In case you haven’t noticed by now if you’re a frequent visitor, I’m somewhat of a design geek. From the history of golf architecture to the turf management knowledge that compliments the best courses, I’m fascinated by the whole process of designing a hole and a course. There are still plenty of Washington courses I have yet to see (most notably Palouse Ridge and Wine Valley), so this is far from definitive, but here is my list of the best and worst holes in Washington.
5. #11 Harbor Pointe Golf Club – Par 4 395 Yards – We’ll kick it off with what I think this the prettiest hole in the state. After weaving you through some good, but uninspired holes, the 11th hole is a great design and a great scene. The South tip of Whidbey Island pokes out into a perfectly framed view of the North Sound and the majestic Olympic Mountains. The tee shot plays about 250 yards (190 from the whites) to a steep plateau and a precipitous drop-off to a hard back to front sloping green. Lay up and you’ve got a sharp downhill approach, but if you have a big stick, it’s a distinct possibility (with a good bounce) to get home in one, even from the tips.
4. #17 Highlander Golf Club – Par 4 252 yards – This could be the second prettiest hole in the state. Highlander went through a facelift in 2011, creating this gem of a hole. At 251 yards, it’s a driveable par 4 but with a bit of a twist. A nearly sheer cliff face runs along the entire right side of the hole and forces a 190 yard carry just to make a par. A steep hill left is full of vegetation that will gobble up shots you think are safe. The entire Wenatchee River Valley is below and on a sunny day is just a breathtaking sight. John Steidel really did a great job routing this hole to be perpendicular to the typical direction of the wind; right to left and you can give it a rip, left to right and you’d better hit it low and short. The future cliff side houses will detract a bit, but the hole itself shows fantastic imagination.
3. #16 Salish Cliffs Golf Course – Par 4 455 Yards – This monster is among the toughest in the state, but can be the most rewarding. A sweeping dogleg right, built into a friendly slope that will funnel a ball for a mile. You have the option of trying to fly the bunkers down the right edge for a nice pitch in…but at about 260 yards, the safe play is left. A super tough green awaits your approach, which will probably play close to 200 yards in.
2. #15 Chambers Bay Golf Course – Par 3 Variable – The not so creatively named “Lone Fir”, a brutal downhill Par 3, is the only such one on the list. Playing from over 200 yards to less than 140 from the tips, the hole is framed by the South Sound Islands and the only tree on the course. A left to right sloping green is guarded by a mammoth right bunker that wraps from the front left all the way around the green to the center of the back. A tiny bailout area is offered long left, but it’s hardly consolation as your downhill chip is far from easy.
1. #17 Echo Falls Golf Course – Par 4 416 yards – This is the hardest Par 4 in all of Washington, without a doubt in my mind. From the tee box, you stare down the barrel of a dead straight drive with a skinny fairway, with water right, OB left and if you can manage to pipe a 270 yard drive and keep it in play, things then start to get difficult. The fairway runs out to about 400 yards with the green offset right and running about 10 yards deep but about 30-40 yards wide. Even with that 270 yard drive, a back pin approach can still be better than 160 all carry over the pond, with deep bunkers built-in to your backstop in case you decide to club up for the water. Par here is an incredibly good score and I’ve watched scratch players take 8’s on more than one occasion.
Honorable Mention: #18 Elk Ridge, #18 Gold Mountain (Olympic), #15 Desert Canyon, #10 Suncadia (Prospector)
5. #1 Bear Mountain Ranch – Par 4 356 yards – This is a hole that is just poorly thought out. It’s an amazing vista, but with a blind tee shot to a split fairway (you can’t really see either) and an approach that is straight uphill into a punchbowl green, it’s just unfair and too busy to be enjoyable. Overdesigned holes are common theme at the course, this is a microcosm of your round to come.
4. #11 Gleneagle Golf Course – Par 5 466 – This hole is just an all out mess. A short par 5 with a 40 yard waste area about 250 yards out, this is a pretty true 3 shot hole. The biggest problem I have is that without local knowledge you don’t realize that if you hit a 210 yard layup, it’s liable to funnel right into the hazard. You also don’t realize that the collection area short and left of the green is a swamp, even when I just played the last Sunday in July. It’s far too penal if you have trouble getting the ball airborne, it’s penal even if you hit a solid shot and it’s just an amazingly hard hole that could be so much better.
3. #10 Echo Falls Golf Course – Par 3 110 yards – This is just a pointless hole that seems like it was jammed in at the last second when Jack Frei realized he only had 17. This hole suffers from 3 big time problems. First, it is right next to the 9th tee box; there is no turn to be made and if the group in front of you makes it, it can back up in a hurry. Second, it’s just really easy. It’s got a big green and a couple small bunkers, but even if you hit a bad shot, you can recover without much issue. Third, and most importantly, it’s painfully plain. It’s just a really flat, really straight par 3 with a small hill front left. It’s about the most aesthetically unpleasing hole in the North Sound.
2. #4 Lynnwood Golf Course – Par 3 114 yards – Everything I just said about Echo Falls 10th rings true about Lynnwood’s 4th. What sets Lynnwood’s 4th hole apart is that it sits right on a road and the conditions are often so bad that it is hard to enjoy this hole.
1. #7 Mount Cashmere Golf Course – Par 3 128 yards – Ugh, this hole. A blind par 3 that you can barely get a sniff of the flag at is not an acceptable design for a hole. There are no permanent yardage markers that I could find and the green runs right to left, right into a freaking orchard. Hitting the right side of the green and playing your second from the cluster of trees on the left should signal something is wrong. This is a rural course, and I understand resources are limited, but come on guys, this one is silly.