My First Piece of Artwork: “The Lone Fir” at Chambers Bay

I have been renovating my home office lately, and last week had the thought that I would love to try my hand at drawing or painting – who knows, maybe I can eventually learn how to draw something that I can hang in my own home?

I have never considered myself to be in any way artistically talented, but found my way over to Michael’s in Germantown, and bought all kinds of things for beginners’ drawing and painting. Who knows what I’ll like? Or if  I’ll like it?
The results: I love it! Especially watercolor. I never knew what watercolor was, so I watched a couple YouTube videos for beginners and gave it a shot this weekend.
I finished my first piece yesterday, of the famous 15th hole at Chambers Bay: “The Lone Fir.”
After the Eisenhower Tree at Augusta was lost two years ago, this fir – the only tree on the course at this season’s US Open site – was named the most iconic tree in all of golf.
I present to you my rendition of “The Lone Fir”:

Chambers Bay: A Fresh Feel on Customer Service; Photo Gallery (WA)

Chambers Bay Course Rankings:

Golf Digest: #26 US public, #2 Washington
GolfWeek: #29 US modern, #1 Washington public
Golf.com: #64 US top 100, #17 US public

Designer: Robert Trent Jones, Jr. (2007)

I had the opportunity to play Chambers Bay for the second time last month. Host of next year’s 2015 US Open, Chambers Bay is one of the premier links courses in the United States.

What impressed me the most during my return visit to this Pacific Northwest gem… Beyond the obvious beauty of the course and Puget Sound… Was the facility’s unique new customer service program.

As a high-end, walking-only fine fescue facility, there are times when course marshaling is necessary. Rather than having marshals who cruise around and tell people to hurry up or pick up their pace, they have adopted a new, more customer friendly method: Personal experience liaisons.

At five distinct times during our round, we were helped by three different Chambers Bay staff members. Raph, who is the head of the customer experience initiative, joined our group on the first tee and walked and chatted with us through the fourth. He pulled pins, helped find balls, fixed marks on the greens, fore-caddied, helped with lines/reads, and basically spoiled us, in general. No one was happy to see him leave our group to help out others.

I was the saddest to see him leave, having started the round with birdie/bogey/par/birdie while he was there! The funniest story we got out of Raph was about the Speaker of the House visiting the course a few weeks prior. In his outgoing and personable way, Raph approached their group – with a huge divot repair tool in his hands – and was subsequently accosted by Secret Service agents. I don’t tell it as well, but it was hilarious.

We saw Raph again several other times during the day, including after the seventh to help us find our way to the eighth and then along with another staff member (this hole is always staffed for forecaddying purposes) who helped spot tee shots on the incredibly narrow, but drivable, twelfth hole. I hit the fringe of the green off the tee on that hole, and shouted to Raph that he should stick around with our group as I was playing great when he was there. “I will follow you…” he started singing back.

Our last great on-course customer experience came on the famed par three fifteenth: “The Lone Fir.” After teeing off we were met on the green by a third customer experience representative who fixed our ball marks, asked about our round, pulled the pin and wished us well.

With the recent loss of the Eisenhower tree at Augusta National, “The Lone Fir” beyond this green is now considered to be the most iconic tree in all of golf:

Hole 15: Par 3 (172/139/127/116/103)

The par threes at Chambers Bay are awesome, including the aforementioned fifteenth, the seventeenth, ninth and third.

Hole 9: Par 3 (227/202/168/144/132)
Hole 15: Par 3 (172/139/127/116/103)
Hole 17: Par 3 (218/206/142/119/92)

Chambers Bay is the kind of course and environment that can make amateur photographers look like they have solid skills. For your viewing enjoyment, the following are some of my photos from the round:

Hole 1: Par 5 (498/491/465/436/361)
Hole 2: Par 4 (404/395/366/337/301)
Hole 3: Par 3 (165/145/130/111/92)
Hole 4: Par 5 (568/530/480/406)
Hole 5: Par 4 (490/465/441/423/323)
Hole 6: Par 4 (447/418/369/315/283)
Hole 6: Par 4 (447/418/369/315/283)
 
Hole 7: Par 4 (508/482/449/435/363)
The last time I was at Chambers Bay, there was a temporary green in the fairway on seven. Now finished, this is a beast of a par four with maybe the nastiest false front I have ever seen.
Hole 7: Par 4 (508/482/449/435/363)

False front on seven, nicknamed “Humpback”:

Hole 7: Par 4 (508/482/449/435/363)

Hole 8: Par 5 (602/557/523/488/441)
Hole 9: Par 3 (227/202/168/144/132)
Hole 9: Par 3 (227/202/168/144/132)
 
Hole 10: Par 4 (398/381/360/330/311)
 
Hole 11: Par 4 (500/457/425/402/378)
 
Hole 12: Par 4 (304/281/262/246/219)
Hole 12: Par 4 (304/281/262/246/219)
 
Hole 12: Par 4 (304/281/262/246/219)
 
Hole 13: Par 5 (534/527/512/486/437)
Hole 13: Par 5 (534/527/512/486/437)
 
Hole 14: Par 4 (521/496/407/383/309)
Hole 14: Par 4 (521/496/407/383/309)
 
Hole 15: Par 3 (172/139/127/116/103)
Hole 15: Par 3 (172/139/127/116/103)
Hole 15: Par 3 (172/139/127/116/103)
 
Hole 16: Par 4 (425/396/359/323/279)
 
Hole 17: Par 3 (206/191/172/142/119)
 
Hole 18: Par 5 (604/541/514/487/462)
Hole 18: Par 5 (604/541/514/487/462)
Hole 18: Par 5 (604/541/514/487/462)

For more photos and my original hole-by-hole review of Chambers Bay, please visit the following link:

Course Wrap-Up:
Location: University Place, WA
Yardage: Teal-7564, Navy-7088, Sand-6420, White-5890, Blue-5253
Slope/Rating: Teal-142/76.8, Navy-141/74.7, Sand-136/72.1, White-130/70, Blue-130/71.1
Par: 72
Weekend Rates (walking only): $205

The Country’s Best Non-Wisconsin Golf Courses… That I’ve Played

My brother and his wife bought me a golf ball cabinet (shown at the bottom of this post) about ten years ago, and I started collecting logo balls from all the different courses I played.

