Bandon Dunes Golf Resort — The Rich Getting Richer?

Bandon Dunes Golf Resort in Bandon, Ore., is ranked second in the world by Golf Magazine and second in North America by Golf Digest. It’s golf courses are ranked first (Pacific Dunes), fifth (Bandon Dunes) and 10th (Bandon Trails) in GolfWeek’s listing of top American resort golf courses, and second (Pacific Dunes), seventh (Bandon Dunes) and 14th (Bandon Trails) on Golf Digest’s list of the Top 100 Public Golf Courses.

And since the resort’s opening in 1999, every golf-travel writer from Matt Ginella to Tony Dear to George Pepar, has played and eulogized Bandon’s powerful triad of traditional, seaside links. 

What more is there left to say about a golf resort like Bandon Dunes that hasn’t already been said?

The original idea was to write a story about the ultimate ‘guy’s vacation’, but the fact that two best friends were traveling to Bandon Dunes together for three days of intense golf and moderate drinking was hardly news to Bandon Dunes, or the golfing world for that matter.

The resort’s atmosphere is driven by its (mostly male) guests’ desire to play 36 holes of championship-caliber, links golf per day with their buddies in a ‘golf-only’ environment, and then finish the day with some fine food, a few cocktails and a bit of golf banter, followed by some shut-eye in a comfy bed.  Depending upon the size of one’s wallet, and free time to tee it up, this pattern could, and does continue on for days.

“We get guys out here that play 36 to 54 holes a day for six days straight,” said Bandon Dunes representative Mark Bergmann. “This brand of links golf is addictive. Guys who play well on park-land courses come out here and discover a whole new game, and fall in love with it.”

Lily PadBandon Dunes fulfills every fiber of the male, golf addict’s desires with its current round-up of seaside links. And when the sun sets it offers excellent accommodations (we stayed in the Lilly Pond), a convenient shuttle service, fine food and stiff drinks.

Each night we bellied up at McKee’s pub after walking 36-holes, and each time the chosen elixir was whiskey, with a little Coke, served alongside some amazing Halibut cheek fish and chips.

The atmosphere at McKee’s seemed to match the golf, old school and reserved, but full of hidden, sublime flavors. It has been added to the list of our favorite bars, worldwide.

Yet, none of this is really news. Like I said, Bandon Dunes is somewhat known as a guy’s paradise.

The real news is that Bandon Dunes Golf Resort, with the additon of Old Macdonald in 2010, is about to get remarkably better from a golfing standpoint. Once Old Mac is in play, Pinehurst might start looking over its shoulder from the #1 spot. 

The sublime view from the green at the 377-yard, par-4 7th hole at Old Mac.

The sublime view from the green at the 377-yard, par-4 7th hole at Old Mac.

Old Macdonald is a 7,200-yard, par-72, ultra-traditional links located just steps from Pacific Dunes. It’s unique layout is Pacific Dunes’ architect Tom Doak and Renaissance Golf Design business partner Jim Urbina’s tribute to Charles Blair Macdonald (1856-1939), a pioneer of American golf course architecture and the founder of the USGA.

Not only is it the longest in Bandon’s stable of golf links, Old Mac’s unique design presents golfers with a huge variety of shot-making opportunities. From tee to green there is no discernable answer for each particular shot, and no right way to play each hole. Shank it, punch it, knock it down, loft it, draw it in, fade it, or hit it straight – at Old Mac every shot is playable so long as it is headed for the pin.

And regardless of how solid your game is, you’ll ultimately experience something humbling at the hands of Old Mac, like taking an extra club to get over the huge false front on the 6th green in an effort to get close to the pin, only to hit it a tad hard and find yourself buried in a nearly-invisible pot bunker located just behind the green.

Like Pacific and Bandon Dunes, Old Mac traces the bluffs above Pacific Ocean, where the views (on a clear day) are almost therapeutic. Holes 7, 8, 15 and 16 will become hotspots for professional golf photographers, ala Bandon’s 6th and Pacific Dunes’ 11th holes. What makes it different from its neighbors is Old Mac’s extraordinary in-play features and its added length, which at an estimated 7,200-yards, outpaces Bandon Dunes by almost 500-yards and Pacific Dunes by almost 600-yards.

