Date Played: May 16th, 2013
For the uninitiated to Central Washington golf, there are basically 3 legitimate options for top quality courses. Desert Canyon and the two public Suncadia Courses (Tumble Creek is a private Doak design also on the compound). The giant complex is home to hundreds of McMansions, a resort/hotel, a small water park and 54 holes of golf. If you’ve ever been to Bend, OR…it’s pretty much a miniature version of that. Everything is really nice and it’s in a great setting about 2000′ above sea level, 30 miles East of Snoqualmie Pass.
Rope Rider, which is the 3rd of the 3 courses on site opened in 2011 and garnered Best New Course of the Year from GOLF.com. It’s hard to argue with them because aside from the quality test, this run has some awesome features that really give huge bonus points in my book. Beyond the regular 7300 yard beast, Jacobsen/Hardy have included a 3 hole “golf park”, special junior tees and 3 hole loops within the course that allow ultimate flexibility. The golf park, which is free until 3pm, is 3, roughly 10o yard par 3 holes and can be rented for corporate and private events where you can take your drinks from the adjacent Swiftwater Cellars on to the course (Note to self: Birthday Party Here).
So, about the actual golf course. It’s pretty good. Like I mentioned, it’s a stern 7300 yards from the tips, but at elevation it’s a meager 7000. Things fly a little farther and roll a little longer when you’re high and dry. The course is very similar to the Prospector track next door, but I think Rope Rider has a bit more character, even though it’s not quite as good of a design. Elevation is a pretty obvious key in the design as both the 1st and 10th tee boxes sit high above the fairway and many other holes offer subtle uphill green complexes that take a little extra. It’s definitely one of the better courses in the state, but it just lacks the “golf pizzazz” (hands off, I’m trademarking it) of its sister course. This place is so family and beginner friendly that it may have lost a step, and while I won’t mark it down, better players and golf purists might want to opt for Prospector.
The standout holes for me were the par 4 3rd and 9th holes. The 3rd is a 314 yarder that teases you into taking out a driver and going for it. A right to left sloping fairway is best served with a fade (for a righty) into the hill with an attempt to clear the bunkers right at about 225. The fairway opens up wide and is cut wide with green side bunkers surrounding the pedestal green. The 9th is a longer 390 yard par 4 that requires a straight drive to split a couple of long fairway bunkers, followed by an approach into an elevated green that slopes hard left to right. A well placed kidney-shaped bunker protects that left side incase you feel like getting cute and playing one into the hill.
Bottom Line: Rope Rider is a very quality course. It’s got a friendly design, but it’ll still jump up and grab you if you’re not careful. I like the use of water and the of the greens makes for some crazy rollouts. The Golf Park is very cool, the putting green is huge and perfect. The only issues I have are that the driving range is over at Prospector, which is a 3-4 minute cart ride away; and the cart is included, whether you walk or not. It’s not inherently walkable or anything, but I like to have the option. They have unlimited stay and play starting at $119 ($189 for weekends is still good deal) and a decent weekday twilight that drops to $50 at 1pm and $40 at 3pm, otherwise the $70 weekday and $90 weekend price tag is a bit much. Final Score: 80/100
Design – 21/25 (Solid track, but I can’t shake the feeling it could have been more)
Test of Golf – 19/25 (Fairly straightforward and easy, but it does make you get creative a few times)
Value – 13/20 ($119-189 unlimited stay and play is good, regular rates are not.)
Condition – 9/10 (It’s new and still maturing, but it’s really well cared for)
Amenities – 9/10 (Perfect 10, except the driving range is almost 10 minutes out-of-the-way)
Experience – 9/10 (I like Prospector better, but for most it will be a win/win coin flip)