I filled the cabinet years ago, and when I had to start replacing really good golf courses in order to add new ones I figured it was time for a new cabinet. Researching options online, I saw some good looking cabinets but nothing that really screamed to me – especially not for hundreds of dollars.
I decided to create one. During a week where my wife was on the road for work, I spent over 30 hours in the basement backroom constructing, painting, sanding, staining, allowing it to dry, drilling… Over and over again until I had a 203-ball cabinet that is everything I wanted it to be.
I’m sure this one will eventually fill up, too, but my golf ball display case now has room to grow.
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From left to right, top to bottom: Row 1: Lake Breeze (FL), Kettle Hills, TimberStone (MI), Bristlecone Pines, Horseshoe Bay, Wild Ridge, Wild Rock, Castle at the Bay, Stone Creek (OR), Chambers Bay (WA), Lawsonia, Pumpkin Ridge (OR), The Wilderness at Fortune Bay (MN), Blue Mound CC, Muskego Lakes, Kettle Moraine, Devils Head Row 2: Vail (CO), Mee-Kwon, Willbrook Plantation (SC), The Legend at Bristlecone, The Bull at Pinehurst Farms, TPC Deere Run (IL), Kiva Dunes (AL), Pine Hills CC, Bandon Dunes (OR), Whistling Straits, Streamsong (FL), WGA logo ball, The Classic at Madden’s Resort (MN), Rolling Hills, Whispering Springs, Drugan’s Castle Mound, Wanaki, Quit Qui Oc Row 3: Paganica, Rock River Hills, Hartford, Deer Creek, Baraboo CC, West Bend CC, Geneva National, University Ridge, ThunderHawk (IL), Dismal River (NE), Sand Valley, Pacific Dunes (OR), Kiawah Island Ocean Course (SC), Milwaukee CC, Chicago Highlands (IL), Hawk’s View, Edgewood, Morningstar, Lake Arrowhead, Arrowhead HS Row 4: West Bend Lakes, Atlantis (Bahamas), Tuckaway CC, Kiawah Island Osprey Pointe (SC), Strawberry Creek, Bandon Preserve (OR), The Harvester (IA), RTJ Ross Bridge (AL), The Prairie Club (NE), Johnsonville Sausage, Old Macdonald (OR), Bandon Trails (OR), SentryWorld, Big Fish, Washington County GC, Golden Sands, Songbird Hills, Willow Run Row 5: The Preserve at Deer Creek, Rainbow Springs, Grand Geneva, River Club (SC), Fire Ridge, Harborside International (IL), Racine CC, SentryWorld (old), Blackwolf Run, Erin Hills, North Hills CC, Torrey Pines (CA), Cog Hill No. 4 Dubsdread (IL), World Woods (FL), Bulls Eye CC, TPC Tampa Bay (FL), Blackstone Creek, Old Hickory Row 6: Western Lakes, Fox Hills, Nagawaukee, Juliette Falls (FL), Sweetgrass (MI), Ozaukee CC, Greywalls (MI), Peninsula (AL), PGA Championship at Whistling Straits, Westmoor CC, Bishops Bay, Ironwood, Christmas Mountain, Oakwood Park, Dretzka Row 7: McCall CC (ID), Broadlands, Missing Links, Brighton Dale, Shepherds Crook (IL), Fairways of Woodside, The Oaks, True Blue (SC), Hawk’s Landing, Trapper’s Turn, The Bog, Chula Vista, New Berlin Hills, Silver Spring, Lake Jovita

I have been blessed to be able to play some great golf courses over the past half decade, both in Wisconsin and out. This listing is dedicated to the top ten golf courses I have played in the country, outside of our great state.

This does not mean that these are the top ten courses in the United States, of course – merely the top ten that I have played.

Living in Wisconsin gives a lot of great reasons to stay in-state for golf, but the Winter provides an even better excuse to play outside of it, as well. Without further adieu, here are my favorite non-Wisconsin courses in the country.

1. Pacific Dunes (Bandon, OR):

Yardages: Black-6633, Green-6142, Gold-5775
Slope/Rating: Black-142/73, Green-133/70.7, Gold-129/68.6
Golf Digest: #2 US public, #18 US top 100, 18 toughest, #1 Oregon
GolfWeek: #2 US modern, #1 US resort, #1 Oregon
Golf.com: #1 US public, #20 world, #12 US top 100, #1 Oregon
Architect: Tom Doak (2001)

Maybe the most awarded public course in the entire country, Pacific Dunes is the crown jewel of the Bandon Dunes Golf Resort property. Chocked full of spectacular views from the cliffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean, the winds and elements that come in to play at Pacific Dunes help create a truly European golfing experience right here in the United States.

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The beautiful par four 4th at Pacific Dunes

Pacific Dunes Website

 

2. Bandon Dunes (Bandon, OR):

Yardage: Black-6759, Green-6247, Gold-5751
Slope/Rating: Black-130/73.6, Green-129/71.1, Gold-122/68.7
Golf Digest: #7 US public, #37 US top 100, #33 toughest, #2 Oregon
GolfWeek: #8 US modern, #5 US resort, #2 Oregon
Golf.com: #8 US public, #63 world, #34 US top 100, #2 Oregon
Architect: David McLay Kidd (1999)

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Maybe the country’s best drivable par four – the 16th at Bandon Dunes

Bandon Dunes Website

3. Kiawah Island, Ocean Course (Kiawah Island, SC):

Yardages: Tournament-7356, Ocean-6779, Dye-6475, Kiawah-6202
Slope/Rating: Tournament-144/77.3, Ocean-138.73.6, Dye-134/72, Kiawah-132/70.9
Golf Digest: #21 US top 100, #3 US public, #1 South Carolina, #44 world
GolfWeek: #15 modern, #1 South Carolina, #8 resort
Golf.com: #6 top 100 you can play, #25 US, #1 South Carolina
Architect: Pete Dye (1991)

Site of one of the most dominant PGA Championship victories in the history of golf (Rory McIlroy decimated the field in 2012), the 1991 “War by the Shore,” and of course the upcoming 2021 Ryder Cup, the Ocean Course at Kiawah Island is an esteemed Pete Dye design on one of the most beautiful pieces of land in the country.

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Hole 2: Par 5 (543/528/501/495/419)

Kiawah Island Golf Resort, Ocean Course Website

4. The Prairie Club, Dunes Course (Valentine, NE):

Yardages: Tour-8073, White-7525, Blue-7099
Slope/Rating: Tour-135/75.0, White-133/72.4, Blue-128/71.7
Golf Digest: #35 US public, #3 Nebraska
GolfWeek: #82 US modern, #2 Nebraska public, #21 US resort
Golf.com: #74 US public, #1 Nebraska public
Architect: Tom Lehman (2010)

Maybe the most underrated course on the entire top 100 courses list for every major publication, the Dunes course at The Prairie Club in the Sand Hills of Nebraska is a world-class Tom Lehman design that rewards and punishes golfers over its 8,000-plus yards of links golf.

The highest rated track at one of the most unique, remote golf destinations in the country, the golf and resort at The Prairie Club are well worth the travel time.

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The par three 7th on the Dunes course at The Prairie Club

5. Old MacDonald (Bandon, OR):

Yardages: Black-6944, Green-6320, Gold-5658
Slope/Rating: Black-133/74.1, Green-127/71.3, Gold-119/68.2
Golf Digest: #12 US public, #55 US top 100,  #3 Oregon
GolfWeek: #6 US modern, #5 US resort, #2 Oregon
Golf.com: #10 US public, #88 world, #45 US top 100, #3 Oregon
Architects: Tom Doak and Jim Urbina (2010)

Designed by Tom Doak and Jim Urbina, and opened to the public in 2010 as Bandon Dunes Resort’s fourth course, Old MacDonald pays homage to arguably the greatest golf course designer of all time, Charles Blair MacDonald. “What would C.B. MacDonald have created on this magnificent parcel of rural land alongside the Pacific Ocean?” Doak and Urbina’s design is masterful in its simplicity, with wide open fairways but the hardest green complexes I have ever seen. Paradoxically, Old MacDonald’s greens are the largest greens in the world.

