Tokatee Golf Club

General Course DescriptionTokatee golf

At the base of the Cascades (more than foothills, the mountains are right there), there is an open expanse in the McKenzie River Valley that is a very attractive place for a golf course. Tokatee Golf Club is an 18-hole public course 55 miles east of Eugene (or 75 miles west of Bend).  Dotted with old logging equipment from the family of the owner/builder, Tokatee Golf Club is very well maintained and has fast and true greens. After four very open holes, you go into the trees. Shorter holes are generally narrower and have doglegs. Trees (mostly fir but also oak, maple and cedar) are mature and everywhere, providing the primary challenge (one is in the fairway on the 5th hole), and adding to the attraction of the course. Sand and water in the form of ponds and creeks are also in play, and mountain vistas often appear. Forward tees have shorter distances and easier angles. Generally flat and compact, it is a very nice walk.

Course History

First nine opened in 1966 and the second nine in 1969. The course was built on the Belknap Cattle Ranch, which was built in an old logging area, and on the Sims Homestead (remnants of the old orchard are purported to be next to the 12th hole). In the 1970s, there was an attempt to sell the course to a California company, which planned to develop it. The buyer was unable to obtain the necessary permits, and the sale fell through (lucky for us). Until just recently, the course was consistently listed in Golf Digest’s best courses in Oregon (being in the top 50 courses in the country in 1981 and the top 25 public courses in the country in 1990). The course managed to avoid damage from both the 2020 and 2023 fires (although firefighters were camped on the property and many employees lost their houses in the 2020 fires).

Why It Is There

N B “Nat” Giustina, a lumberman from Eugene who had a cabin in nearby McKenzie Bridge, wanted to build a course that could be enjoyed by all skill levels. Nat’s son, Larry (who developed Trysting Tree in Corvallis), operated the course after Nat, and Larry’s son, Mark, now operates the course.

I Wish I Would Have Known Before I Played

The greens run well and there is no need to overread the breaks; but if there is a break bias it is going away from the hills and toward the river. There are several short holes with bends (especially on the back 9) where placement can be very helpful. For example, on the short par-5 12th hole, a double dogleg, first left around a trap and then right around trees, if you clear the trap on your drive (favoring left), you may have a shot to the green.  On the par-5 16th hole (named by The Oregonian in 1988 as one of the 18 best holes in the state), there is a creek that crosses the fairway at 190 yards from the green and a pond that takes up the majority of the fairway from the left at about 120 yards from the elevated green. So after your drive, the hole becomes a risk-reward hole. And on the par-4 18th hole, at about 175 yards from the green, the fairway starts running right to left and at 140 yards from the green, the fairway is pinched by a culvert on both sides of the fairway (there is also a sprinkler with yardage that is way off).

Did You Know

The name, Tokatee, is the Chinook Indian word for “pretty” or “graceful.” In the 1970s, the course hosted the Oregon Cross Country Meet (Steve Prefontaine won in 1973). Also in the 1970s, Oregon State University hosted a college invitational at the course (Peter Jacobsen won the tournament in 1975).  In 2021, Kennedy Swann, who worked at the course in the pro shop and kitchen, as well as working in the juniors’ program, became the first woman to win the Oregon Open (right after she led Ole Miss to the NCAA National Championship in women’s golf).

Good For Them

First off, you have to be impressed with a course that keeps its pro for so long — the course has had only four head pros. Dan King was there for over 25 years. His predecessor, Mickey Sullivan, was pro for 23 years.  The newest head pro, Kennedy Swan, was the first woman to win the Oregon Open (in 2021). The course hosts several junior camps and have very reduced rates for juniors. The pros have served as the coaches of local high school golf teams and recruit kids from all grade levels. It is the host course for McKenzie High School. The course hosts charity events for McKenzie River Clinic and the Dom Diddy Classic for the Dominic Fouts Memorial Cancer Fund.

Why Play This Course

The course is often referred to as a “hidden gem” and it should be based on its location, scenery, and quality. Multiple tee boxes allow the course to be accessible for multiple skill levels. With a great staff, good practice facilities, and a reasonable price, it is worth the drive to experience this gem.

General

    • Type: 18-hole public course
    • Price: $$$
    • Phone/webpage:  (541) 822-3220/www.tokatee.com
    • Address: 54947 McKenzie Highway, Blue River, Oregon 97413
    • Owner: Tokatee Land Co. Limited Partnership
    • Designer: Ted Robinson, Sr.
    • Pros: Kennedy Swann (PGA Associate)
    • Practice Facilities: Driving range on grass, practice chipping area, practice green
    • Pro Shop: Lots of clothes, some equipment
    • Food: There is a restaurant in the clubhouse with a nice patio overlooking a few holes that serves breakfast, burgers, sandwiches, snacks, and a full bar that is open based on how crowded the course is
    • Bathrooms: Improved in clubhouse and on course
    • Yardage Markers: 200, 150, 100 in-ground markers; 150 posts; yardage on some sprinkler heads; pin placement on revolving zone basis
    • Clothing: No tank tops, but T-shirts and jeans are OK
    • Walkable: Generally flat (there is a hill up 16 and down 17) and compact, a nice walk
    • Spikes: Soft
    • Shoe Cleaning: Brushes
    • Rentals: All and golf boards
    • Closes on November 15 and opens late February to mid March
Yards Par Rating Slope
Black 6806 72 72.7 126
Blue 6245 72 69.7/75.5 118/132
White 5922 72 68.3/73.8 116/127
Yellow 5018 72 68.8 117
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