Salish Cliffs Golf Course

Salish Cliffs Golf Club
91 W State Route 108
Shelton, WA 98584
Pictures Below

Course Reviewer: Ian
Course Review Date: 01.19.2013

Our third run at what has quickly become my personal favorite golf course in Western Washington, Salish Cliffs Golf Club greeted us with the oddest weather I think I’ve ever played in.  We’ve played in sub 30 temps, snow and two weeks ago a driving hail storm at Bandon Dunes, but 31 degrees and 99% humidity is just plain weird….and freezing stinking cold.  I’ve heard of a two club wind, but 2 club air?  That was a new one.  It was like swinging the club in a swimming pool….and, if you’re not careful at Salish Cliffs the pool will be filled with sharks…with lasers on their heads perhaps?  Come on, I can drop an Austin Powers one liner can’t I?

The first couple trips out to Salish I was overwhelmed by its beauty and routing through the landscape.  It appeared as though each blade of grass had been hand manicured to stand perfectly and last forever.  I remember feeling awful for chilling dipping the second shot I ever played out there, not because of the shot result, but because I just ripped a beaver pelt out of the fairway and scarred it forever.  Today, my wee little golf mind lost track of the beauty because Salish beat me up, took my lunch money and left me in the fetal position on the 18th green.  I’ve always believed a great golf course is open to accommodate a variety of skill levels, yet challenging enough to give lower handicap players a run for their money.  Salish Cliffs really is a benchmark for this theory.  Open enough for higher handicap players to get around but challenging enough to take a quality player to task.  Tee boxes provide you ample area to safely play your opening shots and hazards in the approach shots are clearly laid out.  It’s not a course where you hit a shot and hope it turns out ok when you get up to it.  You’ll know right away whether you’re in jail or not.

Salish Cliffs Tree Salish Cliffs 1 Salish Cliffs 2

Picture 1 – Talk about a rough day on the links!  I hit the ball everywhere, including this lovely snap hooked 3 wood.

Picture 2 & 3 – A couple of the picturesque tee box views you encounter at Salish Cliffs Golf Club.

As for the course, she continues to look and play like an exclusive country club that only puts 40 rounds a day in.  Tee boxes and fairways continue to look like they did two weeks before their opener and their customer service from check in to the end of the day remains notch.  One thing that I wanted to make note of is how well Salish Cliffs does the little things.  Carts that actually have doors to protect you from the elements, GPS in the carts that will email you your scorecard after the round, Titleist NXT practice balls at the driving range, awesome iphone app, customer service, etc.  It’s these little things that make a good golf course great and one of the reasons Salish is such a fun place to play.  The only hiccup I can find at Salish, and this is unanimous from the whole team, is that the tee boxes are confusing.  They are all shaded at darn near the same color and we always find ourselves saying “is it this one, or the one in front?”

Sans the funky tee box thing, I’d challenge you to find better golf for the price in Western Washington.  $59 for round, cart and use of the practice facility is a solid price for quality winter golf and a light Saturday tee sheet makes you feel like you own the place.

A congrats to Golfchops writer Sean Charlton who holed a 6 iron for eagle on the Par 5 10th.  The air was so heavy he played a 6 iron from 150 yards (usually an 8 iron according to Sean) and one-hopped it right in.  Like the good friends we are, we hazed him on the next tee box and he promptly sprayed it o.b. 🙂 You’re friends are terrible man.

Course Reviewer: Ian
Course Review Date: 07.24.2012

Our first trip to Salish Cliffs since playing in the media day tournament and I was nothing short of stoked to get back down there.  The haul to Salish Cliffs doesn’t come without some commitment for an eastsider.  Lots of gas, a $99 greens fee (with a $50 replay rate) on a Tuesday in the summer and a habit for drinking barley based beverages on the golf course make this a bit of a wallet pincher, but oh so worth it.  Salish Cliffs certainly did not disappoint in our first trip back since the opener and I was reminded why I listed it as my favorite track in the state on our about us page.

There are a lot of quality golf courses in Western Washington but to separate yourself from the pack you have to do the little things well.  For starters, any $100 greens fee should be accompanied by some excellent service from check in to departure.  Salish does an excellent job from the moment you get out of your car of being welcoming, considerate and helpful.  The outside staff gives you a good walk through and the starter has a smile on his face when you roll up.  They give me the impression that they appreciate my business and really that’s all a guy can ask for.  Besides, it can’t be easy to get a group of golfers to roll down to Shelton on a somewhat regular basis.  The thing that will get me coming back here time and time again are these greens….whew, I mean…wow.  Of all the golf courses I have ever played this might be the first round I have played where I said, “these greens are absolutely perfect.”  The fastest greens around?  No, not really.  But the immaculate condition was just remarkable.  Jr and I stood on the 1st green in awe of what we were going to putt on for 36 holes.

