Gamble Sands Headlines Washington’s Top-10 Public Golf Courses of 2017

Published on Monday, August 7th, 2017 in News | Slider

Gamble Sands, Brewster

Move over, Chambers Bay — there’s a new king in this castle.

Related Stories: Top-10 Overall | By Price | By Region

There’s a common plot to many sports movies. The underdog is first ridiculed, then slowly and steadily works its way up to the top, before narrowly defeating the favorite in a dramatic, last-minute, title-clinching victory.

This isn’t that.

This isn’t a bruised and beaten Daniel-San unleashing the crane kick to take down Johnny Lawrence and Cobra Kai, or Jake Taylor bunting home Willie Mays Hayes at the end of “Major League.” This is Ivan Drago vs. Apollo Creed; or, for one closer to all of our hearts, Super Bowl XLVIII — a thorough beat-down of the old guard by the plucky young upstarts with nothing to lose.


Course (First Place Votes) Score
1. Gamble Sands (40) 660
2. Chambers Bay (17) 540
3. Gold Mountain (Olympic) (4) 485
4. Wine Valley (13) 449
5. Salish Cliffs (6) 397
6. Palouse Ridge (3) 389
7. The Home Course (3) 279
8. Prospector (1) 209
9. White Horse (1) 170
10. Trophy Lake (2) 150
ALSO RECEIVING VOTES: Desert Canyon 149, Washington National 143, Bear Mountain Ranch 102, Rope Rider 100, Apple Tree 91, Indian Canyon 67, Links at Moses Pointe 62, Semiahmoo 60, Druids Glen 55, Loomis Trail 54, McCormick Woods 45, Gold Mountain (Cascade) 41, Newcastle (Coal Creek) 40, Avalon 29, Redmond Ridge 29, Kayak Point 27, Canyon Lakes 25, Mount Si 22, Harbour Pointe 20, Port Ludlow 20, Newcastle (China Creek) 19, Creek at Qualchan 18, North Bellingham 18, Tri-Mountain 17, Eaglemont 14, Camas Meadows 13, High Cedars 13, Lake Padden 12, Sudden Valley 12, Columbia Pointe 11, Hawks Prairie (Woodlands) 11, Highlander 11, Orcas Island 10, Cedars at Dungeness 9, Snoqualmie Falls 9, West Seattle 9, Hangman Valley 8, Horn Rapids 8, Lake Spanaway 8, Shuksan 8, Whispering Firs 8, Alta Lake 7, Bellevue 7, Eagles Pride 7, Echo Falls 7, Homestead Farms 7, Kahler Glen 7, MeadowWood 6, Nile 6, Chewelah 5, Downriver 5, Kalispel Golf & CC 5, Maplewood 5, Snohomish 5, Willows Run (Eagles Talon) 5, Peninsula 4, Riverside 4, Allenmore 3, Gallery 3, Hawks Prairie (Links) 3, Lake Chelan 3, Leavenworth 3, Legion Memorial 3, Meadow Park 3, Walter Hall 3, Rock Island 2, Elk Ridge 1, Quail Ridge 1, Whidbey Golf Club 1.

Starting in 2013, and every two years since, we’ve polled Northwest golf insiders to rank the top-10 public golf courses in the state of Washington. And, in the first two of those polls, it was really no contest. Chambers Bay coasted to victory in 2013, more than doubling the total number of first-place votes of any other course. Things were a little tighter in 2015 — Chambers netted just under 50 percent of the first-place votes overall — but with the U.S. Open on the horizon, it still finished well clear of second place.

That second-place course, though, was intriguing. Despite being open less than a year at the time, David McLay Kidd’s Gamble Sands rocketed all the way to No. 2 in its first year eligible, despite many voters confessing when submitting their ballots that they couldn’t include Gamble Sands because they had yet to make the four-hour drive to Brewster to see if it truly was as good as others were claiming. We wrote at the time, “Like Spieth and Rory, [Chambers Bay vs. Gamble Sands] is a rivalry that’s just heating up.”

Well, consider it fully aflame.

With two more years to make the trek across the mountains, and two more years of reports trickling out of Central Washington about Kidd’s links-style gem, Gamble Sands didn’t just pass Chambers Bay in this year’s rankings, it blew Chambers and every other course in the state right out of the water. The 40 first-place votes for Gamble Sands were equal to the rest of the top-five combined, with Chambers (17 first-place votes) a distant second. Will it last? We’ll have to wait until 2019 to find out, but for now, at least, there’s a new king of this particular court.

