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Bending The Rules In Oregon

Bending The Rules In Oregon

When you’re 50, you’re not supposed to go mountain biking. So I did.

When you’re 50, you’re not supposed to ride something called a GolfBoard on a golf course. So I did.

When you’re 50, you’re not likely to get a glimpse into your future by sitting down at a bar that serves gourmet healthy food and swapping stories two nights in a row with an 89-year-old former rancher and entrepreneur who has outlived most of his friends and defines wellness as “making new friends every day to replace the ones he’s lost and to keep life fresh and interesting.” Not everyone gets that kind of glimpse. I did.

I did all of this at a magical place called Tetherow Resort (www.tetherow.com) in Bend, Oregon September 6 & 7 – State #47 in my 50-State golf journey. Tetherow is a place that brings out the best in people. It does it naturally, by the sheer energy of the place. There are many beautiful resorts, but most of them have a manufactured quality that, while not taking anything away from the aesthetics or their efforts, doesn’t do anything for the soul. Tetherow connects with you and feeds your soul. It is one of those rare resorts that has truly world-class 4-star quality without being stuffy. It’s a place that’s at peace and harmony with nature and it’s a place that encourages you to live boldly, out loud. Tetherow encourages you to bend the rules.

CLICK HERE TO SEE THE PHOTO GALLERY OF MY VISIT TO TETHEROW

Mountain biking for the first time in many years, I felt alive! Riding a GolfBoard while playing Tetherow’s otherworldly magnificent golf course, I felt alive! Getting an energy treatment in my room by my new friend (a new brother in wellness, really), an amazing healer by the name of Bill Turner (www.handsonthehorseguy.com), I felt alive! I appreciate the ultimate irony of a healer who does energy balancing for horses helping to unlock important things in a man whose wife loves horses. The treatment was done during my last morning there and it was at the end of that session, while we were sharing life’s stories and talking about purpose, destiny and legacy, that I realized that the book I was “saving” to be my opus when the right time came later in my life… needed to be written now because “later” might be too late for the people who need to read it. The wellness book I thought was to come from this journey through America’s 50 states is only a part of the story that needs to flow forth in the coming months. “L.O.V.E. Is The Answer,” the book I was saving for a “wiser” time in life, is the one I was inspired to start that sunny morning at Tetherow while looking out at the golf course and the Three Sisters mountain ranges that provide a stunning backdrop for beautiful Bend. That powerful shift in focus was the result of a fitting moment of enhanced clarity and heightened purpose, during a connection with a new friend whose life vision mirrors mine in so many ways. It was ironic that Bill was introduced to me by another new friend with whom I felt a special connection — Jade Schneringer, the Guest Services Manager at Tetherow — who just KNEW that he and I needed to meet and made a special effort to make that happen. At every great hotel, restaurant or golf course, there is always one person who is so passionate about the place that he or she makes you feel the same level of enthusiasm whenever they are around. Well, Jade’s love of Tetherow was infectious with everyone she came in contact with. I truly admired how the team operated as one and I appreciated Jade’s attention to detail and heartfelt desire for others to experience during their stay what she feels every day at work. An accomplished skier, she has turned that same level of focus towards her work while giving herself permission to appreciate the beauty of the place. A guest notices when someone loves their job, and it enhances the experience of the stay.

THE ROOMS
Tetherow Lodges offers 50 eco-friendly, luxurious rooms that are designed in perfect harmony with the surroundings. Open the blinds and drapes and you’ll feel as if the rooms were designed by nature itself. There is a harmony that both draws you outside and comforts you within. And they go the extra trail mile in other ways as well. Instead of a mundane offering of snack and beverage fare you would find at most places, including others that are 4-star, Tetherow goes the extra mile by stocking the pantry with coffee, tea and chocolate crafted in or near Bend.

My suite, overlooking the course, practice area and some of the custom homes located on the resort, was spacious, warm and very comfortable. I actually turned the temperature down in the room for a little while just so that I could turn the fireplace on. The ambiance was inviting enough to make me want to come back during the wintertime. For a hard-core summer lover like me, whose idea of a perfect winter is being able to wear shorts on the beaches of Malibu and Kailua, it’s nothing short of a miracle for me to even think about going somewhere cold during the winter months. My suite felt more like a luxury studio apartment than a resort room, which made it easy to love and very hard to leave.