The playing features that immediately stand out include:

–the massive ‘hogsback’ in the landing area on the par-4, 522-yard 4th hole, which kicks anything hit a bit wayward to the right towards the lower fairway, leaving a blind, uphill second shot.
#4 humpback #4 green

–the ‘hell bunker’ on the 570-yard, par-5 6th hole, a massive stretch of sand that separates the fairway, 150-yards from the green.
 'hell bunker' #6 hell bunker

–the huge ‘chasm’ splitting the green on the 185-yard, par-3 8th. hole, which resembles the Valley of Sin at St. Andrews’ Old Course.
#8 Green -- the 'chasm' #8 from tee

The list of unique features at Old Mac is long and somewhat ironic, considering that those features resemble hazards from old courses in the United States and United Kingdom. There’s even a replica of the Road Hole (the 11th) from the 17th hole at St. Andrews’ Old Course!

Based on our review of the 10 holes currently available for play, it seemed obvious to us that Old Mac possesses more than enough sauce to take the resort’s top spot from the mighty Pacific Dunes. Considering Pacific Dunes’ current rankings, that seems a bold statement, but Old Mac backs it up with its killer views and a kicked-up version of links golf that makes the swales and burns at Pacific and Bandon Dunes seem pedestrian by comparison.

If a USGA championship ever comes to Bandon Dunes, it will be because of Old Mac.

The Construction: we snuck a few photos of the holes being built in the valley on the west side of the course.
under contruction massive dune, lone tree under construction 2

Golf Course Rankings: Based on our visit to Bandon Dunes Golf Resort, this is how we ranked the resort’s golf courses.

1. Old Macdonald (est. 7,200-yards, Par 72) — reviewed above.

2. Pacific Dunes (6,633-yards, Par-71)
Ranked #2 in Golf Digest’s Top 100 Public Golf Courses, Pacific Dunes is often mentioned in the same breath as venerable Pebble Beach. Pacific Dunes is a delicious golf experience, one of those ‘play-it-before-you-die’ kind of deals, like Pebble, only the experience actually lives up to the hype. Every hole at Pacific Dunes is a signature. The one’s located on the ocean are a bonus, a five star feature on a four-star rating scale.For a full review and more photos, click here.

3. Bandon Dunes (6,732-yards, Par 72): Bandon Dunes was built by Scotsman David McLay Kidd in 1999, and was the resort’s sole golf course until Pacific Dunes came on the scene in 2001, stealing a bit of Bandon Dunes’ thunder. Kidd’s design has taken a back seat to Doak’s in the most recent rankings, but not by much, and it remains close as to which golf course is ‘better.’ For a full review and more photos, click here.

4. Bandon Trails (6,765-yards, Par 71): In all the discussions around which golf course is #1, Bandon Trails often gets left out. It quietly exists in the dunes and the pine trees, just south of the resort’s famous golf courses, and rarely gets played. It’s a shame too. This Ben Crenshaw/Bill Coore design, which opened in 2005, incorporates elements of links golf that mirror the playing conditions at Bandon and Pacific Dunes, and extends those hard and fast conditions into a forested environment. For a full review and more photos, click here.

The massive putting green5. Shorty’s (1,104-yards/par-27):Designed by David McLay Kidd, Shorty’s is Bandon Dunes’ version of the short-course, a 9-hole par-3 course that serves as a great primer for those arriving in the late afternoon, looking to get in some practice before the next morning’s round. The entire practice are at Bandon Dunes is a dream, and covers a huge amount of acerage. When Shorty’s is open, grab an 8, or 9-iron, a sand wedge and a putter, and play a nassau for a beer!


Getting to Bandon Dunes:
Truth be told, the drive to Bandon Dunes, from just about any direction, is tedious and long. We drove (from Seattle) as fast as was possible, with one short stop for breakfast, and it still took us six and a half hours to get to Bandon. Once there, however, the drive erased from our memory instantly, minus our suddenly fond memories of the steel bridges in Portland and the giant sand dunes around Coos Bay. All that mattered upon our arrival was the golf, and of course some lunch, which was convened in the Pacific Dunes grill over a couple tasty burger dogs.

