Apple Tree Resort
Yakima, Wash. | (509) 966-5877
If you find yourself already lamenting the coming fall — the subtle decrease in temperature over the last week, the slight wind increase, the light layer of frost on the car windows in the morning — fret not. There’s a place where summer lasts another few weeks, a place where the grass is still thick and green, the sun still shining off the waterfalls and lakes, and — most importantly — the fairways and greens still rolling hard and true.
If the headline above wasn’t enough of an indication, the photo at right is really all any Northwest golfer needs to see to know exactly where we’re talking about — Apple Tree Resort in Yakima. “Iconic” is a word that can be thrown around recklessly at times, but there is almost certainly no hole in the state of Washington more befitting the label than Apple Tree’s iconic — see how well it fits? — par-3 17th. The downhill epic plays to 153 yards from the blues, all carry over a deep blue lake to the large, inviting apple-shaped green below. Pick the right stick (about 1-2 clubs shorter than your usual 153-yarder), strike it well, and you’ll be dancing on the surface of the apple minutes later. A sign at the tee box asks golfers to just hit one shot, so as to avoid slowing the pace of play, but if no one’s behind you, hit another — it’s just too much fun.
Seventeen deservedly gets much of the attention at Apple Tree, but in fact, it’s merely the cherry on top of one of the state’s most enjoyable treats. The front nine starts with a downhill, par-4 first, where you’ll be blown away by the thickness and color of the deep, green fairway, surrounded as it is on all sides by Central Washington’s brown, rolling hills. How do they keep it so green? Well, it helps that the course is routed through an active apple orchard, which comes into play throughout the front nine — apple trees line nearly every hole, while the drives from each green to the next tee box give you an up-close look at one of our state’s most productive industries.
After the front nine — which, for our money, is every bit as good as the more celebrated back — the course crosses the street to play past flowery waterfalls and gently-flowing streams, before cutting back across for the big finish: the short, tight, uphill, par-4 16th, the unforgettable 17th and one of the state’s best risk-reward par-5s, the 489-yard 18th.
With a rating and slope of 71.9 and 129, respectively, from the blues (70.3/126 from the whites) it’s a course that will challenge you with its many water hazards and bunkers, while also giving you plenty of opportunities to put a circle on the scorecard — in otherwords, it’s a blast to play. And at just $69 in weekend prime-time (and $54 on weekdays, full summer rates here), it’s also a bargain compared to many courses of similar quality on the West side of the mountains. Sure, it’s a drive (about 2 1/2 hours from Seattle), but if you’re looking for one last memorable round for 2012, Apple Tree’s a perfect choice. Leave home at 7, tee off at 10, and you’ll be back on your couch by 6 p.m. Or play it twice, and make it a late night — either way, you’ll be glad you made the trip.