Gamble Sands Golf Course

Greetings! @NorthwestGolfer back again with a new summer job: I am a caddie at the only new golf course in the state of Washington this year: Gamble Sands. I can describe this gem of a course in 3 words…
1. Gorgeous! The views AND the links.
2. Peaceful! No houses, no cars, no roads, the quiet setting here is amazing.
3. Playability! The ‘rub of the green’ was designed to help a golfer, and links golf is just the BEST.

GS_2  GS_2_

Gamble Sands was designed by David Kidd, of Bandon Dunes fame. I got to caddie for him back in June, and I took notes all day, as he is a bit of a storyteller and golf design nerd (so am I). I got to see from The Man himself all the ways that the golf course is set to help out a golfer if they are to play it smart and not let ego and aggression control their golf game.

Gamble Sands is an inland links course, set on a huge sand hill above the Columbia River, across from the town of Brewster. All 18 holes fit the lay of the land in a beautiful and interesting way. The sandy soil drains well, and the fescue grass is hard and fast- your drives roll forever and bump-and-run shots roll up close to the cup. If the pin is at 150 yards, I hit it 140 so the ball can roll out and stop close.

On to the course! Gamble Sands has a great mix of holes that bring a lot of creative shots into play. There are 3 drive-able par 4’s, 3 getable par 5’s, 2 short par 3’s, 2 long par 3’s (reachable if you play creatively), a 600 yard par 5, a 500 yard par 4, and 6 risk-vs-reward par 4’s. Every hole is unique, and the minimalist design is so great, you know you are playing something special as soon as you tee off on #1.

GS_6  GS_16

Range balls and unlimited water bottles are included in the greens fees. The outside staff is energetic and helpful. The caddies are skilled and knowledgeable, they will guide a group around the course and save you 4 strokes a side. The greens are so young that a caddie is a MUST. The restaurant food is excellent, and the Gamble Sands gear is super cool (but expensive).

Gamble Sands is going to win every ‘Best New Course’ award, so come check it out before it closes for the winter! Make it an epic golf trip and play Bear Mt Ranch and Desert Canyon while you are out here…

My Golfchops.com rating: 23/25
Customer Service:
4
Condition of Greens: 4
“Perceived” maintenance level of course: 5
Value:
5
Amenities:
5

Advertisements

Broadmoor Golf Club

Broadmoor Golf Club
2340  Broadmoor Dr. E
Seattle, WA 98112

Course Review Date: 3/10/2013
Course Reviewer: Ian Favre

Not sure about you guys, but I get excited for every round of golf I play.  From the nicest country club to the goat track in your neighbors back yard, if it has a few flag sticks and greens that you can putt on, I am in and I am stoked.  Regardless of the track, just the act of turning off the outside world for 5 hours should be cause for celebration.  Some days we find ourselves sloshing our way through the mud pit municipal and other days we’re convincing a security guard that yes I do indeed have a tee time at your club today and you can indeed open the gate.  It’s ok, I don’t bite….as far as you know.  Invited to play in a tournament with Master Yoda (I’ll explain in a minute), I found myself playing towards the top of the Seattle golf food chain at Broadmoor Golf Club.

Master Yoda explanation: I take lessons from Ryan Benzel out of Pro Golf Discount in Lynnwood.  My plug for Ryan…easily the best golf decision I have ever made.  I’m 3 lessons in and more than just playing better, I have more fun playing golf now than I ever have before.  Seriously, if you’re struggling with the game, do yourself a favor, spend the money and go see the guy.  Where else can you take lessons from someone who’s played in the PGA Championship….4 times.  Here’s a link to his info on lessons: Ryan Benzel Lessons.

As for Broadmoor, it certainly doesn’t disappoint from an experience stand point at all.  Any golf course that has a security guard manned gate for entry and exit clearly means business.  Cruising into the parking lot really doesn’t do the place justice from a visual standpoint, however its very easy to find everything you are looking for.  Putting green, driving range and clubhouse all lay out in front of you and at no point do you get that awkward, where do I go for this feeling.  Driving range is pretty small but an exclusive private club really doesn’t have a need for the Super Range out there.  Putting green is similarly pretty small, but its manicured like the greens keeper got on all 4’s and trimmed each blade of grass individually.  Bonus points in my mind for having the mini hole to putt at.  Why don’t more places have this?  Love that thing.  Makes the regular cup look like a coffee can when you get out there.

Broadmoor Country Club 1 Broadmoor Golf Club Broadmoor Golf Club 2

Design wise, Broadmoor showcases a lot of the typical Northwest private club staples: Tree lined fairways, remarkable houses that in this market cost twice what they are worth, beautiful rolling fairways, and perfectly manicured greens.  Broadmoor was really unique to me in a few ways and not just because its such an exclusive joint.  I never really got a feel out there for how the course would route and play…if that makes sense.  One hole would be dead straight with a lot of fairway undulation and play to an average sized green.  The next hole would be dead flat with fairway bunkers and a big green.  Then you get a downhill, dogleg left to a well guarded green the size of a postage stamp.  I don’t know, call me crazy, but it felt like playing a collection of someone’s favorite holes from 18 different courses.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s a solid golf course, but I do remember in the middle of the back 9 saying to one of the guys I was playing with that the holes meshed weird.

Broadmoor has also made an effort to lengthen the golf course from the 6200 range to 6500 yards by slapping some new tees on a variety of holes.  There’s multiple holes where you see a tee box stuffed way back in between some trees to add an additional 40 to 50 yards.  For the majority of us that are playing from a more forward tee box, no biggie.  If you’re a stick, who used to pound one around the corner and have wedge in….well now you can’t cut the corner and you get to play a blind 6 iron to the green.  Little changes can make big differences I guess.