The best option is to fly to Southwest Oregon Regional Airport in North Bend. SkyWest is the exclusive operator in and out of that airport, which is just a 25 mile drive from the resort and offers convenient car rental service. The resort will also pick up passengers arriving at the airport. SkyWest flies to North Bend from both the north (Portland International) and south (San Francisco International), making it accessible from virtually anywhere in the U.S. or beyond. For more details check the “Getting Here” section of the resort’s Web site.


Wanderlust and Wine in the Valley — Walla Walla, Washington

Rarely do small towns like Walla Walla, Wash., appear on the travel itinerary. And its a shame because some of America’s small towns, while appearing pedestrian to the uninitiated, are actually hot pockets of outdoor fitness, eco and fashion hipness, historical awareness and gastric innovation.

Walla Walla sits in a sunny valley surrounded by rolling hills covered with dark green vineyards, and behind those hills stands the sublime Blue Mountain range. It almost looks like Tuscany. And it is quickly becoming a food and wine lover’s dream destination.

What looks like smalltown USA from the outside looking in, with its plain-looking, 1920’s-era frontier style architecture, is actually populated by cultural creatives from all over the country, in part thanks to Whitman College, but also because of the region’s intense focus on winemaking and organic agriculture. And typically where there’s good wine, good food follows. 

Main Street USA, Walla Walla with the Marcus-Whitman Hotel in the background.

Main Street USA, Walla Walla with the Marcus-Whitman Hotel in the background.

In fact, Walla Walla was recently touted by Sunset Magazine for not only owning America’s Best Main Street, but also for being one of Our Favorite Small-Town Foodie Haven’s.

But it’s not all about food and wine. Walla Walla is located on the Oregon Trail near the Washington and Oregon border, where the Whitman Mission National Historic site attracts thousands of visitors each year. A trip through the mission provides a deep education into a tragic and controversial story that you and your kids won’t find in a textbook.

Marcus Whitman and his wife Narcissa  established the mission in1836, and by 1847 they were both dead; Marcus took a Tomahawk to the head, while Narcissa was shot trying to escape what has become known as the Whitman Massacre, an act that prompted the Cayuse War. A seven-day pass to the Whitman Mission site is just $3.00, and ‘kids’ under 16 get in free .

Wine Valley GC #5

Just a few miles West of the Whitman Mission is Walla Walla’s spectacular new Wine Valley Golf Club. Draped across Eastern Washington’s massive wind-swept dunes like a lonely emerald carpet, Wine Valley offers up traditional links golf in a beautiful setting. For a more detailed review of the course, and more photos click here.

Being surrounded by rivers and mountains, plus a warm, dry climate, Walla Walla is also ideal for outdoor adventure. To the west about 35 miles, the Snake River and Yakima River merge with the Columbia River near the Oregon border, and the massive convergance of water provides ample fishing and boating opportunities on the Columbia and its many tributaries.

And the Umatilla National Forest of the Blue Mountains, located to the east of Walla Walla, provide ample hiking, fishing, camping and cycling opportunities.

Walla Walla’s Wine Wanderer
Flying Trout Winery is owned and operated by 27-year old Ashley Trout who originally came to Walla Walla from the East Coast to study at Whitman College, but started working in the town’s wineries during her freshman year. She was hooked instantly on the winemaking process, and upon her graduation from Whitman had earned a better education working in the vineyards than she had studying liberal arts at the exclusive, private college.

During the summer after graduating, Trout was injured in a rock climbing accident and missed the crush (wine harvest) in Walla Walla, because of a three-month rehabilitation. The time off made her realize how much she missed working in the vineyards. When finally healthy, she moved to Argentina in time for its crush, and begain establishing relationships at every level of the Argentine winemaking business, just as she had done in Walla Walla. It helped that she was fluent in Spanish.

“I kept coming back year after year to work in the vineyards for the Argentine crush,” she says. “After a while they realized I wasn’t just slave labor and started teaching me their craft. I also met a lot of the university winemaking students and grad students at the discos, who are really the future of winemaking.”

Flying Trout Winery ashley trout Flying Trout Winery foyer

The climate in that area of Argentina is almost identical to the climate in the Columbia Valley. By establishing vines with similar grapes in two different hempispheres, Trout is unique, and calls her lust to make wine in both countries, a “fascinating bi-hemispherical terroir”.

