Date Played: March 9th, 2013

My work load in Portland is finally starting to slow down some, so during my last trip I decided to make it count and got a couple of rounds in SW Washington.  I’ve already posted the review of Camas Meadows, and before I dipped out-of-town I managed to swing by the Skamania Lodge in Stevenson for a round.

Stevenson is about 40 minutes east of Vancouver, WA and about an hour from downtown Portland.  This course, nestled in the woods with tons of elevation, is pretty reflective of the local terrain, rather unlike Elk Ridge GC.  The Lodge itself is beautiful, and a destination all its own.  The course operates almost as a separate entity, loosely affiliated with the resort.

I got a bucket of balls from the nice guys in the fairly well-appointed pro-shop to hit while I waited for the frost delay.  The range is covered and on mats, but it looks like there are some grass areas in less inclement weather.  It’s nothing special, sort of small really.  The putting green is above average, featuring two tiers and rolling very nicely.  I set out on the first tee, with a couple of pretty awesome locals who were familiar with the course.

The course is quirky.  You can gather it from the scorecard that with its short yardage (5900 from the tips) and par of 70 that it’s fairly nontraditional   It uses elevation, hazards, trees (oh god the trees) and doglegs very well to keep you honest and prevent the Driver-8 iron monotony of most crammed par 70 courses.  There aren’t any particularly stinker holes, but there are some great ones.  #4 is called Gorge(ous) Point, and offers distractingly beautiful views of the gorge below.  The hazard right and bunkers left neck down about 90 yards short of the green, but at 360 yards downhill a driver could very well get you in trouble.  The other hole that really sticks in my memory is the par 3 8th hole.  A 160 yard beast that features a green built into the side of a hill, perched about 70 feet above the tee box.  It requires 2 full clubs extra, and while the hill does provide a backstop it’s swarming with thick fescue and short might be an easier play.  Once on, the ridges in the green would grey a few of Steve Strickers hairs.  If you couldn’t tell, this hole wrecked my round in the best way possible.

I wish I had played this course in the summer.  When dry, this is a thinking mans course, complete with risk/reward lay-up opportunities and some really tough blind shots.  The course was sloppy, there is no other way to put it.  It’s in an extremely rainy area and during the winter it’s just kind of a mess.   Other than the mud, everything was pretty decent.  The greens were fairly true, even though they were a bit weathered.  The rough was penal without being unfair and the fairways held up okay through what looked like a busy winter.  I was assured by my playing partners that it’s a much different course in the summer, and I tend to believe them based on the structuring and design.  I’m hoping to return later this year, where I’ll remember to leave the driver in the car.  Final Score: 46/60

Design – 7/10 (They make the most of the distance and space, but it’s noticeably short)
Test of Golf – 8/10 (Fantastic use of hazards to punish errant shots and reward good ones)
Condition – 6/10 (Courses in the PNW need to be able to play year round, this one doesn’t)
Amenities – 8/10 (Average stuff but besides chipping green they’ve got just about everything)
Value – 8/10 ($75 riding in the peak months is a little steep, but they seriously have $600 – $800 riding – annual memberships.  Pretty unreal, plus it’s only $55 in shoulder season)
Experience – 9/10 (A tough but nice little course made much better by the great clientele and the nice employees)