Ok, let’s talk some positives.  Broadmoor was easily one of best manicured golf courses I have ever played at.  The greens were nothing short of perfect.  Minus the occasional ball mark those were some of the smoothest greens I ever rolled putts on.  It’s one of those places where you felt bad taking a large divot and really bad when hitting a full chili dip wedge….or 3.  It’s a very playable golf course for a variety of skill levels with limited hazards and from the appropriate teebox, not too much length.  This is also a great “learning” golf course for a player who is just finding their way.  It requires specific tee shot placement for good approaches, asks for both draws and fades on occasion and features pretty small, guarded greens requiring a precise touch.  If you can learn to play well here, you should be good to go just about anywhere.

Interesting Broadmoor Tidbits:
Current tour pro Paul Casey won the Pac-10 Championship here shooting a 60 & 61.  Yikes….buzz saw!
Jack Nicklaus won the Seattle World’s Fair Open Invitational at Broadmoor in 1962.

All in all, a true country club experience at it’s finest.  Amazing clubhouse, over the top manicured golf course and great company.  A big thanks to Master Yoda for the invite.  As a side note, the guy shot 64.  You ever played with someone that shot 64?  I mean, when do you say good shot when every damn shot was good?  It was like watching a 10 year chess prodigy or something.  Just awesome.

Golfchops.com rating: NA/25
Customer Service: N/A
Condition of Greens: 5
“Perceived” maintenance level of course: 5
Value: N/A
Amenities:  5

Rating Notes:
Really didn’t have any service encounters at all.  Matter of fact, I don’t think I even spoke to an employee of the course at all.  Hmmm, how do I score.
– Greens were perfect.  Basically what us rec golfers dream of everyday when we are playing our muni’s.
– Nothing short of pristine.  Course was in perfect condition.
– Hmmmmm….I have no idea.  I played in a pro-am, but obviously if the Gates family has a membership, its safe to say its pricey.
–  Small but nice driving range, excellent little putting green area and remarkably beautiful clubhouse.  A tournament without drink service? Booo.

Tokeland Golf Links

Tokeland Golf Links
2938 Kindred Avenue
Tokeland, WA 98590

The following is a guest post from Golfchops contributor Troy Thomas.  Troy has played more Washington golf course than anyone we’ve met.  Check out his review of Tokeland Golf Links and check him out on Twitter at @NorthwestGolfer

Course Review: Troy Thomas
Course Review Date: 9/1/2012

Greetings!

My name is troy and I am a traveling golfer.  I write about and post pictures from my travels on twitter: @NorthwestGolfer.  I wanted to play golf on this Labor Day weekend, but I figured that all the courses in the city would be busy, and all the courses in eastern WA would be too hot.  So instead, I drove out to the coast to play Tokeland Golf Links.  WOW it was an amazing experience!

I had read about Tokeland GL in the Golfing in Washington book, where it was described as being “a little rough”, and having a “spectacular” setting.  Both observations are true.  The course owners have limited resources, so the course is not immaculately manicured- but that is okay because it is a “links” golf course (more on that later).  Currently the greens are in horrible shape: they are dried out and cracked as a result of the owners trying to kill off a weed that has taken over.  The plan is to have all the weeds dead by winter and have healthy, green, soft greens in the spring/ summer.

As for the setting of the course- YES!  I love me some links golf!  There is no fescue grass, but the course is on the links-land along Willapa Bay and wanders through the tall grasses with wide fairways and hard greens.  The course originated in the 1920’s, with the current layout going back to 1995. The course has great routing: there are 9 holes with dual tees, but only three times do the front 9 and back 9 holes share the same green.  Golfers can get confused on the course because of the creative way the layout fits 18 different holes into the land available.

If you are looking for a super-manicured, perfectly green course with greens that roll 100% true, this is not the course for you.  But if you like old-school, links golf with imaginative design and gorgeous views of the bay, then you should make the trek out toward Westport and play Tokeland.  It is the only course in Washington that is on the ocean (I know, I know, but Chambers Bay is on the sound…).  You can also play the course “cross country”, much like the Goat Ranch on the Oregon coast by Bandon Dunes.  (Not that I have played that course.  Actually- there is no such thing, it’s a myth! *wink*). Be an honest golfer and put your $10 in the honor box too.

Tokeland Golf Links: Golf like your grandfather played.  An awesome golf day-trip!

Customer Service: 4/5 I talked to the greens keeper and the owner- both very cool and knowledgeable about the course. But there is no golf shop and no restrooms.

Condition of Greens: Incomplete.  I will wait until next summer after the repairs are finished.

“Perceived” Maintenance Level of Course: 3/5 rough around the edges, but its links golf- I want tall rough and hard & fast conditions.  Tee boxes need work also.

Value: 5/5 $10 is a STEAL for a highly enjoyable day of golf!  Help them out and pitch in some more if you feel.  I left a big bag of brand new golf balls behind for the players after me.

Amenities: 1/5 the putting green was as bad as those on the course, so I am already thinking about my trip next summer too see all the finished work. Just look for the parking sign and the scorecard box. Such ambiance!

Pictures of Tokeland Golf Links:

Prospector Golf Course at Suncadia

Prospector Golf Course at Suncadia
3320 Suncadia Trail
Cle Elum, WA

In our never-ending quest to the find the best and worst about everything related to golf in the Pacific Northwest, we finally got our rears in gear and headed east of the Cascades to take in the highly regarded Prospector Golf Course at Suncadia Resort in Cle Elum.  The big time golf resort is something we don’t get much of around here.  Yes, Bandon gets its share of press and it’s quite the remarkable place, but really how many places are there that provide resort style environments with a quality golf course attached to it.  Maybe Semiahmoo up north and then Suncadia in Cle Elum.  Suncadia boasts 3 championship caliber golf courses on the property, two of which are open to the public, Prospector and Rope Rider.  While the private course, Tumble Creek, is a highly praised Tom Doak course (designer of Pacific Dunes & Old Macdonald) that we are really itching to play.