Her efforts in South America also allow Flying Trout to issue two releases per year, from two different parts of the world, all of which gets sold-out within three weeks of being released. It pays to be a member of Flying Trout’s wine club.

Says Trout, “it’s nice (selling out early) because I can go back to being a winemaker instead of a saleswoman.”

Just a few of the many barrels full of wineWhat wasn’t sold out during our visit were the Fyling Trout wines aging in barrels in the wearhouse situated behind Flying Trout’s tasting room.

Drinking wine straight from the barrel should rank at the top of any list for ‘things to do’ in Walla Walla on a Friday afternoon, especially after a long bike ride. Even novice wine drinkers can learn to appreciate the subtle strawberry flavors still brewing in the 2008 Horse Heaven Hills Malbec, or the spicy, lingering flavor of apple that dominates the 2007 Rattlesnake Hills Malbec.  

To join Flying Trout’s wine club, where club members get first access to cases of the winery’s latest releases, click here. Membership is free. To set up a visit to the tasting rom, call Ashley at (509) 520-7701, or email her at

Where to Stay and What to Eat
The most distinguishing, and tallest building in Walla Walla is the Marcus-Whitman Hotel, located in the heart of downtown, just two blocks from Main Street. In 1999, local techonology enterpreneur Kyle Mussman (check out his sailing blog) bought the building, saving it from being destroyed and then pumping $33 million into the rennovation of the old Marcus-Whitman Hotel. In the process he revived the classic hotel to the point where it matches its glory days when the old Marcus-Whitman Hotel played host to guests like former President Dwight Eisenhower, after whom a suite is named on the seventh floor.

mw lobby - click to enlarge eisenhower 2 - click to enlarge eisenhower suite 2 - click to enlarge

Filled with oak paneling and marble floors, the lobby of the hotel is dark and cool, and a serence contrast to Walla Walla’s hot and sunny weather. What was once a hostel and designated for demolition is now a sophisticated space decorated in classic style, offering finely appointed and comfortable suites at reasonable rates, amazing customer service, and even an art collection on the third floor.

And then there’s the food.

Upon request, the head chef of Marcus Whitman’s The Marc restaurant, Hank “Bear” Ullman offer’s his dinner guests a chance to sit at the ultra-cool Chef’s Table. For $125 diners can eat at a table located in the kitchen, eating a custom-made five course meal that features locally grown and sourced produce and meats. The energy in The Marc’s kitchen is lively, with the chef’s working hard to please, and the off-the-menu food is off-the-charts good, making the experience worth the price tag.

The Marc's Chef's Table Guests Enjoy VIP Service. 'Bear' and his crew serving a recent party.

The Marc's Chef's Table Guests Enjoy VIP Service. 'Bear' and his crew serving a recent party.

The menu from our visit to the Chef’s Table included: a first course of Oregon dungeness crab salad complete with orange and coriander finish; followed by a plate of wild Pacific troll-caught salmon, served on heirloom tomatoes and mizuna and topped with a tomato-saffron vinaigrette. Next to the salmon was grilled Oregon quail, presented over an English pea puree.

All of this was served alongside Flying Trout Winery’s Torrontes.

Next came a palate cleansing salad of local greens and apples, dressed with meyer lemon and a meyer lemon vinagrette. According to Bear, “the acidic salad breaks up the rapid-fire protiens coming at you with something simple and crisp.”

The third course, served with a local Syrah, took the dinner to the next level: Rocky Mountain buffalo filet on pâtes aux champignons, which consisted of locally sourced Buffalo tenderloin, served on top of a bed of bacon and a fois gras-wild mushroom pate. To top it off, two fried quail eggs, served over easy, were slipped between the bacon and the filet.

Rocky Mountain Buffalo Filet on Pâtes aux Champignons

Rocky Mountain Buffalo Filet on Pâtes aux Champignons

By the fourth course some of Bear’s Chef’s Table guests started slowing down and getting full, but Bear kept the heat on, rewarding the heavier eaters by breaking out a melt-in-your-mouth Anderson Ranch free-range roasted rack of lamb, served with Bing cherry chutney. 

The fifth course was dessert, and a surprisingly tasty, and strategic selection — Rock Star energy drink sorbet with Bing cherries.

