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Washington heights: Seattle maturing into a must-play golf destination

Jason Scott DeeganBy Jason Scott Deegan,
Senior Staff Writer
Golf Club at Newcastle - Coal Creek - hole 17
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Those golfers who avoid the waterfall in front of the 17th green on the Coal Creek course at the Golf Club at Newcastle are rewarded with views of the Seattle skyline. (Jason Scott Deegan/WorldGolf.com)

SEATTLE, Wash. - In just a few years, Seattle has gone from an afterthought for the traveling golfer to a must-play destination.

Chambers Bay in Tacoma, 30 minutes to the south, host site of the 2010 U.S. Amateur and the 2015 U.S. Open, helped put Seattle-area golf on the map. But Chambers Bay isn't the only new golf course that has enhanced the destination's appeal. The Home Course in DuPont, opened in 2007, is good enough, and tough enough, to help Chambers Bay host the 2010 U.S. Amateur.

Besides the U.S. Amateur Aug. 23-29, the 2010 U.S. Senior Open at Sahalee Country Club July 26-Aug. 1 will help keep golf in the spotlight all summer long. Fred Couples, 50, who grew up nearby, will try to win a senior major in front of the home fans.

The beauty of the Pacific Northwest on a sunny day is almost unparalleled anywhere else in America. Snow-capped mountains hover over green fairways at every turn in Washington.

While there is no doubt Bandon Dunes Golf Resort in Oregon remains the No. 1 golf destination in the region, Seattle continues to gain ground. Here's a look at some of the must-play public golf courses in the Seattle area ...

Seattle-area golf: Where to play

The 7,585-yard Chambers Bay, possibly the best work of Robert Trent Jones II, already ranks as the best public golf course in Washington by Golfweek, Golf Digest and Golf Magazine. A walkers-only course where caddies are strongly recommended, if not required, a round at Chambers Bay delivers a major championship experience along the Puget Sound just 60 miles south of Seattle. The man-made dunes cut from a former quarry are a stirring contrast to the tall trees of most area courses. The greens are wildly undulating. If you can play to your handicap here, you've had a career round.

Just 10 miles away, The Home Course has gotten lost in the shuffle. It is hard to call a course ranked as the sixth-best public course in the state by Golfweek a hidden gem, but that is essentially what The Home Course is, an under-appreciated masterpiece scheduled to be the future home of the Pacific Northwest Golf Association and Washington State Golf Association. The Home Course offers views of the Puget Sound and Mount Rainier and links characteristics like nine sod-wall bunkers, possibly the only such hazards in all the state. Recent changes have only enhanced the layout.

Closer to Seattle, the 36-hole Golf Club at Newcastle wows guests with views of the downtown skyscrapers and Space Needle from its two Bob Cupp-designed courses, Coal Creek and China Creek. The China Creek course might be more playable, but Coal Creek, designed with input from local hero Fred Couples, pleases players with better vistas and a green perched above a waterfall on the par-5 17th hole. Its 300 feet of elevation change can make for a wild ride at times. A castle-like clubhouse, a putting course and large practice range, with indoor hitting bays, complete an A-list of amenities.

Washington National in Auburn, home course of the University of Washington golf programs, is operated by the same management company, Oki Golf, as the Golf Club at Newcastle. Players love the rugged look of the John Fought design.

A short ferry ride from Seattle leads to the Kitsap Peninsula, home to two spectacular courses, The Olympic course at Gold Mountain and Trophy Lake Golf & Casting Club. The 36-hole Gold Mountain complex is a municipal operation by the city of Bremerton in name only. It is first class all the way. Trophy Lake is another Oki Golf property that provides an idyllic setting.

The verdict on Seattle-area golf

Thanks to its big business, with companies such as Microsoft and Boeing, Seattle will always be a country club town with great private golf clubs such as Sahalee, the Members Club at Aldarra and the TPC of Snoqualmie Ridge, home of the Boeing Classic on the Champion's Tour. Yet the Average Joe can now experience similar spoils at the area's best public facilities, too. Chambers Bay will continue to mature into one of the true wonders of the golf world.

Seattle hotels and lodging

The city and its suburbs are teeming with luxury hotels. With brands like Fairmont (the Olympic Hotel) and Four Seasons (The Hotel Seattle), you can't go wrong. Northwest Golf Tours can steer golfers toward the choice that best fits their budget and travel plans.

If you are on the Kitsap Peninsula and need to catch an early ferry ride home the next day, the Hampton Inn and Suites in downtown Bremerton, which features a marina housing expensive yachts and a nice boardwalk along the water, sits next to the loading point for the ferry.

Seattle dining

The low-key Chambers Bay Grille overlooking the course was named one of the best places to eat in the Pacific Northwest in the 2009 travel guide created by the PGA of America.

A required trip to the famous Space Needle delivers downtown dining at Sky City, named the 2009 restaurant of the year by the Washington Wine Commission. The entire restaurant rotates 360 degrees. Make sure to try the Lunar Orbiter dessert, which has been served up since 1962.

Another Seattle tradition is a stop at the Pike Place Market to watch a few fish heads fly and then to enjoy a night at the local restaurant and bar scene. There are too many places to mention here, so just head to the market and explore. You won't be disappointed.

More photos

Chambers Bay G.C. in TacomaThe Home Course in DuPont, Wash.Olympic Course at Gold Mountain - No. 18

Jason Scott Deegan has reviewed more than 700 courses and golf destinations for some of the industry's biggest publications. His work has been honored by the Golf Writer's Association of America and the Michigan Press Association. Follow him on Twitter at @WorldGolfer.

Reader Comments / Reviews Leave a comment
  • Pierce County is the destination!

    Zak Nelson wrote on: Jan 7, 2010

    Just wanted to note that both Chambers Bay and Home Course are in Pierce County [Tacoma region]. We love Seattle dearly, but have our own metropolitan area and surrounding communities. Chambers Bay is actually owned by Pierce County [sorry Seattle!] and Home Course is a gorgeous work of art by the PNGA and WSGA.
    Moreover, Tacoma area is host to some of the best hotels in the nation [like Hotel Murano, #6 in Conde Nast Traveler], and Pierce County is home to Mount Rainier, the icon on our license plates! When you fly in to Sea-Tac for the US Amateur in 2010, or the US Open in 2015, don't overlook the sneaky -Tac!


      • RE: Pierce County is the destination!

        Dave Christie wrote on: Jul 24, 2011

        Like Zak says Pierce Co. does have a lot to offer in the way of golf. My foursome who all live in the Seattle area, often plays Pierce and Thurston County (Olympia area) courses. While Chambers Bay is truly a great (but very expensive) course, The Home Course is much more affordable for locals as well as some excellent courses nearby. The Classic Country Club (PGA Ryan Moore's home course) is close by and offers excellent rates every day. Bring your straightest sticks. Another local favorite pubic course is Lake Spanaway. Towering old firs line the fairways of this well-maintained course, and it is priced for the average Joe. Hawks Prairie offers two Oki courses that often get left out of the conversation, The Woodlands and Links courses are an excellent, affordable double play and just as good or better than the more expensive Oki courses up Seattle way. I love the PNW for golf. We usually can play year round, and have a tremendous variety of course styles. If you're a skier, you can ski and golf on the same day.