Temperatures in the mid 90’s greeted us for our round at Prospector and we couldn’t have been more happy about that.  Throw in a bunch of elevation that we usually don’t play with some very hot and dry conditions and I am expecting some booming drives and balls that bound in the fairway.  My aspirations of popping one in the 290 yard zone was quickly torn down when the first tee shots came down with a winter splat in the fairway.  I can only assume that the Prospector team was concerned about the course getting baked out in mid to upper 90’s degree heat, so they literally drowned the place the night before.  We tee’d off at 9:20am and the course played wet all day.  Not necessarily soaking, but there were some pretty murky spot outs there and enough water for all of the guys to say something to the extend of, “damn it’s wet out here.”  It didn’t really inhibit play at all, it just made the course play a lot longer than we expected.

Minus the heavy watering hick-up this place was pretty nails and featured some of the most challenging approach shots in the state.  Pretty crafty design really where the teeing ground is very straight forward and wide open, but the greens are so well protected that there is very little room for error coming in.  Looking back on the round, it seemed as if every green featured these sweeping uphill bunkers that protected a raised, plateau green with very little room to land the approach shot.  It was freaking tough because you had to be very precise when you went flag seeking.  It was one of those golf courses where it was a lot smarter to play to either the dead center of the green or a side that appeared to have room, regardless of flag location.  I had two specific approaches that (in my mind at least) I had stuffed, that ended up being no more that 3 yards short and I payed the price both times.  Once in the water and the other buried in the top of the bunker.  Flags were in some tough spots out there and if you are not thinking about the smartest area to land the golf ball, Prospector is going to smack you.

In contrast to the green protection and challenging approaches, a wide open teeing area make this course very playable to the majority of skill levels.  Sure you can scuttle one into the woods, but from the appropriate tee boxes a new comer or high handicapper should be able to get around the course without donating a full dozen to the golf gods.  The course also had a good family and women friendly vibe as we saw a lot of women and children (mostly teens) taking in a round of golf.

Lastly, as expected with a golf course you are paying $80 to play, they had some excellent greens out there.  A bit of mixed color to them as can be expected with most northwest greens, but they were smooth as a pool table and rolled very true.  Fairly slow uphill allowing you be very aggressive, but slicker than a beaver’s back downhill.  Tread very very lightly if you leave the ball above the hole.

All said this was a pretty solid golf course at a price that is reasonable for the golf you are getting.  The heavy watering of the course did take a little thrill away from it, because frankly who wants to see a plugged fairway lie on a 95 degree day.  Playing lift, clean and place was a bit ridiculous.  Besides that, everything else at Prospector was well up to par.  A very playable, yet challenging design; solid greens that rolled well and offered scoring opportunities for appropriately placed approach shots; and a forgiving teeing ground that allowed you to miss a touch without pulling a provisional from the bag.

Oh, one last thing.  $5 for a 12oz Coors Light is outrageous! $60 for a half rack?! You must be joking.

Golfchops.com Score:  19/25
Customer Service: 4
Condition of Greens: 5
“Perceived Maintenance Level of Course: 3
Value: 4
Amenities: 3

Rating Notes:
– Friendly crew at Suncadia, but we could have used some instruction on where to go and what not.  We were lost as first timers and didn’t get any “go here” instruction at check in.
– Excellent.  Smooth, rolled great, loved them.
– Maintained well, but soupy for 4 straight hours on a 95 degree day?
– $80 is reasonable for the quality of this place.  No complaints there.
– Very nice clubhouse,  average putting green and good driving range.  Cart service multiple times, but a $5, 12oz. Coors Light made everyone’s wallet cry.

Twin Lakes Golf and Country Club

Twin Lakes Golf & Country Club
3583 Southwest 320th Street
Federal Way, WA 98023

Course Review Date: 05/20/2012 (Pictures Below)
Course Reviewer: Ian Favre

Honestly there is just no reason not to love private country club golf.  The playing conditions are typically better, the greens are usually very well manicured, the pace of play is solid and the guy playing out of your fairway isn’t wearing leather sandals and a Carthartt hat.  Actually, I take that back, I love ‘strappy sandal guy’ on the golf course…he provides me with a tremendous amount of writing material that you just can’t get anywhere else.  I digress…excuse me.  My first experience in the golf world at all was taking a job at the country club across the street from my apartment, Twin Lakes Golf and Country Club in Federal Way at the ripe old age of 14.  Picking the driving range, washing member’s clubs and just being a general pro shop lacky was my apparent calling card at 14 years old.  Cool part about that gig was learning to play the game….or swing the club at least.

Twin Lakes Golf and Country Club sits in the heart of what I would call “Old School Fed Way,” in the middle of the Twin Lakes neighborhood.  It’s a golf facility that minus some renovation to the club house and pro shop, seems unchanged through all the years.  It’s old school golf out here too where course management and approach shots become vital to your success.  A bomber without any tactical skill on the course can easily be taken to the woodshed.  Playing at only 6221 from the tips, many of the holes allow you to hit driver, but don’t require it at all.  Minus the par fives, a fairly accurate player can get away with playing hybrid or 5 wood off the tee box all day long.

Without being gimmicky at all, Twin Lakes presents challenges from tee to green on nearly every hole with a few design elements.  First and foremost is narrowness.  There’s not a lot of room to spray it around and survive without a severely blemished scorecard.  There is a bit of room offered to the right, specifically on the front 9, however tree and house lined fairways will challenge you on every tee box.  Some additional challenges on the front 9 such as a water carry par 3 on hole number 3, and a nasty ravine on the 205 yard, par 3, 8th will really test your resolve.  I’m not going to lie, I made triple on that pig.  Your second design element out at Twin Lakes is going to be doglegs, the majority of them to the right if I remember correctly.  Nothing too severe, well….18 is a pretty wicked 90 degree turn, but if you can hit the power cut you should have a lot of fun on those holes.

