The Takeaway: Hankins gets the slight nod over Craddock as the better course, but it is very slight. Hankins enjoys more risk/reward opportunities with some driveable par fours and an impressive downhill par five finisher where long drives are measured with markers along the bordering fence. A bit more scenic in places and featuring a couple of better holes unique to the course, Hankins edges out Craddock but only a fool would come to Silvies and not play both courses. Grade B+
Designer: Dan Hixson in 2017
Cost: $50.00 - $185.00 (walking encouraged, cart extra) Click for current rates
Phone Number: 541-573-5150
Course Website: Official Website - Visit Silvies Valley Ranch (Hankins)'s official website by clicking on the link provided.
Directions: Get here! - 10000 Rendezvous Lane, Seneca, OR 97873
Accolades: Ranked 7th in Oregon on Golf Course Gurus' Best in State list.
What to Expect: Silvies Valley is a fully operational cattle and goat ranch three hours east of Bend, Oregon near the town of Burns. The 140,000 acre property is the definition of remote including the lack of cell service while at Silvies. The ranch counters that by giving guests a handheld radio that can be used to contact the various areas of the property and delivering Wi-Fi to your nicely finished room which can be utilized to make phone calls and receive texts once you engage that option on your phone. Upon check-in you will also be given a golf cart that you will utilize to get around the property and can be used on the golf course if you choose not to walk the undulated terrain. Once you get to the golf course you will instantly notice the massive fairways (300 acres worth) and greens which also helps accommodate the reversible routing that requires versatility in the layout to effectively accomplish playing holes multiple directions. The fairways and tees are fescue grass while the greens offer a more pure surface with bentgrass. The superintendent likes to maintain some dry spots and brown edges in order to accomplish the firm and fast conditions that links-like courses shine through best with as creativity in the ground game can be utilized. In fact, the highly undulated greens are quite firm and roll out on approaches more than anticipated yet putts don't roll quite as fast as one might think. If you manage to hit a ball outside of the runway sized fairways, your ball will likely have an encounter with the sagebrush or fescue grasses that account for the low lying foliage or possibly get swatted down by one of the towering pines that are scattered throughout the property. In addition, the scrub around the bunkers can eat your ball and be lost forever more so than any other course's bunkers I've encountered. Plenty of elevation changes exist throughout the course which combined with the wind can cause holes to play quite a bit longer or shorter than they may appear on the scorecard. There are plenty of birdies to be had on both courses with Hankins features driveable par 4s and Craddock featuring back-to-back downhill par 5s as some of the best opportunities to go under par. There are nine greens that Hankins and Craddock share then they each have nine greens that are unique to their layout. One of the most fun aspects of playing Silvies is figuring out where you are on one course and where in the routing that is on the other course. The slope and rating for both courses is relatively modest in relation to the length likely because the fairways are so wide and the overall lack of hazards although plenty of bunkers (treated as waste areas) and a few forced carries exist. The toughest rating on the course will be found through the new pink tees on the Hankins course which will stretch that layout over 8,000 yards. Ultimately, the course is meant to be fun which it is with great views, downhill shots, opportunities to score, and a lot of variety in shapes, lengths, and ways to play. On a side note, guests are invited to dinner where a family style meal is served with staff attending and interacting with guests. The food is good to be sure, but at $45 - $65 per person it will set you back plenty to fill your belly. In addition to the full length courses, there is the Chief Egan track which is a short nine hole par 3 course and the McVeigh course is a seven hole course with four par 3s, two par 4s, and a par 2. While taking the goat caddies with you on a loop around McVeigh may be a novelty to enjoy, the layout is ridiculously brutal and will eat balls and egos regularly. It was meant to be a challenge but I think over time the course will be shut down from lack of interest or modified to be enjoyable enough to pay for.
