By Kelly LaClaire
The Portland area has a multitude of high-end and high-priced courses to choose from, but it can be difficult to find a well-managed, well-manicured course that’s both fun to play and easy on the wallet. So, when Golf Today NW spent an afternoon at Sah-Hah-Lee’s executive course in Clackamas, we knew we had to let our readers know about it as soon as possible.
Sah-Hah-Lee, aside from being a stunningly beautiful course on the banks of the Clackamas River, has a fascinating history and is owned, operated and extremely well maintained by the Lisac family – just about the nicest folks you ever wanted to meet.
Brothers Steve Lisac (acting GM and self-professed “co-owner/janitor”) and Bud Lisac (co-owner and acting Superintendent) began construction on the course after acquiring the land in 1989 from a famous Portland sauerkraut family that had used the fertile ground as a cabbage farm for many years. As you can imagine, this meant that not a single tree could be found on the property. For the next several months, Bud and Steve put in 300 trees by hand and oversaw every aspect of course landscaping and irrigating themselves.
“Those trees mark the passing of time for us,” says Steve. “Every time I look out over the course and see how big they’ve gotten it makes me think how old I’m getting – either that or I’ve been around here way too long.”
In the summer of 1991, with the help of Steve’s wife, Tracy, who runs the financial side of things, Bud’s wife, Carrie, who runs the Pro-Shop and their son, Nick, who is the head pro, Sah-Hah-Lee opened its first nine holes and haven’t looked back since.
“It felt like the ‘Field of Dreams’ for us as a family. I mean we opened at the perfect time. We built it and people came – the community really embraced our course and really helped us create a wonderful place to enjoy a great round of golf in a pretty amazing setting.”
Their success allowed them to build a back nine and add various amenities: a full length driving range which happens to be one of the most scenic in the city (the fact that it is wide open and needs no nets is a big plus); a gorgeous outdoor pavilion for tournaments, couples nights and special events; an elevator from the pro shop to the first tee as well as a perfectly delightful (and actually pretty darn challenging) 18 hole putt-putt course.
But the mini-course isn’t all that’s challenging, Sah-Hah-Lee is absolutely the best Par 3 course in the Portland-Metro area and can be very demanding and a terrific opportunity to work on several aspects of the game that many golfers tend to ignore.
As Steve points out, “You only use your driver 12-14 times on an average course. That leaves 60-70 shots with your irons. People want to focus on the long ball but let’s face it, most of your game, and most of your opportunity to sharpen your skills and lower your scores comes from more practice with your mid-range and short shots and this course will make you a better golfer.”
The first several holes make that obvious. Number one has a dramatic tee shot down to the fairway; number two requires a fine touch onto a tiered green; and number three has the psychological demands of having to carry your tee shot over water. There are also a handful of holes right around 200 yards that require skill with long irons and several tricky bunkers as well. Many holes follow along the Clackamas River and more water comes into play once you leave the banks.
How are the greens you ask? In a word – excellent. Bud and his grounds crew (which includes, Nash Lisac, Steve’s son) take great pride in their work and it shows on every fairway and putting surface. The attention to detail rivals many of the nicer courses in the area and the course is kept in top playing shape. The greens are cut well, roll with good speed and lack the bare patches and uneven surfaces of many executive courses.
Sah-Hah-Lee is indeed a first class golf course and has been consistently ranked among the top 100 short courses in the country, but in 1996, it was almost lost.
After several days of hard February rain, the Clackamas River flooded and the entire complex was under water. “We had rapids going across the driving range,” remembers Steve, “and all the greens along the river banks were totally wiped out. It was devastating. The only good thing was that the flooding occurred in late winter and not spring or we would have gone under-it would have been all over.”
Four days later, the water receded and the Lisac family got to work. “We called everyone we knew. Those were the days before Facebook and Twitter so we spent hours on the phone asking anyone who we thought might help to lend a hand, and we got a tremendous response.” Golfers, community members, family friends, the high school football team and just about everyone else volunteered their time and energy to help clean up acres of mud and silt. A local construction outfit donated a back-hoe for the five greens that had to be completely reconstructed and reseeded. With two months of back breaking work and upwards of half a million dollars spent in renovations, Sah-Hah-Lee was once again up and running and they were able to salvage their season and their course.
“I believe that’s what makes us unique,” says Steve. “We have put an incredible amount of work into our course, especially after the flood, but we have kept our rates at an affordable and very reasonable level. We want everyone to be able to enjoy our course, not just those with plenty of disposable funds.”
That is exactly what the Lisac family has created; a lovely golf facility with a friendly atmosphere, loyal members and a genuinely caring staff that make an afternoon of golf a fun, laid back experience for just about any level of player of any age.
If you’re a Portland area resident or just visiting for a short time, give Sah-Hah-Lee a chance to win you over as they did us. We’re sure you won’t be disappointed.
For more information, please visit www.sah-hah-lee.com
*Images courtesy Sah-Hah-Lee Golf Club
By Tony Dear
Our eclectic Whatcom County layout is made up of holes from nine beautiful courses found in Bellingham, Lynden, Custer and Blaine. Apart from North Bellingham GC, which has its own very distinct look, these courses are quintessentially Northwestern, framed by magnificent pines and firs and frequently offering up tremendous views of the Cascades. The hole number corresponds with its number on the actual course. With so many great holes to choose from, it took several tries to find a satisfying blend of beauty, challenge, distance and par. The resulting 6,841-yard par 72 is a course you’d never tire of playing.
1st Dakota Creek 415yds par 4
First-time visitors to Dakota Creek drive up and assume they are about to play a short, sweet and rather straightforward course with no frills but plenty of family-friendly fun.
Then, they play the 1st hole.
Steeply uphill and frighteningly narrow, the hole contradicts everything you thought you knew about such courses. It measures ‘only’ 415 yards but plays nearer 450/460 and, accordingly is rated a par 5 by Pam Smith (formerly Pam Craig) who designed and built the course in 1968 with a “lot of help from people who knew more about that sort of thing.” The hole began life as the 4th but became the 1st in 1970. Smith thought about making two holes out of it, but decided building a new green by the creek that crosses the hole would have compromised the environment. “Hold on to your hats,” she says.
It’s an incredibly tough start, but don’t worry, the course does get a lot friendlier soon after.
2nd North Bellingham 431yds par 4
The 2nd hole at this excellent Ted Locke-designed course, eight miles north of downtown Bellingham, may not be the best hole on the course necessarily, but justifies its place on the list by virtue of the splendid view of Mt Baker. A strong par 4 from the back tees, the 2nd runs due east toward the 10,000ft peak that looks out imperiously over the county. “The 2nd is one of the three holes here without a bunker,” says Head Professional Nathan Vickers. “But it certainly isn’t easy. It’s two good hits for most golfers and the sloping green makes it a tough par. And besides Mt. Baker, you also get a good view of the Canadian Cascades on a clear day.”
3rd Bellingham Golf & Country Club 335yds Par 4
Although a private club, Bellingham G&CC welcomes guests staying at the Chrysalis Inn in nearby Fairhaven, making it a public course for our purposes. Opened in 1913 with nine holes initially (nine more were added in 1925), the course is heavily-wooded and benefitted from a recent bunker renovation. The 3rd is a beautiful downhill par 4 that plunges over a ridge about 210 yards from the tee. Roll to the bottom of the hill and you should have just a sand wedge to the large, undulating green. The 3rd is certainly a good birdie chance, but there’s plenty of trouble waiting for poorly-executed shots.
“You really must keep your drive between the trees,” says head professional Cameron Fife who has been at the club for just seven weeks, replacing long-time pro Mike Montgomery – now the head pro at Sahalee CC. “It’s only a short four,” Fife adds, “but you’re never unhappy with a par.”
4thNorth Bellingham 404yds Par 4
The 4th at North Bellingham is a short-mid par 4 that curls left around a large water hazard, forcing the golfer to make a Cape hole-inspired decision on the tee. How close do you dare getting to the green? The safe route, minimizing the carry, is well out to the right but three bunkers to the right of the fairway catch the careless drive. You should have only a short-iron to the green, but controlling your distance is important. “This is one of the most challenging greens on the course,” says Vickers. “Especially if the pin is on the plateau back left.”
5th Lake Padden 530yds Par 5
Forty three-year-old Lake Padden is one of the finest municipal courses in the whole of Washington despite being designed by a Washington State University agronomy professor and extension agent. Roy Goss actually had previous experience (Alderbrook, Tumwater Valley) and did a miraculous job salvaging this course from what he basically described as a swamp. “‘It was all wetlands and obviously had drainage issues,” he says. “Anywhere you see a lot of cedars you can be fairly sure the soil will drain badly. Herb Olson, the City’s Parks Director said there wasn’t much money in the budget, and we ended up using much of what we did have covering the place in sand.”
The 5th is the first par 5 and a right-to-left dogleg that moves downhill slightly at about 300 yards before rising again toward the green. Surrounded by a forest of firs, it is a picture postcard of the Pacific Northwest.
6th Sudden Valley 417yds Par 4
Although the 5th at Sudden Valley, designed by Ted Robinson and opened in 1971, plays directly toward picturesque Lake Whatcom and may attract stronger support from golfers surveyed about their favorite hole, the 6th is actually more exciting. The drive flies over a large, circular water hazard and, as at North Bellingham’s 4th hole, the golfer must decide how much of it he feels capable of crossing. Obviously, the more you successfully carry, the shorter the approach shot will be, but even a good clout off the tee will leave a full-bodied iron shot to the green.
7th Sudden Valley 489yds Par 5
The very next hole at Sudden Valley is the third of a superb run of three holes and a par 5 that can certainly be reached in two but where a badly-timed tee ball might lead to big problems as the fairway bottlenecks at about 250 yards with Austin Creek on the left and a large pond to the right.
The creek then cuts across the fairway just a few yards short of the putting surface so unless you can hit a soaring long iron/hybrid that lands softly, it’s probably best to lay up short of the stream your favorite distance from the hole, and get your birdie the old-fashioned way. As Director of Golf Brian Kruhlak says, bold choices can lead to eagles or birdies at the 7th. “But poor execution will likely result in bogies or ‘others’,” he warns.
8th Bellingham G&CC 210yds Par 3
The first par 3 at Bellingham G&CC, and the first on our eclectic layout, is no cute, downhill short-iron over charming little pond. It’s a stout long iron or hybrid played over mostly flat ground to a tiered green with a large bunker right and swales to the left. “The green is split into two distinct sections,” says Cameron Fife. “There’s a false front which slopes from right to left, and the back runs away from the tee.” Find the middle of the green Fife suggests, and you should ensure a par. Score any lower and you are picking up significant ground on the field. As Fife says, there is no shame in bogeying this hole.
9th Loomis Trail 382yds par 4
Semiahmoo’s sister course, Loomis Trail, opened in 1993 and was designed by Canadian Graham Cooke. Water comes into play to some degree or other on virtually every hole. At the short par 4 9th, a pond borders the right side of the green while a watery spur cuts in from the right, making the front-right pin position particularly tricky. “A drive toward the bunker on the left sets up the best angle to the green,” says Brett Eaton, the Director of Golf at the Semiahmoo Resort which owns both Semiahmoo and Loomis Trail. “The second shot plays very slightly downhill. The most prudent play is for the middle of the green to avoid potentially big numbers.”
10th North Bellingham 370yds Par 4
One look says straight, flat, short, par 4.It doesn’t look, or sound, terribly interesting. But play the hole and you’ll surely feel very different.For a start, it usually plays straight into the prevailing south-westerly and, because North Bellingham is so exposed, that wind can have a considerable effect. “Next,” says Nathan Vickers, “there are three good-sized bunkers and water hazards that need to be negotiated in three different places.” Last, miss the elevated green and the up & down is a tough proposition. “This is one of those holes that plays so much harder than the scorecard would have you believe,” says Vickers.