Last and certainly not least Twin Lakes has some slick greens with a good slope to them.  Depending on pin placement and approach shot placement these greens can really set you up for a long day.  There’s a true home course advantage out there by knowing the contour of the greens and how each hole will play depending on the pin placement.  After a couple great approach shots on #9, one of my playing partners and I eyed a couple 12 footers that looked like we were putting down the Grand Canyon.  Our gracious host just stood and giggle as we both lined them up.  His went 20 feet past, mine about 22 feet past.  No chance.  Damn near a 4 putt.  Number 9 was easily the most severely slopped green, but there’s some break out there for sure and some speed to go along with it.  Down hill putts with some slope were no joke at all.

Great place for a round of golf.  Solid greens, cool course design, well maintained and reasonably priced.

Many thanks to my good friend and AVID golfchops.com follower Rick for having us out to play.  Nice front 9 bro 🙂 Barley pops are on me next time.

Golfchops.com Rating:  22/25
Customer service: 5
Condition of greens: 5
Perceived maintenance level of course: 4
Value: 4
Amenities: 4

Rating Notes:
– Everyone we encountered was friendly and welcoming, membership included.  New head pro a very welcome sight.
– Nails…a bit of spotting but they played perfect.  I was impressed.  Wish I appreciated it more as a kid when I worked there 🙂
– Course looked to be in really good shape.  Cart paths could use some work, and the range…well…I’ll take a pass.
– $47 for a guest walking, on Sunday at a private club, not bad at all.  I would give them a 5 if it included the cart.
– It’s one downfall is a driving range way to far away from the first tee.  Club house is great, very good putting green and warm up area by the first tee.

Pictures of Twin Lakes Golf and Country Club

Lake Spanaway Golf Course

LAKE SPANAWAY GOLF COURSE
15602 Pacific Ave.
Tacoma, WA 98444

Course Review Date: 4/14/2012
Course Reviewer: Jason

Pictures Below

Finally some good weather on a weekend in the great Northwest!  An invite from a buddy brought me down to Lake Spanaway Golf Course in Tacoma.  Opened in 1967 Lake Spanaway twists its way through native fir trees and presents a very good challenge to all golfers.  The greens are large and at the time of this review where very slow due to a punch a couple of week prior to our round. From the blue tees the course measures 6,965 yards and is a par 71. The course was in great shape overall; tee boxes, fairways, and rough was all well maintained and greens were coming into form after their resent punch and sand. Lake Spanaway has a good enough range (covered hitting area with mats) and a well placed practice putting green (right next to the first tee).

The overall theme of this course is hit it straight off the tee or risk your only second shot being a punch-out out of the trees.  Each and every hole is lined with large fir trees but in most cases it’s only a single row so if you’re lucky you’ll have a shot at or near the green.  The 519 yard par 5 9th hole is really your first chance to score if your able to fly the fairway bunker on the left.  The 10th hole is my favorite on the course because it offers true risk vs. reward.  At just 458 yards from the back tees it’s a short par 5 but with a large pond protecting the green, but you’d better be confident with the club in your hand for your second shot.
Course awards: In 1997 it hosted the 14 Annual Pacific NW Men’s Amateur Public Links Championship. Again, in 1998 it hosted the 1st Annual Pacific NW Women’s Amateur Public Links Championship. In 1999 the Seattle PI rated it as one of the regions driest golf courses.  September 2003, Lake Spanaway hosted the USGA Mid-Amateur Qualifier. In 2004 Lake Spanaway hosted the Washington State Golf Association Men’s Amateur Championship.

Golfchops.com Rating:   17/25
Customer Service – 4
Condition of Greens – 2
Perceived maintenance level of course – 3
Value – 5
Amenities – 3
Rating Notes:
-Customer service was solid.  Everyone was friendly.
-As mentioned in the review the greens had been punched a week or 2 prior so I rated them a 2 but I’m sure they will be much better in the future.
-The course way in very good shape overall with a few areas under repair and the greens recovering from the punch.
-At just $36 for a weekend prime time round, Lake Spanaway is an excellent value.
-Solid driving and well placed practice putting green.

Pictures of Lake Spanaway Golf Course

 

Gleneagle Golf Course

7619 East Country Club Drive
Arlington, WA 98223

Course Review Date: 06/07/2014
Course Reviewer: Ian Favre

Continues to be one of the “go-to” tracks for our entire crew.  Course conditions seem to be better every time we go out and play, price is fantastic even for prime time weekend spots and the condition of the greens is just perfection.  One of the better turnaround stories associated to a golf course you will ever find.  Honestly, if you haven’t played out here in a few years and still think its a poorly maintained track worthy of being a dog park, you are dead wrong.  Some additional notes:

What we like:

  • Greens at 10.6 and rolling dead perfect.  How often do you get perfect greens at a neighborhood public track?
  • Under $40
  • Cart Service 4 times during our round.  Other courses need to take note because cart service has been poor at other places this year.
  • The marshals drive around with FREE water on hot days.
  • Excellent group deals.

What’s missing:

  • The half dozen I donated by not hitting it straight.  The Eagle is tight.
  • Sleeping in for anyone on the course.  “That ball is hooked and going to wake someone up for sure!”

 

Course Review Date: 05/11/2013
Course Reviewer: Ian Favre

In our previous couple reviews of Gleneagle Golf Course we honestly could not have been more impressed with every aspect of the facility.  From staff, to course maintenance, to the conditions of the putting surfaces, we were all pretty blown away with our experiences there.  Our most recent adventure up to Gleneagle did nothing but reaffirm all the positive statements we had already made about this place.  To avoid the redundancy of gushing over this place as I did in our last review, I’ll just provide the highlights from our visit last weekend.