Old MacDonald offers a unique experience: True and spectacular links golf in the United States.

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The par four 14th at Old Macdonald

Old MacDonald Website

6. Streamsong, Red Course (Streamsong, FL)

Yardages: Green-7148, Black-6584, Silver-6094, Gold-5184
Slope/Rating: Green-130/74.2, Black-125/71.7, Silver-119/69.4, Gold-122/70
Golf Digest: #18 US public, #100 US greatest overall, #4 Florida
GolfWeek: #30 US modern, #2 Florida public, #12 US resort
Golf.com: #52 US top 100, #12 US public, #2 Florida public
Architects: Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw (2012)

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Tee shot on the par five 18th on the Red course at Streamsong Golf Resort – missing here is the incredibly well constructed green

Streamsong Resort Website

7. Chambers Bay (University Place, WA):

Yardages: Teal-7585, Sand-6513, Navy-7165
Slope/Rating: Teal-142/76.8, Navy-139/75.6, Sand-135/72.4
Golf Digest: #26 US public, #2 Washington
GolfWeek: #29 US modern, #1 Washington public
Golf.com: #64 US top 100, #17 US public
Architect: Robert Trent Jones, Jr. with Bruce Charlton and Jay Blasi (2007)

Site of the 2010 US Amateur, and future site of the 2015 US Open, Chambers Bay is Scottish golf on American soil… Beautiful American soil, that is, nestled among the cliffs alongside the Puget Sound just outside of Seattle.

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“The Lone Fir” at Chambers Bay – one of four out-of-this-world par threes

8. Dismal River, Tom Doak “Red” Course (Mullen, NE):

Yardage: 6994-4830 (range), club tees-6334
Slope/Rating: Not Available
Golf Digest: #2 Nebraska
GolfWeek: #23 US modern
Architect: Tom Doak (2013)

One of Golf Digest’s best new courses in 2014, and GolfWeek’s #23 overall course in the United States for 2015, the Red course at Dismal River is the perfect complement to the Nicklaus White course at the same club.

A softer course with great angles and beautiful scenery, the Doak course is a must-play for anyone visiting the Sand Hills of Nebraska.

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A look back at the rolling terrain beyond the 18th hole of Doak’s fabulous Red course at Dismal River

Dismal River Golf Club Website

9. Bandon Trails (Bandon, OR):

Yardage: Black-6759, Green-6247, Gold-5751
Slope/Rating: Black-130/73.6, Green-129/71.1, Gold-122/68.7
Golf Digest: #14 US public, #74 US top 100, #4 Oregon
GolfWeek: #21 US modern, #9 US resort, #4 Oregon
Golf.com: #13 US public, #49 US top 100, #4 Oregon
Architects: Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw (2005)

The perfect complement to the coastal, links courses at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort, Bandon Trails is a masterfully created Coore/Crenshaw design that features out-of-this-world elevation changes among sand dunes, meadows and rich forests.

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The controversial, yet spectacular, par four 14th at Bandon Trails

Bandon Trails Website

10. Streamsong, Blue Course (Streamsong, FL):

Yardages: Green-7176, Black-6698, Silver-6285, Gold-5531
Slope/Rating: Green-131/74.1, Black-127/72, Silver-123/69.7, Gold-122/71.6
Golf Digest: #24 US public, #6 Florida
GolfWeek: #43 US modern, #3 Florida public, #14 US resort
Golf.com: #62 US top 100, #16 US public, #3 Florida public
Architect: Tom Doak (2012)

A slightly “Softer” course than its sister Red course at Streamsong, the Blue course features wide fairways and diabolical greens.

Featuring the signature par three hole of all par three signature holes, the Blue course is a wonderful combination of strategic golf and beautiful scenery in the most un-Florida-like setting of Florida.

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Quite possibly the world’s most photographed par three, the 7th on the Red course at Streamsong

Streamsong Resort Website

11. Shoreacres Golf Club (Lake Bluff, IL):

Yardages: Black-6530, Raynor-6309, Green-5457
Slope/Rating: Black-133/71.4, Raynor-130/70.4, Green-120/66.5
Golf Digest: #99 US top 100, #7 Illinois
GolfWeek: #20 US classic
Golf.com: #30 US top 100
Architect: Seth Raynor (1921)

One of the best back nines ever, and a truly ingenious layout and routing by Seth Raynor make this Illinois gem one of the country’s perennial best of the bests.

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Seth Raynor’s ultimate masterpiece? The back nine he created among the ravines at Shoreacres is amazing

12. Reynolds Plantation, Great Waters (Greensboro, GA):

Yardage: One-7073, Two-6581, Three-6069, Four-5667, Five-5107
Slope/Rating: One-138/74.0, Two-133/71.9, Three-129/69.6, Four-122/67.7, Five-126/70.1
Architect: Jack Nicklaus (1992)

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Reynolds Lake Oconee, Great Waters Website

13. The Classic at Madden’s on Gull Lake (Brainerd, MN):

Yardages: Tour-7102, Black-6717, Blue-6438
Slope/Rating: Tour-145/75.6, Black-141/73.9, Blue-134/72.1
Golf Digest: #63 US public, #10 Minnesota
GolfWeek: #8 Minnesota public
Golf.com: #5 Minnesota public
Architects: Scott Hoffman, Geoffrey Cornish, John Harris and Warren Rebholz (1996)

The Classic at Madden’s has been a perennially top 100 rated course in the United States for the past eleven years, and for great reason.

This course was designed from the tournament tee boxes in, allowing for a challenging and fun track to all skill levels of golfers.

2013 finds the Classic with a new charge: Trying to return the game of golf to walking and/or facilitating their world class caddy program. The signature (if you can say there is only one) hole on the course, the par four eleventh, was voted one of the three prettiest golf holes in the state of Minnesota.

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Consistently voted one of the most beautiful golf holes in the state of Minnesota, the par four 11th is an absolute masterpiece

14. Greywalls at Marquette Golf Club (Marquette, MI):

Yardages: Black-6828, Gray-6685, White-6114
Slope/Rating: Black-144/73, Gray-140/71.4, White-132/69.2
Golf Digest: #9 Michigan
GolfWeek: #66 US modern, #2 Michigan public
Golf.com: #81 US public, #3 Michigan public
Architect: Mike DeVries (2005)

From the first tee on, the Greywalls course at Marquette Golf Club is unlike any course I had ever played or seen. Tremendous elevation changes, picturesque cliffs and rock walls, and exaggerated mounding and undulations make for a “Wild and wooly” golfing experience at this U.P. golfing gem.

