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Chambers Bay and Salish Cliffs Golf Course – The Jewels of the Pacific Northwest
Seattle, WA – Typically in my articles I talk about holes and yardages, conditions and considerations when you’re choosing a course to play or a destination to visit. Today, I’d like to take a slightly different tact and give you a bit of the back story on two magnificent courses that without a doubt, you’ll want to play when you visit Washington State.
While this week all eyes will be focused on Chambers Bay host to this year’s US Open, let’s start where I began at Salish Cliffs Golf Club, a course that was built to quote Superintendent Bob Pearsall, “In harmony with habitat.” You see, Salish translates to ‘People of the Water’ and as soon as I set foot on the property I immediately understood the connection to the land.
While the golf course and casino have definitely contributed to the economic well-being of the area, the mandate that drove the development of this property was the desire to preserve the watersheds, enhance the fish and wildlife habitat and protect the imperiled West Coast Salmon. The first step in achieving this goal was engaging Gene Bates whose cutting edge approach to maximizing the use of natural elements to reduce water consumption and reliance on pesticides also resulted in a course that is an absolute delight to play. Pearsall was hired while the course was being built and played a major role in helping Salish Cliffs earn a Salmon Safe Certification. According to www.salmonsafe.org, the Salish Cliffs Golf Club is the world’s first ‘salmon-safe’ golf course.
Bob told me that the owners and the design team “wanted to demonstrate to others that we could develop this type of project and still deliver a first-class golf course.” After staying and playing here I have to say, they accomplished their mission. By respecting the Salish people’s affinity for the land, the result is a win-win for golfers and environmentalists alike and a model that others are beginning to follow.
Opened in 2011, Salish Cliff’s par 72 layout plays 7,269 yards from the championship tees and offers unique rock facings, elevation changes of 600 feet and stunning 360-degree views of Kamilche Valley and Skookum Creek. This mountain-style parkland course has wide, well-treed fairways but beware it gets rough in the rough! Don’t get too attached too your balls because the tall rye fescue that is environmentally sound also tends to gobble up your shots so I’d suggest you bring along an extra sleeve or two. On the other hand, the bent grass greens were in mint condition when I last played the course and made putting a real pleasure. My favorite holes were #9 and #18. Separated by a wetland preserve they shared an expansive 15,000 square foot double green surrounded by a sparkling lake that was truly unique.
If rankings are important to you, Golf Digest ranked Salish Cliffs 8th in Washington State for 2015-16. Golf Week ranked it 9th in their Best Casino Course list and Salish Cliffs placed 4th on America’s Best Course You Can Play in Washington. Everyone I spoke to who has played the here had nothing but praise for the calibre of the course and the staff. It was not uncommon to hear that staff were extremely friendly and knowledgeable and truly made a difference. So if scenery, serenity and service top your list, Salish Cliffs takes first place in my books!
Now back to Chambers Bay also known as the “The Pearl of Pierce County’ and – for good reason! It was designed to serve the everyday golfer as well as the needs of local residents and, it is only the 3rd publicly-owned course to ever host a national championship in the 115 year history of the U.S. Open. Like Salish Cliffs, it also one of the most ecologically-friendly golf courses in the country. Robert Trent Jones Jr. and the Pierce County team transformed 600 acres of the scarred landscape from an abandoned sand quarry into a British links-style course. Playing against the beauty of Puget Sound and surrounded by the Grandview Trail, Chambers Bay is another stunning example of how man and nature can co-exist with a little imagination and a lot of determination.
Unlike any municipal course you’ve ever played, Chambers Bay is definitely challenging. The fescue greens and fairways require less water and increase sustainability but they are decidedly different. There are bunkers galore that require positioning and strategy. Unlike Salish Cliffs, there is one lone tree on the entire course on 15th hole aptly named the Lone Fir that reminds us that we are playing in the Northwest and not across ‘the pond.’ While the fairways are wide, the salty winds continually blow in from the sea. Chambers Bay is a course that everyone can play but it will test even a seasoned golfer including the pros playing there this week.
Chambers Bay is currently ranked as the best golf course in Washington State and #58 in the US by the Top 100 Courses of the World. Jones had anticipated that Chambers Bay would host the U.S. Open in 2030 but that honor was achieved fifteen years ahead of schedule. It will be interesting to see how this impacts Chamber Bay’s future.
For now, green fees for non-resident guests range from $104 to $229 USD depending on the time of year. Power carts are not available but the course is walkable and pull carts are included in your fees and believe it or not can be taken on the greens. Chambers Bay has more than 30 full-time and 20 part-time caddies and I would highly recommend that first time out you hire one to take advantage of their local knowledge and fully appreciate the experience. The suggested fee is $50 per single bag plus gratuities. Trust me, you’ll feel like a pro too when you take to the course.
I can’t recommend a place to stay at University Place as we circled back to Shelton and stayed at the Little Creek Casino Resort so we could play Salish Cliffs once more before heading back to Seattle to take in the sights, including a game between the Mariners and my beloved Blue Jays. I swear it seemed like it was the Canadians that filled the stands that night!
Salish Cliffs Golf Course is open all year long. Stay and Play packages start at $199 USD for two golfers in the same room. They also offer a $10 replay rate or a $10 certificate that you can use in the casino.
Chambers Bay and Salish Cliffs are the number one and two jewels in the Pacific Northwest’s Crown. Now is definitely the time to plan your next golf vacation to Washington State.
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