Bear’s knowledgeable crew helps Chef’s Table guests, and all diners at The Marc pair glasses, or bottles of wine for each course, so even wine-drinking amateurs have a chance to experience what a proper food and wine pairing tastes like.

“It all goes back to relationships, connections and taking care of people,” says Bear. “I’ve been here for nine years now and have built fantastic relationships with the organic community and winemakers. We get asparagus the same morning it’s cut, we trim our own micro greens as we need them, and I have a farmer that is willing to get up at 3:00 a.m. to go pick squash blossoms before the sun hits them, so to be successful with this kind of product, all you really have to do is not mess it up.”

Ullman and The Marc certainly don’t mess things up, in fact, the Marcus-Whitman’s restaurant is spot on, just like the hotel.

Other restaurants worth checking out in Walla Walla include: the Saffron Mediterranean Grill, Whitehouse-Crawford, the Creekside Grill, and for breakfast the farmer’s market located on 4th and Main Street, which takes place each Saturday and Sunday from 9:00 a.m. — 1:00 p.m. Not only are there good eats, for cheap, but typically a band and a friendly atmosphere that will make you forget your wine hangover.

farmer's market market band market berries

Getting Around
Walla Walla’s population is just over 30,000. It’s a small town. Don’t bother driving around. Instead, rent a bike from Allegro Cyclery. For $35 a day, Allegro will rent your bike of choice. 

allegro cyclery

Jump on a comfy commuter bike, which will perform nicely on Walla Walla’s flat streets, and then cruise the city’s old neighborhoods at supersonic speeds, or take the bike trails leading out of town towards the surrounding vineyards. Allegro provides a Walla Walla bike trail map for reference.

Live the wine and food life like a Euro by renting a bike at Allegro! After a few quick laps around Walla Walla, you’ll be glad you did.

Why Should You Visit Walla Walla?
The wine and food explosion currently happening in Walla Walla, and within the Tri-Cities area in general, is sure to attract more attention and tourist dollars to Walla Walla, which let’s be honest, was struggling to find its identity twenty years ago. Now, its all about living close to the area’s rich, wine and sweet onion producing soil; where the food that’s consumed is grown next-door and picked that day, and where the vintners produce wines from vines that actually perculate with the distinctive flavors of strawberry, spicy pepper,  grapefruit. basil, or plum.

The mountains and rivers that surround the city provide a plethora of outdoor adventure, and look inviting from a distance, a big contrast from the craggy Rocky and Cascade Mountain ranges. The golf in Walla Walla is championship-worthy, and the area is full of history lessons. 

The vibe on Main Street Walla Walla is hometown cool — the candy shop is located in the perfect spot, right between the vintner’s wine-tasting rooms — and the people in Walla Walla are super friendly, welcoming, and down to earth.

Teddy Roosevelt, explorer extrordinairre, once said Walla Walla left, “”the pleasantest impression upon my mind of any city I visited while in the Northwest.” 

When thinking about your next three-day weekend consider taking a trip to Walla Walla. But don’t go unless you can get a room at the magnificent Marcus-Whitman Hotel. 



Golf Course Review: Chambers Bay

cape fear

Chambers Bay
6320 Grandview Dr.
University Place, WA 98467
Navy Tees: 7,109 yards/Rating 74.4/Slope 130

Chambers Bay blew me away. Just a few days removed from playing the Robert Trent Jones II designed, Scottish links-style golf course on a sunny and windless 70-degree day, I can’t get the experience out of my head. Nor do I want to.  The feelings I have towards Chambers Bay rival my wandering lust for places like Crystal Downs, Wolf Creek, Austin Country Club, Oak Tree Country Club’s Men’s Course and Torey Pines.

Prior to visiting Chambers Bay, I fully understood the hype. This relatively new course had been designated by Golf Magazine, and a handful of other publications as 2007’s Best New Golf Course. Matt Ginella, Golf Digest’s senior travel editor (and one of my favorite golf/travel writers), recently included Chambers Bay in a list of his Top 10 Public Courses. Even more impressive, the couse will serve as the host of the 2010 U.S. Amateur and 2015 U.S. Open championships.

My expectations were high, but then I had heard stories from friends that the golf course was still maturing and needed more time, that the greens were shaggy, slow and hard. Even Kemper Sports, which manages the 250+ acre property, admitted to me last week in an email that they were struggling with course conditions after a hard winter. So, needless to say, those expectations were tempered a bit before my arrival and for the purposes of this review.