11th Semiahmoo 371yds Par 4
The 11th at Semiahmoo signals the start of a wonderful stretch of five holes that contribute to the course’s lofty ranking in the Evergreen State. The 11th is an exciting short par 4 that might actually be an even better hole from two tees in front of the back markers. At 371 yards, the green at the 11th is out of reach from the tee for everyone except Bubba Watson and friends, so no one in their right mind would dare to take it on. At 316 yards, however, the thought of smacking one over the water and finding the front bunker or even the edge of the putting surface will definitely cross many players’ minds. Increased psychological activity heightens the potential for drama.
Those opting out will take a long iron or hybrid left of the water and hit a short-iron onto the green. It’s less theatrical perhaps, and still no guarantee of a par.
12thSemiahmoo 173yds Par 3
A thrilling, tantalizing, tormenting, inspiring, beauty of a par 3, the 12th plays across the same pond you negotiated at the 11th. Strong players might need as little as a 7-iron to reach the putting surface, but for most a mid/long iron or even a hybrid will be needed to safely cross the hazard. The green is 40 yards deep so you don’t have to hit one of those high, floating Rory McIlroy-type iron shots to stay on the green, but it certainly won’t hurt if you can. Brett Eaton says this is his favorite hole at Semiahmoo. “It’s a great par 3 with Mt. Baker in the background,” he adds. “Take an extra club for the back hole locations. It’s better to be long here than have to reach into the bag for another ball.”
13thBellingham G&CC 165yds Par 3
Some might think this a breather hole, a simple-enough mid/short iron to a large green. But though Angels certainly don’t fear to tread on this beautiful patch of Pacific Northwest ground, the fool will rush in, take the hole lightly and discover a little thought and preparation might have prevented a painful bogey or worse. The green is plenty big enough, but a deep bunker that draws far more tee balls than it should, lurks to the right. As is often the case, aiming for the center of the green is a sensible move but Fife cautions visitors to pay attention when putting as subtle slopes are often the cause of unwanted three-putts.
14th Semiahmoo 415yds Par 4”
The dogleg right 14th at Semiahmoo isn’t terribly difficult, and the drive isn’t terribly memorable. The approach shot to a green set below you though is a wonderful bit of sport that makes this hole one that visitors just love to play. “Aim your tee shot at the fir atop the mound through the fairway,” says Brett Eaton. “The green is below you on the approach, so it does play shorter than the yardage suggests. Keep your approach shot below the pin for an easy birdie putt.”
15th Shuksan 315yds Par 4
Course owner Rick Dvorak got on a dozer while his fellow workers were taking a break and shaped a hole that confuses and confounds those playing it for the first time but, far more often than not, ends up being everyone’s favorite. The left corner of the green is visible from the tee and the temptation to go for it is substantial. It’s certainly on for bigger hitters, but pull or hook it slightly and you can wave goodbye to the ball as it curves dangerously to the left. Block it right, however, and it’s possible you could catch the right side of the putting surface or, if you really overdo it, the forest to the right of the hole.
It may be wiser to knock a hybrid or long iron into the fairway and hit a wedge up the hill to the large, flat green.
16th Shuksan 422yds Par 4
A really good driving hole, the 16th starts from an elevated tee and crosses a decline before rising and bending slightly to the right. The left side of the fairway is higher than the right so aim left center, and hopefully your ball will trickle down to the right half from where you will get a better look at the green. Don’t go too far left though, as you will likely leave a blind second down the hill to a wide, shallow green.
17th Loomis Trail 472yds Par 4
The 17th at Loomis Trail may well be the toughest par 4 in the county. The hole bends to the left but a collection of bunkers hamper the drive to the right of the fairway. A creek crosses the hole at about 300 yards so longer hitters may need to throttle back off the tee. A long iron, hybrid or 3-wood second shot into a heart-shaped green needs to avoid a bunker on the left, and trees on the rig…oh you don’t need to hear about them. You’ve enough on your plate already.
18th Homestead Farms 525yds Par 5
A course with as much variety, drama and entertainment as this needs an exhilarating finish, and the 18th at Homestead Farms in Lynden is the ideal closer. The safe drive on this dogleg left heads straight down the fairway avoiding ponds both left and right, but the daring take on the carry over the water on the left shortening the hole considerably and giving them a great chance of getting home in two. And what a second shot it is, played to a green set on an island surrounded on all sides by more water. Good golfers will certainly hope to end the round with a birdie or even an eagle, but the majority of golfers will be pleased to stay dry and walk off with a safe five.
Total – 6,841yds Par 72
Who wants to golf Washington State’s newest links course and soon-to-be “Best of” Gamble Sands? Who doesn’t! How would you like to tee it up at the new David McLay Kidd-designed Gamble Sands links golf course in Brewster, Washington with three of your favorite golfing partners? We are giving one lucky reader the chance to do just that, but first, you must demonstrate to us how well you know your Pacific Northwest golf courses. Just like in years past, we don’t expect you to tell us when the golf course opened, or who designed it, or the grass type used to seed the greens! We do, however, invite you to take on the challenge of correctly identifying the 12 featured Northwest golf courses. All you need to do is match (or guess) the names of each featured golf course with the corresponding photo. Correctly guess the names of the Washington and Oregon golf courses and your name will go into a drawing to win a free foursome from Golf Today Northwest! Yes, the green fees are on us. Who’s in to win? Please click the button below to make your guesses, but be sure to have your entry completed by October 17, 2014. The winner will be notified via email by late October 2014. Get to it and good luck!
Semiahmoo Resort, Golf, and Spa Back in full swing
Semiahmoo Resort, Golf, and Spa located on the idyllic shores of Semiahmoo Bay and Drayton Harbor at the top of Washington State, though secluded, was a popular destination for the better part of 25 years. With two high quality courses in Semiahmoo and Loomis Trails available for public play, the appeal to regional (and Canadian) tourists, golfers, wedding and conference planners was high. However, when the 198 room Semiahmoo Resort fell victim to a sluggish economic recovery and closed its doors in December 2012, the notion that it would again open under new ownership within a year was, frankly, an unlikely proposition. Fast forward to 2014 with new owners Resort Semiahmoo and Wright Hotels, and Coastal Hotel Group, a Seattle area hospitality-management company charged with managing the Resort and its golf courses, it was time for me to get reacquainted with one of my personal favorite Northwest getaway destinations, not only to play a little golf but to also find out what all the hype is about with FootGolf, the new hybrid version of the game now available for play at Semiahmoo’s two golf courses.
Benefiting from a multi-million dollar renovation that included upgrades to the hotel lobby, guest rooms with new luxury bedding and flat screen TVs, Spa and health and fitness facilities, and restaurants, the Resort opened to the public in August 2013.
The week that we visited, the Resort was plenty busy with the car park jam packed and hotel lobby abuzz with activity. The accommodations with the new upgrades proved both comfortable and well appointed. The views of Semiahmoo Bay with White Rock in the distance were, well, terrific as expected, but it was Semiahmoo’s bar and restaurants that proved the most impressive. Starting with the charming Packers Oyster Bar located on the waterfront offering guests a relaxing respite surrounded by leather armchairs, distressed wood bar, and incredible black walnut floors. Armed with a pint of the Leavenworth “Whistlin’ Pig” Hefeweizen while smacking down on some oysters in the half-shell and peering out into the bay, we almost missed our FootGolf tee-time!
About that FootGolf. True dat! In fact, kicking a soccer ball down the fairway, while initially an odd concept to get my head around, quickly proved a barrel of fun as we attempted to kick a regulation sized soccer ball into each of the 18 holes and their corresponding 21 inch cups in fewer strokes (kicks) than the par 36, 1124 yard course suggests. The bottom line is FootGolf, at least for this traditional golfer, is an absolute blast and a terrific activity to engage the whole family. In fact, we had a couple of families playing behind us obviously enjoying the experience—and exercise. What a way to spend a summer evening! The FootGolf program will be available every Friday and Saturday evening this summer from 6 p.m. to dusk. The rate to play FootGolf at the Semiahmoo Resort, Golf & Spa courses will be $10 for nine holes ($8 for juniors) and $16 for 18 holes ($12 for juniors), as well a $3 soccer ball rental fee. Proper golf course attire and footwear is required.
Post-FootGolf it was time to head back to the Resort and dine at the bright and airy Pierside Kitchen for dinner. First impressions of this restaurant were of the harbor views and nautical themed weathered and white washed wood walls and open beamed ceilings, subtle lighting fixtures, and a diverse menu created with local and regional food producers in mind. The service was polished and attentive and despite a full house, the food arrived without delay. With the sun setting over the water, the ambiance was really quite special and the pairing of the Wood-Fired Halibut and glass (or two) of Ste. Michelle Winery’s 2012 ‘Indian Wells’, Chardonnay topped off a very pleasurable dining experience.
Of course, we couldn’t conclude our Semiahmoo experience without taking in an early morning round at the Arnold Palmer-designed Semiahmoo Golf & Country Club, not surprisingly rated Washington’s #7 public golf course by Golfweek in2012. What I enjoy about this Palmer design is what you see if what you get with rolling fairways and generous landing areas. Where Palmer likes to “get ya” is with his green complexes: firm, fast, and with subtle undulations that will truly test your flat stick skills. The 7,005-yard Semiahmoo is open to the public on odd days of the month and is worth every penny! Of course, if time and circumstance permit, you must follow up a round at Semiahmoo with a round at the nearby Graham Cooke-designed Loomis Trail Golf Club, also ranked among the top courses in 2014 by Golfweek. If you’re a fan of forced carries and water on every hole, you’ll love Loomis. What a quinella of golf on offer and with the Resort back in full swing, the value and quality of your next visit to Semiahmoo is a sure bet!
Please visit www.semiahmoo.com for more information or to book your next fall Stay and Play Package!
By Tony Dear
Washington’s newest adventure opens to the public on August 2nd and we think you’re going to love it. Through the worst of the economic downturn, golfers despaired that Gamble Sands would ever be finished. But now, six years after c first set eyes on the wild, sandy, expansive site high above the Columbia River a few miles east of Brewster, it opens to an audience becoming a little spoiled on good golf.
In recent years, Washington has added Chambers Bay, Salish Cliffs, Wine Valley, White Horse, Palouse Ridge, the Home Course, Prospector and Rope Rider to its inventory, and Gamble Sands is set to join them on the state’s ‘Best of…’ lists.
Kidd says his priority at Gamble Sands was to design a playable course, one on which every single golfer, regardless of his or her skill level, could match or beat their handicap while enjoying amazing views over the desolate but mesmerizing landscape. You won’t spend your precious time here looking for wayward shots. Instead you’ll have tremendous fun playing the ground game, putting from well off the green, working out the angles, aiming 30 yards right of the flag and watching the ball pitch then curl round toward the hole, waiting 10 extra seconds for your ball to come to a complete halt, putting on supremely smooth greens, and hitting off beautifully crisp turf maintained by superintendent Chip Caswell.
Here’s a guide to all 18 holes with comments from Kidd on his thinking behind each hole, and Dave Christenson, the course’s General Manager, on how to play them.
1st - 285-422 yards, Par 4
The 1st at Gamble Sands is what every opening hole should be – a fairly gentle introduction that won’t intimidate anyone and builds anticipation for what is to come. A generous fairway with a slight bend to the left reveals a large green that slopes from back to front. Large bunkers that frame the hole on either side shouldn’t really come into play.