Greywalls is anything but fair, but provides one unique and visually mezmorizing hole after another. Rated the number two public course in the state of Michigan, this course is well worth the drive and $130 greens fee.

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Mountain golf in the Midwest? You can’t beat Greywalls at the Marquette Golf Club or “The Perfect Foursome” golf trip in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan

15. The Harvester (Rhodes, IA):

Yardages: Black-7340, Blue-6840, White-6430
Slope/Rating: Black-140/76, Blue-132/73.1, White-128/70.8
Golf Digest: #42 US public, #1 Iowa
GolfWeek: #99 US modern, #1 Iowa public
Golf.com: #55 US public, #1 Iowa public
Architect: Keith Foster (2000)

A Midwest new-school gem from Keith Foster, The Harvester is rated perennially as the number one course in the state of Iowa, and top 50 in the country.

Foster masters the use of angles and setting up strategic golf at The Harvester, making it a true shot-makers paradise.

The Harvester features one of the best sets of par three holes I have ever seen – equaled only by courses like Whistling Straits, Chambers Bay, SentryWorld and Blackwolf Run.

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The par three 8th at The Harvester – one of 18 fabulous golf holes 

The Harvester Website

16. Dismal River, Jack Nicklaus / “White” Course (Mullen, NE):

Yardages: Black-7457, Gold-6726, White-6046
Slope/Rating: Black-149/77, Gold-139/73.2, White-135/69.6
Golf Digest: #5 Nebraska
GolfWeek: #168 US modern
Architect: Jack Nicklaus (2006)

One of the toughest golf courses in the entire country, the “White” course at the Dismal River Club is a brute of a golf track! It is also absolutely gorgeous, features some of the greatest use of elevation I have ever seen and is a ton of fun to play.

Reviews of the Nicklaus course have been mixed throughout the years, with some saying it is an unfair course or difficult for the point of being difficult (ie: The sand trap in the middle of an elevated green complex). I disagree, though, I think it offers an unparalleled golfing experience with some of the most unique golf holes in the country.

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The most dramatically challenging tee shot I’ve ever played – the 18th on Jack Nicklaus’s White course at Dismal River

17. RTJ Golf Trail at Ross Bridge (Hoover, AL)

Yardages: Black-8191, Purple-7466, Orange-6783, White-6200, Teal-5312
Slope/Rating: Black-135/78.5, Purple-127/74.9, Orange-118/71.3, White-117/68.7, Teal-123/70.2
GolfWeek: #2 Alabama public
Golf.com: #7 Alabama public
Architect: Robert Trent Jones (2005)

The premiere course on the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail, Ross Bridge is one of the five longest golf courses in the entire world – almost 8,200 yards from the tips and almost 7,500 yards from the first tees in!

The expansive yardage at RTJ Ross Bridge is far from the only jaw-dropping aspect of the course. It’s rolling terrain offers amazing vistas, almost ridiculously elevated tee shots, great conditions and practice facilities, and wonderful shot values.

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17th hole tee shot with the Ross Bridge Resort looming overhead

RTJ Trail at Ross Bridge Website

18. Kiva Dunes (Golf Shores, AL)

Yardages: Gold-7092, Blue-6464, White-5849, Red-5006
Slope/Rating: Gold-132/73.9, Blue-129/70.8, White-119/67.8, Red-115/68.5
GolfWeek: #4 Alabama public
Golf.com: #2 Alabama public
Architect: Jerry Pate (1995)

The former number one rated course in the state of Alabama, Kiva Dunes is the crown jewel of Gulf Shores golf. Designed by former US Amateur and US Open champion, Jerry Pate, the course features great conditions and beautiful scenery, not to mention an incredibly challenging layout just inland of the Gulf of Mexico.

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6th hole tee shot

Kiva Dunes Website

19. World Woods, Pine Barrens (Brooksville, FL):

Yardages: Yellow-7237, Black-6817, Green-6316
Slope/Rating: Yellow-133/75.3, Black-131/72.5, Green-125/70.2
Golf Digest: #66 US public, #23 Florida
GolfWeek: #112 US modern, #5 Florida public
Golf.com: #36 US public, #5 Florida public
Architect: Tom Fazio (1990)

A perennially top 100-rated course in the country, the Pine Barrens at World Woods is a very unique and beautiful golf course, even for Florida. World Woods does away with the typical 4-hole-types in Florida golf (houses left and houses right, house lefts and water right, water left and houses right, or water left and water right) and provides a very different, very secluded environment and wonderfully manicured golf courses.

Cut from pine tree forests, the courses at World Woods actually feature very little water, and replace it instead with sand and a surprising amount of elevation for Florida golf.

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Consistently named one of the most beautiful golf courses in the world, a look at the approach on the par four 12th on the Pine Barrens course at World Woods

20. The Prairie Club, Pines Course (Valentine, NE):

Yardages: Black-7403, White-6824, Green-6080
Slope/Rating: Black-134/75.0, White-128/72.4, Green-115/69.4
Golf Digest: #75 US public, #6 Nebraska
GolfWeek: #94 US resort, #3 Nebraska public
Golf.com: #3 Nebraska public
Architect: Graham Marsh (2010)

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Decisions… Decisions… Challenge carrying the ravine or lay up right on the glorious par five 18th on the Pines course at The Prairie Club?

21. Reynolds Lake Oconee, The Oconee (Greensboro, GA):

Yardages:
Slope/Rating:
Architect: Rees Jones (2013)

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Reynolds Lake Oconee, The Oconee Website

22. True Blue (Pawleys Island, SC):

Yardages: Black-7126, Blue-6812, White-6375
Slope/Rating: Black-145/74.3, Blue-141/72.8, White-127/70.1
Golf Digest: #29 South Carolina
GolfWeek: #6 South Carolina public
Golf.com: #77 US public
Architect: Mike Strantz (1998)

True Blue is a huge course. With seemingly as much sand as there is fairway, the course features dramatic water features and some of the most creative and visually awesome hole layouts I have ever seen – including on television.

True Blue is a must-play for any off-season group planning a trip to the Myrtle Beach area of South Carolina.

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The renowned par three 3rd at True Blue – site of an oft-played Dustin Johnson commercial for Myrtle Beach

23. Pumpkin Ridge, Witch Hollow (North Plains, OR):

Yardages: Black-139/74.7, Blue-131/72.4, White-134/69.7, Green-142/73.9
Slope/Rating: Black-7017, Blue-6537, White-6083, Green-5740
Golf Digest: #8 Oregon
GolfWeek: #151 US modern
Architect: Bob Cupp (1992)

35 minutes outside of downtown Portland, Witch Hollow at Pumpkin Ridge has played host to some major golf events since opening in 1993, including playing host to Tiger Woods’ third and final US Amateur championship in 1996 before turning professional and changing the game of golf forever.

The course is mature beyond its 22 years of play, and with small greens, tight fairways and high fescue is a great challenge for golfers of all skill levels.