THE TRAILS
Jade was very good about drawing me out of my normal routine (if you can call traveling to and golfing in every state a routine) and into experiencing one of the other outdoor pursuits available in the area. I opted out of the paddle boarding this trip, but that’s on my list for my next summertime visit. I went for the mountain biking and I did it with gusto, even opting to travel on some of the harder trails, albeit slowly and without catching air between the jumps. There were no 360’s, no bar spins and there definitely were no superman’s. I did manage to pop a wheelie though, which was good enough for me. My grand reward after climbing the mountain (ok, it was a large hill) and riding through the trails to an opening in the trees was an unbelievable view of the majestic snow-capped mountains off in the distance. After that initial look, I ventured a couple more miles through trails to a clearing where a log served both as bike rack and grandstand as I sat there mesmerized by the sheer beauty of Bend, Oregon’s backyard. Sitting there, my mind clearing with every exhale, the rhythm of nature filling my being. I felt alive.

THE GOLFBOARDS
Tetherow has a way of making everything a little more fun and a little more connected to the landscape. Enter GolfBoard, a radical new way of “surfing the earth” and making your round of golf a lot more exciting. Riding a GolfBoard gives you a deeper awareness of the golf course like riding a motorcycle gives you a greater feel for the road. Tetherow is the first resort in the nation to have brought in a full fleet of the Bend, Oregon based GolfBoards. Endorsed by surfing legend Laird Hamilton, the GolfBoard is an example of the perfect convergence of timing, relationships, resources and passion. Laird’s friends Don Wildman (founder of Bally Total Fitness) and Star Faraon (EV entrepreneur) were both working on similar electric board projects and Laird brought the two together. According to www.GolfBoard.com, “Faraon, with friends Paul Hodge and Mike Radenbaugh (Technical Director), teamed up to develop a highly robust and rugged electric mountain board that, with the influence of Wildman and Hamilton, was refined into today’s safe and easy-to-use GolfBoard.”

GolfBoard is like an electric skateboard, but it’s bigger, more stable and comes with a handle to which your golf bag is mounted (if you own a board, you can also choose to ride “freestyle,” that is, with your golf bag over your shoulder without the use of a mounted handle). I was lucky enough to have been around the GolfBoard team off and on through 2013, and enjoyed being privy to some of the planning meetings in Malibu. I was there when a prototype caught on fire and I was there when one of the boards got a mind of its own and took off until it jumped a sand trap and crashed into a fence. The thing that struck me most was the sheer joy I saw in the faces of the engineers when that happened because they had an opportunity to fix one more thing to make it better. It was that attitude, along with piles of cash from the investors, that has given them the staying power to persevere through a long and difficult launch period to bring the safest and best possible product to market. I was one of a few golf insiders who recommended to Co-Founder Paul Hodge that they go big with a display at the 2014 PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando. I remember confidently telling him that the product would sweep the awards. I was there with them at the show when the GolfBoard won Best New Product. That was a special night, as if there had been a shift in the golf paradigm. All of the industry’s talk of doing things differently had manifest in this product. It’s funny to me how it took a group of surfers, of both land and sea, to bring golf to the next level. Historically stuffy married anti-establishment and that strange mix worked gloriously well.

I spoke extensively with Star during my time in Bend. He’s a true visionary, and one heck of a nice guy who truly cares about the environment. This isn’t just business for Star, this is one way that he can contribute to making the world a better place. His passion is to create electric vehicles that work in concert with nature. He has converted everything from skateboards to tractors to motorcycles to electrical power. According to GolfBoard, “Faraon’s lifetime vision has been to encourage the masses to experience power and propulsion through clean and quiet mobility. Propelling people into the electric revolution keeps him excited about a new lifestyle that serves both people and planet.”

THE GOLF COURSE
Tetherow Golf Club was designed by David McLay Kidd, an award-winning architect. He did a masterful job of taking advantage of every view, angle, elevation change and the incorporation of the rugged high desert terrain in unique ways that made me forget I was on a golf course and made me think I was in a nature preserve at times. In a sense, I was, because Tetherow was the first golf course in Oregon to be named an Audubon International Certified Signature Sanctuary. There were moments when I would catch myself just staring at the landscape and wishing I could put it into a frame and take it with me. It was strikingly beautiful. When I’d snap back to golf reality, there I stood with a challenging, thought provoking and wonderful shotmaking opportunity in front of me. Time and time again, I thought, “how in the world did he think of doing that? Brilliant!” The Cascade peaks, including Three Sisters and Broken Top, served as a navigational reference for some of the blind shots as well as an awe-inspiring backdrop. Golf Magazine, Golf Digest, Links Magazine, Golfweek, T&L Golf and the Robb Report are among the many publications that have honored Tetherow with accolades and high rankings. I personally place Tetherow among the top five courses I played during my Wellness 101 50-State Challenge – and in the top five courses I’ve played my entire life.

