A golf lover shares his tips on great courses across the Pacific Northwest
by Dennis Chandler
Editor’s note: AAA Washington’s marketing manager Dennis Chandler is a lifelong golf enthusiast who estimates he's played close to 200 golf courses across the country, including nearly 100 in the Pacific Northwest. We asked the 8-handicapper for his recommendations on great places to play this summer.
The golf courses in the Pacific Northwest, particularly in Western Washington, are very different than those in other parts of the country, primarily due to the terrain. When you play in California or Florida, you might see palm trees along the fairways. Up here, your ball could end up behind a Douglas fir, and there’s no way around a Doug fir. And if you hit your ball off the fairway into the bushes, you’re lucky just to find it. So the conditions can be tough, but the golf courses in the Pacific Northwest are very beautiful. It’s particularly exciting to play in July and August, because the fairways tend to be dry, so you can usually get a little more roll on your ball than you can earlier in the season, when the grass is still wet.
There are a lot of great courses in Western Washington, but my top three, in terms of conditions and value, are The Home Course (DuPont); Washington National Golf Club (Auburn), where the University of Washington’s golf teams play; and West Seattle Golf Course. The Home Course is friendly for all experience levels, and the fairways are pretty wide, so, unless you hit your ball in the water, it’s a little more difficult to lose a golf ball there. Washington National has a scenic layout and is a little more challenging. West Seattle is my personal home course. For a municipal course, it's classic, with beautiful views of the Seattle skyline and very reasonable greens fees.
Just outside Tacoma in University Place, Chambers Bay Golf Course received a lot of attention for hosting the 2015 U.S. Open. It offers a truly unique experience, with its links-style layout offering picturesque views up to Mount Rainier and across the southern reaches of Puget Sound. That said, it's a walking-only course, so bring your most comfortable golf shoes.
Spokane’s courses offer the best values in the state. They have four city-owned courses and three county-owned courses that are all in great shape, with excellent prices. My favorites are Hangman Valley Golf Course and The Creek at Qualchan Golf Course. Tri-Cities is another great destination. Their hotels offer great stay-and-play packages. I particularly like Horn Rapids Golf Course, a desert-style course, and Columbia Point Golf Club, which has wide fairways and rolling hills that make it fun to play.
If you really want a treat, head to Pullman and play Palouse Ridge Golf Club (above), which is where Washington State University’s golf teams play. Its links-style layout follows the rolling hills of the Palouse, with beautiful views.
My favorite single hole on any golf course in the state is No. 10 at Suncadia's Prospector Golf Course. It’s a downhill par 4 overlooking the Cle Elum River corridor. The drop is at least 100 feet, so you can just blast the heck out of your drive.
The Coeur d’Alene Resort Golf Course is the most immaculate course I’ve ever played. It’s like you’re on somebody’s green carpet, and you feel bad if you take a divot. Its 14th hole features its famous floating island green (pictured on previous page), which is always a fun challenge. Circling Raven Golf Club, at the Coeur d’Alene Casino Resort in Worley, Idaho, is another of my favorites east of the Cascades. It sits on 620 acres, a mix of rolling grasslands, wetlands and woodlands. Purists love it, because each hole follows the contours of the terrain, and not one fairway butts up against another.
I have not yet been to Bandon Dunes Golf Resort along Oregon’s southern coast, but I hear great things about it. If someone told me that I could have a few days off and golf anywhere, I’d either go there or to Bend. The scenery in Central Oregon is awesome, the weather is usually great, and there are several great courses. My favorite is Crosswater, in Sunriver. It’s one of the highest-rated courses in Oregon.