Kidd: We had a long ridge ending in a perfect green site that allowed us to easily create a right to left dogleg with a beautiful green complex that gathers the ball from either side making for an easy par opening hole.
Christenson: Swing freely and favor the right side with a drive or fairway wood. This will leave you a short approach and the best angle into the green.
2nd – 188-301 yards, Par 4
From the elevated tee enjoy the superb view west over the Columbia River and further west to the Cascades. The 2nd is a short, driveable par 4 from most of the tees that will be many people’s favorite hole. A large bunker sits in the middle of the fairway 50 yards short of a green which slopes predominantly from right to left. A huge greenside bunker on the left is definitely in play for those taking on the green from the tee
Kidd: Originally we planned this as a par 3, but ultimately we decided a driveable par 4 was more thrilling. Maybe the cover-girl hole.
Christenson: Feeling confident, take driver at the green aiming slightly right. More conservative play is out right with a long iron over fairway bunker.
3rd – 464-633 yards, Par 5
The par 5 3rd is the longest hole on the course and begins with what looks like a fairly daunting carry over a long, rising, diagonally-oriented stretch of sand and scrub. But play from the appropriate tee and don’t take on a carry you can’t handle, and you’ll safely drop your ball on another generous fairway.
This is a three-shot hole, so bunt a hybrid safely up the fairway then pitch over the bunker short of the green to set up a birdie putt.
Kidd: Having played lots of golf in Ireland, I knew how much fun a blind shot up and over a ridge can be. And here at the 3rd, we could make a very dramatic tee shot.
Christenson: Use the white rock as the aiming point off the tee. A huge fairway awaits. Check the wind as this will influence how much of the bunker you can bite off from the tee.
4th – 112-166 yards, Par 3
The first par 3 features a long stretch of sand down the right side, but the smaller, deeper bunker on the left is the far more insidious of the two hazards and should be avoided. The hole moves downhill so a poorly-hit iron might possibly squirm its way to the front edge, but only a well-struck and well-directed shot will put you within birdie range on a wavy, heaving green where three putts will be far more common than one.
Kidd: We started this one thinking about the famed Biarritz hole but it took its own form as the shaping developed. The huge bunker right side was as much about opening up the view as it was guarding the green.
Christenson: Safe play is left short and ball will feed on to green. Back pin may require a well struck short iron to front of green that will feed back to pin.
5th – 392-517, Par 4
This is a wonderfully natural hole with an amazingly-sited green that is considerably easier to hit from the left side of the fairway. The fairway slopes from left to right however, meaning that unless you draw or hook one into the slope to minimize the drop to the right, you will likely be faced with a tough uphill approach over another long, diagonal stretch of sand. And because the green is set at an angle to the fairway, the approach from the right will need to come in high to hold the putting surface.
You’re not dead from the right side of the fairway by any means – you’ll very rarely be left with no options on this course – but you will be doing yourself a big favor if you approach the green from the left.
Kidd: An incredibly dramatic landscape opened up here playing along the edge of a huge dry canyon edge to a peninsula tucked behind a hillock. We opened up huge ridges of open sand.
Christenson: Aim driver at right side of fairway bunker on the left for the best entry into the green. Don’t go long. Par is a good score.
6th – 105-265 yards, Par 3
A far sterner par 3 than the 4th, the beautiful 6th plays downhill to a wickedly sloping green. The ground slopes sharply down to the putting surface from the right, so even a bad push or slice off the tee might find the green.
Kidd: The huge, dry canyon that bisects the entire course could only be crossed at two points and the first crossing comes here. Our initial thought was to put the green on the otherwise of the canyon and play across it, but that seemed too obvious and I hate doing the obvious.
Christenson: Play short left of the green with one less club than yardage suggests. Natural slope will move ball toward the hole. You’ll lose sight of it for a moment but will be pleased with the result.
7th – 344-514 yards, Par 5
A wonderful left-to-right par 5 with a cape-hole decision to make on the tee – where to aim the tee shot and how much sand to carry. A smaller bunker in the fairway also needs to be sidestepped. Once safely on the fairway the hole slopes uphill slightly, but a low running hybrid/long iron should see you home.
Kidd: We exposed lots of sand on the inside edge of the dogleg making an aggressive tee shot very dangerous or very rewarding. A perfect green-site that provides the opportunity for a running approach, and with a great natural backboard.
Christenson: Safe play is at small fairway bunker – ball will move significantly right when landing. Second shot is slightly uphill and no trouble long so be sure and take one extra club.
8th – 214-313 yards, Par 4
Another of Gamble Sands’s great short par 4s, the 8th is easy, dangerous, fun, confounding, straightforward and bewildering all at the same time. Three diagonally-set fairway bunkers give the hole its distinctive look, but shouldn’t be a problem for golfers who spend a few extra seconds on the tee carefully considering their optimal route. Ignore the bunkers and head right and the second shot will be trickier than if you aim left and carry the sand.
Kidd: This was a tricky piece of the site. The land ahead of the natural tee gently fell away making it blind. We decided not to cut away the ground and leave it as a partially blind, almost driveable par 4 inspired by a hole at Kapalua by Coore & Crenshaw.
Christenson: The bunkers make this a split fairway. Left side leaves best angle into green. Take the right and you’ll probably leave a blind second. Good chance at birdie here, but don’t go long.
9th – 296-429 yards, Par 4
An uphill par 4 that bends left to right, the 9th hole should provide a gentle close to the front nine, provided you avoid the large bunkers on either side of the fairway. A good short-iron approach will give you a good chance of making three, but be careful not to go long and leave yourself a potentially nasty chip or putt back down the hill.
Kidd: This one was an easy find as the fairway plays across the edge of a bluff. A natural gulch in the bluff edge was used to push the hole left to right. The greensite was a natural bench with a huge slope behind it.
Christenson: Safe play is a fairway wood out left. Boomers pick your line carefully as bunker guards right side.
10th – 81-155 yards, Par 3
The third of the par 3s and another absolute gem. Again downhill and again possessing a large expanse of sand to the right of the green, the 10th demands a lofted, soft-landing iron shot if you are to set up a birdie chance. The green slopes all over the place, so the closer you can put your tee shot to the hole the better.
Kidd: We had a beautiful bowl here. It looked like a huge sand crater, and a short par 3 was obvious. We exposed a lot of sand in the base of the bowl and created a huge green with a lot of contour.
Christenson: Use outward slopes to you advantage in navigating ball close to pin.
11th – 324-426 yards, Par 4
A right-to-left dogleg par 4 with a bunker in the center right of the fairway definitely threatens the drive. The best option off the tee might actually be to aim directly at the sand and let the ball drift right, although there is more room to the left. The putting surface is one of the course’s flattest which gives a sort of infinity edge look to the approach shot. Just trust your yardage, and steer well clear of the large bunker just short of the green.
Kidd: Our first visit didn’t reveal an obvious hole here, and we had to think hard for a while. In the end, a long par 4, played diagonally into a wide fairway, was the answer. The intimidating tee shot didn’t please us though, so we kept making the fairway wider to the left.
Christenson: Big hitters can carry fairway bunker and be left with a short approach to a relatively unprotected green.
12th – 189-333 yards, Par 4
The third and final driveable par 4 on the course, the 12th demands a little consideration on the tee. Do you take a driver and go for it, or lay up left of the huge bunker on the right and short of another huge bunker further up the hole on the left? If you do go for it, a slight push won’t hurt you as the ball could feed down to the narrow green from the right.
Kidd: I love to tease golfers, but I also love to make them decide between all-in or complete layup. Nothing in-between. This one does that. A deep receptive shelf allowed us to tempt the bomber to push it up the right and feed the ball to the green.
Christenson: Play drive over fairway bunker right and the ball will feed left on landing and should get close or be on the green. Safe play is down the middle with a long iron or fairway wood. Long green so check pin location as there may be a difference of 1-2 clubs here.
13th – 411-562 yards, Par 5
A left to right-bending par 5 that will be a three-shot hole for the vast majority of players. Skirt the large bunker on the right side of the fairway, bump a fairway wood or hybrid up the left side and you’ll leave a pitch over a sizeable mound/bunker 20-30 yards short and right of a very large, narrow, undulating green.
Kidd: A natural corridor was perfect for a par 5, but a ridge directly across the fairway just short of the green was a challenge. Pushing the sand away would have been easy, but we showed restraint and decided to leave it, so the green is completely blind but has no bunkers and gathers from every side. We will see how US golfers respond to this feature which is common in the UK.
Christenson: Wind will influence your aim point from the tee. If benign, take it over middle of right fairway bunker. Ball will kick forward on down slope and leave long iron into blind green. Play safe to the left of the bunker, and continue down left side for easy par.
14th – 255-437 yards, Par 4
The split fairway on this long par 4 gives the hole a memorable look, but only a select group of power hitters should give the left fairway a second look. The right side is plenty wide and though it does leave a tougher second shot over a large front bunker, it will at least give you a chance of making four. Don’t worry if you don’t though, card a five and you won’t lose much ground to the field, if any.
Kidd: The canyon that bisects the course (see 6th hole) starts here and we decided to use it to spilt the fairway.
Christenson: Check the wind and your confidence. If playing well and hole is downwind take on the left fairway. Otherwise stay right. Long much better than short on approach.
15th – 278-467 yards, Par 4
One of the few narrow-ish fairways where teeing it high, aiming any old place, and giving it a rip definitely won’t work. There’s a large sandy area cutting in from the left, and the scrub on the right seems dangerously close. Commit to a club and a line and you should leave a fairly straightforward short iron to the green.
Kidd: In our original routing, the 15th and 16th fit where 15 now lies. But Casey (see below) discovered the Par 3 16th late in the day, so the 15th became a fairly long par 4.
Christenson: Carry right fairway bunker for best approach angle. Long approach is okay. Par a good score here.
16th – 141-225 yards, Par 3
The final par 3 was discovered late in the design process by Kidd’s associate Casey Krahenbuhl with input from Tory Wulf, a member of the ownership family and the project manager. Another huge, roly-poly green funnels balls towards the center, especially from the right and long.
Kidd: This hole might never have been found if Casey hadn’t gone walkabout one more time. A massive backboard can be used to roll a ball back to a lower pin, the high right side of the green is semi blind and in a bowl.
Christenson: Never a bad play to go slightly long and watch the ball roll back toward the pin.
17th – 342-428 yards, Par 4
A long-ish, straight-ish par 4 that plays slightly uphill. Sand and scrub all the way down the right and a large sandy area that cuts in from the left frame the drive, while a large bunker short and left of the green dominates the approach. It’s a tough hole certainly, but nothing that two solid shots can’t overcome.
Kidd: As a scot who loves matchplay, I figure most matches finish on 15/16/17 so that’s why these holes offer big rewards for big risks. The 17th requires the bravest of drives to an elevated ridge to set up any chance of a birdie.
Christenson: Wind can be huge factor here. Play safe out to the left or take on a longer carry over the sandy area which borders the entire right side. Avoid bunker short left of green at all costs.
18th – 376-566 yards, Par 5
A downhill par 5 with a speed slot at average driving distance that should give your tee shot a boost and make the green very reachable. Though you’ll need to negotiate a centrally-positioned bunker 40/50 yards short of the green, if you do find the wide fairway from the tee you’ll be disappointed if you don’t finish your round with a birdie. A four will make that first pint in the simple, elegant clubhouse (modeled on a Bend, OR brewery) taste all the colder/sweeter/more refreshing, but don’t linger in the clubhouse too long. If there’s any daylight left get out and play these wonderful holes again.