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A look back at the tough par four 14th on the Witch Hollow course at Pumpkin Ridge

Pumpkin Ridge, Witch Hollow Website

24. Cog Hill No. 4 Dubsdread (Lemont, IL):

Yardages: Black-7554, Gold-7144, Blue-6750
Slope/Rating-151/77.8, Gold-144/75.8, Blue-138/73.9
Golf Digest: #53 US public, #11 Illinois
GolfWeek: #134 US modern, #1 Illinois public
Golf.com: #34 US public, #1 Illinois public
Architect: Dick Wilson (1964), Rees Jones (2008)

Host to dozens of PGA events in its storied past, No. 4 Dubsdread is the number one rated golf facility in Illinois, and Golf Digest’s 18th toughest course in the country. The course is perhaps best known for its 98 deep sand traps that were structurally fortified during 2008’s course rework by Rees Jones. The bunkers, located around every green and in virtually every area a drive can land, play a major role in making this the second hardest course I have ever played.

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Insane [yet typical] bunkering on the fifth hole of Cog Hill No. 4 Dubsdread

 25. TPC Deere Run (Silvis, IL):
Yardages: Black-7075, Blue-6530, Green-6274
Slope/Rating: 141/74.4, Blue-135/71.9, Green-133/71.2
Golf Digest: #25 Illinois
GolfWeek: #6 Illinois public
Golf.com: #4 Illinois public
Architect: DA Weibring (2000)

Host to the PGA’s annual John Deere Classic, TPC Deere Run is the true golfing gem of the Quad Cities area. Situated along the Rock River, the course has been the site of some unbelievable heroics in the past couple of years, including Zach Johnson’s fairway bunker shot to two feet in a 2012 playoff, and last year’s hole-out on eighteen by then up-and-comer Jordan Spieth to force the playoff he would later win.

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The par three 16th at TPC Deere Run, host to the PGA’s annual John Deere Classic

Other Out-of-State Courses Reviewed/Photographed:

Craft Farms, Cotton Creek (Gulf Shores, AL):

Yardages: Gold-7127, Blue-6617, White-6080
Slope/Rating: Gold-133/73.3, Blue-124/71.4, White-117/69.1
Architect: Arnold Palmer (1987)

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Approach shot in to the par four 18th on the Cotton Creek course

Craft Farms Website

Harborside International, Port Course (Chicago, IL):

Yardages: Gold-7123, Blue-6589, White-5977
Slope/Rating: Gold-136/74.8, Blue-130/72.3, White-124/69.4
GolfWeek: #14 Illinois public
Designer: Dick Nugent (1995)

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The par three 15th / “Anchor Hole” at Harborside International’s Port course

Juliette Falls (Dunnellon, FL):

Yardages: Viking-7236, Platinum-6729, White-6269
Slope/Rating: Viking-143/75.4, Platinum-139/72.6, White-130/70.4
GolfWeek: #18 Florida public
Architect: John Sanford (2007)

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Dogleg left par four 8th at Juliette Falls

Kiawah Island, Osprey Point (Kiawah Island, SC):

Yardages: Tournament-6902, Osprey-6545, Fazio-6162
Slope/Rating: Tournament-135/72.8, Osprey-133/70.5, Fazio-130/69
Architect: Tom Fazio (1988)

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Hole 11: Par 3 (223/208/179/97/82)

Kiawah Island, Osprey Point Website

Lost Key Golf Club (Perdido Key, FL):

Yardages: Black-6801, Blue-6447, White-6001
Slope/Rating: Black-144/72.6, Blue-135/70.3, White-123/68.2
Architect: Arnold Palmer (1997)

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The gorgeous dogleg right par four 5th at Lost Key

Lost Key Golf Club Website

Peninsula Golf Club (Fort Morgan, AL)

Yardage:
Marsh to Lakes: Tee#1-6976, Tee#2-6472, Tee#3-5774, Honours Tee-5325
Marsh to Cypress: Tee#1-7185, Tee#2-6693, Tee#3-5889, Honours Tee-5315
Lakes to Cypress: Tee#1-7003, Tee#2-6495, Tee#3-5685, Honours Tee-5316
Slope/Rating:
Marsh to Lakes: Tee#1-125/72.6, Tee#2-116/70.1, Tee#3-104/67, Honours Tee-120/70.1
Marsh to Cypress: Tee#1-121/73.2, Tee#2-116/70.6, Tee#3-103/67.1, Honours Tee-115/68.7
Lakes to Cypress: Tee#1-124/72.
Architect: Earl Stone (1995)

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A look back at the par four 7th on the Lakes course at Peninsula Golf Club

Peninsula Golf Club Website

Pumpkin Ridge, Ghost Creek (North Plains, OR):

Yardages: Black-6839, Blue-6386, White-5921, Red-5111
Slope/Rating: Black-147/74.5, Blue-139/72.1, White-136/69.8, Red-132/71
Golf Digest: #67 US public, #13 Oregon, Best new public (1992)
GolfWeek: #7 Oregon public
Golf.com: #56 US public, #6 Oregon public
Architect: Bob Cupp (1992)

Ghost Creek at the Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club is the top public course in the greater Portland area, and is named for its meandering, shows-up-when-you-don’t-expect it “Ghost Creek.”

The creek runs throughout the property, sneakily in spots that oftentimes seem to be completely safe. The course’s small greens and mature trees provide great protection against scoring, although there are fantastic opportunities to score with terrific drivable par fours and reachable par fives.

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A look at the approach on the tough par four 9th along Ghost Creek

Pumpkin Ridge, Ghost Creek Website

Reynolds Lake Oconee, The National (Greensboro, GA)

Yardage: One-7034, Two-6544, Three-6094, Four-5759
Slope/Rating: One-139/74.0, Two-138/72.0, Three-136/71.1, Four-128/68.6
Architect: Tom Fazio (2000, 2014)

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A great approach shot in to the 8th green on The National at Reynolds Lake Oconee

The National at Reynolds Lake Oconee Website

Shepherd’s Crook (Zion, IL):

Yardages: Silver-6,827/6,769, Black-6,272, Gold-6,002
Slope/Rating: Silver-128/72.1, Black-123/69.5, Gold-119/67.9
Architect: Keith Foster (1999)

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Tee shot on the par four 15th at Shepherd’s Crook

Shepherd’s Crook Website

Stone Creek (Oregon City, OR):

Yardages: Black-6873, Blue-6525, White-5989
Slope/Rating: Black-132/73.2, Blue-127/71.4, White-126/68.8
Architects: Peter Jacobsen and Jim Hardy (2002)

A gorgeous Peter Jacobsen designed course in Oregon City, Stone Creek has one of the toughest back nines I have played anywhere, with several long, uphill par fours. The property runs through a beautiful track of land with tall trees and significant changes in elevation, and was the site of my first ever even par nine – 36 on the front.