Have you ever played a golf course where it was so nice you felt obligated to go back to the golf cart, grab the divot mix and fill that hole in?  That’s Salish Cliffs.  The conditions are so nice I almost feel guilty making a divot in the fairway (yeah, I was in the fairway sometimes).  The tee boxes (5 per hole I believe) are so nice you debate whether or not anyone has ever played the golf course before.  They are almost oddly spongy too….like walking on a baby polar bears’ back or something.  Tee to green you get the same thing, immaculate teeing ground, perfect looking fairways and an unbelieveable putting surface.  The one oddity, and maybe this is a product of being a new course, but the fairways are oh so delicate.  Come down just a hair heavy and you can carve out a divot the size of a beaver pelt.

The basic summary here?  When’s our next tee time?  It was hard not to book another tee time for the weekend at Salish Cliffs.  There’s some quality tracks we can play in Western Washington, but none of them (that I have seen at least) can boast the combination of service, conditions, and greens that this place can.

For more specific details on the course and specific hole information, see our previous review below. Score:  25/25
Customer Service: 5
Condition of Greens: 5
“Perceived Maintenance Level of Course: 5
Value: 5
Amenities: 5

Rating Notes:
– Nails from start to finish.  Excellent work by the team out here.
– Best looking greens I have seen in the state.  Perfect doesn’t feel like a strong enough word.
– As good, if not better than the day they opened it.
– $99 weekday rate with a $50 replay.  $150 for 36 holes for a course this good, in this good of shape?  I’ll pay it with a smile.
– How many courses have NXT’s for range balls?  Great clubhouse and dining area, cart service, excellent practice facility, etc.  Awesome.

Course Reviewer: Ian
Course Review Date: 09.12.2011

It’s a pretty rare occasion these days to be writing about a brand new golf course opening.  Frankly, I cannot say that we have ever done it in the history of our little website.  However, with much anticipation, we had the honor on September 12 to play Salish Cliffs Golf Club in Shelton, Washington as part of a media day scramble.  Salish Cliffs Golf Club is the mastermind of renowned golf course architect Gene Bates and his design team (which includes Fred Couples) as well as a determined group of folks from the Squaxin Island Tribe.

The Squaxin Island Tribe has a heck of a little resort going on down there in Shelton.  For north sound golfers this drive is no joke, however you are rewarded with a casino, a hotel, an epic golf course and a soon to be spa.  Quite the destination set up really and I don’t believe anywhere else in Western Washington can boast that they have such a set up.  I can play 18 while my wife is at the spa, then gamble, eat at the restaurant, enjoy one too many cocktails, pass out and do that all again the next day?  Thank you sir I’ll have another.

On to the course….

The course is a bit hidden so if you are venturing out make sure to take the first turn after the casino.  Once you’re there though you get that immediate “I am going play at an amazing golf course giddiness.”  Here’s a play by play of me driving up to the parking lot with Jason riding shotgun.  “Wow, look at that driving range Jas….are those…holy #%#$do they have manicured greens on the driving range to shoot at?  Wow, you don’t see that every day.”  A very nice driving range it was, with lots of targets and Titleist NXT Tour’s for practice balls.  The putting green is on the smallish side, but given the average level of traffic that is going to come through this course, I think it’s more than adequate.  As a side note, from golfer to golfer, you ever get a random case of ‘el hosel’ on the driving range in front of a bunch of people?  Wow, nice timing golf gods.   Thanks for coaching me through that one Jason.

Into the cart and out to hole #5 we went to kick this thing off.  These golf carts are pretty amazing by the way.  GPS, hole by hole fly over with audio on where to play your shots, touch screen scorecard, etc.  The cart automatically slows down when you hit a bridge and will even shut off when you are driving too close to the green.  It even emailed our scorecard to us at the end of the day.  Epic.  We hit hole 5 pretty damn excited and ready to cut loose some drives and get after this thing.  Coincidentally this is the only hole where I thought, “I wonder why they did that?”  The tee box is pretty much sitting in the parking lot.  No bushes blocking it or anything.  Its wide open enough that after I hit my drive, course designer Gene Bates rolled by in his Chevy Malibu and yelled “Remember boys, the 3 wood!  No Driver!”  During the introduction speeches, Gene had called Jason out (jokingly) in front of the whole crowd for hitting his 3 wiggle out through the back of the range.