Kidd: From atop the same ridge that 17 plays along we set up a breathtaking overview of the Columbia and mountains beyond. First and last impressions matter, and here we had a great opportunity to lay out a memorable vista from the final tee.
Christenson: Enjoy the view and swing with confidence. A drive center left is perfect and will catch natural slope for additional yardage. Mid-to-long iron left for a chance at eagle or a sure birdie.
The final word goes to Kidd: We thought a lot about what we don’t like about golf and golf courses – stuffiness, inconvenience, lack of atmosphere, complexity, grandeur, ostentatiousness, etc. and we made sure Gamble Sands would be intimate, easy, relaxed, humble and, most of all, fun.
For more information, visit www.gamblesands.com
*photos courtesy Tony Dear
By Tony Dear
The 2014 event marks the tenth playing of the Boeing Classic, Washington’s only annual major professional tournament and one that has grown immensely popular with players and fans since it was first contested in 2005. After starting life as the Greater Seattle Champions Classic then becoming the Boeing Greater Seattle Classic two months before its debut when the home-city aircraft manufacturer signed on as title sponsor, the event changed its name once more – to the Boeing Classic – in 2007 when it was first recognized by the Champions Tour at its end-of-year awards ceremony. That year, the tournament won the Outstanding Achievement Award and, it rose to the pinnacle of Champions Tour events three years later, winning the prestigious Presidents Award, given to what is considered the very best tournament on the schedule.
Since then, the Boeing Classic has won the Players Award (2011) and two Tournament Business Affairs Awards (2012, 2013), which tournament director Michelle DeLancy says “specifically acknowledges (the tournament’s) efforts to engage and encourage the involvement of the community we are proud to be a part of.”
This year, the Boeing Classic will surely pass the $5 million mark in charitable donations, money that benefits the Heart Institute at Virginia Mason, the Benaroya Research Institute at Virginia Mason, the First Tee of Greater Seattle, and other local non-profit organizations. Ninety thousand golf fans, or thereabouts, are expected to line the fairways and fill the grandstands at the TPC Snoqualmie Ridge during tournament week, and over 1,000 volunteers will help ensure another successful show.
To get you in the mood for this year’s Boeing Classic, here’s a look back at the first nine.
Boeing Classic 2005-2014
David Eger, a former golf administrator with two stints at the PGA Tour (1982-‘92 and ’95-’96) and one at the USGA (’92-’95) where he was Senior Director of Rules and Competition, won the inaugural Boeing Greater Seattle Classic with a 54-hole total of 17-under 199. With rounds of 68, 64 and 67, Eger won by three from Tom Kite to earn the $240,000 first place check and his second Champions Tour title (he now has four).
Kite went one better 12 months later winning his first Boeing Classic title after beating Keith Fergus with a birdie at the first extra hole. The pair had tied on 15-under 201 after breaking free from a seven-man tie at the top during the back nine. Fergus shot 64 to earn his spot in the playoff but Tom Jenkins had gone three better, matching Scott Simpson’s one-day-old course record of 61. On the par 5 18th in the playoff, Kite was bunkered after two but got up and down for a birdie while Fergus’s second found a tricky lie to the right of the green after being caught by a fan in his hat. The best he could manage was a six.
The fun and games continued in 2007 when seven players – Craig Stadler, Dana Quigley, Joe Ozaki, Gil Morgan, Eger, RW Eaks, and Zimbabwe’s Denis Watson – were all tied on nine-under 207 at the end of regulation play. On the first playoff hole (the 18th), only Eaks, Stadler and Watson managed a birdie four, Watson thanks to a chip-in from off the green. On the second go-round, all three remaining players reached the green in two, but only Watson holed his eagle putt. It was the second of his four Champions Tour wins.
After, what was for him, an inadequate showing in 2007 when he finished tied for 38th on one-under-par, Tom Kite reaffirmed his affinity for Snoqualmie Ridge in 2008 when he claimed his second Boeing Classic title and third top-two finish in four years. With a final-round 66, the Texan overtook second-round leader Scott Simpson to win by two on 14-under 202. It was the first time Kite had won since his previous Boeing Classic victory – a span of 56 tournaments. Kite won his 10th and final Champions Tour title and the last of his 38 career victories as a professional.
Loren Roberts birdied the last two holes to snatch the title away from Mark O’Meara, shooting a final-round 65 and setting a new tournament record of 18-under 198. Roberts and O’Meara turned the back nine into a two-man duel. O’Meara birdied the 17th, but Roberts followed him in when his 5-iron caught the slope and curled the ball down to within five feet of the treacherous back-left pin. O’Meara could only par the final hole, but Roberts made his winning birdie when he pitched to two feet and rolled in the putt. It was the eleventh of Roberts’ 13 Champions Tour wins. For O’Meara, it was the eighth runner-up finish of his Champions Tour career. He would eventually win his first over-50s tournament at his 58th attempt – the 2010 Liberty Mutual Legends of Golf alongside partner Nick Price.
A month after winning the US Senior Open at Sahalee CC in Sammamish, Bernhard Langer matched Loren Robert’s record 54-hole total from the previous year with rounds of 66, 63 and 69. The German beat Nick Price by three shots and won his fifth Champions Tour title of the 2010 season. He has now won 21 times on the seniors tour, and a total of 93 tournaments in an amazing career.
Local favorite Fred Couples made his Boeing Classic debut finishing third on nine-under 207 with rounds of 68, 72 and 67.
After 13 wins on the PGA Tour, Mark Calcavecchia won for the first time on the Champions Tour when he birdied the first extra hole in a playoff against Russ Cochran. The two had finished on 14-under 202, five shots clear of Chip Beck in third. Calcavecchia birdied the final three holes in regulation to get to -14, but Cochran joined him on that total with an eagle three at the 54th hole. Calcavecchia two-putted for a winning birdie at the first extra hole to extract some revenge on Cochran who had beaten him by two shots at the Senior British Open just a month before. In an August 2012 interview with this magazine, Calcavecchia said the Boeing Classic was a ‘big win’ for him, and that he played just about as well as he had in his entire career.
Tied 16th on one-under 215 after rounds of 73, 69 and 73.
Jay Don Blake beat the hapless Mark O’Meara at the second extra hole to win his third Champions Tour event. After finishing regulation play tied at ten-under 206, Blake and O’Meara halved the first playoff hole with fives after O’Meara missed an eight-footer for the win. On their third trip of the day up the 18th hole, both missed the green with their second shots but Blake was able to get up and down for birdie. O’Meara, meanwhile, could do no better than five.
Forced to withdraw after playing just one shot when his perennially bad back started playing up again.
The virtually unknown John Riegger won in just his fifth Champions Tour start having turned 50 only two months before. Riegger, from Illinois, managed just three top-ten finishes in 230 career PGA Tour starts so surprised everyone by holding off John Cook, Fred Couples, Tom Lehman and Bernhard Langer to win by two. Riegger finished on 15-under 201 after rounds of 69, 64 and 68.
Third on 11-under 205 with rounds of 69, 70 and 66.
Five Players to Watch
The field for the 2014 Boeing Classic won’t be finalized until approx: 5pm the Friday before tournament week (August 8th), but the following five players are expected to play.
How could you go to the Boeing Classic and not watch Freddie? He’s Seattle’s own golfing superstar, a former world number one, a two-time PGA Tour Player of the Year, a four-time winner of the World Cup (with Davis Love), a five-time Ryder Cupper, a three-time Presidents Cup-winning Captain, and now a Hall of Famer. He has won a total of 62 professional tournaments including the 1984 and 1996 Players Championships and 1992 Masters. He has ten wins on the Champions Tour including two senior majors – the 2011 Senior Players Championship and 2012 Senior Open Championship. Couples has two third places finishes in three appearances at TPC Snoqualmie Ridge (it would be four but he withdrew early in 2012). Time he finally won it.
The Scotsman never did enjoy much luck on the regular PGA Tour, but since joining the Champions Tour in June 2013 he has blossomed rather, finishing in the top ten 12 times in 21 tournaments and winning two majors – May’s Senior PGA Championship at Harbor Shores in Michigan, and the US Senior Open at Oak Tree National in Oklahoma two weeks ago when he beat Gene Sauers in a playoff. Like Couples, Monty is a Hall of Fame member having won the European Order of Merit title seven years in a row (1993-’99), and winning 43 times around the world.
The 2010 Boeing Classic champion is worth watching not only for the quality of his golf, but also because he is a wonderful role-model for kids. Quiet, humble, generous and hard-working, the 56-year-old German turned pro in 1972 and has amassed 93 professional victories. Another Hall of Famer, Langer joined golf’s immortals in 2002.
Though the date on his birth certificate suggests he might be getting on a bit, watching Hale Irwin play golf never gets old. The 69-year-old, three-time US Open champion was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1992, and it is remarkable how well he strikes the ball, averaging well over 250 yards off the tee and hitting nearly 80 percent of fairways. With 45 Champions Tour victories to his name and over $26m in earnings, Irwin is by far the most successful senior golfer of all time, his last win coming at the 2007 MasterCard Championship at Hualalai in Hawaii.
Fehr may not have had the sort of Hall of Fame career that Couples, Montgomerie, Langer, and Irwin put together, but he’s a local boy so get out there and cheer him on. The Seattle native won over $4m in a PGA Tour career that began in 1985 and petered out in 2001/2002. He won twice in that time (1986 BC Open, 1994 Walt Disney/Oldsmobile Classic) and recorded nine runner-up finishes. Since turning 50 at the end of August in 2012, Fehr has battled injury but has played a total of 26 Champions Tour events. He has yet to record a top-ten finish, however. Wouldn’t it be great if he could put that right at Snoqualmie Ridge?
Three Most Pivotal Holes
14th – 448 yards, Par 4
Known as Bear’s Canyon, the 14th is one of the most exciting holes on the Champions Tour, tempting competitors to go for the green 80ft below and at the end of a horseshoe-shaped fairway. The carry from the back tee to the front of the green is 293 yards which explains why only four players went for it in the first round last year when the hole played its full length. Eleven attempted it in the second round when the tee was pushed forward, but only six players recorded birdies, while one made a triple-bogey. On Sunday when the tee was set at 410 yards, 29 gambled and 11 made birdie while Kenny Perry made an eagle two, keeping alive a streak of nine straight years in which at least one eagle was made on the hole. Canyon Club ticket holders (see below for ticket prices) get a great view of the action and half off beer when someone makes a birdie!
17th – 211 yards, Par 3
The par 3 holes at TPC Snoqualmie Ridge usually rank among the toughest half-dozen or so every year, and the 211-yard 17th over a pond to a wide, shallow green with a distinct step in the middle may be the hardest of the lot. Indeed, with an average of 3.28, it played the toughest hole last year yielding a total of only 22 birdies over the three rounds.
18th - 498 yards, Par 5
A par five of 498 yards should represent a golden opportunity for birdie or eagle to players of this caliber, but when the holes plays significantly uphill and is threatened by 16 deep bunkers, it is anything but a pushover. Seven of the bunkers need to be avoided off the tee to leave any sort of chance of reaching the green in two, and five more lie in wait for any approach shot that flies even slightly off line.
The undulating green is 31 yards from front to back and surrounded by a natural amphitheater on which 20,000+ fans will cheer home this year’s winner.
August 4th, 2pm – Snoqualmie Showdown
The official countdown to the 2014 Boeing Classic actually begins 18 days before the first drive is struck when four of Seattle biggest names tee it up at TPC Snoqualmie Ridge to raise funds for local charities. Fred Couples will join former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer in a fourball match against former UW football coach Rick Neuheisel and 950 KJR AM morning host Mitch Levy in front of just 500 ticketholders. Be sure to get your tickets ($100 each) by visiting the Boeing Classic.
