By Jim Gullo, for
The first hole is dry as a bone, but water lies in silent wait outside of the second green, and if you’ve decided to play the 7,683-yard tips at Crosswater – the great Sunriver course in Bend that is home to the annual Jeld-Wen Tradition tournament on the Champions Tour – you had better hope that you’re coming in from the right. This is the first of many challenges that lie in wait at this iconic golf course in central Oregon, and one of the state’s most heralded layouts.
After that second hole, the Deschutes and Little Deschutes Rivers meander throughout the course, coming into play seven different times. There are five tee boxes on each hole to accommodate all levels of golf, and from where we played when we recently returned to Crosswater, we found the rivers early and often. Designed by Robert Cupp to be a true test of golf, Crosswater is situated on 600 acres of river meadows and wetlands, with bridges to cross sensitive areas and lots of views of water and mountains. As we played, a bald eagle emerged from an enormous, course-side nest and flapped over us, a testament to the course being named an Audubon Sanctuary in 1999.
It’s hard to say what is more challenging: The rivers or the thick, deep grasses that appear at the edge of the rough of most holes and completely swallow errant golf shots. Playing Crosswater well is an exercise in patience and strategic play. The 16th hole, for example, is one of the longest in the state at 635 yards from the tips. The tee shot should be aimed directly at Mt. Bachelor, and the Little Deschutes River cuts across the fairway just short of the green, making an accurate approach absolutely crucial to scoring well (and staying dry) as you play your way to a firm, tabletop green. The 18th begins with a long tee shot over wetlands and tall grass to a fairway that is bisected by the river, which must be crossed to reach a well-guarded green.
It was that hole that Mike Reid needed to play twice on Sunday to win the 2009 Jeld-Wen Tradition, a mainstay event on the Champions Tour. After four solid days of competitive golf, Reid wound up in a playoff with John Cook at 16-under par, and on the 73rd hole of the tournament, returned to the 18th, where he knocked his approach to within twelve feet on the hard, fast green and rammed in the birdie putt for the win.
We wish we could say that we played Crosswater as successfully and easily as the pros when we visited just before the tournament in August, but that wouldn’t be entirely true. The course looked and felt like it was approaching tournament shape as workmen erected bleachers and platforms for spectators alongside several greens.  It was a great time to experience Crosswater at its toughest – with roughs cut high, carts restricted to cartpaths to save wear and tear on the fairways, and greens in absolutely immaculate condition.
A private course, Crosswater is available to play for guests staying at the Sunriver resort, as well as members and residents of the Crosswater community. Sunriver boasts three more courses for avid golfers: The Woodlands, Meadows, and new Caldera Links, which opened in 2007 and was built by architect Cupp to appeal to families and beginning golfers, with nine holes of par-3 fun that range from 60 to 185 yards in length. A great place, in short, to work on your short game.
And to avoid water hazards; believe us when we say that Crosswater is the place to bring your A-game.