Golf Blog

Goat Caddies!

When I first heard that there was a magical place in Oregon where goats carry your golf clubs, I stopped everything that I was doing and booked my trip immediately. Yes, that’s right, they have goat caddies in Oregon. In case I don’t have your attention I will type it in capital letters…. GOAT CADDIES. The good news is that these goat caddies do not come alone. At Silvies Valley Ranch you have first class hospitality, a massive cattle ranch, and 4 different golf courses. Oh and also, caddies that are goats… GOAT CADDIES.

Bruce the goat caddie gives me the stink eye after a missed short putt.

Bruce the goat caddie gives me the stink eye after a missed short putt.

To fully understand the story of the goat caddies, we must first go back to the 1880’s when a French Trapper named Silvie entered the land that would later become Silvies Valley Ranch. He had come not for goats, but to trap the go to commodity of the 1880’s… beaver. The removal of these beaver would shape the landscape over the next 120 years eventually making way for the Campbell family to purchase the property in 2007. Over the last dozen years or so, the 60 square mile ranch has been ecologically restored and countless improvements have been made.

One of those improvements is the establishment of a very unique golf resort. Located in the remote town of Seneca, Oregon, Silvies has created a wildly fun an interesting place to play golf. Unfortunately, the ranch is not an easy place to get to, but once you arrive on the property, you will be instantly glad that you and your friends made the voyage. The staff immediately welcomes you to the property and makes you feel like you are part of the family.

With a dining lodge, spa, and spacious rooms, the golfer has everything that they need for several days of golf and related shenanigans. Each guest has their own personal golf cart to drive around the property and since there is no cell phone coverage, they give you walkie talkies to request anything that you might need from the staff during your visit. We used it to broadcast movie quotes and have conversations like this classic exchange from the movie Airplane. I am not joking.

Now, when I mentioned four different golf courses at the beginning of this post, I was serious. Not only are the golf courses different from each other but they are different from most of the other golf courses in the United States. Here are the vital stats on the courses at Silvies Valley Ranch.

  • Hankins Course

    • Dan Hixon Championship 18 hole course

    • 7075 yards

    • Played odd # days

  • Craddock Course

    • Dan Hixon Championship 18 hole course

    • 7035 yards

    • Played even # days

  • Chief Egan Course

    • Par 3 golf course

    • 9 holes, 875 yards

    • Goat Caddies available

  • McVeigh’s Gauntlet

    • Challenging executive course (par 2’s 3’s and 4’s)

    • 7 holes, 1177 yards

    • Goat Caddies available

The opening hole on the par 3 Chief Egan Course

The opening hole on the par 3 Chief Egan Course

Sunset on the Egan.

Sunset on the Egan.

On the drive up into Oregon from California I phoned my friend Sean, from BreakingEighty. I hadn’t talked to Sean in a while and I wanted to get the latest on his adventures.

  • Sean: “Hey Patrick, what’s up?”

  • Me: “Ah, not much man, just driving up to Silvies Ranch in Oregon.”

  • Sean: “You’re driving to Silvies Ranch in Oregon? I am driving to Silvies Ranch in Oregon!!”

That is the story of how Sean and I found out that we were on the same Silvies’ agenda for the week. We had no idea that we were scheduled to visit at the same time, but it was a welcome surprise. If there is one thing that I love more than golf it is beating Sean Ogle at golf.

Since we arrived in the afternoon, we started off the fun on the Chief Egan par 3 course. Sean had brought his friend Jamie and we decided to go with a 2 on 1 skins death match. After Sean and Jamie took the first two skins, I decided to get serious and stormed back to win the match with some clutch putting. Sean and Jamie would get used to this sort of devastation.

The 2nd on on the Egan course

The 2nd on on the Egan course

Up next we took on the heart of the Silvies Golf Resort, the Hankins and Craddock courses. Both of these 18 hole championship golf courses were designed by Dan Hixon. Named after the early pioneers of Silvies Ranch, they are also the most similar of the four golf courses on the property. That is because they are played on the exact same piece of land.

Yes, that’s right, I am talking about a reversible golf course. The Craddock course is played on even numbered days and then the routing is reversed and the Hankins course is played on the odd numbered days.

The 15th hole on the Craddock course is the 3rd hole on the Hankins course. It is my favorite green on the property.

The 15th hole on the Craddock course is the 3rd hole on the Hankins course. It is my favorite green on the property.

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The 4th hole on the Craddock Course

The 4th hole on the Craddock Course

The two courses share a majority of the green sites with 27 green complexes in total. The 9 additional greens provide completely unique golf holes for each of the two courses and adds great variety to both the Hankins and Craddock golfing experiences.

The most important aspect of the two designs is that you absolutely do not feel like you are just replaying some of the same green sites. You approach the greens from completely different angles and usually from a different length, making each approach feel like something brand new. It’s also pretty fun to uncover the routing and see just how different the course unfolds playing the other way.