Monday, August 18th
8.30am Seahawks Rumble at the Ridge
2pm Champions Tour pros practice rounds
Tuesday, August 19th
8am-5pm Executive Women’s Day TPC Clubhouse
12pm Emirates Youth Clinic at the TPC Driving Range
1pm-5pm Adaptive Golf Clinic TPC Alternate Driving Range
All Day practice rounds
Wednesday, August 20th
7.45am Korean Air Pro-am day one morning shotgun
1.30pm Korean Airlines Pro-am afternoon shotgun
Thursday, August 21st
7.45am Korean Air Pro-am day two morning shotgun
1.30 Korean Airlines Pro-am afternoon shotgun
Friday, August 22nd
11.20am Boeing flyover
11.30am Round one begins
Saturday, August 23rd
9am Round two begins
3.30pm-6.30pm Golf Channel telecast
Sunday, August 24th
Military Appreciation Day
9am Round three begins
5pm 18th green ceremony
4pm-6.30pm Golf Channel telecast
TPC Snoqualmie Ridge is located 26.5 miles east of downtown Seattle off I-90. Take exit 25 (WA-18) toward Snoqualmie Parkway. Proceed onto Echo Glen Parkway which becomes Snoqualmie Parkway. Turn left onto Fairway Ave SE, then right onto SE Ridge St. Travel time from downtown Seattle is estimated at 31 minutes.
Friday, August 22nd – 3.30pm-5.30pm Golf Channel
Saturday, August 23rd – 3.30pm-6.30pm Golf Channel
Sunday, August 24th – 4pm-6.30pm Golf Channel
Single Day – $20 (advance), $25 (gate)
Tournament pass – $40 (advance), $50 (gate)
Week pass – $60 (advance only)
50% discount for seniors (60+)
General admission and one-day Canyon Club Party Pass – $35 advance, $40 gate
Tournament Pass and three-day CCPP $85 advance, $110 gate
One-day CCPP (available Fri, Sat, Sun) $15 advance, $20 gate
ANA Dreamliner Lounge
All-inclusive hospitality unit overlooking the 18th green. Food provided by El Gaucho Steakhouse, indoor and outdoor seating, HDTV screens.
Individual ticket $350
1st tee – The downhill 554-yard opening hole is actually one of the easiest on the course. It’s a great place to see the Boeing flyover and see each player introduced before he starts his round. See if the competitors can thread the needle between the fairway bunkers about 260 yards off the tee.
9th green – The 207-yard 9th is a potentially perilous par 3 with a 196-yard carry over water from the back tee. The ground beyond the green is raised slightly making it easy for spectators to share the players’ joy or grief as they make it to dry land or sink to the bottom of Eagle Lake.
14th tee – This hole will surely be the scene of some of the week’s greatest drama with players taking on the huge carry over the tree-filled canyon. To make it to the other side then stop the ball on the green before it bounds over the back and into trouble requires a combination of power and a high, soft-landing ball flight that only the very best golfers can generate.
17th green – Spectators to the right of this hole will get a great view of shots as they approach the green over the pond and hopefully settle on the correct level of the two-tiered putting surface. On Sunday, see if players can get to the back left pin by hitting a draw that catches the slope and trundles down towards the hole.
18th green – With the skyboxes and natural grass amphitheater that surrounds the final green, the atmosphere on Sunday afternoon as the tournament draws to a close is electric, and it’s a spectator view that has been voted ‘Best View from a Clubhouse’ by the Champions Tour. Video screens 15’x35’ keep the gallery up to date with what’s happening on the leaderboard.
By Tony Dear
Each sport’s playing arenas tend to be generic with little to distinguish one pitch, field, diamond or court from another. Every football field is flat and has the same dimensions as the next. Same with basketball courts and tennis courts. The surfaces may be different – grass, clay, synthetic, maple, acrylic, etc. but that’s where the differences begin and end. Soccer pitches and baseball fields are also flat and, though not exactly the same dimensions as each other (there is no standard size for a soccer pitch or baseball field), as similar in length and width as makes no difference.
Golfers play a sport so singular in so many ways. The game’s etiquette marks it out as special, but so too does the immense variety in its playing arenas. Golf courses are so vastly different from one another they add intrigue and curiosity to every round we play. Long, short, undulating, flat, green, brown, firm, soft, difficult, straightforward, bordered by forests, bordered by oceans, clifftop, parkland, meadowland, heathland, downland, prairie, desert – the assortment of challenges and vistas is intoxicating.
Naturally, every golfer has a ‘type’ of course he prefers. Like many others, I enjoy the game best beside the seaside on firm, sandy turf and with a decent breeze in the air. But if I can’t be on the coast, give me the firm, sandy turf of the high desert – specifically Central Oregon’s high desert – instead.
Central Oregon – a region traditionally made up of Deschutes, Jefferson, and Crook counties, but for our purposes the area around and between the cities of Bend, Sisters, Redmond, Prineville, and La Pine – sits roughly 4,000ft above sea level and is almost as perfectly-suited to golf as the linksland of Britain and Ireland. The only thing it lacks really is a steady 15-20mph breeze that, on occasion, turns into a 40mph hooley. Otherwise, the firm turf, interesting undulations, terrific scenery, and scant, low-lying vegetation are all present and correct. Indeed, everything looks right, smells right, and, when you make crisp, ball-before-turf contact, it most definitely feels right.
The look includes the distant Cascade Mountains – Bachelor, Washington, Jefferson, Broken Top, and the Three Sisters – and a vast shrub-steppe that extends east further than the eye can see. The smell, meanwhile, is an invigorating mix of clean, fresh air, juniper, and sage wafting in from the countless Artemisia Nova (black sagebrush) bushes that almost blanket the ground. It’s a heady assembly of sensory triggers, but what really makes this prime golfing territory are beautiful lies on emerald fairways that give order, in the golfer’s mind anyway, to the random, rugged disorder of the landscape.
Take the Nicklaus Course at Pronghorn. In amongst all that seemingly untidy and unruly flora are 18 sublime golf holes that make up what is surely one of the Golden Bear’s finest creations. Opened in 2006, Pronghorn started life as a highly exclusive private club and community, but opened its doors to non-members in the summer of 2010 after home sales had gone into freefall due to the failing economy. Forty-eight high-end units were built for resort guests alongside the 18th hole of the Nicklaus Course which was also opened to the public, leaving the property’s other course, designed by Tom Fazio, to the members.
The Nicklaus Course starts relatively gently, but gets increasingly dramatic as the round progresses – the back nine one memorable after the other. Director of Agronomy David Freitag keeps the bentgrass tees and fairways, and A4 bentgrass greens in spectacular shape. Agronomy and golf course maintenance have come a long way in the last 15-20 years allowing more courses to achieve far better playing surfaces than ever before. Pronghorn’s surfaces are truly exceptional, however, and unless you’ve played Augusta National or any other course belonging to a private club with a big maintenance staff and bigger budget, it’s unlikely you will have encountered better conditions. The lies, in the mown areas at least, are invariably perfect, the greens as true as those at a major championship venue – better in some cases.
It’s true even in winter…almost, says Freitag, despite the fact his staff drops from a summer high of 42 (21 for each course) to just eight. “There was some extreme weather last winter,” he says. “We had record cold temps in early December of 27 degrees below zero, but fortunately there was a thin layer of snow for protection, so we did not see any damage to the golf course.” There were also several snowfall accumulations spread out through the winter, he adds, so the courses had a good amount of moisture to help them through. In the first week of February, the property received 18″ of snow – 12” more than any snowfall event of the previous 12 years. “During the week between Christmas and New Year’s,
in between the record-setting lows and equally extreme snowfall, we held a well-attended shotgun tournament with really good winter golf course conditions.”
The resort at Pronghorn has been owned by the Honolulu-based Resort Group since February 2012, and managed by boutique operator Auberge Resorts which manages seven luxury properties in California, Colorado, Oregon, and Mexico (soon to be eight with the addition of Malliouhana on the West Indian island of Anguilla) since May of that year. The golf courses and golf academy have been run by Troon Golf for nearly five years.
In 2015, Pronghorn will open the 105-room Huntington Lodge, further demonstrating how much it has evolved since its confined, restrictive early days. Named after the Huntington Trail, a wagon route first used in 1867 and which ran through Deschutes County, the lodge has been designed by San Francisco’s SB Architects in the style of National Park lodges, and is being constructed by local builder SunWest Builders which began work in April.
In addition to the new lodge, the spa is being doubled in size to 4,000sqft, and the fitness center is being updated.
General Manager Spencer Schaub told ‘Cascade Business News’ in September last year that Pronghorn was free of all debt and legal encumbrances, and that $3.2m in back taxes had been paid in order to set the resort in good standing with Deschutes County. The future is undoubtedly bright for Pronghorn which Schaub says has its sight set on becoming the premier residential community and resort in the Pacific Northwest.
Construction of new accommodations is obviously in the air in Central Oregon as Tetherow too has a new lodge (actually twin buildings) to offer visiting golfers this summer. Officially opened in April, Tetherow Lodges has 50 luxury rooms most with balconies and all with views of the Paulina Mountains or David McLay Kidd-designed golf course which opened to national raves in 2008.
Operations Manager Davis Smith says the Lodges is already doing good business with golf groups and visitors on golf packages (starting at $350 per person for two nights and two days’ unlimited golf). “In just the first two months, we saw a lot of local golfers and several from a little further afield come out,” he adds. “And I expect to see sellouts over the busy summer months and rolling into fall.”
Not content with 50 guest bedrooms, Tetherow will start construction of several 3-5 bedroom cabins in the fall, part of an ambitious expansion project undertaken by the resort’s owner – Velocity Capital BV, an investment company based in the Netherlands.
As for the course, Smith says that thanks to a fairly mild winter and thorough winter preparations, the fescue greened-up quickly in the spring and is now in tip-top condition. “The course is honestly in the best shape it has been in since it opened,” he insists.
That is music to Kidd’s ears. The Scotsmen has lived in Bend since 2006 and considers Tetherow his home course. “I absolutely love it here in Bend,” he says. “I try to limit myself to one international trip a month and so I can spend as much time as I can in Bend.”
Kidd has made numerous adjustments to Tetherow in the years since it opened, changes aimed at softening a few of its more severe edges. “I’ve had the chance to play it a lot myself and watch others playing it too,” he says. “I know there were playability issues when it opened so I tried to make it more forgiving for the high-handicapper. The landing areas are more generous now, and you rarely lose a ball. I also mad some of the bunkers less penal. To maintain the challenge for the good golfer, I extended some greens to find a few more pin locations.”
The course, where golfers can now rent a GolfBoard, is fundamentally unchanged, says Kidd who adds that Tetherow offers the only links experience in Central Oregon. “It’s wall-to-wall fescue and there are loads of contours to read and use. There are no flop shots here!”
Though significantly more lenient than when it first opened, Tetherow is still a wonderfully challenging course. “I think it’s a great test now,” says Kidd. “Resort golfers can certainly have a great time, but it’s a tough prospect for the low-handicapper wanting to match par. My 6.7 handicap travels very well from here.”
Though he plays Tetherow whenever he gets the chance, Kidd has become familiar with most of Bend’s courses in his eight years of residency. “This area has so much to offer the golfer,” he says. “There is almost every genre of golf here from a lot of the top architects.”
