5 Can’t-Miss Disc Golf Courses Across the Willamette Valley, According to a Disc Golf Pro
By all accounts, Jason Nehmer is a disc golf veteran with a wealth of knowledge.
The president and founder of the Oakridge Disc Golf Club has been playing disc golf for 25 years and has lived in Oregon for most of that span. He’s led efforts to maintain and grow the sport not only in the mountain gateway town but across the Valley—and notes an explosion in interest amid the pandemic.
“It grew by 35% nationwide, and thousands are playing here in Oregon,” he says.
Disc golf is uniquely popular in Oregon as a counter-culture response to more prominent sports, but also one that a dedicated community helps build and grow with courses dotting the state. In Oakridge specifically, Nehmer has overseen the growth of two new courses while supporting a vibrant community of disc golfers.
As the best weather for the sport rolls in, we spoke with him to learn more about his five favorite courses across the Valley.
Old Mill Disc Golf Course (Oakridge)
Oregon’s newest disc golf course opened last year after six months of work by the Oakridge Disc Golf Club. The championship-level course is a par 60 effort, totaling just over 6,200 ft. in length, and has a nice variety of terrain. Nehmer says it was built “to challenge every aspect of your game” while also offering a history lesson along the way. The course also has the rare pedigree of being a historical interpretive trail situated on the site of an old mill (hence the name) that at one time thrived on the same land. The club was sure to add historical markers and notes at each hole and repurposed an actual saw blade from the mill into an informational kiosk.
Bryant Park (Albany)
Nehmer describes this riverside course as “Oregon’s toughest” due to thousand-foot holes and others that go through the river’s bottom (which are closed in winter as the river covers accessibility). Significant tree coverage also makes this a difficult 18-hole journey that typically only the most ardent disc golfers take on. However, being at the confluence of the Willamette and Calapooia rivers makes this a wonderful day outing, even just to watch others take on the obstacles.
Champoeg State Heritage Area (St. Paul)
Beginners might find more solace at the Champoeg State Heritage Area course less than an hour from Portland. Nehmer says this course is nicely laid out and can accommodate more levels in a more maintained and docile setting. The 18-hole course also hosts tournaments as the grooming supports more competitive play, and it’s generally a more accessible course situated nicely between Portland and Salem.
Dexter Park (Dexter)
A bit closer to Eugene, Nehmer highlights the Dexter Park course, which players often pair with a round in Oakridge. The 18-hole course boasts some of the best scenery in the Valley, as it’s situated right on the banks of the Dexter Reservoir. (On a clear day, golfers can even see the Cascades begin to ascend in the distance.) Beginners and experts alike will enjoy the balance in hole variety and varied terrain. This is an excellent stop for a round on the way to explore the Willamette National Forest to the east.
Herbert Hoover Park (Newberg)
For shorter rounds, this 9-hole course right outside downtown Newberg would be a fine option. All nine holes are under 300 ft. in length, making it ideal for beginners and those looking for a quick disc golf fix. The course retains plenty of interest, though, as it winds through a wooded gully and creek area.