Former 18-hole course revamped into golf center with unique layout

TRIBUNE PHOTO: STEVE BRANDON - Randy Morrison, Colwood Golf Center general manager, putts to one of two holes on the green, a unique feature of the new par-3 course in Northeast Portland.It’s a golf center now instead of a golf course, but there is a course of sorts again at Colwood on Northeast Columbia Boulevard.

A unique par-3 layout opened Monday on part of the former Colwood National, which closed in May 2014 after 83 years as a full-length, 18-hole layout.

The par-27 track, designed by Portland Parks & Recreation golf manager John Zoller, is just part of the renamed Colwood Golf Center. The facility features a driving range with covered hitting areas and grass tees, plenty of room for instruction, and an emphasis on youth development through the landmark First Tee program.

The par-3 complements all of that. Each hole offers two tees and two holes, thus providing four ways to play it. The pins have blue and white flags on large — and challenging — greens. This is more than the stereotypical pitch and putt with smallish greens that can result in a lot of chipping. At the par-3 Colwood course, you’ll get a lot of work on your lag putting.

From the back tees, the average length is 136 yards, with No. 6 a tough 197 yards uphill. The front tees shorten the average to 93 yards.

Plans call for eight sand traps, but the course won’t have a water hazard.

It’s a test, largely because of the undulating greens, but it’s also designed for beginners or any golfer who wants to get in a quick nine or 18.

The course is for walking only (no carts), and the distance is minimal from each green to the next tee.

For a short time, nine-hole greens fees are $12 for adults and $8 for ages 17 and younger. The cost will go up “a couple of dollars” soon, says Randy Morrison, general manager at Colwood and Heron Lakes, which are both operated by Kemper Sports of Northbrook, Ill.

Portland Parks acquired Colwood after years of rumors of a sale. A zoning change made it possible for 48 acres at the north end of the property to be converted from golf to industrial/commercial use.

What’s left is basically the clubhouse, dining and banquet areas, the new driving range and the par-3 course, to be maintained by Portland Parks, along with some marshy and restored land that will be kept as a wetlands for the familiar geese and other wildlife.

The loss of the former Colwood National 18-hole golf course “is a little sad — it was a great place to work and a course that could accommodate almost any level of golfer — but it is what it is,” says Toby Tommaso, who was Colwood National head pro and GM for its final 14 years.

Tommaso now is an assistant pro “40 blocks away” at Riverside Golf and Country Club.

“I drive by Colwood almost every day,” he says, a bit wistfully. “They’ve put in a good facility. We needed a driving range in the area. With the new nine-hole course, it’s a true golf center, a great facility for the space they have.”

Morrison and Kylen Trevor, Colwood/Heron Lakes sales and marketing director, gave the par-3 course a test run Monday.

“The idea here is to provide a wide range of shots for players of different skill levels,” says Morrison, who attended Roseburg High and Oregon State University.

“A lot of people thought this place was going away for good,” Morrison says, “but we’ve been able to preserve golf here for another generation. And what we’re trying to do is capture the fun of playing golf for everyone, from the experienced player to the beginner.”

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