RUNNING Y RANCH – Klamath Falls, OR
A – Playability & Challenge
A- – Quality of Course
A – Memorability
B – Service Levels
A – Pro Shop
A+ – 19th Hole Experience
A- – OVERALL EXPERIENCE
It’s amazing that some courses ever make it to the Top 100 list … just for the fact that they are located in the middle of nowhere. The Running Y Ranch in Klamath Falls, Oregon falls into that category. It’s located about 300 miles north of the Sacramento Airport, or 300 miles south of the Portland Airport, depending on your perspective. Like I said – it’s basically in the middle of nowhere – on the outskirts of a city with a population of only 21,000. But in a nutshell, this unique Arnold Palmer-designed course is worth the drive. It’s memorable and challenging enough to rightfully earn itself the 46th spot on the prized Top 100 golf course list.
The Running Y Ranch is a rustic resort that includes a Lodge, Fitness Center, an ice-skating rink, and a wide variety of outdoor activities sprinkled in the middle of an assortment of Marriott time shares. However the centerpiece of Running Y is the golf course, a layout that Mr. Palmer’s helped make reality in 1997. His vision for the 18-holes was to “leave the land as it lies.” Or better defined, it means if you didn’t know better, it’s a meandering course that fell naturally on the restored wetlands, lakes and woodlands.
The front nine roams around the wetlands and it seems like a natural reaction to break out a camera on every hole. After all, you can’t have enough golf course screen savers. On the first five-holes, trees line one side of the fairway and a troublesome ball-eating marshy wetlands border the other. A good drive and an even better nine-iron approach shot to within five-feet had me strutting off the first green with a birdie. Game on – at least for a few minutes. However, Running Y giveth, and Running Y taketh away. A three-putt on the par-5 second, the compulsive urge to cut off too much of the corner on the dogleg left third hole, and an untimely visit with the aforementioned wetlands on the fourth resulted in a scorecard that was plus-six after four holes.
Probably the most unique hole on the front side is number nine. It’s a downhill par-4 that features a 60-yard drop from tee box to fairway, and another 20 to the green. Just launch your drive up in the air somewhere near the middle and your ball will roll, and roll and roll – PGA-style. While my drive was satisfying for my ego, that mood quickly got a reality check when I had to figure out my approach shot from a downhill lie. The good news was that I a remembered a few key Golfest Digest tips on how to play the shot and stuck my 9-iron to 15-feet. Two-putts later and the front nine was carded with a damage-controlled 43.
The 10th hole crosses parallel behind the Running Y Ranch Lodge, in front of a captive audience sitting on the patio enjoying cocktails. The back nine has a completely different personality than the front. It’s more “woodsy” and plays up and down a series of rolling hills until the 17th and 18th holes, which bring you back to the clubhouse behind the Lodge. Splitting number 10 and the par-four 18th is a ball-eating lake. The key on the back nine is to “club-up” for uphill and to “club-down” for downhill, and keep it completely out of the tree lines. There is nothing worse than a blocked out approach shot that requires a four-iron punch out under the branches. The greens roll exceptionally true at Running Y and on the back nine my putter and greens aligned with the Golf Gods properly for a series of one-putts, including a 35-foot par bomb on the final hole. That locked in a respectable 40 on the back and the personal satisfaction that it was eight strokes better than the day before!
While admiring the course from the Lodge patio with an adult-beverage afterwards, I found it very worthy of its number 46 rating. The consensus at the bar among other players was the same, and many of those had traveled farther to get to the Running Y Ranch than I did. So if you want to know why you should be running up to the middle of nowhere to play golf, just know that the Running Y Ranch is worthy of the long expedition. And that was before I figured in the kayaking, the white-water rafting, the bike-riding and the other amenities.