The Columbia River Gorge is one of my favorite places in the world. The steep mountainous terrain with the raging Columbia traversing it is really a sight to behold. Carson, Washington is a small town about an hour outside of Portland, mostly known for it’s natural Hot Springs.
I booked my time online, $15 for 18 holes. I showed about 45 minutes early for my 8:30 tee time to find one single car in front of a closed but surprisingly nice building. The course hadn’t even opened yet, which is a tell-tale sign that you’re dealing with a mom and pop operation. I was offered a chance to hang out inside while they called the grounds crew to make sure they chilly weather hand’t caused any delays. I was surprisingly handed a bucket of balls and told they’d pull a cart around for me. When I booked online I wasn’t aware of any cart or range balls, but the lady assured me it’s complimentary with every round.
So I grabbed my cart and bucket and headed off to what is a pretty nice range. It was on mats, as are most courses prone to freezing, but there were plenty of markers and very nice, new Nike range balls. When I first arrived, it was quite foggy and the course was tough to see, but when I arrived on the first green, the view was amazing. The course itself sits up on a high hillside, and while you can’t see the river, you take in some outstanding mountain vistas. When you play bad at a great locale, it helps take the sting off…but when you play well at a great locale, magic happens.
The course is a “links” style layout, akin to Langdon Farms or the back 9 of The Home Course. It’s got wide fairways with some ho-hum bunkering with dense fescue separating the back and forth, condensed routing. The greens are the real star of the show here, as they are big, tiered and tricky as all get out. It really forces some though on club selection as landing on the wrong tier will practically force three putts. Highlight holes are the long and downhill Par 5 9th, which has a tough green guarded by water left, and the Par 4 18th, which is a fairly easy hole but with an amazing panorama of the Gorge.
As far as a golf course goes, this place is good to very good. There aren’t any great holes, but I couldn’t find any real stinkers either. The design leaves a little to be desired, but it’s not a great, nor large piece of land, so some slack is given. Where this course wins is value and service. On my 10th hole a freak hail storm rolled in, and the lady in the pro-shop let me hang out and gave me a free cup of coffee while I waited for it to pass. I caught up with the two man grounds crew on the second hole and got a chance to BS with them some about the course and it’s history. They informed me that less than 2 years ago the entire property was waist high with fescue and almost unrecoverable. The two of them have whipped into shape what is now a very well manicured course. Every single person I encountered there was so beyond friendly, it was almost nauseating.
Bottom Line: I’ve only played one course more than one time since starting this site (Legion Memorial for my part time Sunday games), but this is a course that I will be visiting the next time I’m in the Portland area. As the place gets some finishing touches (The fairways were just reseeded with ryegrass, to replace the fescue) it should only become a more fair and polished course. Final Score: 85/100
Design – 18/25
Test of Golf – 21/25 (Friendly for straight and smart shooters. Deep fescue will punish the grip it and rip it crowd)
Value – 20/20
Condition – 9/10
Amenities – 7/10 (Standard driving range and practice green. New Nike range balls are a plus.)
Experience – 10/10