Here are some of my most memorable holes (I played from the tan markers, which are suitable for the average golfer):

Hole #1 at Tetherow is a 381-yard par 4. Immediately I recognize this golf course is unlike any other I have ever played. The course looks like it was designed for someone to surf the earth, with green waves inviting you to drop down into them. Your approach is to an elevated green that is heavily guarded. The green slopes in many directions and on the right side the green ends on the hill which slopes down into a very, very gnarly trap. The rugged desert flavor of this course is truly astonishing. Everywhere you look there is something wild. Squirrels, lizards, birds, (friendly) bees and many critters are everywhere. This place hums, buzzes and chirps. This place is alive.

#2 is an impressive par 5. If you play the right side, the hole plays a little shorter, but from that side you might wind up with a blind shot. Out here, executing blind shots requires some local knowledge. At one point, the fairway is split by numerous outcroppings of shrubs and wildflowers. Getting down into a postage stamp sized green, there are plenty of challenges on this hole and also plenty of beauty and opportunity. Hit a good second shot and your ball could roll down a long hill for an additional 50 or 60 yards of distance, a big reward for good ball striking.

The drive from the second green to the third tee box is more than memorable It’s masterful. You cross over a bridge that is beautifully designed artwork and which opens up to a bird’s eye view of the third hole. The tee box area is at one with the natural terrain of wildflowers, cattails, wild bushes and an incredible array of colors. Prior to playing my shot, I had a discussion with a guy who was talking about how much fun it was out here with the ability to play using the GolfBoards. His closing comment was that he’s had the pleasure of playing some of the best courses in the world and this experience, this golf course, was his favorite by far anywhere. I was already starting to see why.

#3 is a par 3 over a pond. The links stylings of this course couldn’t be more apparent than on this par 3, especially around the green. The green is massive and slopes in various shapes and degrees in at least six or seven places. There are mounds with native grasses in the fairway leading up to the green, with one bunker on the front side and a large waste bunker on the rear. Shots hit on the left side of the green with a draw may wind up rolling down one of the slopes into the cattail filled pond. Looking at the green, it could be treacherous if you hit it on the wrong side of its 75-foot width. I hit an 8-iron to a good spot 20 feet from the flagstick and two-putted for par.

#4 is a slight dogleg left off of the tee — an uphill terraced par 4 with an expansive waste bunker on the right and front of the green. The green itself is comprised of several swells and rolls that give just about any putt away from the center great challenges.

The mystical view from the fifth tee box will make you want to quit your job and become a photographer, or an oil painter. At the time of day I played, with the sun thinking about setting, the lights and shadows and complexities and colors and shapes out here are enough to make your pupils dilate and your jaw ease wide open. There are no mechanical sounds here. No cars rushing by on highways, no radios blaring from homes, no horns blowing… no mechanical anything. The only sounds are hundreds of different animals and birds and other living things going about their daily living. Living! This place draws you in, becomes your friend. Every view, every step, every glance is a thing of beauty. It was enough to make my eyes water. As I’ve said many times before, if God is not a golfer he surely is a friend of those who do. Standing on this tee box, having hit a superb drive down the right side of this fairway that has been fashioned into rolling beauty, my glance to the right reveals a mountain range of soft shadows under the setting sun. The green, made up of several rolling hills, was very intimidating, especially with the wild, wild brush right behind it and a menacing bunker in front.

#6 requires a lot of thought on your drive. You can go down the right side of the fairway and wind up with a blind shot to the green or you can choose to go longer left and contend with a pond that runs the length of the fairway. Going in that direction can reward you with a clean view of the flagstick. Along the right side there’s a split fairway that you can aim for as a landing area that is fairly safe. The green is shaped like a heart but it probably won’t show you much love. It rolls and turns and twists and is complete with a couple of grass bunkers guarding the front.

The tee shot on 8 dishes out a surprise. A lone pine splits the fairway. This fairway is rather wide but optically gets smaller each time I look at the tree. On the left there’s something that appears to be a grass volcano that you definitely want to avoid hitting the face of at all costs. If you do, it could be the equivalent of a one-stroke penalty because you’ll surely waste a shot getting your ball back into a playable position. Fly above the volcano, however and you will find yourself with a good angle into the green. Given that the tree is, after all, 90% air it shouldn’t be a factor so just swing away. The green is guarded by two deep pot bunkers on the front — one left and one right.

#10 is a par 4 with a downhill tee shot. My friend Bill the energy healer was just shy of driving the green. He must have put some extra mojo into that ball by doing an energy session on it prior to teeing off — an unfair advantage if you ask me, but a great guy to have on your scramble team! Ten is one of those holes that members must love when they are playing against unsuspecting guests. Know where to place your tee shot on this hole and you’ll have an easy chip to the green. Finding a way to get an easy putt on this green (or most of the others for that matter) is an entirely different story.

