Date Played: June 2, 2013

If I had reviewed this course the last time I played it about 13 months ago, it would have a really high score and be a must play.  Unfortunately, for Gleneagle, I didn’t until after my round today.  Let me preface everything I’m about to say with the very important note that the staff here is likely the best in the entire Seattle area, if not the state.  The service always comes with a smile, the pace is great and I saw both a Marshall and beverage cart 5 times a piece.  The grounds are in fantastic shape and the greens really are the best in the Seattle area, hands down.  It makes the next paragraph pretty tough to write.

The last (and hopefully final) time I changed my review criteria, I did it because I got a whole new perspective on what makes a golf course “good”.   Previously, it meant having a well conditioned and tough course that made me have a good time.  And while a good golf course will deliver those things; I realized that those are by-products, not the ingredients. When I review a course, I want to review it so everyone, from the 30 handicapper to the scratch golfer knows what they’re in for and what to expect before they plop down their cash.  The fact is that Gleneagle is a fatally flawed course, and it really sucks because I love it.

Gleneagle is in Arlington, about 5-10 minutes east of I-5 in a development designed around it.  This place is short and compact; checking in at less than 6000 yards from the tips, and only 5000 from the whites.  They get away with this because of all the forced carry and fairway undulation.  You probably won’t find more than 1 or 2 flat lies on your round, even if you hit all 14 fairways and the only greens that aren’t closely guarded by waste area or water are those with extremely tight driving lines.  It’s a real monster, probably only second to Kayak Point in terms of a pure test of golf.  How big of a test?  Well, the slope from the sub 6000 tips is 138 and 128 from the 5050 yard white tees.

While I’m a big fan of a true test of golf skill, I’m not a fan of courses where I will either lose a lot of balls or I will be unfairly punished after hitting good shots.  This just happens to be that fatal flaw I was talking about; it’s just really unfair and really frustrating.  I lost 3 balls on decent to very good tee shots today, one in the fairway, the other landed about a foot into the first cut on the left side and the last one  landed in the left rough.  Nothing makes me more angry while golfing than hitting  a ball right down the middle and never seeing it again.  The lumpy fairways and forest surrounds make for the most infuriating round of golf I have played since starting this site.  Watching the lady in my group hit ball after ball into force carry from the front tees just put it over the top for me.

A “good” golf course will offer choices for each skill level and will reward good shots while punishing bad shots.  Multiple times today I hit a bad shot and somehow ended up better than other holes where I hit a good one.  This course is so short that choice is almost out the window.  Your choices are hit driver and take a drop where it flies out or hit long iron/fairway wood and hope it doesn’t hit a knob and bounce left into the pond.    The par 5 11th is my nomination for worst par 5 in Washington.  It’s a 475 yard hole that is split by green waste area at about 275 yards.  If you fail to carry 250+, there is a sunken down collection area about 225 yards out that will force you to say a couple of hail marys as you take your longest club and try to get over the unnecessarily long carry.  If you can fly your shot the requisite 140-180 some yards, you land in a soggy area of the course where all of the trouble is left.  If you were lucky enough to land on the right side, you’ll spend 5 minutes looking for your ball before you realize it bounced into the soggy trouble area and you now have no shot into the green.

On the other hand, the par 3’s here are fantastic for better golfers.  The 175 yard 3rd has a pond right with a sloped green that is open up the left side and is less than receptive to high-flying pin seekers.  The 16th is a 183 yarder with forced carry for 160, that has tall and tight trees lining the tee box and a false front green that is way wider than it is long.  The par 4’s are humdrum holes with only the 17th sticking out to me as a really good one.  It’s about 250 to the front edge and downhill off the tee.  It’s got a pond right so a big fade can run up on to the green, but a back pin position can make this a deceptively tough hole.

I can’t stress enough that it really does kill me to tear down the design like I just did.  The whole crew has done absolute wonders to get it in the condition it is today, which I have to say is about as close to pristine as it gets in Western Washington.  All 18 greens are healthy, with only one 5 square foot area of the 2nd green having any issue.  The fairways are tight and the bunkers are good apart from both on the 13th hole (it’s a poor draining area and it is still spring after all).  The guy at the counter let me off a little late, by request because I wasn’t ready and the Marshall stopped to chat and offer some free recovered balls from the woods.  I saw the cart girl 5 times and she was friendly as can be.

Bottom line: This is only a place for single digit handicappers and people who just really love to golf.  In fact, regardless of the score I’m about to give it, I’d still suggest this over just about anywhere else in the North Sound, because the value is just to good.  The rates are outstanding with Weekday Early Birds $24 riding and peak weekend rates at $30 walking.  I suggest you go play for yourself and form your own opinion, because the hardworking people of Gleneagle deserve your business.  Final Score: 75/100

Design – 13/25 (It uses crammed space decently, and tries to make the most of short length, it just lacks execution)
Test of Golf – 15/25 (Serious test of both skill and patience.  Lumpy fairways and severe slopes punish good shots)
Value – 19/20 (Rates all year are well below area average, it would be a 20 if I didn’t factor in the cost of lost balls)
Condition – 9/10 (Pretty close to perfect.  Needs better drainage on 13 and a couple of shaggy edges around bunkers are only issues)
Amenities – 9/10 (Best putting green in Seattle area, driving range and great restaurant/bar)
Experience – 10/10 (Staff is amazing, setting is great too.  People on the course seem to actually enjoy life unlike most other course home owners in W. Washington)