Woodburn Golf Club
We think that it is safe to say that a trip to Woodburn is probably not that high on your bucket list! Located about an hour south of Portland, Woodburn is quite well known for its outlet mall (can you say tax free shopping!). Oregon golfers are most likely to be familiar with the OGA Course which is also in Woodburn. But what you might not know, and might be surprised to learn, is that Woodburn is also home to a golf course that is very high on our bucket list.
Woodburn Golf Club is a 9-hole course that was built back in 1925, which is often referred to as the Golden Age of Golf Design. But make no mistake, no one should confuse the Golden Age with this course. No, when it was built isn’t the reason why Woodburn was on our list of courses to play.
Probably not on your bucket list
Arriving at Woodburn GC, we especially liked the familiar sound of gravel as you walk under the welcome sign. A simple white one room building with a green tin roof works as the clubhouse. But there is no staff on duty here. Nailed to the side of the building is a sign, that has been updated many times before, which displays the green fees- 10 dollars for 9 holes, 15 for 18, and a yearly membership for $225!
You place your cash green fee in a white envelope, sign your name in the dated registration book, and drop the envelope into the honesty box. Honestly boxes- this is reason number one why Woodburn is on our list!
Just to the left of the clubhouse, running parallel to the road you just entered from, is the first tee. A sign on the tee box warns you not to tee off when cars are in sight and reminds you that you are liable should you hit a car.
The first hole is a straightaway par 4, with the aforementioned road doubling as OB left. Approaching the “green”, you are introduced to reason number two why Woodburn GC is on our list- sand greens!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Yes, SAND greens!
You might be surprised to learn that sand greens were quite common until the 1930’s- especially in arid areas of the US. Did you know that the greens at Pinehurst Number 2 were sand until the mid-1930’s? The development of better heat and drought resistant grasses led to the decline of sand greens, and today there are not many sand greens golf courses that remain.
Back in the day, it was also common practice to place motor oil, or some other type of petroleum-based products on top of the sand. I’ve read that oil was used for a few reasons- it kept the dust from the sand down, and made the greens play fast. But mostly, it kept the weeds from taking over!
After putting out, each group has to “rake”, or “drag” the green before moving to the next tee. The “rake” is basically a carpet that is attached to a handle that you use to smooth the sand. Dragging the rake behind, you walk around the green in a circular motion, starting close to the pin and expanding your circle until the green is raked!
Now, as you can imagine, putting on sand greens takes some getting used to! Nobody would blame you if you added an automatic two putt rule when playing here! It isn’t just the “speed” of the greens that throws you off. It is also the bumps and kicks and bounces you get along the way that make an already maddening game all that more difficult.
We’re not sure if there is a protocol to determine who gets the honor of raking the green- perhaps it is the high score of the hole- but we just took turns. And, we have a little confession- we found that there is something oddly gratifying about raking the greens.
The nine-hole course plays in a clockwise circular direction. In fact, after putting out on the fourth hole, you have completely circled the course. You continue this dizzying inward circle until you get to the dogleg 7th hole.
The 8th hole is a particularly interesting 90-degree dogleg straight right. And the 9th hole, which years ago used to be the 7th hole, is a par 3 of about 150 yards, where my uncle, at 80 years old, had his first and only hole in one!
An honesty box and sand greens are just a couple reasons why this course was on our list. But, more personally, Woodburn Golf Club is also where I (James) last played golf with both my mother and father together. I wish I could say that it was a round that I will never forget. But, unfortunately, it is a round of golf that has no specific memory. But I am certain that it took place here.
Thinking back to that sign that offers yearly memberships for $225, you can’t help but think that the members at Woodburn Golf Club must really love the game of golf. Because let’s be honest, the course they play isn’t much. But it is a course that we are confident that you will never forget!