Another area property investing in its future, looking to retain loyal customers that have been coming to the resort for the last 45 years, is Sunriver, 15 miles south of Bend off Highway 97 and set more or less at the foot of the Cascades. Sunriver resort guests have access to four golf courses – the nine-hole Caldera Links designed by Bob Cupp and Jim Ramey and perfect for families, the John Fought-designed Meadows Course, the private and nationally-ranked Cupp-designed Crosswater Course which David Kidd says is his favorite in the area besides Tetherow of course, and Robert Trent Jones’s Woodlands Course which completed the five-year renovation of its greens recently.
“Rather than close the course for an extended period, we managed to remain open by doing a few greens every year,” says the resort’s Director of Golf Josh Willis, a native of Georgia who graduated from the PGA Professional Golf Management Program at Mississippi State University. “We sodded the greens with T1 Bent using turf grown in our own nursery.”
Willis says the greens were at their absolute best 90 days after completion of the project but were, in fact, perfectly playable after just 45. “You couldn’t see the seam lines between the sods,” he says, “and though they may not have been quite as quick as the other greens, they were already putting beautifully.”
Helping the course maintain its excellent putting surfaces was this past winter’s snow-cover which, says Willis, insulated the turf from cold temperature extremes and severe temperature fluctuations. The USGA Green Section says snow cover isn’t necessarily a bad thing for golf greens at all. “Snow cover also protects turf from winter wind desiccation,” it says. “In fact, snow coverage in and of itself is rarely a problem for turf because gas exchange between the soil and atmosphere is not completely restricted, as it would be with ice.”
Willis likens the T1 to a polar bear saying it absolutely loves it environment. “It just loves cool to cold temperatures, and is a hardier strain of bent than what we have seen before,” he says. “It does take some looking after in the hotter summer months, but it is also far more tolerant of heat than our previous turf. I fully expect the Woodland Course’s greens to be some of the best in the Pacific Northwest.”
With the golf, two great pool areas, biking, boating and numerous other activities, excellent dining, plus very comfortable accommodations, Sunriver continues to be many people’s happy place. It’s been one of mine since my family and I first visited in 2009. New, pristine greens at one of its delightful quartet of courses will only help make it even more appealing.
Fifteen miles the other side of Bend, Brasada Ranch is another world-class Central Oregon resort that epitomizes what visitors to the region find so alluring. And, like so many others, it too went through an ownership change during the economic downturn when the original developer Jeld-Wen sold to Westport, Conn.-based company Northview Hotel Group and funds managed by Oaktree Capital Management in November 2010. The same consortium also purchased Running Y Ranch in Klamath Falls and Eagle Crest Redmond from the door and window manufacturer which never disclosed why it was offloading so many of its Oregon properties (also Ridgewater, Silver Mountain Ski Resort, and Yarrow housing development in Madras) at the same time.
Northview spent $3.5m on upgrades with a view to making Brasada its flagship property but was careful to maintain the rustic charm of the place.
As well as what seems like a now standard list of terrific activities you can try your hand at – fly-fishing, horse-riding, rafting, mountain-biking, rock climbing – you’ll find great food prepared by Executive Chef Ryan Sturmer who recently arrived at Brasada Ranch from the Urban Farmer Restaurant at the Nines Hotel in Portland, and superb accommodations – eight elegant but comfortable Ranch House suites and 40 privately-owned luxury cabins that can be reserved by the night.
Then, of course, there’s the golf course. Brasada Canyons is a Peter Jacobsen/Jim Hardy collaboration that opened in 2008 and which might provide the best views from any golf course in Central Oregon. The course is restricted to members and resort guests so you’ll not have a problem finding a tee time. And yes, this course is worth booking a night at the resort to play. Guests receive complimentary Bushnell rangefinders for their round plus a yardage guide.
Superintendent Darren Klein, who worked on the construction crew, maintains the course in typically great condition, and says that he can’t remember a spring/early summer period when the course looked so good.
The same is true, says Superintendent Phil Lagao, of Black Butte Ranch’s two courses – Big Meadow and especially Glaze Meadow which just began its third full season since John Fought’s magnificent renovation/redesign that completely overhauled Gene Mason’s original course which had begun to look a little tired and dated. Lagao, the Oregon Golf Course Superintendent Association’s (OGCSA) Superintendent of the Year in 2012, says Glaze is now looking as good as it has done since it re-opened and that it has very nearly reached it potential. “It takes a new course, which Glaze Meadow essentially was, a few years to settle and Glaze Meadow is very nearly there,” he says. “What rough there is, is growing nicely now, and the greens are putting very well though I’d still like to see just a little more thatch.”
Thatch? Isn’t that a bad thing that superintendents want to do avoid?
Actually every green needs just a little thatch – the layer of living and dead organic matter that occurs between the green vegetation and soil surface, and which is composed primarily of turfgrass stems. “Without it, greens just have no give,” says Lagao. “There’s nothing to absorb the ball. So it’s very difficult to stop the ball on the green. That was the case when Glaze re-opened, but it’s getting much better now.”
The new Glaze Meadow has been a revelation with the men’s club and visitors who have gotten used to the new look. “The feedback is all positive now,” says Lagao. “It took some regular players a while to get used to it, but everyone loves it now.”
Black Butte Ranch’s two courses are more heavily forested than the other courses mentioned above despite Fought’s extensive tree removal which took out 3,500 of Glaze Meadow’s aspens and ponderosa pines. They may not be the quintessential Central Oregon high desert layouts, therefore, but the views of the Cascades are still fantastic and the golf every bit as enjoyable. There are over 120 vacation rentals – lodge rooms to cabins and condos to spacious homes – to choose from making a summer golf package at the 1,800-acre property (starting at just $139 per person) a bit of a no-brainer.
And speaking of no-brainers, how about this for a cracking deal…on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays in August, you can play both courses at Black Butte Ranch with a cart, range balls, and tournament coordination for just $125. And, as a bonus, every member of your group can earn $20-$40 in pro-shop credit if you book the midweek outing by July 20th (merchandise credit provided to groups of 16 players or more.)
There are plenty more courses worth a visit in Central Oregon – Aspen Lakes near Sisters, Eagle Crest near Redmond, Widgi Creek on the outskirts of Bend, Crooked River Ranch, Juniper in Redmond, Quail Run in La Pine, River’s Edge in Bend, and Bend’s Lost Tracks where if you book a tee time for between 10am and 1pm on a Sunday you automatically become eligible for the Million Dollar Shootout (see web site for details).
There really is no bad time to visit Central Oregon because if snow is preventing you from playing golf you could be skiing on Mt. Bachelor instead. But if it’s the golf you’re coming for, you might think about arranging your trip to coincide with one of Bend’s many summer festivals and events. “There really are too many to mention them all,” says the Central Oregon Visitor Association’s (COVA) Ted Taylor. “There’s the hot-air balloon festival, Balloons over Bend, July 18-20; the Cascade Cycling Classic in mid-late July which usually draws a crowd of 20,000 to the downtown area; free Munch and Music in downtown every Thursday night; a great July 4th parade (Travel + Leisure named Bend the No. 2 4th of July town in America); High Desert Classics showjumping in the last two weeks of July; and Bend Brewfest August 14-16 where one of the breweries in the line-up will be 10 Barrel whose Bend pub was the inspiration behind the clubhouse at the David Kidd-designed Gamble Sands in Central Washington which opens for play in August. “I don’t spend much time there personally because I don’t drink,” says Kidd. “But it’s a really cool place and a must-visit for anyone who likes their beer.”
Likewise, Central Oregon is a must-visit for anyone who likes their golf.
For more information, please visit www.visitcentraloregon.com
WFC U14 Ranger Gold girls soccer team, members of semi-professional soccer team Bellingham United FC, and other invited guests participated in the inaugural rounds of FootGolf
FootGolf will be available every Friday and Saturday evening this summer from 6 p.m. to dusk. FootGolf is $10 for nine holes ($8 for juniors) and $16 for 18 holes ($12 for juniors), as well a $3 soccer ball rental fee. Proper golf course attire and footwear is required. FootGolf will be played at Loomis Trail Golf Club on even days of the week and at Semiahmoo Golf & Country Club on odd days; providing two unique opportunities and challenges for players.
FootGolf, one of the fastest growing recreational activities in the United States, is played with a soccer ball on a golf course. It is scored by utilizing the rules of stroke or match play in golf as participants attempt to kick the ball from tee to green and into a 21 inch cup.
For more information about FootGolf or Semiahmoo Resort, Golf, & Spa visit www.semiahmoogolf.com/.
Stay & Play From $119+ Mid-Week Summer & Throughout The Fall
Central and southern Oregon golf courses have always been popular – thanks to their mild climate and 300 days of sunshine, it’s possible to play some of the courses (like The Ridge Course at Eagle Crest Resort) year-round. Not only are these courses ranked among the best to play, their picturesque settings alone are worth the trip. Great for small and large golf groups, as well as family golf vacations (each property offers “Junior’s Play Free” deals), these three Oregon Golf Resorts should be on your radar.
Brasada Ranch | Reservations 855.426.6355
Designed by native Oregonian Peter Jacobsen and Jim Hardy, Brasada Canyons golf course and resort in Bend, Oregon is undeniably one of the most beautiful and enjoyable golf courses in the west. While the course is known as the best 18 views in Central Oregon, Brasada Canyons is also heralded for its privacy, as play is reserved for members and resort guests, and no two holes run parallel. Brasada Ranch offers tournament preparation, meal planning and banquet services, rounds at other top courses, activities throughout the area and more.
Eagle Crest Resort | Reservations 855.426.9673
When it comes to golf in central Oregon, challenge, variety and value are the top priorities at Eagle Crest Resort. With two championship golf courses, The Ridge Course and The Resort Courses, our tough 18-hole, par-63 Challenge Course and our popular 18-hole putting course, links lovers are never far from their favorite pastime. Four sets of tees on each course allow the more experienced golfers plenty of challenge, and the less experienced equally enjoyable rounds. Guests of the Resort enjoy all of the Resort amenities, including three sports centers, indoor and outdoor pools and tennis courts, hiking trails, equestrian center, day spa, and more.
Running Y Ranch | Reservations 855.427.2351
Consistently ranked among the top courses in the US, Running Y Ranch is home to the only Arnold Palmer designed course in Oregon, and golfers from around the globe are blown away by the challenge and jaw-dropping setting. Even Arnold Palmer includes his track at Running Y Ranch as one of his “Sweet 16.” If you’re looking for an Oregon golf resort that has it all along with value, you will find it here. Running Y Ranch also features a full-service golf shop, world-class instruction, practice facility, family favorite 18-hole Putting Course.
MID-WEEK SUMMER & FALL GOLF PACKAGES
ULTIMATE GOLF PACKAGE FROM $139 | RESERVATIONS 855.426.6355
BRASADA CANYONS AT BRASADA RANCH | BEND OREGON
Voted “Oregon’s Best Destination Resort” – The Oregonian
- Stay in a Ranch House Suite or in a two, three or four bedroom Sage Canyon or Cascade Cabin
- Receive one round of golf or a $75 spa credit for each guest, each night of stay
- Play at Brasada Canyons or slip into Spa Brasada for a spa treatment, the choice is yours
UNLIMITED STAY & PLAY PACKAGE FROM $119 | RESERVATIONS 855.426.9673
THE RIDGE, RESORT & CHALLENGE COURSES AT EAGLE CREST RESORT | REDMOND OREGON
Voted “Best Place to Play” – Golf Digest
- Stay in the Lodge at Eagle Crest Resort or in the two, three and four-bedroom Vacation Rentals
- Play as much golf as you like on all three courses, for a truly customizable experience
ULTIMATE STAY & PLAY PACKAGE FROM $119 | RESERVATIONS 855.427.2351
THE ARNOLD PALMER SIGNATURE COURSE AT RUNNING Y RANCH | KLAMATH FALLS OREGON
Voted “Top 10 Courses in Oregon” – GolfWeek
- Stay in the Lodge at Running Y Ranch or in the two, three and four-bedroom Vacation Rentals
- For each night of your stay, play as much golf as you like.
