded with a short iron to the green, but anything left is likely jailed in the trees, and a creek runs down the right. It's not a bad idea to hit a hybrid off the tee, take a lot of the trouble out of play and take your chances with a little longer approach.
The outward nine concludes with a devilish 443-yard par-4. A safe drive to the middle or left leaves a long approach with a pond running down the left side and up to the front edge of the green. Anything right is snagged by another one of those creeks or lands in rolling mounds leaving a long and awkward approach.
The back nine kicks off with one of the true risk/reward holes on the course. At 474 yards from the blues and 453 from the whites, it's a very reachable par-5. But beware of rolling mounds to the right and fescue to the left off the tee. Find those, and you must navigate a creek that crosses the fairway about 150 yards in front of the green and then turns up the left side, making layups out of poor lies dicey.
One of the more difficult scoring holes is the 219-yard par-3 14th. It plays at least a club-length downhill, typically with wind to factor into the equation as well. The green is the biggest on the course, but that hardly means an easy putt on a surface that tilts toward the front right.
Another one of our favorites was the closing 428-yard par-4 18th. There is ample area to land your drive, but hugging the left side provides far more room to work with on the approach. Anything to the right side requires a full carry over water to a green that is narrowest when approaching from that angle. However, aim left off the tee and there is a large tree that must be avoided; we found it twice in a 36-hole day. Eighteen is the second-longest par-4 on the course and the No. 4 handicap for a reason: it takes two well-struck and well-placed shots in order to head to the 19th hole with a very satisfying par.
OTHER COURSES IN THE AREA: A good trek through the greater Portland area would include a stop at the Reserve Vineyards. The Reserve features the North and South courses, which are rotated between the public and members-only access on a half-monthly basis. If you're looking to play 36 holes, call ahead and you might be allowed to try both tracks on the same day. Both courses have five sets of tee boxes, with the North course featuring far more water in play while the South course is littered with tricky bunkers.
The Great Blue Course at Heron Lakes north of the city features greens fees more common of a nice muni while boasting a challenging layout that many golfers in the Northwest believe is a must-play when in the area.
WHERE TO STAY: If you're in town to play golf, check out accommodations in Hillsboro that centrally locate you between Pumpkin Ridge and the Reserve Vineyards. Otherwise, Portland is a short drive to either and is closer to Heron Lakes.
On the web: www.pumpkinridge.com
--Pumpkin Ridge review by Derek Harper, The Sports Xchange
THE LAST RESORT: Foxhills Hotel and Resort in Ottershaw, Surrey, England.
THE LAYOUT: They aren't going to start running up the Stars and Stripes alongside the Union Jack anytime soon, but Foxhills Golf Club might be more like an American club than any other in the United Kingdom.
It's not only that the three courses at Foxhills look and play very much like courses in the United States, it's the membership. Roughly 20 percent of the members are Americans, executives who work for large firms in and around London. Many of them bring their families because they often stay for several years, and there are several top-rate American schools in the area.
Foxhills Golf Club has two championship courses: the 6,892-yard Bernard Hunt Course and the 6,743-yard Longcross Course and also the Manor Course, a par-3, nine-hole layout where the Wee Wonders program was founded.
The late Bernard Hunt, honored as a Member of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth, was the first head professional at Foxhills when the club opened in 1975, and he served for 25 years. Hunt, who died in June at the age of 83, also played on Senior European PGA Tour.
Hunt, who won 30 times on the European PGA Tour and led the tour's Order of Merit in 1961 and 1963, played a key role in one of England's greatest golf victories in the 1957 Ryder Cup at Lindrick Golf Club in Yorkshire, ending a 24-year hold on the Cup by the U.S.
One of eight pros to be awarded lifetime membership in the British PGA and former captain of the organization, Hunt participated in eight Ryder Cups, including twice as captain.
For tourists, Foxhills is not far from Windsor Castle, Hampton Court (favorite home of Henry VIII), Royal Ascot Racecourse, the original Legoland and Blenheim Palace, birthplace of Winston Churchill.
HEAD PROFESSIONAL: Paul Creamer.
LOCAL KNOWLEDGE: Both 18-hole layouts at Foxhills, which were designed by F.W. Hawtree and opened six months apart in 1975, are what the English call parkland, or heathland, courses.
