On Saturday we travelled to Chambers Bay golf links near Tacoma.
The course was designed by Robert Trent Jones Jnr, and opened in 2007.
Right from the outset Chambers Bay was in the spotlight. It was voted the best new course of the year in the USA.
The course has already hosted a US amateur, and the 2015 US Open, won by Jordan Spieth.
This is almost unheard of for a public access course, let alone a brand new one.
The course is located in a former sand & gravel quarry abutting the picturesque Pugent Sound, and is owned by the local Pierce Council.
The course plays like a links course with firm fescue fairways & greens, and some gorgeous red fescues waving in the rough.
Some holes proceed through enormous dunes reminiscent of Ballybunion, or the back nine at Tralee - others run along Pugent Sound a la Whistling Straits.
Others still head up and down the side of the quarry, and have significant elevation change.
RTJ Jnr states that he designed the course for the better player- but that anybody can play it.
Maybe so, but it would be an extremely daunting course for the lesser player .
We were extremely fortunate with the weather when we played- it was warm and sunny with a light breeze- perfect for golf!
The starter advised me that the course played 400 yards longer than the card because of the elevation change so I moved forward one tee- but it really didn't work for me- I still could not reach some of the longer 4's and was was too close on a number of others to play the course as it should be played/or as I would have liked.
Chambers Bay is one of the most visually spectacular courses I have played- with eye candy everywhere, and rivalling Whistling Straits in regard to the number of waste bunkers used for cosmetic purposes- with no strategic value- even alongside teeing grounds.
But I like RTJ Jnr courses, and this is no exception.
There is real variety in the holes, a nice routing, some super short 4's, excellent bunkering- and the course is very strong strategically.
I was constantly asked to make decisions about how much to take on- both on the tee shot and the approach- it is all laid out before you to decide...In this regard it reminded me a little of Kinloch in NZ- but much more scenic..
Before we played we knew the course had also garnered some criticism for being too hard on the average player, and that the greens were too severe .
With my experience playing at the National GC in Australia (also RTJ), I thought the enormous greens were largely appropriate- not overdone- but testing and appropriate for a windy course.
However like the National, balls missing greens tended to "gather" in collection areas which end up being a mass of divots.
This is a problem for Chambers Bay.
The elevation changes were at times significant and I found them difficult to club first up (a caddy would help!)- but obviously some experience of the course would remedy that.
My biggest issue with the course was the crazy pin positions on 12 and 13.
Hole 12 is a short par 4 with a radical green as it's main defence.
There is a large mound in the centre of the green and the pin was on top of that mound looking like a candle on top of a plate of icecream.
You could chip or putt to 4 or 5 feet either side of the hole and roll off 20 feet.
Hole 13 is a short climbing par 5 with the green on a ledge.
The back left pin was on the down slope of a steep ridge protruding into and dividing the green (with a drop off behind).
I looked at these 2 holes from every which way, trying to see what the architect was asking, and concluded they were two of the silliest pins I had ever seen!
I can certainly see why the course could be considered controversial for a US Open- with slick greens and anything more than a gentle zephyr off Pugent Sound...
But overall this is a gorgeous looking course that everyone should aspire to play.
I certainly hope to play again one day.
It was exciting, demanding, controversial, spectacular, and fun to play.
Notable holes include:
- the long par 4 opening hole (Pugent Sound),which heads off toward Pugent Sound, setting the scene for a spectacular day's golf (see pic top of page)
- the short par 3 third hole (Blown Out), which is impressively bunkered
- the uphill par 5 fourth hole (Hazard's Ascent), which plays to a green high in the dunescape protected by acres of sand
- the magnicent par 3 ninth hole (Olympus) is a drop shot par 3 with dramatic bunkering and knockout views
- the par 4 tenth hole (High Dunes), hemmed in by dunes either side of the fairway- and narrowing as you go
- hole 14 (Cape Fear), a dogleg par 4 where picking the line off the tee is paramount (see pic mid page)
- hole 15 (Lone Fir), an attractive short par 3 with acres of bunkering to carry and Pugent Sound as a backdrop
- hole 17 (Derailed), another attractive par 3 along the sound
Chambers Bay cannot be ignored. It could be a beast to play in any sort of conditions, and not everyone will love it.
But it is spectacular, unique, and with the right mindset- outrageous fun!
A must play.
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