Hardly necessary. The golf course was in immaculate condition.

The minute I stepped on the practice putting green, which features a large Rolex clock, a transformation took place, and suddenly I was in Scotland. Tacoma no longer existed. All around me were massive sand dunes covered with native grasses and emerald faiways winding through said dunes, all bordered by the deep blue waters of the Puget Sound. There was even a train track, located in between the course and the Sound, invoking visions of St. Andrews and the famous Road Hole.

Chambers Bay's signature par-3, the 139-yard 15th, better known as Lone Fir

Chambers Bay's signature par-3, the 139-yard 15th, better known as Lone Fir

Accepting the challenge of Chambers Bay meant stepping back to what were the tips that day, and playing the course at a listed 7,109-yards. Prior to teeing off, the starter briefed me on the course conditions, provided a few ‘local knowledge tips’ and said the course would play more like 7,400-yards, considering its sea-level location and the heavy Pacific Northwest air.

Needless to say, I forsaw a struggle coming, especially on the 1st hole, a beautiful par-4 listed at 491-yards that stretches towards the Sound. Thanks to the starter’s tip, I only had 220-yards left to the hole on the 1st following what seemed like a solid drive.

After having played a nice hybrid approach to about 40-feet and three-putting for bogey,  and then following a similar pattern on the 2nd, I got into a groove. From the tee, I began belting the driver, and on the greens adjusted to the speed and grain. And after a birdie on the 465-yard, par-4 5th the course began to reveal its nature — holes that look crazy difficult from the tee box are amazingly playable. For example, on the 5th I drove the ball 330-yards from the elevated ‘Free Fall’ tee, hit a 9-iron approach to the uphill green and used the amazing contours that surround Chambers Bay’s greens to cozy the ball up to the flagstick.

The front nine at Chambers Bay allows players to finish with a flourish on the 8th and 9th holes after getting abused by the demonic, uphill, 482-yard 7th. The 8th is a narrow, but short 557-yard par-5, and the 9th is a 202-yard par-3 that features an elevated tee standing at least 100-feet above the green below. When the pin is located front-left, good shots tend to funnel towards the flagstick, which should make this hole a prime viewing spot during the U.S. Amateur and the U.S. Open.

Chambers Bay’s back nine is much like the front in that there are holes (#’s 11, 14 and 16) that test the limits of your golfing skill, but others, like the 12th, 15th and 18th that reward good play with birdie opportunities. As with the finishing hole on the front nine, the 541-yard, par-5 18th should prove a dramatic viewing spot for the birdie-hungry galleries attending the USGA’s upcoming  championships.

Finishing Touch: the amazing 18th hole at Chambers Bay

Finishing Touch: the amazing 18th hole at Chambers Bay

Chambers Bay advertises itself as ‘pure links golf’, and more than lives up to its billing. And it exceeds the hype created by Golf Magazine, Golf Digest and others. It is a golfing experience that allows players to play the game as the Scottish intended, and one that will stick in their minds for years to come.

Coming up with a list of ‘Signature Holes’ from Chambers Bay is like trying to name your favorite flavor of ice cream. It ain’t easy.

Signature Holes:

#5 tee#5 Free Fall — standing atop the elevated 5th tee complex players witness amazing views of the golf course layed out in front of the Puget Sound. Though this hole is listed as a 465-yard par-4, it plays shorter than advertised and offers real birdie opportunities.

#7 Humpback — in stark contrast to #5, this 482-yard par-4 offers little hope for birdie. A menacing dog-leg right, the 7th requires a forced carry from the tee and an extreme-uphill approach shot, which in my case required a 3-wood. The humpbacks this hole was named after sit just 60-yards from the green and have the potential to knock down low angled approach shots. 

#15 Lone Fir — this 139-yard par-3, with incredible views of the Puget Sound behind it, also houses the golf course’s only tree, a lonely Fir that stands tall. The well-protected green requires careful club selection, but also a respite after the brutal Cape Fear (#14).

