Date Played: July 10th, 2013
Having finally finished my relocation to Snohomish and having a few spare hours before my swing shift started, I dialed up golfnow.com and picked up a deal to Kenwanda. Kenwanda opened in 1963 and was owned and designed by a couple named…wait for it…Ken and Wanda Harris. So, they don’t get points for creativity, but it’s sort of refreshing to see a place without the typical nature/animal/geographic feature naming convention (Druids Glen, Echo Falls, Salish Cliffs, etc.). It’s just golf, and it’s really an underappreciated place. The course is a mile or so off the east side of Highway 9, perched just above the Snohomish River Valley. It won’t grab your attention with glitz or glamour like many of the newer courses do, but when you pull up you know you’re with people who love the game and just like to play. When I showed up for my morning tee time, I felt overdressed as I was heading to work afterwards.
As for the actual golf, the course is short. I’m not sure it qualifies as an executive course, but it’s only 5336 with one set of tees and a par of 69 for Men and 72 for ladies. It’s not exactly ideal as a test of your game, because luck plays a big role in your fortunes here. The fairways are, to put it nicely, contoured. Rolling waves of dirt with lots of knobs and banks that will kick a seemingly good shot into a bad place. If you’ve read my review of Gleneagle, you’ll know I hate this; although at Kenwanda it’s mitigated by shared fairways and lack of places to lose a ball. In fact, I played two balls as there was nobody in front of me and I didn’t so much as lose one all day. The other gripe is that the landing areas are for the most part sloped towards the hole, which makes the course play even shorter than it would otherwise. It’s not all bad, however as there are some very good and memorable holes here.
The first five holes are good, but sort of run together. Doglegs with blind tee shots and even a couple blind approaches are the name of the game for these holes, but all are fairly easy and pretty fun, if not stand outs. The 6th hole is an awesome par 3 which plays around 125 yards into a super skinny, peanut shaped green that is just a giant reverse punchbowl. The green is nearly impossible to hold, but if you play it right and bailout left, par is very achievable. The Par 4 12th is a great hole that slopes left to right and forces you to trust your driver and rip it up the left side. The entire span of the hole has great views of the Snohomish River Valley as you make your downhill approach into a really tight green that slopes hard front to back. This hole is a great example of how parkland courses can incorporate links themes into them. This, among others at Kenwanda force you to roll a stinger up to the hole instead of just dropping wedge darts all day. The 18th is a worthy finisher as it forces you to hit another blind tee shot up the right hand side to have the best angle in to a small and downhill green that is one of your better birdie chances on the back.
This seems a fitting spot for a short rant on blind shots…I don’t generally like them, but there are a few things going for them at Kenwanda. First, the scorecard tells you where you want to aim your shot, and it’s only the rollout spots that are blind as opposed to a giant obstruction blocking your view. Second, these blind shots are fun blind shots. This isn’t Bear Mountain Ranch, in that Ken Harris didn’t try to dazzle you with this design, but simply provide a fun round of golf without the uptight stuffed polo’s that usually accompany the game. What I can gather from the design is that he wanted to force you to second guess your club selection and really think about how to attack the holes. I am of the belief that there are just flat-out too many here, but they don’t bug me the way that they typically do.
Bottom Line: Kenwanda is a fun play. There are some negatives; such as no driving range, the conditions are average to below average (lots of rough patches on the back 9 greens), the pro-shop selection is meager (although it’s all Wilson-Staff gear, another layer to anti-elitist feel) and it’s a little out-of-the-way for most Puget Sounders. However the price is awesome, it’s got truck loads of character and I was able to finish as a single in less than 3 hours. If you live in Snohomish County, you should be keeping Kenwanda in your regular rotation. Final Score: 71/100
Design – 18/25 (Fun and easy, too many blind shots and unfortunate bounces. Very walkable.)
Test of Golf – 17/25 (Not enough teeth in this one, but the par 3’s are really hard)
Value – 18/20 ($29.50 weekend greens fees in the Summer…wow. $24 weekdays and twilight deals too. Tremendous value.)
Condition – 5/10 (Lots of burnt patches and mole holes, but it compares favorably with others in its price range)
Amenities – 4/10 (No range and small practice green. Pro-shop is light but there is a good cafe)
Experience – 9/10 (A really enjoyable course without the bells and whistles or attitude)