Date Played: May 2014
Just minutes South of the Canadian border, in Blaine, WA is the Semiahmoo Golf Resort. With 36 holes of outstanding golf, it’s found itself as a staple on both Golfweek and Golf.com’s Best-in-State Rankings. The tougher of the two courses, Loomis Trails was designed by Canadian Architect Graham Cooke. Cooke has worked sparingly in the US, but has designs at Point Roberts Golf Course in Washington and Myrtle Creek Golf Course in Southern Oregon. I’ve yet to play another Cooke design, but if Loomis is any indicator, I’m in for a treat when I do.
Loomis Trails boasts one of the highest score and slope ratings in Washington at 75.4/143 from the black tees which play just over 7100 yards. This makes Loomis capable of hosting fairly major events, such as the 2009 Division II NCAA golf championships and as a host site of 2006 US Amateur Qualifying. The difficulty however, doesn’t necessarily come from the design itself as much as it does from the canal system present throughout the course, which puts water in play on every single hole. The course is mostly flat and very walkable, but due to the wet nature of the layout, it’s recommended you bring an extra sleeve or two of balls.
The overall design of the course is good to very good, with a bevy of choices and risk/reward shots to keep things interesting. Fairway bunkers, for the most part are well placed and very exposed, while the greenside bunkers are penal but are less daunting if you take the preferred line to the hole. The water, however, tends to be hidden a bit, as the water table sits below much of the course to assist with drainage. Without a proper course guide or caddy, the many small creeks and ponds can be almost invisible and serve to frustrate the less experienced player who does not excel at course management.
My favorite holes at Loomis Trails are the Par 4 18th and the Par 5 11th. The 361 yard (421 from the back tees) 18th features a dogleg right with a proper landing area just at the apex of the fairway, about 220 yards away. The fairway wraps around a bunker laden mound on the right side, that if carried blind 250+ yards, creates a secondary landing area that extends to 280 yards before a creek crosses the hole. Depending on your tee shot selection, you’re left with either ~100 yards or ~180 yards into the oblong green that is nearly 45 yards deep but only 15 yards wide. With a large ridge dissecting it, it’s protected with water left and a bunker right. This hole demands quality shots to come away with a good score, but played safely, none of the bailout areas will ruin you individually.
The Par 5 11th, is just 470 yards (506 from the back tees) and features a split fairway with a one short route and one long route. The longer right route requires only a 200 yard tee shot around a dogleg left fairway with water up the entire right side of the hole. A well placed ball leaves the player with approximately 225 yards to the green, but with a clear path to run the ball on to the putting surface. The left side requires a 200 yard carry to a shorter but generous fairway that extends to 290 yards. A 250 yard drive leaves the player only 150 yards to the green, but with a totally blind approach which now puts the left greenside bunkers directly into play. The green is moderately undulating, and graded gently toward the water. This hole is a fantastic example of presenting a choice and allowing the player to play to their strengths.
Bottom Line: The whole experience of Loomis Trails (and the resort as a whole) is first class. The pro-shop is always stocked, the practice green is large and well kept and the restaurant is open early and has solid pub food. The $80 summer weekend prices can be a bit high considering the location (about an hour from Downtown Vancouver and nearly 2 hours from Seattle) but if you play between October-May, the weekend fee is only $45-55. If you live North of King County, the Semiahmoo complex is the pinnacle of golf in the North Sound. Final Score: 82/100
Design – 20/25 – It does have some issues with unfair and blind shots, but this place is tough, walkable and very fun.
Test of Golf – 22/25 – I wish it required a little more creativity in shot making, but it’s very demanding and both high and low handicaps can score better than normal here.
Value – 16/20 – $80 summer green fees feel a little gougey, but the rest of the year it’s a fantastic deal.
Condition – 8/10 – Nothing was out-of-order, turf was healthy and the greens were true.
Amenities – 7/10 – Everything is above average, but nothing really qualifies as great.
Experience – 9/10 – The staff was awesome and the course was great.