Highlights:

1.  I brought one of our writers up there for the first time and his first statement was “Holy <profanity>, you were not kidding about this putting green.”
2.  $35 for greens fee, cart, dog and a beer?  Find me a better deal for golf in Western Washington I dare you.
3.  As last time, the greens were immaculate and rolling at a perfect 9.5.  I am buying this green keeper a Christmas card this year.
4.  Cart girl comes around WAY to often and her mission of making sure we had beer in hand at all times caused the scorecard to go out the window on the back 9.  Which leads to my next statement….
5.  This might be the toughest 5850 yards you can play.  Ego says under 6k yards from the tips? No problem….then the course punches you in the mouth.
6.  Course marshal out delivering water, for free, to the players because it was so stinking muggy.  Well played Gleneagle.
7.  I won’t do it, but I wouldn’t fault anyone for laying up on the par 3, 3rd.  That is one tough par 3.  Matter a fact, all the par 3’s are nail bitters.
8.  Golf course is in such amazing condition and price is so good, we’re bagging reviewing a different course this weekend and heading back up to Gleneagle.

Summary:

Gleneagle is in better condition and has greens twice as good as golf courses in our area charging double or triple the greens fees.  I’ve got no bias or reason to heap such praise on this place except for the fact that it’s 100% true and they’ve earned it.  If I could move this golf course 20 minutes from my house I would play there 4 times a week.  Looking forward to heading up again this Saturday and avoiding the refreshment cart.

Gleneagle Golf Course 10th Fairway Gleneagle Putting Green Gleneagle ProShop

Picture 1 – A look from the 10th tee box at Gleneagle.  A solid par 4 that offers one of the rare wide open landing areas for your tee shot. Your approach requires tactical precision to a very narrow, but large green that is protected by water left and a bunker long.  One of my favorite holes on the golf course.

Picture 2 – Just like our last visit, the putting green looked like a picture out of Golf Digest.  When I dream about having a putting green in my back yard, this is what I dream about.  Find an imperfection, I dare you.

Picture 3 – Random proshop pic.

Golfchops.com Score: 25/25

Customer Service: 5
Condition of Greens: 5
“Perceived” Maintenance Level of Course: 5
Value: 5
Amenities: 5

Rating Notes:
– Once again a super friendly and accommodating staff.  Marshal passing out water on the course was a great touch.
– Perfect.  No other words needed.  Their greens are perfect.
– Just like last time maintenance is excellent, with more improvements being made.  Crews were out all day making the place even better.
– $35 for greens fee, cart, dog and a beer?  You must be joking…best deal in Western Washington golf.
– Putting green simply perfection, grass tee driving range, non-stop cart service, good marshaling.  Outstanding once again in all areas.

Course Review Date: 11/9/2012
Course Reviewer: Ian Favre

Without debate, we have really been stealing one this fall.  A limited amount of rain and a lot of unusual sunshine has given us amazing course conditions, and specifically greens conditions that frankly are just not used to for this time of year.  Over the past 2 months or so of writing about courses, we haven’t had a single one come across our radar where the greens were in anything but exceptional shape.  Gotta make a Northwest golfer smile huh?  Sticking with the theme of unexpected treats we decided to head to Arlington for a return visit to Gleneagle golf course.  Gleneagle is solid track, but that caught us off guard last April by how excellent their course conditions were.

Quick little back story on what I had previously known/heard about Gleneagle.  I had never heard anything good, specifically about the conditions on the golf course.  Greens were terrible, course could best be described as “frumpy” and the management at the time seemed to care less about getting the golf course into shape.  Now I can’t confirm that because I hadn’t played there, but this is what I heard from players.

During our visit to Gleneagle in April we found exactly the opposite of what the rumors had told us.  A very friendly and accommodating staff, a very well maintained golf course that featured some really tough par 3’s for such a short track and very good putting surfaces.  Couple all that with a $30 Groupon that provided golf for two with lunch and we were pretty darn sold on this place being excellent.  A return visit was a no brainer, especially having that Groupon again (thanks Lisa).  If you see this $30 Groupon for Gleneagle, buy it immediately.  Wife, that was a message for you as much as it was for our readers.

Last April when we played Gleneagle it was soaked with months of continuous rains so, while it played fine, it still played soaking wet.  Our return visit gave us a much better opportunity to enjoy close to dry conditions and assess how far this place has come.  Even more than the first visit we were beyond impressed with how great of shape the entire golf course was in.  The GM, Mike Simpson had told us his greens were in great condition before we tee’d off and after a few holes we all agreed that he couldn’t have understated that more.  His greens were in remarkable condition.  Is this really Western Washington in November?  Can’t be….Not only were all 18 greens great, but their putting green has to be the healthiest, nicest, best rolling putting green I’ve ever seen.  I’ll be the first to admit that we are total golf nerds and were straight geeking out about this putting green.

Picture 1 – The previously mentioned amazing putting green at Gleneagle.  I’ve played courses in Hawaii, Washington, Oregon, California, Arizona, Utah, Idaho and Nevada and this is the best putting green I’ve ever rolled the ball on.  I’d drive 40 minutes up there just to practice putting here.  Crazy.

Picture 2 – Snapshot from the first teebox.  Get used to this theme when you’re at Gleneagle because she plays tight and winds through a heavy residential neighborhood.  I was pretty surprised that between the three of us, none of us had a house blasting out there.  We certainly had our chances, but managed to only find a couple backyards…..I think.

Picture 3 – Rolling putts on one of the amazingly well-kept greens at Gleneagle.  Amazing how the right group of people can take a golf course that most have scoffed at and turn it into this.  I’d be happy play here anytime.

Additional Course Comments:
Don’t take this golf course lightly just because it only plays 5850 from the tips (green tees).  From the green tees it rates at 75.5 with a 140 slope.  You don’t see courses with 140 slopes very often, Chamber’s slopes at 142 from the tips and that’s at 7600 yards as an fyi.  The par 3’s here all play really tough with 3rd hole playing at 220 yards with a really tough water feature eating anything that leaks to the right.  Not often the thought of laying up crosses your mind on the tee box of a par 3.  The other par 3 that is just tough as nails is the 16th.  183 yards, narrow as a toothpick with bunkers and sticker bushes chewing up anything that misses.  This hole makes you feel like you are playing in a tunnel.  If you can make pars on the par 3’s at Gleneagle you are having a great day.

