Sunday, April 22, 2018

Pacific Northwest Trip Review

My wife and I like to take a week long adventure trip every year.  We always try to incorporate a national park into our adventurous golf trips.  In 2016 our trip involved golf in seven states plus time at Yellowstone National Park.  In 2018 our trip will be in Maine and New Hampshire with a visit to Acadia National Park.  Our 2017 trip to the Pacific Northwest was constructed around a visit to Glacier National Park in Montana.  We flew into Seattle for the trip and designed our stops to play golf courses on the way to and from Glacier.  We had an amazing time and can't wait to get back to experience more of Glacier and the Pacific Northwest.

Our trip began with Chambers Bay in Tacoma, Washington. Unfortunately when I opened my travel bag at Chambers Bay I discovered the airline had broken my driver.  The kind staff at Chambers Bay loaned me a demo driver for the day.  The interesting thing about the demo driver was for some reason I couldn't hit it more than 20 feet in the air.  That actually worked out though, because the course was playing firm and I got the maximum amount of roll.  I really enjoyed the course and wouldn't hesitate to go back, especially now that they are installing new greens.
3rd Hole

6th Hole

15th Hole
After a quick stop at a golf store to get my driver fixed, my wife and I headed to Fircrest Golf Club in Fircrest, Washington.  Fircrest is a classic course designed by Vernon Macan in the 20's.  The tight driving course relies on the trees as it's primary challenge off the tee.  Every hole is well bunkered with good greens.

7th Hole looking back

9th Hole with 18th green in the background
On day two we began our journey east to Montana with a stop at Desert Canyon Resort in Orondo, Washington.  The drive to Desert Canyon along the Columbia river was gorgeous and I highly recommend it.  Desert Canyon was designed by Jack Frei.  Besides the amazing setting, the holes are very enjoyable and use the elevation well.  I guess they intend to build a 3rd nine at some point because the instead of the front and back nine, the nines are labeled the Desert nine & the Lakes nine.

5th Hole

8th Hole
After playing Desert Canyon we embarked on another scenic drive for our afternoon round at Gamble Sands in Brewster, Washington.  Gamble Sands was designed by David McClay Kidd, most noteworthy for designing the first course at Bandon Dunes.  Gamble Sands is a big course that plays very firm and fast.  I really appreciated the forward tee placement as my high handicap wife was able to hit many par 4's in regulation and thoroughly enjoyed the wild greens.
2nd Hole, one of the best Driveable Par 4's I've played


16th Hole
After our round at Gamble Sands we drove East to Spokane, Washington for some golf in nearby Coeur D'Alene.  Our Coeur D'Alene experience began with the famous Resort course at Coeur D'Alene, known for its floating green.  The golf course is on a very small piece of property but I give the architect, Scott Miller, a lot of credit for designing a course that is challenging for the low handicap player while still giving opportunity for the higher handicaps.  My wife shot 41 on the front nine with four pars.  The island green experience was not as silly as I envisioned it to me and I actually really enjoyed it.
5th Hole

6th Hole
Floating Green 14th Hole
My tee shot on the floating green.  It was playing 181 against the wind.  Hit it right in the middle of the green

Tee markers
Our afternoon round on Day three was at Circling Raven Golf Club in Worley, Idaho.  A quick 30-minute drive from Coeur D'Alene.  Circling Raven was designed by Gene Bates and is part of the Coeur D'Alene Casino Resort.  The course was well designed for the caliber of golfer that will be playing a casino course.  It features wide fairways and greens with very few tricks.
3rd Hole

8th Hole

16th Hole
Day four of the trip began with a round at the highly rated Tom Fazio design Gozzer Ranch Club.  Gozzer is a very unique experience.  It is possible to drive to the course but it is more practical to take a boat ride across Lake Coeur D'Alene.  I've taken a large ferry to play golf a couple times in my life, but the boat ride was a first.  This super high-end course was everything you would expect from Fazio, impeccable conditions, beautiful holes, and lots of eye candy.
Boat ride to the course