The 12th hole on the Hankins course is also the 5th hole on the Craddock course.

The 12th hole on the Hankins course is also the 5th hole on the Craddock course.

#16 on Hankins or #2 on Craddock

#16 on Hankins or #2 on Craddock

The sun sets over #16 on the Craddock course.

The sun sets over #16 on the Craddock course.

The par 5 5th hole on the Hankins golf course

The par 5 5th hole on the Hankins golf course

The fine folks at Silvies Valley Ranch believe that golf should be fun. The best part about this belief is that they just don’t sit around believing it, they actually do something about it. In addition to the varied golf courses at the Ranch, they also offer a number of fun challenges that golfers can take part in. You can win prizes in the golf shop by accomplishing these challenges. It is a shining example of how to make golf fun.

Nailed It

The 18th hole on the Hankins course is at 5000 feet elevation, it is downhill, downwind, and very dry. If you know anything about golf ball aerodynamics, you know that this is the perfect setting for bombing a huge freaking drive. The hole has been designed to inspire the long ball and if you manage to hit the longest drive of your life they will provide you with a Silvies Valley Ranch “Nailed it” flask filled with whiskey. Since this is golf, Silvies goes on the honor system.

As was expected, both Sean and I swung like a couple of madmen on the tee box and actually made some pretty solid contact. Sean’s drive measure 358 yards and mine came in at…… 366 yards. Neither of us could remember a time when we hit one further so the flasks were gifted upon us.

If you complete any of these challenges, you also get to sign the “Book of Winners.” I signed my name right next to tour player Graham DeLaet… who hit his drive 390 yards.

The “Nailed It” flask on display.

The “Nailed It” flask on display.

One-Putt Challenge

The final four holes on the Hankins course offer a similar challenge in terms of putting. If you manage to one-putt all 4 of these holes, you will earn a round of the course’s signature drink, “The Horseshoe Nail,” for your foursome. We immediately managed to 3 putt like a bunch of fools and spoiled our chances.

Fortunately, the challenge also allows the golfer to one-putt the 18th green to earn their own personal drink. I decided to hole out from off of the green and Sean hit the flagstick to tap in for his drink. I donated my “Horseshoe Nail” to Jamie and continued my journey of sobriety for another day.

One putt the 18th and you are drinking for free in the clubhouse.

One putt the 18th and you are drinking for free in the clubhouse.

Lucky 7

The final challenge takes place on the McVeigh course. Complete all of the challenges below and you get to play for free golf at Silvies Ranch for an entire year. Good luck with #7.

  1. Complete score on all 7 holes

  2. Use less than 7 clubs

  3. Use less than 7 balls

  4. Drink less than 7 beers

  5. Complete the course in under 77 minutes

  6. Birdie the par 2 Bonus Beer hole, (which has a 7.7 inch cup)

  7. Have a score of under 17

No one in our group even came close to finishing within 17 strokes. I don’t think we even kept score. We were too excited about our new friend Bruce... THE GOAT CADDY.

Bruce the goat caddy arrives to the first tee with his goat handler, Hadley.

Bruce the goat caddy arrives to the first tee with his goat handler, Hadley.

From the moment our group set eyes on Bruce, he was immediately part of the team. He strode right up onto the first tee and all of the appropriate introductions were made. This was by far the most excited that I have even been about a caddy (sorry, Shuster). You could tell that Bruce was eager as well, but I got the feeling that he would have been just as content to sit there and eat the bushes for an hour.

By the second hole, Bruce would get into the flow of the round and easily keep pace with our group. In no time, he was handing out clubs left and right while dispensing golf balls like the veteran goat caddy that he is.

I asked Bruce for advice several times during our round and both times he just kind of glared at me. I could read it all over his face. “You know what club to hit Koenig, just step up and pull the trigger, you pansy.” Bruce is a no nonsense type of goat caddie and has little tolerance for indecisiveness. I stepped into line quickly.

Front view: Bruce The Goat Caddy

Front view: Bruce The Goat Caddy

Rear view: Bruce The Goat Caddy.

Rear view: Bruce The Goat Caddy.

Bruce is outfitted with a custom made double bag goat saddle from Seamus Golf. It has got all of the pouches and accessories that one would want from their caddy. We only put 6 clubs in each of Bruce’s bags and they fit nicely. Bruce carried it with ease.

Even though Bruce was stealing the show, McVeigh’s Gauntlet was certainly holding our attention as well. The course is designed to be so difficult that it’s fun. The greens are sloped, tiny, and elevated onto hill tops. If you miss your target even slightly, you will face a tough up and down from a potentially precarious situation.

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The wildly difficult 3rd hole on the McVeigh Challenge Course.

The wildly difficult 3rd hole on the McVeigh Challenge Course.

The view from the tee box on the 1st hole.

The view from the tee box on the 1st hole.

Bruce keeps his eye on the paparazzi as I hunt down flagsticks.

Bruce keeps his eye on the paparazzi as I hunt down flagsticks.