#18 Tahoma — Standing on the 18th teebox, golfers are exposed to dramatic views of the Sound and the golf course, but also historic, industrial remnants of the gravel mine that once dominated this landscape. In terms of playbility, the 541-yard par-5 offers an excellent birdie chance and a memorable finish to a dynamic golf course.

Value: At $149 during the week and $169 on weekends, Chambers Bay is a steal. Pierce County residents receive a whopping $60 discount.

Walkability: Chambers Bay is a walking-only golf course. Rent a caddy, or bring your push cart because motorized carts are forbidden, minus a doctor’s note. Truth be told, the golf was so exciting the walk seemed a breeze.

#1 tee - click to enlarge #5 tee - click to enlarge #7 green -click to enlarge

#9 green -click to enlarge #10 green - click to enlarge 11 sign - click to enlarge

#12, The Narrows - click to enlarge #16 tee - click to enlarge 18th green - click to enlarge

rolex clock nice view historical remnants


Golf Course Review: Gold Mountain Golf Club, The Olympic Course

1st Tee, Olympic Course art

Gold Mountain Golf Club – The Olympic Course
7263 W. Belfair Valley Road
Bremerton, WA 98312
Blue Tees: 6,505-yards/Rating 71.3/Slope 129

The Olympic Course seems far removed from the concrete jungle that exists just a few miles away on Washington’s Highway 16. Driving into the Gold Mountain Golf Club complex, visitors are greeted by a shady row of huge, old growth trees, whose wet bark is covered in thick, dark green moss; truly one of the more beautiful entryways in golf.

The rainforest-like conditions in the driveway disappear, however, as soon as one steps out of the car and onto Gold Mountain’s practice putting green. This is golf in a true alpine environment, ala Keystone Ranch in Colorado’s Rocky Mountain’s. Surrounded by majestic views of the Olympic mountain range, deep, dark woods full of golf balls, and pine-scented breezes, the Olympic Course immediately refreshed my senses.

A PGA Sectional tournament had played the golf course that morning, and as a result, it was in impecible condition for late April. Driving the ball with confidence was easy, as the fairways were wide and well-drained, and gave off some nice roll. The real challenge at the Olympic Course was in managing its small, potato-chip-shaped greens, which on that day, were set up to test the pros.  

The Olympic Course's Signature 15th and 16th Holes

The Olympic Course's Signature 15th and 16th Holes

The finishing stretch of holes, while not the most difficult in golf, certainly should qualify as some of the most thrilling. After carding a birdie on the 14th, another birdie on the ‘Augusta-like’ 15th, a solid par on the scenic 16th and a double-bogie on the brutal 17th, I stood on the 271-yard, par-4 18th tee looking for revenge. And eagle seemed a real possibility after driving the heavily-bukered green with a sweet 3-wood, but then in a twist of nasty fate, a three-putt par landed on my scorecard.

The playability of the Olympic Course is a huge factor in why the Gold Mountain Golf Club receives so many accolades and hosts so many good tournaments, including last year’s NCAA Men’s West Regional tournament. Golfers of all abilities face a number of good chances to make pars and birdies on the Olympic Course, but often watch those scores balloon to bogeys and double-bogeys with a shaky putter.

Signature Holes

9th green, from 1st tee, Olympic Course#9 — don’t relax after hitting a good drive and second shot on the 585-yard, par-5 9th, as there is more work left to do with the approach shot. This green is a killer.

#15/#16 — I put these two holes together because they are joined by a lake, and not only provide scoring excitement, but the best-looking holes on the golf course. The 15th is a 334-yard par 4 that offers an easy birdie, or so it seems from the fairway. And the 16th is a 157-yard par-3  that will eat your lunch if you don’t hit the green with your tee shot.

#17 — the 440-yard 17th hole is a bruiser that requires accuracy above all else. 3-wood from the tee is a smart choice. The potential to blow-up on the 17th is huge.

Value — perhaps the best value of the golfing options on the Kitsap Peninsula, the Gold Mountain Golf Club’s daily rates are cheap and its club memberships, which include play on both the Olympic and Cascade courses, are super cheap.

Walkability — while the terrain is a bit up and down, the Olympic Course is still very walkable for a mountain design.

1st hole, Olympic Course 4th hole, Olympic Course view-from-6th-tee 

6th-hole, from fairway 11th hole, Olympic Course 16th hole, Olympic Course