- Play additional rounds on your arrival or departure day at the “Palmer” rate of $40 per round
By Cameron Healey
My first foray golfing mountain-style was at the High Sierras in Nevada a few years back. Needless to say it was an experience I would not soon forget. Why? For starters, swinging the clubs in an alpine setting surrounded by awe-inspiring mountain ranges is breathtaking–quite literally. Whether you’re walking an uncrowded course in the cool invigorating alpine air or watching your mid-afternoon tee shot smoked off an elevated tee box, there is something special about playing golf in the mountains. I am now hooked and I want more. That desire to hit the mountains was recently satiated with a four day trip north of the border to the Columbia Valley Golf Trail, in southeastern British Columbia.
While there are regions in BC that are well known golf destinations such as Vancouver Island, Kamloops, or Whistler, the Columbia Valley Golf Trail comprised of eight golf courses anchored to the North by Radium Hot Springs, 36 holes, and The Fairmont Hot Springs a few miles to the south, also 36 holes, and include Eagle Ranch, Copper Point Golf Club & The Ridge, and Windermere Valley which is rapidly earning distinction as a must-visit golf destination for golfing aficionados. While you would expect the local golf community to be staunch cheerleaders for their region, I would soon discover that their bias is neither forced nor disingenuous. They know they have a little piece of golfing nirvana right in their own backyard and they’re more than willing to shout about it from their roof tops. Indeed, I’m willing to bet my well-worn pair of Ecco’s that the Valley and the Kootenay Rockies 25 championship golf courses will become the first choice for those of us looking for a world class mountain golf destination.
After a short flight from Vancouver, BC into the quaint but modern Cranbrook airport, I picked up my rental car and weaved my way northward towards Invermere, a short drive of 90 minutes where my constant companion was the spectacular Canadian Rockies on my right and the Purcell Ranges on my left and views towards my destination ahead stretching as far as the eye could see. You can’t help but be mesmerized by the grandeur of the setting especially when the only interruption during the drive was an odd encounter with an angus bull also admiring the view from the shoulder of the highway coupled with a group of white tail deer and big horn sheep milling around closer to the town of Radium flashing their pearly whites to me as I sheepishly passed by (pun intended). I felt that I was indeed entering a new and exciting world.
The 90 room Radium Resort was already buzzing with activity from fellow club-toting tourists either playing golf, tennis, squash, or racquetball at the indoor fitness center. After checking into my comfortable and spacious room located in the St. Andrews Wing overlooking The Resort Course, I quickly became acquainted with the lay of the land and learned that the second 18 hole championship course, The Springs Course, is a short 5 minute drive north. Not to worry if you prefer not to drive; The Resort offers free shuttle rides to and from. With clubs in tow and an afternoon tee time, I made the leisurely drive via the quaint village of Radium, home to roughly 1000 year-round residents.
While the Resort Course has been a staple option for both locals and tourists for the better part of 60 years, golf course architect and Radium Resort president Bill Newis in 2012 modified three existing holes and added three new holes changing the par from 69 to 71 and pushing the length out to a manageable 6071 yards from the tips. Earmarked by tree-lined fairways and large greens, The Resort Course is considered the more forgiving of the two Championship Courses and is a solid option for Resort golfers wanting a taste of mountain golf that is high on fun. I opted to play the highly regarded 6767 yard Les Furber-designed Springs Course, open since 1988 and recipient of multiple accolades including one of BC’s top public courses, home to a world-class golf academy, and co-host of the 2013 BC Amateur Golf Championship.
Offering four sets of tees, I opted to play the blues at 6273 yards and was greeted with a 380 yard par-4 dogleg left opening hole. Smart play off the tee is to favor the right fairway where the ball filters downhill and to the left leaving a manageable, but downhill, 150-yard approach into a relatively shallow but wide undulating green protected by a bunker ready to catch errant balls. With a solid par to start, the views from the front nine–particularly the routing of the first three holes perched high on the bluff–are magic with views of the expansive wetlands weaving its way through the Columbia Valley. The back nine routing hugs the mountainside to the south; however, the Valley views are especially evident as you approach the iconic 124-yard par-3 #17th. Short, yes, but with a massive ravine immediately in front, and a very shallow but wide green, the 124 yard shot is far from pedestrian and demands precise distance control. In fact, #17 caps a quartet of beguiling par-3s that demand the utmost respect–the most difficult being the 174 yard #14th, requiring all carry from the tee to a large sloping green. Depending on pin placement, the center of the green is best and the steep canyon in front less so. While The Springs par 5s are reachable, the 516 yard #9th requires an accurate tee shot and second shot placed short and left of the fairway bunkers but not so far left that the huge water pond comes into play. Stay dry and a par is a solid score here. If you’re unable to capitalize on some The Spring’s “risk-reward” par 4s such as the 330 yard, #8th that tempts the big hitters with a large green protected by a forgiving pond on the left, you can always book a lesson with Director of Golf Brent Taylor at the Springs Golf Academy to help fine tune your game. Ask Taylor which holes are his favorites and you’ll hear a quick but knowledgeable answer: #1 and #17. “You couldn’t have a better par 3 as you approach the end of your round,” he says, “All the holes are unique and fun to play and in one of the most spectacular settings you could imagine.” Speaking of spectacular, why not follow your round with a Reuben and a beer while taking in views of the Purcell Range from the patio of The Springs Restaurant. Either way you play it, The Springs Course demands a return visit for another round.
Post-golf Mineral Pool therapy
After an enjoyable twilight experience swinging the sticks around the Springs Course, it was time to tackle a ‘Springs’ of a different nature. Another quick 5 minute drive east of Radium found myself at the iconic and historical Radium Hot Pools, whose hot mineral water has been around for as long as time, the product of geothermal activity producing a soothing mineral-rich warm 46 degree Celsius odorless water elixir just about guaranteed to sooth away the deepest aches and pains. Sharing the concrete pool with perhaps 10 other bathers and with the Rocky Mountain cliff face directly behind me and a setting sun, the two-footer that I missed earlier becomes a distant memory—even if just for a short time. If chilling in the hot pool is not your thing, the 25 meter 27 degree Celsius cool pool is a great option if you’re looking to pound out a few laps in one of the most serene settings you might ever experience.
Eagle Ranch Golf Course
The next course on the schedule was at the Bill Robinson-designed Eagle Ranch Golf Course. Opening in May 2000 and located by the Columbia River with stellar views of Lake Windermere to the south and the wetlands to the west, Eagle Ranch can best be described as a heady mix of golf holes that both taunts and titillates. Robinson’s course, whose work might be familiar to Pacific Northwestern golfers who have played the likes of Ocean Dunes in Florence, OR,. or the OGA Course in Woodburn, offers golfers a true test of golf set amongst wide and accommodating tree-lined fairways with a hint of links-style play evident by an interesting mix of grassy knobs and knolls, swales, rolling fairways, and pot bunkers. Indeed, Eagle Ranch has earned its fair share of accolades including Golf Digest “Best Places to Play” – 4.5 stars and Score Golf – “Best Conditioned Course in B.C. The stunning rustic clubhouse and award-winning restaurants adds to the appeal of Eagle Ranch as one of the premier golf destinations in the Valley. Of course, their ‘service that is second to none’ mantra is not merely lip service either and makes the $100+ golf round even more palatable.
For those golfers short on time but wanting a satisfying golf experience, Eagle Ranch offers The Short Course, a par 58 course experience giving golfers a good opportunity to play a round of golf in less than 3 hours. The Short Course is essentially the addition of a fifth set of tees that offer a series of fourteen par 3s measuring a maximum of 150 yards and four par 4s measuring a maximum of 270 yards. This option is perfect for those golfers with young kids who want to swing the sticks with Mum & Dad or for golfers who want a quick fix of stellar golf in a short space of time.
For the full experience, Eagle stretches out to 6646 yards with a slope rating of 71.4/132 from the tips. The 392 yard (blues) par 4 opening hole stretches out along the Bluff towards the north and offers a slight dogleg left into long narrow green with a ridge in the center. A solid drive of 230-250 yards off the tee will keep the left fairway bunker and lone spruce tree jutting out into the fairway out of play. A pin placement on the lower half of the back to front sloping green will make for a delicate downhill putt.
The opener gives way to a fun and eclectic mix of testy par 4s like the #1 handicapped 379 yard par 4 fourth demanding accuracy off the tee to avoid the right side fairway bunkers with a two-tiered green protected by the water hazard. Or, you might enjoy the classic “risk reward” 307 yard par 4 seventh with three strategically placed pot bunkers protecting a large elevated green that slopes from front to back. My favorite hole at Eagle, perhaps predictably, is the signature hole; the 159 yard par 3 16th Teeing off from an elevated tee box, your target is a 30 foot deep two-tiered green that slopes from back to front snuggled in tight between the surrounding woodlands. Left, long or short off the tee are not good options as the latter will definitely require a dropped shot. This may not be a bad option; however, as the ravine is considered environmentally sensitive given the rumor it contains a bear den. Hmm, best place it safe.
In need of a little self-medicating to calm the nerves after playing #16? Make a beeline for either the award winning fine dining Rustica or more relaxed and casual Traders Lounge. I highly recommend sitting out on the massive patio while smacking down on the Merguez Mussels starter with African Sausage, Tomato, Arugula and pair that with the Arrowhead Bombshell Blonde Beer brewed just a few miles down the road at the local boutique Arrowhead Brewery. Go on have another! I did.
Copper Point Golf Club
Copper Point Golf Club is one of the newest championship golf courses in the Valley offering golfers two distinctive golf courses that feature lush Kentucky Blue fairways, challenging bent grass greens and hand-carved bunkers. The par-70 6807 yard Point Course opened in the fall of 2003 and is celebrating its 10th full year anniversary this year while The Ridge at Copper Point featuring full length par 3 and par 4 holes and considered a master’s- not executive-style course, opened in 2008. A Gary Browning/Wade Horrick design, and co-host of the 2013 BC Amateur Championship won by ex-University of Washington Husky graduate Charlie Hughes in a playoff, The Point course is also another example of a diverse mix of golf holes where no two holes are the same nor do you feel you are going through the motions. This was no more evident that the opening trio of holes. The opening 391 yard par 4 is relatively benign with the only trouble being the large C-shaped fairway bunker on the right; in fact, you have to try really hard to hook or slice your ball into the woods on this hole. A solid tee shot left fairway will filter into the middle leaving a short to mid-iron into a guitar pick-shaped green with bail out room to the right. After feeling good with a par under your belt, the challenge is intensified with the 164 yard par 3 Second. Now, I should mention that if you are a mid to high-handicapper who feels that the blues might be a stretch, Copper Point has you covered with the green tees, a combination set of tees that offer golfers yet another choice set between the whites and blues. Now, back to the second hole, which while not overly long does require an accurate shot into a shallow but wide two tiered sloping green. Try and avoid the left side as you’ll be left with a nasty and long breaking putt into a front right hole location. Equally if you bail out to the right you’ll need to pitch out of a grassy swale collection area. Left is bunker trouble. The final hole of the opening trio offers a stunning vista of the Purcell Ranges to the west as you tee off from an elevated tee that just begs for the big stick to come out of the bag. Just as the playing notes in the handy golf course guide suggests avoid the five sets of fairway and greenside bunkers and par is gettable. Avoid left fairway behind the 1st set of bunkers as you are left with a blind shot into never-never land. I can’t imagine why it’s the #1 handicapped hole on the course!