The par-72, 6,883-yard Bernard Hunt championship course is longer but more wide open and forgiving.
The par-71 Longcross Course is shorter but narrower, weaving 6,743 yards through gently undulating and picturesque wooded terrain with trees bordering every fairway.
The signature hole of the Bernard Hunt course is the 10th hole, a daunting 445-yard par-4 that plays downhill to a valley and then uphill to a green protected by two bunkers in front and overhanging trees on the right.
On a clear day, you can see Canary Wharf in London from the elevated tee, from which the best drive is down the left side to provide the best angle into a green that slopes dramatically from back right to front left.
That follows the best par-5 on the course, the 560-yard ninth, which also can be a heart-tugger. It plays slightly downhill off the tee, with a pond in the fairway waiting to swallow any second shots that are mishit. The opening to the green is narrow because of trees on the left and a bunker on the right.
Another real test can be found on the dogleg left, par-4 446-yard 18th, which is considered one of the most difficult finishing holes in English golf.
The tee shot must carry more than 200 yards to reach the narrow sloping fairway, and the approach is partially blind up the hill to a spacious double green that it shares with No. 18 on the Longcross Course.
The uphill, par-4 430-yard ninth is the most difficult hole on the Longcross Course, requiring a tee shot of more than 200 yards to clear a bunker on the left side and creating the best chance to hit the green in two.
The Longcross, which winds through scots pine, beech and silver birch trees, finishes with an uphill par-5, which measures 531 yards, with a large tree on the left narrowing the fairway for the second shot. Again, the approach shot is partially blind to the large, double green.
The course even lives up to its name. Foxes are often spotted by golfers along with deer, rabbits and other wildlife.
The junior program at Foxhills produced Paul Casey, who won three Pacific 10 Conference Championships at Arizona State and broke records set there by Phil Mickelson before joining the PGA Tour, and Anthony Wall, who plays the European Tour.
OTHER COURSES IN THE AREA: Stoke Park Club in Stoke Poges, where the golf scenes and a few others were filmed for the James Bond classic "Goldfinger," is located outside London on the outskirts of Windsor and Eaton, about seven miles from Heathrow Airport.
Also nearby are some other shrines of British golf, including the Wentworth Club and its famed West Course in Virginia Water; Sunningdale Golf Club in Sunningdale; the Belfry Golf Club in Sutton Coldfield, Europe's most prominent Ryder Cup venue; and Royal Birkdale Golf Club near Southport, which has been host to the Open Championship nine times, the last when Padraig Harrington won in 2008.
Also in the area are Lambourne Club in Burnham, the Marriott Forest of Arden Hotel and Country Club in Warwickshire and Woburn Golf Club in Milton Keynes.
WHERE TO STAY: Located 20 minutes from Heathrow Airport, the 400-acre Foxhills estate offers a 40-suite, four-star hotel in the 19th-century manor house and its Foxhills Mews, a development of 12 apartments situated next to the 14th tee on the Bernard Hunt Course.
Fine dining is available at the two-rosette Manor Restaurant, the Orangery and a brasserie. Stop by the Fox Bar for a drink after holing out on 18.
The five-star Stoke Park Hotel, which in 1999 became a charter member of Leading Small Hotels of the World, offers 20 bedrooms filled with priceless antiques and original paintings and prints on grounds once trod by William Penn and Queen Elizabeth I.
Not far is the luxurious Cliveden House, the former Astor estate, in Taplow, a prominent site in the Profumo scandal, which brought down the Conservative government in 1964.
Also close are the Bull Hotel, a 17th-century coach stop in Gerrards Cross; Burnham Beeches Hotel, a magnificent structure of Georgian architecture on 10 landscaped acres in Burnham; Grovefield House Hotel, a charming Edwardian country house in Windsor; the Christopher Hotel, the only hotel in Eton; the Castle Hotel in Windsor, a two-minute walk from the front gate at Windsor Castle; and Sir Christopher Wren Hotel, on the banks of the Thames River in Windsor.
ON THE WEB: www.foxhills.co.uk
--Foxhills review by Tom LaMarre, The Sports Xchange