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Par three 6th over water at Stone Creek

Sweetgrass (Harris, MI):

Yardages: Black-7275, Blue-6829, White-6439
Slope/Rating: Black-143/75.2, Blue-137/73.3, White-134/71.3
GolfWeek: #12 Michigan public
Golf.com: #17 Michigan public
Architect: Paul Albanese (2008)

A beautiful new links-style course at the Island Resort and Casino in Harris, Michigan, Sweetgrass features some of the most prime golfing conditions I have found anywhere. From the tee boxes to the fairways and greens, every detail of the care and maintenance of this course is held to a high standard that provides a phenomenal golfing experience.

The seventeenth hole was an instant classic for me: A long par four over a marshland with an elevated green and traps everywhere.

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One of the coolest par fours found anywhere: The 17th at Sweetgrass, nicknamed “Turtle”

ThunderHawk (Zion, IL):

Yardages: Black-7031, Brass-6631, Silver-6124
Slope/Rating: Black-137/74.1, Brass-133/72.3, Silver-128/69.9
GolfWeek: #5 Illinois public
Golf.com: #7 Illinois public
Architect: Robert Trent Jones, Jr. (1999)

Part of the Lake County Forest Preserve, ThunderHawk is a Robert Trent Jones, Jr. course near the border of Wisconsin and Illinois. Rated as a top ten course in the country in 2010, I expected a lot from this course and was not disappointed. It helped that I shot the lowest nine at that point in my life with a front nine 39. Play slowed considerably on the back and I finished with an 86, but it was one of the most enjoyable rounds I have ever played.

ThunderHawk compares favorably to The Bull and Blackwolf Run in terrain and layout, and is what I would consider to be a fantastic “hidden gem.”

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Demanding tee shot on the par four 12th at ThunderHawk

TimberStone (Iron Mountain, MI):

Yardages: Forest-6937, Boulder-6533, Timber-5836
Slope/Rating: Forest-148/75, Boulder-144/72.9, Timber-135/69.8
GolfWeek: #89 resort, #10 Michigan public
Architect: Jerry Matthews (1996)

One of the most well-kept golf courses in the Midwest, Timberstone was to me the biggest surprise among the three courses played during our “U.P. Golf Trio” vacation. A converted ski hill during winter time, Timberstone at Pine Mountain has elevation only outdone by Greywalls, and phenomenal tee-to-green conditions that make this one of the best overall golf experiences anywhere.

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The most awe-inspiring tee shot in the Midwest: The par three 17th at TimberStone

TPC Tampa Bay (Lutz, FL):

Yardages: TPC-6898, Blue-6610, Green-6332
Slope/Rating: TPC-140/74.2, Blue-136/72.1, Green-131/70.4

A typical TPC layout with water and deep, white sand traps everywhere, and devilishly fast greens, TPC Tampa Bay is a must-play in the Tampa area.
Architect: Bobby Weed (1991)

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Tee shot on 18 at TPC Tampa Bay

World Woods, Rolling Oaks (Brooksville, FL):

Yardages: Yellow-7333, Black-6873, Green-5943
Slope/Rating: Yellow-132/74.8, Black-129/72.3, Green-121/70.3
GolfWeek: #9 Florida public
Golf.com: #11 Florida public
Architect: Tom Fazio (1991)

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A look back at the long, gorgeous downhill par three 8th on the Pine Barrens course at World Woods

Notable Media Rankings:

 


 

My previous 64-ball golf cabinet got me started with ball collecting, and I want to memorialize it here:

My brother and his wife got me a golf ball trophy cabinet four years ago for Christmas, and so I started collecting logo balls from the courses I’ve played since then. It holds 63 balls, and I’ve gotten to the point where I am now removing balls and replacing them with better courses on a regular basis.

Any time I play with somebody new, I inevitably get into the conversation of “the best course you’ve ever played.” Man, that’s a tough question, but one I am going to attempt to tackle in this post.

My trophy ball cabinet as of July 12, 2015:

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Top Row: Wilderness at Fortune Bay (MN), Stone Creek (OR), The Bull, Milwaukee CC, Erin Hills, TimberStone (MI), Chicago Highlands (IL), Classic at Madden’s (MN), Legend at Bristlecone
2nd Row: Pumpkin Ridge (OR), TPC Deere Run (IL), Lawsonia, Sand Valley, Streamsong (FL), Pacific Dunes (OR), SentryWorld, West Bend CC, University Ridge
3rd Row: Geneva National, Greywalls (MI), World Woods (FL), Whistling Straits, North Hills CC, Prairie Club (NE), Dismal River (NE), Racine CC, Washington County
4th Row: Peninsula Golf Club (AL), Strawberry Creek, Torrey Pines (CA), Bandon Trails (OR), Johnsonville Sausage, Kiva Dunes (AL), Chambers Bay (WA), Wild Rock, Sweetgrass (MI)
5th Row: True Blue (SC), The Oaks, Old Macdonald (OR), Blackwolf Run, Kiawah Island (SC), Pine Hills CC, ThunderHawk (IL), Wild Ridge, Horseshoe Bay
6th Row: Westmoor CC, Ozaukee CC, Cog Hill (IL), The Harvester (IA), Bandon Dunes (OR), Castle at the Bay, Juliette Falls (FL), Hawks Landing, Bishops Bay
7th Row: Bulls Eye CC, Big Fish, Harborside (IL), The Bog, TPC Tampa Bay (FL), Trappers Turn, Tuckaway CC, Hawks View, Grand Geneva

Golf Course Review: Chambers Bay (WA)