Golfchops.com Score: 25/25

Customer Service: 5
Condition of Greens: 5
“Perceived” Maintenance Level of Course: 5
Value: 5
Amenities: 5

Rating Notes:
– Friendly and accommodating just like the last time we were there.  Even the grounds crew out working was friendly.
– Wow, your greens are nothing short of incredible.  Well done Gleneagle.
– Great course maintenance.  There’s one bunker out there that is g.u.r but tee boxes, fairways and hazards were all in great shape.
– $23 greens fee on a Friday, nothing wrong with that at all.  Groupon is a screaming deal and I suggest you buy it the moment you see it.
– Awesome putting green, driving range and a great restaurant/bar that has .99 cent pints of Bud Light during Hawks games.  Jackpot.

Yeah, first perfect score I’ve ever given to your run of the mill neighborhood course.  They are really doing an amazing job at this place.  My compliments to the chef.

April 2012

It sure does get old watching the pro’s playing in beautiful 80 degree weather week in and week out doesn’t it?  As I’m watching this fairly boring edition of the Shell Houston Open I can on day-dream about what a drive will look like when it rolls out; what it feels like to hit a wedge out of dry, dare I even say fluffy sand.  My day-dream is quickly crushed when I realize the noise I keep hearing in the background is rain hitting inside my chimney and echoing about the condo.  How fricking hard does it have to rain for me to hear it in my chimney?  The dog days of a winter that feel far from over I guess.  Well, this is going to either take some bravery or downright stupidity, but I am playing golf the next day even if I need an arc to get to the course.

In reality its free golf, which I’ve turned down about as many times as I’ve said no to a free pint.  Really, who says no to free golf?  Through a Living Social deal that was expiring on Monday (thank you Sean Charlton) JR and I found our way to a frighteningly cold, 7:30am tee time at Gleneagle Golf Course, a place I honestly didn’t know much about.  All I had even heard about this golf course was from a Golfchops Facebook follower (shameless plug to follow-up on FB people) who said we had to get out and try this joint out.  Yes, we certainly did, and why not try out a golf course for the first time after its rained unmercifully for 12 straight day I ask you.  Checked in by very pleasant gentleman in the club house and shown the way to the first tee, away we went on a our sloppy little adventure.

Gleneagle is an extremely residential golf course that is lined by homes on just about every side of every hole.  Very close to the playing area I might add.  I’d be a little shocked if any amateur foursome went through this golf course without delivering at least one wake up ball to someones roof or siding.  There’s just so many houses that it’s basically inevitable.  If you have ever played Twin Lakes G&CC in Federal Way it’s very much like that, except the house are tighter to the golf course at Gleneagle.  Tricky little joint too when you look at the score card and see just about 6000 yards from the tips.  That’s not exactly an intimidating distance, but I guess in this weather everything is going to feel like it has an extra 2000 yards on it.

Only 6000 yards, yet all four of the par 3’s are 195 yards or higher….huh?  Make sense of that one….Here’s the meat of what you can expect out there.  For starters, it’s an excellent design.  We both really liked the course and can’t wait to play it when its dry….someday.  That said, this is one narrow sucker.  Really narrow.  If you are not driving the ball straight, very straight, you are in the someones back yard, a water hazard or the bush.  Bring a lot of balls.  You’re going to need them.  One thing that I wasn’t much of a fan of is that great shots off the tee are not rewarded at all.  I had an excellent day out there with the driver yet I had a slide hill, uphill, any thing but flat approach shot to the green all the time.  The course has a tremendous amount of undulation on the fairways and leaves you playing the ball above and below your feet all day.

The kicker to those tough fairway lies is that every green has a lot of protection to it.  I remember standing on one of the tee boxes on the back 9 and asking JR if every hole we have played had water left and a bunker right.  Just about is the basic answer.  There’s a lot of water, there a lot of bunker protection and its narrow.  Whew…Of the more challenging holes out there, the extremely narrow 185 yard par, 3 16th hole really stands out.  The scorecard has this as the #16 handicap hole and that is the biggest farce I have ever seen.  It was playing about 195, tight housing and trees left, trees and bush right, plus a nasty waste area to gather anything that is topped or comes up short of the green.  A downright filthy mean golf hole.  I loved it.

Summary:  Can’t believe I am just finding this place!  It was excellent.  In doing some research on their website, it looks like they have done a lot of course improvements and maintenance on it in the past year.  Good for them for finding someone who can take care of this place.  An excellent little neighborhood track with a $25 greens fee? We are so in.

Golfchops.com Score: 22/25

Customer Service: 4
Condition of Greens: 4
“Perceived” Maintenance Level of Course: 4
Value: 5
Amenities: 5

Rating Notes:
– Very friendly staff from check in to restaurant service.  Welcoming comfortable environment.
– Surprisingly some of the best greens we have seen all winter.  Ball rolled great and even with some pace after heavy rains.
– Pretty tidy out there.  Tee boxes looked really good and hazards are well maintained.
– Ummm… $25 in April, for solid conditions and a good track?  Yeah, we like.
– Cart service on the course, been a while since we have seen that.  Excellent restaurant and bar, with separate hot dog/snack area.  Good sized driving range and a putting green with a little water hazard on the side.  Impressed.

Pictures

This is a look back from the green to the teebox on that very narrow, long par 3 I mentioned.  That look like the 3rd easiest hole on the golf course to you?

Approach shot to 18.