#11 is dogleg right with a downhill tee shot and a group of trees to the right that will do their best to block your shot to the green. Trust me, I know. Been there, done that. The play is on the left side of the fairway.

#13 is a 541-yard par five with a dogleg right. Your second shot is downhill looking at a partial island green. This is a visually impressive hole with a big reward waiting for excellent shotmaking. Bring your camera phone

#15 is a par 4 with a downhill tee shot and an uphill approach. There is a pond on the left on your tee shot, which happens to be a well that serves the property. I felt a surge of calm energy around this particular area, which carried me through the final holes of this magnificent golf course.

#17 is called the “Quarry Hole.” This par 3 is unique in that it has been built in an old pumice quarry. The trick with this hole is to play it along the left side, into the slope and allow that slope to feed the ball onto the green.

What the final hole lacks in bunkers, it makes up for in distance. This is a long par 5 that finishes uphill and gives you a decent chance for par. While some of the previous holes are more artistically designed, this is a classic grip it and rip it par 5 perfect for using up the energy you have remaining. Leave it all on the course, give it all you’ve got, and you’ll still likely get there in three.

THE 19TH HOLE
Another unique thing about Tetherow is the food. I wish every 19th hole in America would borrow from a page of Tetherow’s menu. The casual atmosphere in The Row is warm and friendly, while the subtle refinement of the Tetherow Grill is just formal enough for any occasion to feel special while remaining in keeping with the nature-forward feel of Tetherow. Views from both the Grill and The Row, and from the patio between them are stunning. Drawing a regular crowd of locals, both of these places could stand on their own. Chef Zac Hoffman, an Oregon native with a passion for fishing, has members and guests raving about The Row and Tetherow Grill. The menu grabbed my tastes hook, line and sinker with a masterful selection of locally sourced products that are both healthy and sinfully delicious. My favorite regionally inspired dish was the Half Trout & Quinoa entree. The fish was perfectly seasoned and prepared, with a very light pan fry in a wonderful white wine herb sauce. Accompanying the main attraction were a selection of local in-season vegetables and a delicious cranberry-almond quinoa pilaf. During my stay at the resort I also tried, and enjoyed immensely, a variety of their flatbreads — with the El Toro Grande! being my favorite. El Toro features pulled elk, mozzarella, jalapenos, dried cranberries and feta cheese, which was a delightful mixture of tastes that woke up, inspired and danced the samba with my taste buds. The food was hearty, but not heavy. Creative without pretense. I would go back, and I intend to again and again. And yes, I even look forward to going in the cold weather. It’s that good.

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A.J. Ali

A.J. Ali, "The Wellness Motivator!" is an award-winning writer, producer, actor, host, voice over artist, emcee and creative visionary. He is the Founder and Executive Producer of EclipseVSC since 1999. A.J. is currently producing and hosting the multimedia wellness entity "Wellness 101" with a vision of helping to change the focus of healthcare in America from sickness to wellness (www.wellness101life.com). To launch the Wellness 101 brand, A.J. did the impossible. Starting with only $500, he traveled through all 50 states in 101 days June 16 through September 24, 2014 -- starting in Melbourne Beach, FL and ending up on a sun soaked beach in Hawaii after changing lives in all 50 states. His "True Champion's 30-Day Challenge" book is transforming lives nationwide (www.TrueChampions30DayChallenge.com). Now, Wellness 101 is taking human transformation to another level through holistic wellness. A.J. has more than 30 years experience in sports and entertainment as an athlete, artist and social entrepreneur. He has founded and owned two pro soccer teams and has spearheaded hundreds of successful projects. A.J. created and starred in the TV show "Good Fellas of Baltimore" on Fox in 2011, which raised more than $250,000 for charities in Baltimore and inspired fans to join the cast to help people in need. As an on-air talent and voice over artist, his enthusiastic love of people makes him believable and inspirational. As a wellness speaker and emcee, he is inspiring. An accomplished writer with a conversational style, his work is transformative. His 2007 song "Through the Darkness, Into the Light," compilation music CD "Survivor Celebration" and Survivor Celebration campaign helping cancer survivors won the coveted Hollywood FAME Award for National Community Service. As a philanthropist and entrepreneur, A.J. has raised more than $25 million for charities. He teaches his charity event success methods through a workshop called "MAKE IT RAIN." He is proud to be a U.S. Air Force Veteran (83-87). His mantra is "LOVE is the answer." He is an avid golfer.

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