Chambers Bay Course Rankings:
Golf Digest: #26 US public, #2 Washington
GolfWeek: #29 US modern, #1 Washington public
Golf.com: #64 US top 100, #17 US public
Designer: Robert Trent Jones, Jr., Bruce Charlton, Jay Blasi (2007)
Home to the 2010 US Amateur and the 2015 US Open, Chambers Bay is the 22nd rated course and one of the premiere golfing destinations in the United States.
The clubhouse at Chambers Bay
Created from a former sand and gravel mine, my favorite golf course architect, Robert Trent Jones, Jr., was asked to “create a world-class golf course, enjoyable for golfers of any skill level, capable of hosting major championships and events.” Quoting Chambers Bay’s website, this line sums up my own feelings about the breathtaking city-run property beautifully: “The extraordinary views of Puget Sound, the Olympic Mountains and the unrivaled scenery create an environment where golfers enjoy not only world-class golf, but also a sense of visual nirvana.”
This visual nirvana begins early on the facade of the Chambers Bay clubhouse, where the 920-acre property can be seen in its entirety:
View from the clubhouse at Chambers Bay
Each hole yields the opportunity for a perfect golf photograph. Views of the Puget Sound and dramatic hillsides abound on all eighteen holes, and the links-style mounding creates stunning contrast to the otherwise rolling fairways and greens.
Chambers Bay is slightly reminiscent of another future US Open golf course here in my home state of Wisconsin, Erin Hills. Each is a links-style course with an entirely fescue golf experience. The swift fescue fairways transform harmoniously in to challenging green complexes where there is little discernable difference between the fairways and greens. Because of this, the greens are able to be placed virtually anywhere, and short wedge play is discouraged as anything within 30 yards can be putted as effectively.
This threw me for a huge loop during my round. As a walking-only course, the greens are generally raised and heavily mounded, with many of them given an “infinity” like effect (think of an infinity pool, and the way the edge of the pool seems to blend in with the ocean beyond it – many of the greens here feature the same effect with the Puget Sound beyond). The greenside mounding is considerable, and over-hitting approaches is penalized by massive hills that have to be putted up in order to re-find the green surface. My 95 during Sunday’s round included seven miss-hit putts that did not traverse quite far enough to stay on the green before rolling back to the same general area where they started.
Typical greenside mounding, behind the par three seventeenth hole
My 95 also included four sand-to-sand shots, epitomized by two on the devilish sixth green complex. The bunkers at Chambers Bay are eerily similar to those featured on Pete Dye’s courses, especially at Whistling Straits. They are the most natural areas of the land at this great site, and like the ones found at the Straits or at Erin Hills, jut in all directions, can be quite deep, and when around the greens are generally fairly narrow, creating terrible downhill lies and stunted sand shots that make for a huge challenge to hold.
Narrow, craggy greenside bunkers on the sixth hole
The sand is far from the only indigenous feature at Chambers Bay. Much was left of this land’s rich heritage, including beautiful ruin-like structures on the seventeenth and eighteenth holes that add character and promote faux-professional amateur photography.
The elevation at Chambers Bay is extraordinary, and nowhere is this more evident than on the par three ninth. A drop of 100 feet is featured from the teal, navy, sand and white tee boxes, which are perched above a vast sand trap that lies another 30 feet below its undulating putting surface. Missing short here is an almost guaranteed bogey, which I discovered the hard way. Finding the bottom of the sand off the tee, my third shot from the top of the bunker rolled right and downhill almost endlessly until it stopped one foot from the pin for a gimmie bogey putt.
Look back [and way up] to the tee boxes on the par three ninth hole
While most fairways are wide and inviting, there are several that are almost impossible to hit. The 425-yard par four tenth narrows between dunes and leads to one of the course’s hardest hit greens, while the drivable 262-yard par four twelfth features a fairway no wider than about 20 yards as it funnels uphill. While these are drastically different holes, the tee shots on each are intimidating, to say the least.

The 920 acres of Chambers Bay’s layout features but one tree, which is seen from many holes on the course but is featured magnificently on the par three fifteenth, aptly named “Lone Fir.” This downhill tee shot is to a large green that slants heavily from left to right, making the best approach either long to the backstop, or left just short of the deep pot bunker. My tee shot was headed straight towards this bunker, and fell right to twelve feet above the pin.

Hole 15: Par 3 (172/139/127/116/103)
The sand features found wayward of the fairways at Chambers Bay sprawl significantly, making accurate tee shots necessary. Holes two, four, five, seven, eleven, thirteen, fourteen, sixteen and eighteen all have monstrous sand areas that plunge deep from the playing surface. The fairway mounding often influences these drop-offs, and sometimes even takes away the forward momentum of well-hit shots to the point that they fall down steep hills in to sandy lies that have to be hit with lofted clubs to get out of.
One aspect of Chambers Bay that I was surprised with was the speed of the greens. They had recently been aerated, but no plugs were pulled and only a mild top-dressing was added. The speed, I was told, is comparable to the “normal” stimping, which is relatively slow. These slow green speeds influence aggressive play, especially from off the putting surfaces, but I assume they will be sped up notably for championship play. If Erin Hills’ fescue greens rolled at an eleven during mid-June, Chambers Bay’s were closer to a nine. The dramatic undulation found in all of them keeps putting at Chambers Bay far from being trouble-free, and I actually think they would be made easier if they were sped up.

After checking in at the pro shop, I was met by the course’s shuttle to bring a handful of us to the practice range at the base of the hill. The fescue hitting surface on the range is similar to that on the course, and I was glad I failed with some wedges early and learned my lesson about hitting them on such finely shaved surfaces.

Practice range at Chambers Bay

After hitting a half bucket of practice balls on the range (included with greens fees), the shuttle picked us up and brought us to the first hole tee area, which also features a large and swelling practice green. It was evident quickly that these putting surfaces would not be anywhere near as quick as I’d expected – very good to know ahead of time!

I met David, Roland and Maricel, who I would be playing with for my round, here and we each chose our tee boxes. Of the five sets available, we had one player at four different boxes. Dave, a four-handicap from Atlanta, started on the teals until we were warned it was not allowed. In fact, we were told that anyone caught on these tees two times would be asked to leave. He then switched to the navy tees, which measure to 7088 yards (compared to 7564 from the teals).

The starter advised us to add at least 200 yards to the overall distances to account for the nuances found on an all-fescue golf track. I chose the sands, which are a more pedestrian 6420, and are strongly suggested for players whose handicaps are between seven and fifteen. As an 11.5, these provided plenty of challenge. Roland and Maricel, a nice young couple from Vancouver, played from the white (5890 yards) and blue tees (5132), respectively.

I was happy with my selection of the sand tees on the first hole when Dave had a 491-yard par four start compared to my 465. I hit a long drive left, finding my first deep fairway bunker of the day. Headed out toward the Puget Sound, the first hole is a big test to open a round.

Hole 1: Par 4 (498/491/465/436/361)

The second hole, while shorter, would not prove to be much easier. Massive sand traps line the fairway, and a slippery infinity green was pinned in the back left, making for a long approach to get close.

Hole 2: Par 4 (404/395/366/337/301)
Hole 2: Par 4 (404/395/366/337/301)
Hole 2: Par 4 (404/395/366/337/301)

The third is the first of the par threes at Chambers Bay, and is aptly nicknamed “Blown Out.” With a subtle wind in our face, the short 130-yard shot played significantly longer than expected, as my nine-iron was short by fifteen to twenty yards.

Hole 3: Par 3 (165/145/130/111/92)

The fourth is a short par five by most course’s standards, but at Chambers Bay plays anything but. With a tee shot straight down the fairway, the green is reachable with a massive second shot, but flirts the entire distance with a massive sand and waste area that falls far from the hitting surface.

Hole 4: Par 5 (568/530/480/406/347)

From highly elevated tee boxes, the fifth plays downhill and between parallel waste areas that must be avoided for any chance of par.

Hole 5: Par 4 (490/465/441/423/323)

Six, while not overly intimidating from the tees, has one of the toughest green complexes on the entire course. With three craggy bunkers surrounding its narrow green, the mounding around the fairway leaves most wayward tee shots with blind approaches. I was blinded entirely, and found myself in the narrowest of these greenside bunkers (to the left), which did not end well for me.

Hole 6: Par 4 (447/418/369/315/283)
Hole 6: Par 4 (447/418/369/315/283)

A normally long par four nicknamed “Humpback,” the seventh is currently playing to a more manageable distance around 300 yards. The actual green has been out of commission since February, and is being reworked to soon feature an uphill approach area that keeps short shots from falling more than 50 yards from the green, and well hit shots from consistently bouncing long.

