Another Big Golf Development Coming to Central Oregon

By: Jeff Shelley

Central Oregon continues its aspirations to rival Palm Springs and Scottsdale as Meccas for golf in the West. The latest project to be announced is Seven Peaks in Crook County. The 2,100-acre development, still in the design phase, is slated to occupy the former Nolan and Tisthammer ranches, 3.5 miles east of Redmond and four miles from Redmond Airport on Highway 126.

There are several other golf-oriented projects underway in this burgeoning area. The first golf course at Brasada Ranch in Prineville is nearly complete. Designed by Oregon native Peter Jacobsen and his architect-partner, Jim Hardy, the 7,358-yard, par-72 private layout will debut this fall. Brasada Ranch is a gated 1,800-acre development with various recreational amenities and upwards of 900 single- and multi-family homes.

Cascade Highlands Resort south of Bend is still in the planning stages. This 574-acre project involves hundreds of homes and resort facilities in addition to a golf course designed by David McLay Kidd, the architect of the original course at Bandon Dunes Resort on Oregon’s southwestern coast.

Farther north in Madras, traditionally an agricultural area known for its vegetable seed production, is an 800-acre project that will be a co-development involving the city of Madras and a private concern. A public 18-hole course is planned at the East Madras project along with upwards of 1,700 housing units, a school, various recreational amenities, and commercial-retail elements. Plans are being finalized before ground will be broken, which should take place this summer.

Further evidence that Central Oregon is a hotbed for golf development is the Thornburgh Resort project, a 1,900-acre project located between Redmond and Sisters near Tumalo. Upwards of 54 holes are planned here, with the first to be a Crenshaw-Coore design. The proposal also involves over 1,300 homes, hotel lodgings, various recreational amenities and full infrastructure.

The developers of Seven Peaks envision a golf community somewhat similar to the new Pronghorn Club between Bend and Redmond. Pronghorn boasts a resort-style course designed by Jack Nicklaus, and a private club designed by Tom Fazio. John Shaw of Winchester Development of Southern California, and Chris Pippin and his father Jim Pippin of Portland, are the primary backers of Seven Peaks. They’ve hired Tom Doak to design the initial private course, with two others – one resort-style and the other a family-oriented country club – in the long-range plans.

Seven Peaks will also feature 800 single-family homes, various recreational amenities, and full infrastructure for the property. The site offers vistas of the Cascades, towering Smith Rock and the Ochocos. The backers plan to submit a development plan to Crook County by July. If all goes well with the permit process, work could commence by spring 2007.

According to Jim Pippin, his group has got some heavy hitters behind Seven Peaks, with $14 million to $15 million in equity invested so far. Among the initial investors are Jacobsen, Charlie Denson of Nike and Andy Bryant of Intel.

“[The resort] will be more of a Black Butte Ranch than an Eagle Crest or Broken Top,” said Chris Pippin. Black Butte features 36 holes and is a semiprivate club open to the public. Eagle Crest, with 54 holes, is a resort facility, while the Tom Weiskopf-designed Broken Top is situated within a private, gated community on Bend’s south end.

“Deschutes County to date has had the benefit of destination resorts,” commented Jim Pippin to reporter AnneMarie Knepper of the (Prineville) Central Oregonian newspaper. “We’re excited to be part of your community.”

Jim Pippin said he has worked to make the resort compatible with the neighbors. “I met with every neighbor that touches our property,” he said. “We feel they will all support the project. We are interested in meeting with anybody who would like to discuss the project.”

As for the possibility that Central Oregon may be reaching the saturation point with golf-type developments, Jim Pippin said there were some vacation markets that are still untapped. He would like to draw people from outside Central Oregon’s traditional “three-hour circle,” feeling that 75 percent of the visitors and homebuyers will be from outside of Oregon.

He also believes that having Doak, an internationally-known golf architect, will help draw interest from golfers around the world. “Crook County is on the map, believe me,” he told Knepper.