Review: Chamber's Bay Golf Course, WA

Ready for the 2015 US Open?
The USGA awarded the 2015 US Open to the very young Chambers Bays.  Some might feel that this was a bit premature, but after my round there, I think it will be an outstanding test for the best golfers in the world.   Sure it won’t allow them to go 25 under par, but it is fun to watch them play a tough public course.  I think it has matured in nicely over the years and has potential to be an exciting tournament.  Robert Trent Jones II crafted a spectacular, slightly quirky, links style course out of the rugged remains of a gravel quarry.  The views are beautiful and the course is fun which make for an excellent golf experience for the amateur golfer, even if the pro don’t like it.

You couldn’t ask for a much better setting.  After a short drive out of Tacoma, WA, you find your way to the temporary club house perched on the hillside above the course.  From that point, you can see every hole on the course.  It really is quite a sight, I’m not sure I’ve ever been to another course, with such a view and layout.  You need to take a shuttle from the clubhouse to the practice area and starter which is kind of weird, but it is what it is.  The massive practice complex offers a huge putting green which is vital to playing well, the great double chipping green is really helpful for getting a feel of the creativity you will need and there is large driving range to get you loose for the impending round. 

Play started on 10 the day I was there.  So I will do my best to keep the holes in the right order.  We’ll start with my back nine which started on hole 1.  It offers a huge landing zone and a solid par 5. The 18th, 1st and 10th are all running next to each other.  There is a drop off between 18 and 1 and a huge mound between 1 and 10. 

Hole number 2 offers a moderately blind landing zone, which is one of the few on the entire course.  Most holes are all visible right in front of you.   

Hole number 5 is a huge fairway with plenty of room.  The unique aspect of this hole is the kidney shaped green with a bunker front and center.

Hole number 7 is a big bold par four dog leg right up the hill.  While the green is huge, it is semi blind with a huge false front.  You have to get up to the top on this one.  It’s long and uphill so distance control is so important.

Hole number 8 is straight par 5, but a slicers nightmare.  You can’t go right, since it drops off to the driving range. 

I think hole 9 is going to be one of the most talked about holes during the US Open.  It has some nasty pin placements.  The teeing area is 100 feet above the green.  The big hill on the left side of the green kicks everything right, even down to the bunker, (which has CB raked into the sand). 

After making the turn by the restrooms and practice area, off to hole number 10 (our first hole).  This one is cut between the mountains of sand.  It is a nice 400 yard par 4 that starts wide and narrows as you near the green.  While Hole 11 offers kind of a split fairway with a bunker in the middle.  Both sides offer a downhill roll out for tee shots which is vital for this monster of a par 4.

Another hole what will make the US Open interesting is 12.  It is a sweet little par 4.  The green is drivable and is one of the largest greens on the course.   It is just plain huge.  But just because you drive the green, doesn’t mean your going to exit with a birdie, even a par.  Placement, chipping and putting are still going to be extremely difficult on this massive green. 

Holes 13 and 14, while looking at the scorecard are close in length, yet they play very different.  That is because 13 is mostly uphill and has a nasty bunker complex as you near the green and 14 is all downhill from one of the best vistas of the entire course.  It is a big hike to the top of the hill, but an angled fairway needs a pretty good poke to avoid the quarry pit running the left side of the fairway and the fairway bunker. 

Crossing a few paths leads you to one of greatest looking par 3 holes in golf, hole 15.  It is not intimidating or demanding, just classic with the single pine tree in the background. 

Hole 17 is a nice par 3 that plays slightly downhill.  Our group had a great experience of sticking a bunch of shots in close, but in the process my buddy broke the head of his 9-iron. 

Hole 18 is a moderate length par 5.  Remnants of the gravel quarry remain along the right side of this hole.  The hole offers a generous landing zone off the tee, but pinches in on the approach to the green.  But since the green sits down a little in a bowl, if you get it up there, you should stay around the green. 

So the real issue with the US Open at Chambers Bay will be the turf.  I’ve seen reports of it being almost concrete like.  When I was there, it wasn’t that firm.  Sure the grounds crew was  working toward getting things moving a little faster but it was very playable.  The greens were very nice rolling smoothly at 9.5 on the stimp when I played.  The claims about this being a links style course potentially are going too far.  It still need to be reasonable.  I think it is fun that it is tough, linksy and different, but I hope USGA doesn’t turn it into a joke either.  It’s fun to watch them struggle, but if it gets silly, then it isn’t fun for anyone.

If you live in the Seattle area this is a must play.  If you live outside the Pacific Northwest, a trip to Chambers Bay should be on your list of things to do.  You don’t always get the chance to play where the pros play, so here is your opportunity and as the condition improve daily, you will not be disappointed.  It should make an awesome site for the 2015 US Open with all the spectacular viewing points. The current pictures and views are amazing and should make some great TV, lets just hope the USGA doesn’t get silly with the turf conditions.

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