Willows Run – Eagle’s Talon

10402 Willows Road Northeast
Redmond, WA
(425) 883-1200

Course Review Date: 8/17/2014
Course Reviewer: Ian

Writing about golf just hasn’t been top of mind lately, but there’s nothing like an overpriced greens fee to jump start that mojo.  As someone who puts in a good amount of rounds at Willows on an annual basis, I feel pretty confident that I’m not the only person that would like to share some feedback.

  • It’s dead nuts summer, so why do I have to pull my ball out of the lake that has formed in a green side bunker?  I know you need to water the course, but plug lies and drops out of bunkers on a 75 degree day is just stupid.
  • $70 to walk with a 50 ball range bucket is $20 over priced…..at least.
  • Buy new range mats.  Willows has the only range where the mats will make your irons muddy…in the summer.
  • Mow the tee boxes.  No wants to tee it up out of a medium cut.
  • Slowest greens we’ve seen this summer.  Looked healthy, but wow are they slow.

Oh, one more thing.  Technology.  Online tee time scheduling.  Is there another public golf course in the entire state that doesn’t have some kind of online tee time reservation system?  It’s 10pm, I want to make a tee time.  I can make one anywhere in the state, except for Willows.

Course Review Date: 3/22/2013
Course Reviewer: Ian Favre

Lots of work going on at the Eagle’s Talon course at Willows Run in Redmond.  Pretty straight forward review on this one so here’s what we saw from our round.  You can see from the pictures below that they are doing a lot of work on various drainage areas of the golf course.  There’s quite a few sections of turf cut out, mostly around drains and presumably to help improve the swamp like conditions that Willows experiences in the winter.  Honestly, I kind of wonder how much they can do…the way Willow’s sits in that valley it just seems inevitable that she’s going to be a swampy beast in the winter months.  None of the areas below really effect play, unless you hit into the them I guess.  But with all the ground under repair areas and work crews on the golf course there’s no missing the improvements being done.

Willows-Run-March-3     Willows-Run-March-4     Wllows-Run-March-5     Willows-Run-March-6

The other major note from our round is that the greens are really struggling right now.  We’ve heard they are really good at the other 18, Coyote Creek, but the Eagle’s Talon greens apparently got the plague in the past couple months and there’s some spots where putting is pretty impacted.  On the bright side, Willow’s is a cash cow and they should have plenty of resources at their disposal to make sure the greens are all dialed in for summer golf.

So, some construction, some spotty greens and a random inch and a half of snow (that melted quickly) is going to lead to a merky and interesting round to say the least.  How much water is this golf course holding?  Check out the snapshots below.  Those are not water hazards, those are bunkers.

Willows-Run-March-1       Willows-Bunker       Willows-Bunker-3

Golfchops.com rating: 14/25
Customer Service: 4
Condition of Greens: 1
“Perceived” maintenance level of course: 4
Value: 3
Amenities: 2

Rating Notes:
– Very good and friendly service from the front desk staff at Willows.  Amazing how far a smile and a welcome goes.
– Greens are hurting.  On the mend but certainly hurting right now.
– Obviously a lot of work being done on the course right now that should pay big dividends when next winter rolls around.
– Not the cheapest course, especially in the summer but winter rates are always pretty good.
– Always a good practice facility but the snack shack was closed and there was no cart service.

*Thanks JS.

Course Review Date: 7/13/2012
Course Reviewer: Ian Favre

Snuck in a post work 18 at Eagle’s Talon today and had a good time dodging the explosive thunder and random lightening in the background.  While I think $48 is a bit steep for a weekday walker, being able to roll up as a single with no tee time and get on in about 10 minutes is solid.  The course was in pretty solid shape, especially considering the amount of play this place receives….greens rolled well, place was tidy, tee boxes looked good, etc.  Eagles’ is the better of the two courses but not overly tough and does a good job of catering to a wide variety of skill levels.  You still need to make shots out there, but a consistent player should score well here.  Unless your consistency is to hit it like crap off the tee box every hole like some dude I know…ugh.  Gives its proximity, if it wasn’t so darn expensive I would play here a lot more often, but at $56 walking on the weekend? Can’t stomach that much.

Course Review Date – 3/4/2012
Course Reviewer:  Sean Charlton

*****PUNCH ALERT*****

According to club house employees, both the Coyote Creek and Eagle’s Talon courses are getting aerated this week!!  Coyote Creek on Monday 3/5 and Eagle’s Talon on Tuesday 3/6…

After hearing the news, I figured the greens would be in sub standard shape.  The last time I played at Willows, I was on the Coyote course, and the greens weren’t all that great.  To my surprise, the greens on Eagle’s Talon looked amazing for this time of year.  With the exception of 18, and spots on a few other greens, there was very little damage on these lush greens.  Also, not as soft as I would have expected for early March so approach shots didn’t come to a complete and sudden stop upon landing, which was nice.  Still, a little bumpy at times but with the upcoming aeration, these greens should come back very nicely in time for spring.

Eagle’s Talon is the outer course of the two at Willows Run.  Most people consider Eagle the ‘dryer’ of the two courses because it looks to feed all its excess run off into Coyote.  After playing this Sunday, I would agree.  Only a few mushy locations throughout the golf course, mostly off to the side of the fairways.  The course seemed to be very dense, I would assume because it feeds all its water into the other course and into the water hazards.  No standing water anywhere (other than in a few bunkers)

Fairways, and greens as mentioned before, were both in great shape.  I was pleasantly surprised to get some roll on both tee shots as well as approach shots.  It made the 6200 yard white tees play like 6200 yards, which was a nice change from normal winter Washington golf.  The sand traps, on the other hand, were a nightmare.  Luckily, I only went into one during the round but the one I landed in was filled with water.  The others I was playing with ended up in a few bunkers and they had a very hard time getting out; extremely heavy, wet, coarse, hard, and just plain nasty.  You might as well take it out by hand and give yourself a stroke rather than chunking one 3 feet and scuffing up your wedge.

All in all, it was a good day at Willows and I’m looking forward to playing here again this spring/summer.

