Oregon’s Kah-Nee-Ta Resort: Modern-day luxury, families and golf are all rolled into one

Updated: June 4, 2013

By Brad Faller • Special to Inside Golf Newspaper
For the foreseeable future, golf facilities are needing to find ways to adapt to the economic twists and turns, all of which are doing it in their own unique ways. A year after bringing longtime Head Professional Joe Rauschenberg out of retirement and back to the front line, Kah-Nee-Ta Resort and Spa is ready to face the changing times and build towards that future. “I had been out of the golf business for four years, when I came back, the golf market had changed,” says Joe of his return. “What I’ve learned since coming back is that the old stuff we used to do is what we need to do now.” For the longtime professional from Hawaii, it starts with family.

KahNeeTa golfersThe resort has made several changes to bring back the family-first concept that helped in their early successes, which includes moving the casino away from the lodge to a 40,000 square foot building off Highway 26. The hopes are that the new location will keep the lodge focused on hospitality, while bringing more traffic to the conveniently located casino.

As for the golf course, it is still the same as when Joe left: quiet, lush, and nearly untouched even since its early beginnings in the 1970’s. Kah-Nee-Ta’s setting is what makes it stand alone, and for that matter, it’s what sells it. Stretched through a tight east-west valley below the lodge, the golf course itself meanders along the Deschutes River. The original William Bell front nine is dotted with a handful of elevated tees and flat landing areas, just overlooking the river. Bunny Mason’s back nine is more of a gentle sidehill affair, with the river playing a more influential role, especially on the closing holes. Though the layout winds through the crest of the valley hills, the river can be heard from every hole, something that is often the keynote luxury for those that return time and time again.

With the golf course unchanged, the golf operations at Kah-Nee-Ta are in fact changing since Rauschenberg’s return. “Golf is still growing, but our community is small,” says Joe of the Warm Springs Reservation. For Kah-Nee-Ta, the kids are the biggest part of the potential growth. “The goal is simple with our kids: get them exposed to golf,” he says.

KaNeeTa - Indian danceWith the help from Desert Peaks Golf Course in Madras, Joe has been able to bring his local contingent of juniors to the neighboring 9-hole course, as well as bring kids from Madras to Kah-Nee-Ta. “Kids are playing more golf in nearby towns such as Bend and Redmond, so the goal is to get them out here to play, too.” This goes for players of all ages, including their regulars. “We’re bringing in players to visit that haven’t been here in years, and sending ours out to play neighboring courses,” says Joe of the other Central Oregon communities. “We’re taking care of those that make the effort to come out and see us by showing them a good time at a reasonable price.” The latest offering is “Senior Mondays,” where seniors play for $30 including a golf cart.

The golf market has indeed changed at Kah-Nee-Ta, but the experience that is provided—and has provided for over 40 years—will not change. Central Oregon’s resort and destination appeal has evolved into a blend of modern-day remote luxury and functional, peaceful comfort. Kah-Nee-Ta is no exception, and will continue to provide the timeless original Central Oregon resort experience for years to come.