The popular Tokatee Golf Club, which sits about halfway between Eugene and Bend, Oregon, is back in business Saturday.
The picturesque facility in the McKenzie River Valley was spared in the Holiday Farm Fire, and golfers can return to the course beginning at noon Saturday.
Tokatee has been closed since Sept. 8 and with Highway 126 reopening Friday afternoon, now was the time to bring golf back.
“It’s been such a crazy year and we know that for some people, golf can be a great escape,” Mark Giustina, Tokatee’s operations manager said Friday. “I can’t think of a more stressful year between COVID, homeschooling, now the wildfires and the (Nov. 3 general) election.
“We’ve been happy that we’ve been able to provide an outlet for folks to just get away.”
Tokatee Golf Club superintendent Ty Patton turns on a sprinkler at the course. An emergency generator enabled the course to keep its water pumps working which meant the course’s greens could be maintained. (Andy Nelson/The Register-Guard)
The club finally had power restored early last week. There is still no phone service at Tokatee, but there is WiFi so all tee time reservations should be made online.
The Castlerock Grill restaurant will have a limited menu of drinks and snacks before being full-go within a week or two.
Tokatee has employees who lost their homes in the Holiday Farm Fire and others who were more fortunate.
“These are our friends and neighbors that have lost everything,” Giustina said. “If we can at least get people back to work, provide them with a paycheck, kind of help get them back in some sort of a routine, we’re happy to be able to do that.”
With Oregon Department of Transportation crews still working to clear debris from the fire alongside Highway 126, golfers heading to Tokatee should give themselves plenty of time to get there, and a note mentions that on Tokatee’s website. Giustina estimated a trip from Eugene to Tokatee could take anywhere from 90 minutes to 2 hours. He called the work ODOT crews have done on Highway 126 “amazing.”
“I think the biggest concern now is once we get the rains and such and there’s the potential for rockslides and mudslides because the soils are as unstable as they are now,” Giustina said.
Giustina estimates the Holiday Farm Fire came within a quarter-mile of the course when it went toward the H.J. Andrews Experimental Forest, “which is very, very close to our property.”
When the golf club lost power, Giustina and his team were able to bring in a generator and keep the sprinklers going to keep the course irrigated.
“Without that generator we more than likely would have lost all 18 greens and the majority of our fairways,” he said.
Before the Holiday Farm Fire, Giustina said Tokatee was having a good year despite the COVID-19 pandemic. Golf courses around the country that have followed coronavirus protocols and remained open during the pandemic have generally fared well financially. Social distancing is much easier to do in golf than almost any other sport.
“Golf lends itself to kind of being the best sport, so to speak, to play during a pandemic,” Giustina said. “… I’d say we were very proactive how we went around and handled all the codes and guidelines. We had a good year going and then it just came to a screeching halt to say the least.”
Tokatee is known for its native ponds and streams in a forest setting, as well as its views of the Three Sisters mountains.
“We have a lot of groups that play golf on an annual basis that come to Tokatee,” Giustina said. “They make these excursions and they’ve been doing it from year to year and generation to generation. We’re pretty fortunate because we kind of hold a special place in a lot of golfers hearts.”
Contact reporter Ashley Conklin at [email protected] or 541-338-2337, and follow him on Twitter @Ashleyrgsports.