Bruce the Goat Caddy Facts:

  • Bruce has done 4 loops in one day.

  • Bruce does not accept cash tips, he only accepts peanut tips.

  • Bruce has appeared on Good Morning America.

  • Bruce is not easily impressed.

  • Bruce’s selfie game is strong to very strong.

  • Bruce has a goat caddy buddy named Mike.

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Silvies Valley Ranch ranks as one of the most unique and fun golf destinations that I have visited. While the emphasis is on the goat caddies, the golf and the entire experience is first class. As my friend Evan Schiller would say, “Go for the goat caddies, the golf is not baaahhd either.”

I will leave you with the link to my Instagram story on the goat caddy experience. You will want to click on it..

Central Oregon

Central Oregon is one of my favorite places to play golf, so when Ted Taylor over at Visit Central Oregon gave me a call to tell me about the PacAm golf tournament in Bend OR, I knew that a trip would be in order.  Below you will find a brief rundown of the PacAm and the courses to play in Central Oregon.

The PacAm is one of the larger amateur tournaments in Oregon and in 2016 it celebrated it's 20th year in existence.  I was there to capture the action and most importantly the golf courses of Central Oregon.  The PacAm hosts approximately 450 participants each year and the tournament is played over seven courses with the Championship round being played at Crosswater Club in Bend.

The 16th at Lost Tracks Golf Club

The 16th at Lost Tracks Golf Club

The PacAm starts off with the Festival of Golf, where around $8k was raised for the local Boys & Girls Club of Bend.  Golfers have a chance to win a car with a hole in one, achieve glory with a long drive, or most importantly devour cake.  

Before the golfers got after this cake, it was a perfectly sculpted sight of deliciousness. 

Before the golfers got after this cake, it was a perfectly sculpted sight of deliciousness. 

The Festival of Golf gets underway at the Sunriver Resort.

The Festival of Golf gets underway at the Sunriver Resort.

After the festival of golf had kicked off the tournament, the golfers would head out for 3 rounds over the next 3 days at the 7 area courses.  The tournament is broken down into gross and net divisions and flighted by handicap.  Pretty much anyone has the potential to win if they play well.  

The top 4 contestants in each flight would win M2 Drivers, Nikon range finders, and Taylor Made golf bags and balls.  This was easily the most swag I had seen at a tournament of this nature.  

In the end, Rick Gehrke of Meridian, ID would take home the overall champion honors.  Congratulations, Rick.

The 15th hole at Nicklaus' Pronghorn course

The 15th hole at Nicklaus' Pronghorn course

Next up on the agenda was Tetherow, The David McLay Kidd design offers plenty of challenge and excitement.  Heading up the excitement category are the Golfboards that are available for rent.  Tetherow was actually the pilot course for Golfboard and the company is headquartered in Bend.

If you have the means, I highly recommend picking one up.  But don't just take my word for it.  Check out this Golfboard review by Chicago's very own, Ferris Bueller.

We quickly doubled up our raffle tickets with some cornhole.

We quickly doubled up our raffle tickets with some cornhole.

Bag piping scene is strong at the PacAm

Bag piping scene is strong at the PacAm

The always interesting 12th hole at Pronghorn

The always interesting 12th hole at Pronghorn

While the tournament was underway, I took the time to visit some of the area's marquee courses.  Among the top of that list is Pronghorn Resort.  With 2 championship courses, one designed by Tom Fazio and the other by Jack Nicklaus, this is a must play for any Bend visit.

I played a pretty solid round and had a chance to break par with a birdie on 18.  The pressure was tense as I faced a tough approach from the right rough.  In the shot of the day, I hit a towering 6 iron that fell out of the sky and right onto the flag stick.  I converted the 3 foot putt for 71 and walked off of 18 with a nice big smile.  

After a tough day on the links at Tetherow, I would cap off my day gloriously with a fine eagle putt.  

With an eagle this spectacular, an equally spectacular celebration is required.  I deliver the putt, then deliver the kicks.

The signature 17th hole at  Tetherow  from behind the green.

The signature 17th hole at Tetherow from behind the green.

When considering your next golf trip, Central Oregon should definitely be on the list for discussion.  With so many public options available, the avid golfer could play for a week without running out of exciting new holes to play.  

Even If you can't make it to the PacAm tournament, the area is definitely worth visiting.  In addition to the world class golf, there is hiking, fishing, skiing, rafting, and rock climbing.  Central Oregon also gets more than 300 days of sunshine a year. 

A big thanks to Ted Taylor and Visit Central Oregon for inviting me out for a fantastic couple of days.

 

 

I didn't make it out to  Brasada Ranch  this trip, but it is another Central Oregon gem.

I didn't make it out to Brasada Ranch this trip, but it is another Central Oregon gem.

The 8th hole at  Crosswate r is a short par 4, that does indeed, cross over the water.

The 8th hole at Crosswater is a short par 4, that does indeed, cross over the water.