It honestly doesn’t take long to see some incredible golf course conditions and superb design.  The fairways are bent grass, which for a Seattle public golf player is going to be foreign territory.  They are almost bouncy or spongy when you stand on them.  They will also exaggerate a chili dip like you won’t believe.  After hitting a solid drive out in the fairway on #5, my second shot was dead chunky monkey and the divot it produced was enough to make a coon skin cap.  Of course, my dear friends’ response is “Jesus E, its brand new, go easy on it.”

Funny thing about this course is that it seems fairly open and you never get the impression it’s going to take you to task.  Then you look in the bag and say “have I really lost a dozen out here?”  The fairways look open but require a delicate balance of power and precision.  Although playing into a 20 mph wind all day exaggerated it a bit, any miss seemed to travel to trouble.  Significant trouble.  It’s as if Mr. Bates said “Here’s a wide open fairway.  Make it and you can breathe, miss it and I am going to wound you.”  Anything off the fairway is death out here.  Thigh high fescue is abundant and finding a ball in this stuff is pointless.  Believe me, I tried.  Hit it straight all day and you’re going to be a happy camper.  Miss a few times and you’ll be buying logo balls at the turn.

The most astounding feat of this course is the use of land and elevation through out the course.  Even though we started on #5, the course has an excellent flow and every hole ties together extremely well.  It’s actually very reminiscent of TPC Snoqualmie Ridge only better.  Much more playable.  A pumped shot right down the middle is rewarded where as at Snoqualmie it can easily find a fairway bunker.  The numerous elevated tee shots make teeing the ball a real treat and also gives you a solid view of what your are about to tackle.  As challenging as it was out there, this course also seems to be fit for your everyday average duffer.  When played from the appropriate tee box, its open enough to hack the ball into play and duff it around the fairway without too much trouble.

Recap of a few holes….

#5 – Really cool bunkering protecting the green, fluffy spongy bend grass fairway

#6 – Short par 3 with a bunker right, forward sloped green.  Beautiful hole.

#10 – 540 yard par 5 that played into a strong wind, hit a good drive, ripped a 3 wood and was still 140 out….ouch.  I’m not a very long player at all but ugh that was tough.

#12 – Highest elevation on the golf course and the tightest driving hole.  Simply an amazing looking tee shot awaits.

#16 – Incredible tee box view leading to some dangerous fairway bunkers.


Well, we have played a lot of good golf courses over the past year.  Chamber’s Bay, Gold Mountain’s Olympic Course, White Horse, just to name a few.  After all the reviews and accolades are done, this is going to be known as the second best golf course in Western Washington.  No debate.  It’s not Chamber’s, but really what is?  Chamber’s is just too unique and different of a course to be lumped in or rated with the rest of them.  But when we’re talking about your “standard” golf course, this is the best I have played in Western Washington to date.   Make the drive to Shelton my friends, it’s well worth it. Score:  24/25
Customer Service: 5
Condition of Greens: 5
“Perceived Maintenance Level of Course: 5
Value: 4.5
Amenities: 4.5

Rating Notes:
– It was media, but the staff was very gracious and their head pro David Kass was a funny and engaging guy.
– Greens were branding new and just fantastic.  With age they should only get better.
– Ok, no one has played it so it was in epic shape.  Pretty cool to play from tee boxes that have no divots 🙂
– $89 for September greens fees is good.  This includes cart, range balls and play on an epic track.  Move this place to Redmond and its $250.
– Great range, gorgeous club house, average sized putting green and lots of carts folks cruising the course.  Didn’t notice an area to chip.  Jason bought me an IceHouse in a can.  Totally uncalled for if you ask me.

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2 thoughts on “Salish Cliffs Golf Course

  1. I’m looking for a good course with tight fairways and blind shots to the tee so I can win a bunch of money in a skins match. And bonus points for wedding cake greens. Is this the course for me?

  2. Ehhh….its tight in places, but not ball breaking tight. Greens have always been very very impressive, but we haven’t seen them this winter. If you can find a dry/tight fairway and wedding cake greens anywhere in February we expect a heads up 🙂

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