The back nine also offers a ton of interesting and challenging golf holes no more so than holes 10 through 13. Ten offers one of the toughest tee shots requiring an accurate drive to avoid the two large fairway bunkers and OB on the right not to mention a narrowing fairway into a shallow oval shaped green. Eleven is a long 409 yard par 4 with a huge swale on the right side of the fairway that gobbles up tee shots; twelve offers golfers a nifty 192 yard par 3 into a green that slopes from front to back and left to right. Try and avoid the deep bunkers on the right as an up and down from there is no cinch. Finally, hole 13 is a 463 yard par 4 dogleg to the right featuring a deep ravine, approximately 110 yards out. If you have the game, you can take on the corner taking the ravine out of play leaving a manageable short iron or another approach as Director of Instruction of The Copper Point Academy Casey Johnson puts it, “Make sure your tee shot is as accurate and as close to the slope as possible in order to have the least yardage in as possible.” He adds that the approach demands a solidly struck mid-long iron or even hybrid into an elevated two tiered green where par is quite the achievement.
While I did not have time to play the par-62 Ridge Course located east of Copper Point, unusual as it is accessed via a tunnel that runs under Highway 93/95, I did have an opportunity to see it first hand and it is genuinely stunning. Don’t make the mistake of thinking you’re playing a pitch and putt or your average Executive Course here folks, this sister course will test the best sticks and then some. Just ask long time head golf professional Scott McClain who also happens to be an A.C.M.G. Apprentice Ski Guide, Avalanche Forecaster plus a year round SAR volunteer. “Holes 12 through14 on the Ridge Course offer outstanding views and a legitimate risk/reward element. This is not a pitch and putt or Executive course; it’s a Masters-style at its best. You will not be disappointed,” he explains.
Copper Point Golf Club offers stay and play packages with the nearby luxury Copper Point Resort, a 173 room upscale Resort located adjacent The Ridge Course. With hardwood and slate flooring, in-room fireplaces, both indoor and outdoor pools, fitness center and an in-house concierge available to either offer golf tips on how to the play the Valley’s golf courses or make your tee times for you, chances are you’ll feel right at home in this swanky but elegant mountain resort. Just make sure you visit the Elements Grill Restaurant & Lounge open 7 days a week for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Executive Chef Jeffrey Hicks has developed an eclectic menu easily enjoyed while watching golf on the flat screen TV on the patio or poolside. Why not try the Rocky Mountain Burger, a scrumptious blend of Canadian elk, caramelized onion and bell peppers. Amazing.
Fairmont Hot Springs Resort
The iconic Fairmont Hot Springs Resort celebrates its 50 year anniversary in 2014 and offers golfers three distinctive golfing experiences: Two 18-hole championship courses: Mountainside and Riverside and Creekside, a nine hole, par 3 course. Mountainside Golf Course is an 18-hole par 72 course offering three sets of tees measuring 6,552 yards, 6,212 yards, and 5,189 yards. Designed by the original resort developers, the Wilder family, it is one of the original courses in the Columbia Valley and has been welcoming golfers since the late 1960’s. Earmarked by tree-lined fairways that weave in and out of the natural landscape plus awe-inspiring views, Mountainside truly represents ‘mountainside’ golf complete with uneven lies and squirrely winds. Creekside Golf Course is a 9-hole par three course which was designed by Bill Newis and opened in 2001. Measuring just over a thousand yards, Creekside is popular with all levels of golfers – particularly families; in fact, you will find golf rules are a little more relaxed at Creekside. The other Bill Newis design is the par 71 Riverside Golf Course, which follows the Columbia River and is considered a more classical golf layout opening in 1988. It also usually opens a month earlier due to its lower elevation compared to its sister course. Given my time constraints, I opted to tackle the Mountainside Course for an early morning tee time and while I teed it up under blue skies framing the majestic Canadian Rocky Mountains, it should be noted that just 20 months or so before, the course was almost swept off the mountain.
On, Sunday July 15, 2012 a huge debris slide traveled down Fairmont Creek obliterating and burying seven holes under seventy thousand cubic feet of debris. Closed for only 46 days, Canadian Golf Course Architect, Doug Carrick, was brought in to assess and give his advice. The plan involved using all the material that was deposited on the golf course to improve the impacted holes. New tees were created, bunkers were removed or re-located, severe slopes were softened, and Fairmont Creek was lined with boulders. Only three of the greens from the seven affected holes had debris deposits. “Thanks to the quick work from the course maintenance team the debris was removed by hand and only one third of one green had to be replaced from the Riverside Golf Courses bent grass nursery,” says Peter Smith, Executive VP of Fairmont Hot springs Resort. Fortunately the nearby Riverside Course was available for immediate bookings including member play. According to Smith, golfers who have played the course post-flood all agree that the seven holes are much improved. Of course, I would soon discover that Mountainside is a very interesting golf course with some of the best course conditioning I had experienced thus far. The Poa Annua greens were consistently in great shape, no small feat given how early in the season it was, and the fairways neatly manicured.
The opening hole is a straightforward tree-lined 495 yard par 5 offering generous landing areas and a good sized green that encourages a solid par to start, although any boost in golfing confidence is soon tested with the 600 yard (blues) par 5 fourth dubbed “The Fairmonster” and the #1 handicapped hole. How so, you might ask? While the beautiful Lake Windermere serves as the backdrop, the real test, especially when the winds pick up from the south, is getting to the green in three and avoiding fairway bunkers. The two tiered green is no walk in the park either. With my tail between my legs I limped off with bogey in the books ready for my next lofty challenge, the 425 yard uphill par 4 sixth, which just so happens tees off right next door to the historical Geary Homestead. George Geary was an Englishman and the first homesteader who arrived in the area in 1887. His home is still well preserved and in remarkably good shape given its exposure to over 100 Canadian winters! An accurate tee shot right fairway is optimal to allow a long iron or hybrid into a protected green that doesn’t yield too many birdies.
The back nine offers up some interesting holes, one of which had me raising my eyebrows as I surveyed what lay ahead. The short 323 yard par 4 15th is not what I would term a traditional risk-reward hole given the green is almost completely hidden by a valley wall that significantly narrows requiring a mid to long iron off the tee in order to ensure the best position on the fairway. There is no real “going for it” on this one, but rather hugging the right side is the best play leaving a short iron into a slightly elevated green. Stray left into the rough and you’re left with a downhill lie requiring an approach that is as close to threading a needle as you can imagine. I sure wish the routing allowed for more options off the tee, but that, of course, is sometimes what makes alpine golf so appealing. Encountering the unconventional or unpredictable is half the fun.
The best birdie opportunity on Mountainside may well be the downhill 480 yard par 5 thirteenth, one of the easier holes on the course offering a wide open fairway with minimal trouble off the tee once you advance past the first 100 yards or so. With a large green that is blissfully missing any form of sand trap, the two large fir trees on either side of the fairway just short of the green frame the approach.
Of course, the finishing hole may well be my favorite. A 395 yard par 4 requiring an accurate tee shot from an elevated tee box surrounded by mature pine and spruce trees. Addressing the ball on the tee box is special as you take in the terrific views up the valley to the North. With a water hazard running down the left of fairway, center right is a perfect play into a large green with a large bail out area. Big hitters might want to peg it back a notch off the tee to ensure the ball stays dry!
Ask Head professional Jeremy Johnson what makes Mountainside a special place to tee it up and he reflects on the positive outcome of the 2012 landslide. “I believe the visual grouping of holes 1,9,10, and 18 from the clubhouse best represent Mountainside, says Johnson, “These holes were untouched by the debris slide in 2012 and falsely (but proudly) stood out as the unblemished Mountainside while the ‘internal’ seven holes were reworked,” he says. He also believes these same holes best represent the Mountainside style of golf with elevation changes from the mountains down to the lower side of the course to the west.
Vacationing with the little ones and want to introduce them to golf? Why not enroll them in the Little Fairmonsters Golf Clinics that run every Sunday from early May to early October. With a focus on teaching kids how to have fun with golf, these clinics are suitable for children ages 3 – 6 years and only run $15 Canadian per day per child. With the kids busy tearing up the course why not head to Fairmont’s hot mineral springs for a soothing soak. A firm fixture since the 1880s, you can revel in the restorative powers of the mineral waters kept toasty at 40 centigrade (104 Fahrenheit). If soaking too long has given you a case of the wrinkles, and hunger pangs too much to bare, I’d recommend checking out the Bear’s Paw Bar and Grill located in the main Lodge. Offering awesome burgers, a wide selection of beers on tap, BC wines, and cocktails, the Bear’s Paw also features a scenic outdoor patio overlooking the guest hot pool. Even the kids are welcome until 8:00 pm.
With four courses in as many days under my belt it was time to head home despite not experiencing Windermere Valley or the other sister courses of Radium and Fairmont. Rest assured I will be back to enjoy the full Columbia Valley Golf Trail, which is simply too much fun and represents terrific value for your golfing dollar. My parting advice: bring the kids, clubs, sunscreen, bear spray, and stay at least a week to enjoy and appreciate all that the Columbia Valley has to offer.
How to get there
For golfers living in the Pacific Northwest there are multiple daily flights out of SeaTac, Portland, or Spokane into Vancouver or Calgary where you can pick up a rental car and take a leisurely drive through the Canadian Rockies. If you live in the Inland Northwest, take the car and drive North for 3 hours and you’re in Kootenay country ready to play.
For more information, please visit www.kootenayrockies.com.
The Carson Valley’s golf courses and lodging properties work together to offer packages perfect for a getaway to this incredibly scenic area. One highly popular option is a small-group package available at the recently-remodeled Carson Valley Inn which includes three nights in the hotel, three rounds of golf (both Genoa Lakes Courses and the Carson Valley Golf Course) and a group dinner in CV Steak, the Inn’s Nevada-style steakhouse. Other nights are open for optional dining “on your own” or as a group at one of the area’s Basque or other restaurants or a special dinner and tasting at the Tahoe Ridge Winery & Bistro. The package is available for 8 – 16 people at just $309 per person, double occupancy for Sunday through Tuesday arrivals. Call 775-783-6624 for more information.
Genoa Lakes Golf Course (36 holes of championship golf)
Total Acreage: 586 (including practice facilities and clubhouse)
The Lakes Golf Course:
- Yardage: Gold, 7359; Green, 6774; Blue, 6050; Forward, 5078
- Amenities: Event Center 13,000 sq.ft. with a banquet pavilion that will seat up to 250 people and a private dining area with two full service bars. The clubhouse is approx. 12,500 sq. ft. with a golf pro shop, grill that has a full service bar and kitchen. Men’s and women’s locker room facilities, club, and golf cart storage are available.
The Ranch Course:
- Yardage: Gold, 7290; Green, 6797; Blue, 6277; Forward, 5249
- Amenities: The Clubhouse is approx. 14,000 sq. ft. with a golf pro shop, a players grill, and bar with two banquet rooms that include two full service bars.
Sunridge Golf Course:
- Yardages: Gold, 6914; Blue, 6482; White, 5947; Green, 5357; Red, 4814; Orange (9 hole Jr. tees) 946
- Total Acreage: 160 (including practice facilities, and clubhouse)
- Amenities: Fully stocked pro shop, including outside grill, snack bar, and full service bar.
Carson Valley Golf Course
• Yardages: Blue, 6,020; White, 5,499; Red, 4,677
• Total Acreage: 130 (including practice area, practice green and clubhouse)
• Amenities: The clubhouse includes a fully stocked pro shop, grill serving breakfast and lunch and a full service bar.