Date Played: May 2014
Willows Run…where do I begin.
There aren’t a lot of courses that I despise in the way that despise Willows Run. Being the only option for many of the Eastside’s elite, it gets a lot of business. I get that. I also recognize that I can’t change it and that more golfers is good for the health and longevity of the game. The differentiator for Willows Run is the nature of how they operate.
It’s the very definition of a tee-time cattle farm.
Celebrating its 20th anniversary, Willows Run’s two 18 hole courses are among the most played in the entire state. Located just north of the tech corridor in Redmond, WA, it plays host to countless hordes of disrespectful hackers. Whether it’s a board of directors who spend half the round on the phone or some junior executives who just spent their first commission check on a set of Nike blades and a Travis Mathew ensemble, nearly every person I’ve run into here is a jackass. I can only assume it’s because people who actually enjoy golf have long since given up on this hell hole.
Early on a Tuesday morning, I made the mistake of venturing out to the wasteland that is the Kirkland/Redmond/Woodinville metroplex. It was only after being offered a spot alone, sandwiched between a foursome and a threesome, that I realized the type of day I was in for.
As I got to the tee box, a foursome of bros teed off, beers in hand at 6 in the morning. After suffering through about 4 holes, of hitting pitch shots while I waited for the frat party to clear, I was finally allowed to play through. As I plodded my way around the next 14 holes, I not only lost the bros, I lapped them. When I came of the 18th green, they were just leaving the clubhouse to get to the 10th tee. It’s this kind of crap that will ruin the golf industry and a lot of the reason why golfers are exiting the game at such alarming rates.
As for the course…I guess it’s not the worst. It’s plain, it’s flat and it’s pretty contrived. The fairways are shaped plainly and there aren’t many good risk/reward options. It’s a station to station course that doesn’t allow for imagination. I don’t even want to describe my favorite holes, because they all blend together, but I guess I’ll call the 18th the best. It’s a short par 5, just 500 from the tips, that has a green fronted by water. It’s not overly hard, but it does at least present you with a choice.
The one redeeming quality is the condition. Despite the lack of etiquette, the course is in pretty good shape. There are lots of unrepaired divots and ball marks (a symptom of the clientele they target), but you can tell the grounds crew puts in a lot of work to make up for it. I guess that’s to be expected however, as an early bird 18 on a weekday morning cost me $31 god damned dollars. If you need to ride, the cheapest 18 hole rate you can get at Willows Run is $24, and that’s only after 6pm.
Bottom Line: It’s the stupidest place to golf in Western Washington. The design of Coyote Creek is notably bad and unimaginative (the Eagle’s Talon course is a bit better, I guess), and it’s unreasonably expensive to justify the cost of such an experience. I actively steer new golfers away from Willows Run for two reasons. First I like golf and I want people to enjoy the game and continue playing it. Second, the sort of practices employed by Willows Run don’t deserve my money or the money of anyone who enjoys playing golf and not just doing business on the course. Final Score: 45/100
Design – 8/25 – The routing is really goofy because they crammed Coyote Creek inside of the older Eagle’s Talon course. It’s walkable, but only because it’s so flat and boring.
Test of Golf – 10/25 – It’s narrow, the bunkers are predictable and you won’t really use a wide variety of clubs. It’s pretty easy.
Value – 7/20 – It’s $56 to walk on the weekend. It’s $31 to walk early on a weekday. Besides not being worth it, it’s clearly designed to prevent everyday golfers from playing the course.
Condition – 8/10 – You can tell the crew cares for the course. You can also tell the players do not.
Amenities – 10/10 – 36 holes, driving range, practice greens, restaurant…it admittedly has this category locked down.
Experience – 2/10 – Rude players, terribly policies, slow play and a crappy design. I recommend everyone actively avoid this course.