Monday, September 14, 2015
On Location: Chambers Bay
The good, bad and ugly...As the controversial choice for the 2015 U.S. Open, we've heard it all about this public course in Washington State.
I decided to head to the Pacific Northwest and play this course that burst into international prominence in June.
Laid out along the shores of the Puget Sound with the Olympic Mountains in the distance, Chambers Bay is stunningly attractive. Huge sand dunes, spacious verdant green fairways framed by tall grasses and the blue waters of the Sound make the course one of the most visually appealing and photogenic I've ever played. Designer Robert Trent Jones II went to great lengths to create a Scottish links style golf experience in this special setting.
It feels more like a British Open venue than a U.S. Open site with its dunes, waste areas and mounds and slopes around the greens. When you add in unpredictable weather and winds and occasional click-clacking trains rolling by, it seems more British Isles than Washington State isles.
Measuring from 5,100 to 7,585 yards, the par 72 layout plays fast and firm. Every blade of grass on the course is fescue--on the tees, greens, fairways and rough.
The speedy turf allows you to hit the ball low and run it up the fairways and you can bump and run shots on most holes. For mid to high-handicappers the most difficult part of your round will be hitting wedges from 60 yards in with extremely tight lies.
While the elevations provide challenging holes and amazing views, they also can have an adverse effect on your round if you get fatigued from walking the undulating terrain. It's almost an eight mile walk with some steep climbs and elevation changes. If you're out of shape and used to riding around in a cart, Chambers Bay will definitely test you physically. Rented push carts and taking a caddie can help remedy that problem.
The super sized greens with exagerrated humps, hollows and backboards can easily destroy your round (with three and four putts) even if you're having a great ball striking day.
I played Chambers Bay on a hot and sultry July day just a few weeks after the U.S. Open. The greens were, for the most part, bumpy and inconsistent on that day. I was truly surprised and disappointed. I was informed "the reasons for the questionable greens were the unseasonably warm weather combined with the stress associated with the extreme agronomic practices required to prepare for the U.S. Open. " Their staff is working diligently to correct the problem and hopefully they'll have the greens in top shape before you visit.
Chambers Bay is not a cheap place to play (See rates below) so I suggest calling to inquire about the greens before you book your tee time.
10 Little Things I Liked
1. Caddie program--It has a solid group of experienced and knowledgeable caddies. If you're playing Chambers Bay for the first-time (and possibly your only time), I highly recommend taking a caddie. You'll save a few strokes and they'll make the experience more enjoyable by giving correct target lines and yardages to the flag.
2. View from Chambers Bay Grill--Sit on the veranda for lunch and you'll be rewarded with a stunning panorama of the golf course and the Puget Sound in the distance.
3. Trains-Train tracks border the golf holes similar to Prestwick and Royal Adelaide. It's inspiring and exhilerating when a train chugs by as you stand on a tee or green.
4. No housing--You don't have to worry about hitting pool screens or bouncing balls off of roofs as there are no homes on the wide open course.
5. Public walking trail--A nice touch, a walking trail winds through the course allowing non-golfers to enjoy the site and it's views. The trail is similar to the one at the Old Course in St. Andrews.
6. No cart paths--A walking-only course, Chambers Bay has no golf carts, thus, no need for unsightly cart paths.
7. Santa Fe Chicken Sandwich--A sumptuous lunch time favorite, which I enjoyed, has a breaded chicken patty with lettuce, green chili, melted pepper jack cheese and sweet corn aioli on a ciabatta roll.
8. Concrete remnants from the gravel mine--The course is built on a former sand and gravel mine site and you can see "ruins" from the era, which were not destroyed.
9. Fescue grass--To enhance the British Isles type experience, the entire course is planted with fescue grass.
10. Friendly staff--The staff is very unpretentious and helpful whether you're in the grill, pro shop or on the first tee.
Just like it's expensive to romance a supermodel, the drop dead gorgeous Chambers Bay is no cheap date either. From July to September it costs a non-resident $275 and active or retired military $169 to play a round. In October, non-residents can play for $175 and active or retired military can play for $109.
Situated on 950 acres along the shores of the Puget Sound in University Place, Washington about 60 minutes from downtown Seattle, 40 minutes from Sea-Tac International Airport and 20 minutes from downtown Tacoma.
THINGS TO KNOW
For more information about the course and tee times, click to Chambers Bay Golf or call 877-295-4657.
A special package offering is "The Championship Experience", which includes play on Chambers Bay, The Home Course, Gold Mountain and accommodations at Hotel Murano in downtown Tacoma. Visit The Championship Experience or call 253-591-4142 for more information.