Then and Now (History)

View NW from clubhouse, across the old ranch valley

"This is it! We'll build 'er right here in this valley!"

                                      - Jim Sanford, Pioneer

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"Circle Bar Golf Club is, and always has been, a nonprofit corporation, dedicated to maintaining the golf course as an affordable social and recreational facility for the upper Willamette area."

Circle Bar Golf Club - there's history here!

Hine mill log pond
Log pond on the North Fork in the Hines mill's heyday

     The course operated by Circle Bar Golf Club was originally the site of the homestead ranch of the area's first non-Indian settlers. As recalled by Lawrence D. Hills, a pioneer son and area historian, Jim Sanford and his family rode saddle horses up a crude trail and, happening upon the golf course site, Jim proclaimed: "This is it! We'll build 'er right here in this valley!"*
     In the 1870s, the first school in the area was built a quarter-mile west of the present-day golf course. Classes continued in that log schoolhouse for 27 years. Hills also recounted that in the 1920s, Rich Orr made the first attempt to provide engineered water delivery to Oakridge, by running a pipeline from a spring on the far side of the Sanford Ranch (likely near present-day ponds between holes No. 6 and No. 9) down to the town.
     Much of the valley originally occupied by the Sanford Ranch was later owned by Corley B. McFarland, a forest ranger in the early 1900s. McFarland Road, bordering the course to the north, still bears his name. A portion of the old Sanford Ranch became known as the Circle Bar Ranch - and that name also lives on.
     In the early 1920s, Westfir Lumber Company began the first large, industrial sawmill in the area, on the far banks of the North Fork of the Willamette River. A vibrant company town sprounted on the river's near banks, and a railroad line was soon built up the North Fork, to get at the fine old-growth timber the company was promised under a long-term Forest Service contract. Logging camps arose along the rail line, and the remnants of one - "Camp Six," a neighborhood of remodeled old company housing - can still be seen at the far edge of High Prairie, several miles above the course.
     In 1945, Edward Hines Lumber Company bought the Westfir operations, and for many years operated plywood and lumber mills, plus company logging crews, at the site. The timber industry was king then, and Hines was one of the largest Upper Willamette employers. Pope and Talbot, which established its own mill and logging operations in Oakridge after World War II, was the area's other longtime economic cornerstone. Hines' and Pope and Talbot's mills and logging operations were bustling mainstays for generations of workers and families.
     In the early 1950s, Hines offered a long-term lease of 90 acres of the old Circle Bar Ranch for only $10 per year, so a community golf course could be established, and in 1954 Circle Bar Golf Club was incorporated and development began. The course - designed by Clarence Sutton, who also designed the Laurelwood course in Eugene and the Coquille Elks course - and clubhouse were built largely by volunteers and with donated materials from Hines and Pope and Talbot. When Hines decided in the late 1970s to end its Westfir operations, the company sold the course to a group of local investors, with the intent that it be maintained for the joint Oakridge-Westfir communities.
     Hines is long gone now - the landmark "Office Bridge," Oregon's longest covered bridge, connecting the near and far banks of the North Fork, and the company's old offices (now a bed and breakfast) are all that remain of the Westfir mill - and the timber industry overall is only a faint shadow of its former self. Pope and Talbot also left, in the late 1980s, and Oakridge and Westfir have evolved, with painful fits and starts, into tourism destinations (Oakridge is now a mountain biking Mecca), retirement towns and bedroom communities for workers who commute to Eugene-Springfield.
     But Circle Bar Golf Club remains. And so do traces of what once was. Portions of a private Hines road, which connected the Westfir mill with logging sites in the Salmon Creek drainage, east of Oakridge, still skirt the course's southern edges. The clubhouse, built from old-growth felled and yarded from nearby ridges and sawed in the vanished Hines mill, still welcomes club members and guests. The course itself still wends its way amid oaks, willows, pines and creeks of the old Sanford Ranch.
     Circle Bar Golf Club is, and always has been, a nonprofit corporation, dedicated to maintaining the golf course as an affordable social and recreational facility for the upper Willamette area. That was the club's purpose in 1954, and while much has changed both locally and elsewhere, that remains its purpose today. Some current members can recall picking up paychecks at the old Hines offices, or at Pope and Talbot, and that living connection between what was and what is still connects Circle Bar Golf Club to its origins in a very tangible sense. As do other things.
     Dead Mountain, site of multiple forest fires that plagued settlers in the late 1800s, and recurred into the 1960s, stands watch over the course to the northeast, just as it did over the Sanford Ranch. Many club members, as well as pioneers who saw that ranch firsthand, rest in the cemetery just east of the course. Generations of young golfers have been introduced to the game on the course that Hines made possible. The same foursomes have teed off regularly for years, some from youth into old age. And those things endure - as does Circle Bar Golf Club.
     So, when you tee it up at Circle Bar Golf Club, remember that it's far more than just another golf course: there's history here. And there's still much more to come!

A portion of the old Hines Road, used as access to the Circle Bar course maintenance shop

*As recounted in Tales from the Hills (1982), by Lawrence D. Hills, published by the Daily Argus Observer, Ontario, Oregon. Additional reference material obtained from Charlie Paddock's Oakridge (2008), by Dan Rehawlt, published by Grizzly Press, Oakridge, Oregon; and Early Days on the Upper Willamette (1970), by Veryl M. Jensen.

Circle Bar Golf Club - there's history here!

Circle Bar Golf Club * 48447 Westoak Road * Oakridge, Oregon * (541) 782-3541 *