This will be a glorious par four, with two large fairway mounds that resemble the hump-like backs of the celebrated whale for which the hole is named.

As it is currently just over 300 yards, this is far from an easy hole, with a rolling green (normally a fairway, of course) found in a dramatic swale adjacent to the sand collection area.

Hole 7: Par 4 (508/482/449/435/363)
Hole 7: Par 4 (508/482/449/435/363) with the “humps” beyond

The eighth provided all kinds of issues for my game on Sunday. The hillside left is tall and slopes towards the fairway. Not even this huge slope could usher my first two shots toward the fairway, though, and I found myself hitting from high off the hillsides. My third shot was well-struck from a hiking path forty-plus feet above the playing surface, landing on the green and subsequently rolling down and off the right side. It would take me four attempts to putt the ball hard enough up this greenside mounding to finally re-find the putting surface.

The number one handicapped hole on the course, the entire right side drops steeply from the fairway and can add considerable distance to this already long par five.

Hole 8: Par 5 (602/557/523/488/441)
Hole 8: Par 5 (602/557/523/488/441)

The ninth is one of the most highly elevated par threes I have ever seen. The teal, navy, sand and white tees are one hundred feet above the green, with almost vertical sand traps lying thirty feet beneath and right of the green complex. At 168 yards from the sand tees, a prevailing head wind held my six-iron up high enough to bury short at the base of the front-side trap, leaving a wall of sand to be carried to find the green surface.

Hole 9: Par 3 (227/202/168/144/132)
Hole 9: Par 3 (227/202/168/144/132)

The tenth hole runs parallel to the first, but requires two much more demanding shots. The dunes and fairway bunkers on each side of the fairway make accuracy off the tee important, and the approach is even more challenging to a narrow green with deep pot bunkers all around.

Hole 10: Par 4 (398/381/360/330/311)
Hole 10: Par 4 (398/381/360/330/311)

The eleventh has a huge mound in the middle of the fairway that is easily driven to leave a mid-range approach to a well guarded green that is fronted by a long right-side sand trap. This trap must be carried to a green that is surrounded by high mounds and slants heavily from right-to-left. Hitting to the right side of this green should usher the approach on nicely. The left side of the fairway is much more open around the green, and can be bailed out to for a less tricky approach.

Hole 11: Par 4 (500/457/425/402/378)

The twelfth hole at Chambers Bay is best described by its name: “The Narrows.” This uphill drive is short at 262 yards from the sand tees, but is anything but easy!

High dunes encompass each side of the driving area, and anything sliced will end up in tall fescue with no visible approach. I found myself on one of these dunes, which created one of the most fun shots of my entire round.

A course employee and I found my Callaway Hex Black embanked in a hillside just off a walking path, about 75 yards from the front of the green. This green is long – about 50 yards from the front to the back, and the left side of the complex is heavily raised and can be used to bank shots off of to find the putting surface. The staff member gave me a line which was easily 15 yards further left than I’d expected, and I somehow managed to hit a pure shot off the bank and roll to about 30 feet above the pin. We shared a bit of a  “bromance” on this hole, ending in high fives and an enthusiastic fist bump.

Hole 12: Par 4 (304/281/262/246/219)
Hole 12: Par 4 (304/281/262/246/219)
Hole 12: Par 4 (304/281/262/246/219)

The thirteenth is a wonderful par five. At 512 yards from the sand tees, the drive is to a wide area that is primarily blind. From there, the hole gets very interesting. Huge lowered sand traps that are dropped from the right side of the fairway area influence a layup to about 100 yards out, and the left side of the green area rolls right to a small green that falls off to that side.

Hole 13: Par 5 (534/527/512/486/437)
Hole 13: Par 5 (534/527/512/486/437)

The tee shot on the long par four fourteenth is awesome. The back tees are played from highly elevated boxes, and must carry about 200 yards of depressed wasteland to find a fairway that slopes strongly from right-to-left, and considerably downhill. I had one of my longest drives of the day on this hole, leaving about 120 yards in to a large green that slopes right to left on the back.

Hole 14: Par 4 (521/496/407/383/309)
The fifteenth, nicknamed “Lone Fir,” features the only tree on the entire golf course prominently against the back drop of the mystical Puget Sound. A short par three, this is my favorite hole at Chambers Bay.
Use the left side of the green area to roll the tee shot from left to right toward the center of the green, or aim to the back of the putting surface to carom the shot off the raised back-side.
Hole 15: Par 3 (172/139/127/116/103)
Hole 15: Par 3 (172/139/127/116/103)
A long sand area runs the length of the right side of the sixteenth hole, parallel to the train tracks and shoreline of the Sound. The tabletop green is nestled between sand on the right and long sides, and a tall dune beyond.
Hole 16: Par 4 (425/396/359/323/279)
Hole 16: Par 4 (425/396/359/323/279)
The seventeenth is a gorgeous par three that plays somewhat comparably to the fifteenth. A mid-range tee shot of 172 yards from the sand tees plays to a green that is risen above sand traps short and to the right, while the back falls ominously to a lowered collection area that requires a challenging, short uphill approach to re-find the putting surface.
Hole 17: Par 3 (206/191/172/142/119)
Hole 17: Par 3 (218/206/142/119/92)
The finishing hole at Chambers Bay is a mid-length par five from the sand tees of 514 yards. The fairway is mercifully wide, but narrows toward the green area and is defended on the right side by a long sand trap and on the green surface itself by significant undulations. I had three great shots to get close on this hole, only to find myself ten feet above the pin with a horrendous downhill putt that took me three strokes to finally hole.
Hole 18: Par 5 (604/541/514/487/462)
Hole 18: Par 5 (604/541/514/487/462)
Hole 18: Par 5 (604/541/514/487/462)
David had the right idea, holing out from 40 yards off the green for birdie.
Chambers Bay is a magnificent golf course, and a wonderful eight-mile walk that culminates in a view up to the clubhouse that is perched well above the eighteenth green. Thankfully, a short walk to the snack shop by the first and tenth holes leads to the shuttle bus and a merciful ride up to the clubhouse.
The number 22 ranked golf course in the country (GolfWeek, 2012), Chambers Bay was a logistical magnum opus to bring to life during last week’s work trip: Checking the clubs, renting a car, driving two and a half hours to and from Portland, and all in a short time frame that left ten minutes of range time. I cannot say enough, though, how well worth the efforts it was!
If you find yourself in the Pacific Northwest, do not miss out on the opportunity to play this Robert Trent Jones, Jr. masterpiece before the best in the world do in 2015.
For additional photos of Chambers Bay, and for updates on the course and customer service programs for 2014, please visit this link:
Course Wrap-Up:
Location: University Place, WA
Yardage: Teal-7564, Navy-7088, Sand-6420, White-5890, Blue-5253
Slope/Rating: Teal-142/76.8, Navy-141/74.7, Sand-136/72.1, White-130/70, Blue-130/71.1
Par: 72
Weekend Rates (walking only): $205