Golfchops.com rating: 15/25
Customer Service: 3
Condition of Greens: 3
“Perceived” maintenance level of course: 3
Value: 2
Amenities: 3

Rating Notes:

– Nothing stellar about the course staff today other than the very attentive starter.  He kept things moving quickly off the tees on both courses.

– Greens were in great shape for this time of year and for how busy this course usually is.  I’m assuming that they’ll look even better in about 6 weeks after aeration.

– The course looked great and was fairly dry.  The only issue I saw was the water filled sand traps that were very dense and less like sand and more like ground-up clay and rock.

– 60 bucks for 18 and a cart wasn’t a steal by any means for a course still playing winter rules.  They’ve also DOUBLED the price of PBR in the snack shack – $2

– Snack shack access as you finish 1 and 10 but no on course service on this visit.  Restaurant and bar on site but a little over priced and usually packed during a busy weekend day.

Sand Point Country Club

Sand Point Country Club
8333 55th Ave. Ne
Seattle, Wa 98115

Course Review Date: 12/04/2011
Course Reviewer: Ian Favre
Pictures Below

Ahhh, the municipal playing, chili dipping, weekend warrior in me sure does love it when I get to go Bushwood Country Club style and play a golf course that on most days would be off limits to me.   I’m not going to lie, having friends and family in the golf business is a luxury that will never get old.  I wouldn’t say it opens so many doors to us, however, on occasion they leave the side open just enough for us to sneak on in.  With Mother Nature on board for a beautiful, crisp winter Sunday, we ventured out to Sand Point Country Club in North Seattle.

Sand Point is a tough find being right smack in the middle of a very nice upscale residential Seattle neighborhood.  You’re just kind of cruising through some very nice housing and poof there’s your sign with a guard station entry.   Guard stations and gated entries are always a pretty good indicator that the golf is up to snuff.  When the course does come into view, you’re delighted with brilliantly narrow, forest greens fairways and tree after tree after tree.  Not to mention one heck of view of Lake Washington and the cascades in the background.

Yeah, I was pretty excited by what I had seen so far and I wasn’t out of the car yet.  So excited I had to call JR and tell, “man, this place is off the hook.”  And, yes, I used that expression.  Even more amazing than the views I had seen so far was the huge outdoor pool and the fact that is was just popping with swimmers!  Seriously, its 41 degrees outside people!  Realizing I was going to spend the next 5 or so hours in this cold and that I was likely as just as much a fool, I grabbed my gear and headed in.

I was greeted by Sand Point’s head pro Craig Hunter, welcomed to the course, and advised to hit the putting green until my party had arrived.  No tee times at Sand Point, line em up and get em out is how they roll.  Their putting green, while fairly small was superb condition and my hats to them for having 3 mini holes.  First course I have ever seen have more than 1.  I cannot advertise use of the mini-putting hole enough.  I spent 20 minutes on it and had 11 putts on the front.  Putted my rear off.

After the rest of the crew arrived we motored down to the driving range for a few moments of warm up before we began the adventure.  Sand Point, as I now know if home to one of the most unusual driving ranges you will find.  It’s only 125 yards long and up a very steep hill.  Plenty of balls out there is standard country club fashion so don’t get carried away hitting 100 free balls and have nothing left for the course.  I’ve surely pulled that one before.

At long last we get to the golfing portion of this review, where the first hole greets the player with an uphill, 315 yard, par 4 that plays like 390.  Sand Point does an excellent job of using the limited amount of space they have.  From the tips it only plays 6009 yards, yet has a rating/slope of 70.1/130.  Par 4’s that look easy by the yardage on the scorecard are mostly severely uphill and require very accurate driving of the golf ball.  Its one of those golf courses where the majority of the holes are narrow and framed by trees, but you can miss and still survive.

That first hole also features a beautiful view of Lake Washington off to the right (see photo below).  Many of the holes on the golf course are accented by an amazing view of the lake or the mountains in the background.  When not taken back in awe of the natural surroundings you get to enjoy a really well designed, well-managed track.

The par 3’s at Sand Point are all outstanding, highlighted by hole #7.  At 192 yards it plays over a huge ravine/gorge.  The green is nearly invisible from the tee box and on this day we had only a glimmer of the flag stick tucked back left and hidden by two large trees that nearly blocked it.  I didn’t like the bogey but I certainly loved the golf hole.  On the back 9, hole #11 is a severe downhill, 156 yarder that has Lake Washington and the mountain range in the background.  Remarkably beautiful landscape and an excellent golf hole as well.

On the unusual side, hole #17 is big uphill par 5 coming in at a whopping 418 yards.  Yeah, a par 5 at 418 yards.  You’re thinking two is easy, but its so uphill it just doesn’t happen.  It’s narrow, it’s undulated, it plays left to right and if you’re not careful you can make double really easy.  Just another example of using a limited amount of space really well to make a really good golf hole.

A big thank you to Curtis and the rest of the staff at Sand Point for letting us enjoy their excellent course.

Golfchops.com Rating:  25/25

Customer Service: 5
Condition of Greens: 5
“Perceived” maintenance level of course: 5
Value: 5
Amenities: 5

Rating Notes:

–       Very friendly accommodating staff, gave us instructions and tips on the course, invited us for a drink after the round, etc.  Great group.

–       Greens were spotless.  Rolled perfect, no ball marks, no repair areas, good speed, etc.  For December good luck finding a better putting surface.

–       As with the greens the golf course was in excellent shape.  No areas of repair, the bunkers looked great and the tee boxes were well maintained.

–       $45 for a guest fee is pretty solid at any private club.

–       Excellent putting green and funky driving range.  No cart service on the course that we noticed but I guess it is December.  Remarkable pool that was packed for the members.  Hell of a club to enjoy if you’re a member.

Editors Note – Can’t believe I gave it a perfect score, but there was nothing I could even take a point away for. The place was great.