3rd Hole

4th Hole

15th Hole
Next up on Day four was The Golf Club at Black Rock.  Black Rock is unique, as are most courses designed by Jim Engh.  Mr. Engh has a very interesting take on golf course architecture and his designs generate a lot of discussion.  One of his trademarks is designing greens with bowls that bring balls into the green instead of repelling them so he does try hard to make his courses fair even with the extreme severity in places.
5th Hole

11th Hole with Waterfalls

13th Hole, more Waterfalls
After playing at Black Rock we headed East for a full day at Glacier National Park in Montana.  Glacier is one of the most beautiful places in the country.  My love for the National Parks has grown significantly over the years.  I was lucky to have parents that insisted on taking my sister and I to Yellowstone when we were kids and although we didn't appreciate it as much as we should at the time, I am eternally grateful to them for starting me on this journey of wonder.  
I suggest that everybody take the time to watch Ken Burns wonderful documentary about the National Parks.  The title of the Documentary, America's Best Idea, might be the most appropriate title I've ever heard for a movie.
Waterfall Hike




Ram
After a beautiful sunrise hike around one of the lakes at Glacier we began our journey back West to Seattle.  We stopped at a little nine-hole course in Western Montana called Trestle Creek in Saint Regis.  If you are coming from the West, Saint Regis is where you get off Interstate 90 to head to Glacier National Park.  I highly recommend taking the time to stop at Trestle Creek.  I love little mom and pop courses like this.
1st Hole


4th Hole
After a very pleasant walk around Trestle Creek, we returned to the Coeur D'Alene area in the afternoon for a round at The Club at Rock Creek.  Rock Creek is right across the street from Black Rock and was originally planned as the second course at Black Rock before financial problems resulted in Rock Creek becoming its own entity.  Rock Creek was designed by Tom Weiskopf, who is a master at designing mountain courses.  Weiskopf always gives you an enjoyable course with at least one very good short par four.
1st green looking at 7th Hole

2 green Par three 5th Hole
Day six of the trip began with an early morning mound at Palouse Ridge Golf Course in Pullman, Washington.  Most people say Palouse Ridge is the best course designed by John Harbottle.  The site features a ton of dramatic elevation changes and some standout long par 4's.
3rd Hole
5th and 6th Holes

17th Hole at bottom, 3rd green top right, 4th green top left
great logo
Day six of our trip continued with a round at the biggest surprise of the trip, Wine Valley Golf Club in Walla Walla, Washington.  When I was a kid I thought Walla Walla was a fictional place that Bugs Bunny liked to talk about.  As it turns out, Walla Walla is a beautiful place with an amazing golf course.



4th Hole

11th Hole
The last day of our trip began with a quick warm up around at the Rope Rider course at Suncadia Resort.  We were right near the course in Cle Elum the previous night and the opportunity for a quick early round presented itself so I pounced on the opportunity.  Rope Rider is a Jacobsen/Hardy design with solid holes typical of a resort course.

3rd Hole
Next up on our trip was Sahalee Country Club in Sammamish, Washington.  Sahalee is a course that has hosted the PGA Championship and a few Women's Majors in the past 20 years.  Amongst my golf architecture buddies it is really known as a love/hate course because people are put off by the trees that cause the narrow fairways.   I came away very impressed by Sahalee because the course was designed with the trees as the challenge.  There is nothing wrong with asking the player to hit a specific type of shot off the tee.  Sahalee was not one of the many courses that had no trees when it was designed and became overgrown through the years.  It was masterfully designed to use the trees as the main challenge to achieve a good score.  Higher handicap players like my wife were not at all bothered by the trees because from her tee the fairways were plenty wide.
2nd Hole

7th Hole

11th Hole, Great par 5
The last round on our trip was Aldarra Golf Club in Sammamish, Washington.  Aldarra was one of the best Fazio courses I have ever played.  I was very impressed with the routing.  Normally an out and back routing can end up with some very average holes but the out and back stretch of holes from 3 to 8 was very impressive.  The par 3's were particularly exceptional.
6th Hole

15th Hole
We had a great trip to the Pacific Northwest and can't wait to return to play other wonderful golf courses in the Seattle area and of course return to Glacier National Park.

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