By the Numbers
Individual Hole Analysis
Signature Hole: 18th Hole – 590 Yard Par 5 – If you have already played Craddock, you will recognize this fairway as the opening hole par five on that course. When players get to the tee they are challenged to hit the longest drive of their life with markers hanging on the fence down the right side of the hole that let golfers know just how far they smacked it. This hole plays downhill and downwind so bombers can hit their tee shot down the left side and use a hillock in the fairway to propel their ball extra far down the firm and fast fairway. The left side always opens up the best view of the green while tee shots that stay on the right half of the fairway will have a blind shot if going for the green in two. The best way to reach this putting surface in two shots is to keep your ball up the right side where the natural slope in the green will feed balls onto the green and set up a nice little look at eagle. The mistake you don't want to make is going left where you'll be face with an uphill pitch over a pair of bunkers to the shallowest angle the green offers. Silvies was built on the concept of having fun and this hole embraces that concept as well as any on the property.
Best Par 3: 2nd Hole – 150 Yards – A standalone hole, the downhill 2nd not only is an attractive offering set at the base of a hill, but it is a good birdie opportunity. Balls that land on the green should hold while balls that flare right have a pretty good chance of bounding down onto the putting surface and setting up a good look at birdie. Avoid going long like it is the plague and missing left isn't a whole lot better with a large bunker and sloping edges ready to deny you a par opportunity. The second shortest hole on Hankins, this is a fun and comfortable hole to play.
Best Par 4: 8th Hole – 410 Yards – There are several hole at the Silvies' courses that I really enjoyed playing, but this is the one my mind always comes back to as being especially fun. This hard dogleg right plays from an elevated tee and begs long hitters to bang their tee shot over the forest on the right in hopes of carrying all the lumber and tumble their ball onto the putting surface. It is a high risk high reward situation because getting stuck in the forest takes birdie out of play quickly and carrying the forest doesn't guarantee an eagle putt as balls can carry too far and end up in the large horseshoe bunker beyond the putting surface. The excitement and anticipation of ripping one over the trees makes a golfer's heart leap and is a feeling tough to duplicate on many courses. The safe play is straight away to the far part of the fairway and then hitting an approach into the narrow green where your aiming point should be at the front right edge where balls will roll out to the middle of the green and avoid the trio of bunkers surrounding the putting surface. This green is the putting surface for the par four 9th on Craddock where the angle of attack is totally different.
Best Par 5: 14th Hole – 505 Yards – From one of the highest points on the property, the view from the standalone 14th is flat out beautiful with a long fairway leading straight away from you and leading into a backdrop of mountains and trees. The fairway is seemingly miles wide and the 75 foot drop from the tee makes it feel like your ball is never going to land on the short grass below. This is a short hole for a par five so Dan Hixson counters that with a shallow green with a bunker square in the centerline of the putting surface so you have to play to one side of it or the other because holding the green over the bunker is unlikely from any distance of any significance. When the flag is on the right or left third you can get aggressive, but if it is behind the bunker in the center third then you are best to play for par and take a bigger number out of play.
Birdie Time: 17th Hole – 330 Yard Par 4 – Stay right! If you do, this hole is ripe for the plundering. But if you get greedy off the tee and take a line directly at the green you will likely find yourself in a hot mess of sand, sage, and other vegetation that your wedge doesn't want to contend with. Balls torched up the right side can feed onto the green and leave yourself a comfortable two putt birdie or possibly going where eagles dare with a one putt. If you choose to layup, the play is still to the right half of the fairway where your best angle will be afforded to go pinseeking with your second shot. After contending with the long 16th, this standalone hole on Hankins is the first of back to back birdie opportunities you'll enjoy.
Bogey Beware: 6th Hole – 465 Yard Par 4 – While most of Silvies is fun, this hole is a quick reality check that everything isn't going to come easy. Tipping out at 465 yards and playing uphill into the prevailing, this challenging par four is a brute to reach in regulation. Sharing the fairway of Craddock's downhill par five 13th hole, the 6th at Hankins steadily plots its way up through a chute of trees before terminating at a green set at the base of a hill where the 13th tee box at Craddock sits on top of. Trees are scattered in the fairway to contend with along the way and can quickly swat less than perfect shots. If your confidence is waning, it may not be a bad play to layup on your first two shots, stick the green with your third, and take your chances at saving par or at most throw a bogey on the card.