Of course, Gamble Sands’s meteoric climb wasn’t the only change in this year’s rankings. Whereas in the past we had limited votes to just writers, photographers and other industry experts, we decided this year to let anyone cast a ballot — after all, we don’t merely want our rankings to illustrate where local golfers should be playing (as our experts would suggest), we also want it to be reflective of where local golfers are playing. And with more than 75 courses in all receiving at least one vote — and 17 different courses receiving at least one first-place vote (including every course in the top-10) — it’s clear that you’re playing just about everywhere, and that wherever you go in Washington, there’s a great track to be found.

As a result of casting a wider net, we more than quadrupled the number of total votes from 2015, with some interesting results. Sure, Gamble Sands shot to the top, but that was consistent among both the “insiders” and public who cast their votes. Readers, though, cast significantly more favor on Western Washington tracks — The Home Course and Trophy Lake, for example, both climbed the rankings (the latter making its top-10 debut), while expert-favored “destination” courses like Rope Rider and Desert Canyon saw their numbers tick down a little.

The main thing we’ve learned this year is that when ranking Washington’s best public courses, there are no wrong answers. Many readers will see certain courses included (or not) and cry foul — with so many voters applying their own subjective criteria, and so many incredible tracks, the list of those that didn’t make the cut is bound to be almost as impressive as the list of those that did. What matters, though, is that a course speaks to you, whatever criteria you’re using — and, as your votes this year shouted loud and clear, our Washington-state courses aren’t just speaking, they’re singing.

Here are a few of your favorite tunes.

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12 Responses to “Gamble Sands Headlines Washington’s Top-10 Public Golf Courses of 2017”

  1. J Clark Says:

    I have not as yet gotten to play this course. My only experiences and input is that they seem to very proud in their course therefore their green fees are a bit out of my range. This is America and they can charge what the market will bear. My friends and I are not sold on the fact that it is worth it but as I said I have not played it and small chance that I will. Even though I drive by it every year on my annual Chelan golf trip. The second input I have received is a conversation with a local golfer who has played it and said that they were not impressed with it. It is well groomed but not necessarily tough. Although I have found that my game can make just about any course tough. All that said, Someday I will play, maybe.

  2. Kalii Says:

    Just my two cents, J Clark? Do yourself a favor and play it at least once. It’s worth it.

  3. Marlin Says:

    I find this Course worthless. It is routed terribly, overpriced and in the middle of nowhere. Oh and the staff are clueless.

  4. Chris P Says:

    Gamble Sands is not worthless, but it is not the best course in the state. I doubt that many have played it (I have), so I suspect it was voted based on the “press” it has received. Chamber’s Bay is good too, but their erratic greens should keep it out of the top space. In my mind, Washington National is the best, it is well laid out, completely legitimate, typically in good shape and allows all levels to enjoy it. The Olympic is very good too.

    Whoever voted for Kahler Glen should not be allowed to vote next year.

  5. Carl Says:

    I realize in order to have a vote counted you have to vote in the first place. I didn’t: That said. As a “west sider” I still rank Canyon Lakes in Kennewick, Apple Tree in Yakima and Bear Mountain in Chelan as some of my favorite courses. Hangman out of Spokane and the Creek at Qual Chan is also affordable and a great course.

    Also, the worst course I ever played was still better than a day at work…

  6. Erik Says:

    I work at this course and it’s amazing and most of the staff probably knows more about golf in our fingers than you do in your entire body

  7. Stephen Says:

    This course is fantastic! A course should never be judged on its difficulty unless it is too hard. Gamble Sands is appropriately priced in my opinion, its very comparable to other courses of its quality. I can’t wait to go back for a game.

  8. Brian Johnston Says:

    I played 5 rounds in 3 days here last week. 3 rounds from the back tees and 2 from the regular tees. The back tees unquestionably puts you into the teeth of the course while the regular tees take out much of the carry. We had a group of 16 and everyone enjoyed the golf course although the greens had been punched fairly recently and were covered in overseed. This was a disappointment to say the least. Not only were the greens extremely slow but many shots trying to use the contours surrounding the greens were hopeless as the ball would stay on the hillside instead of feeding to the green. This despite our organizer confirming the greens were in good shape.
    The accommodations on course were good but unfortunately the restaurant was sub standard. The restaurant menu needs an overhaul and the quality of food needs to be substantially better. When the restaurant is your only choice for food it needs to be great. Start with adding some oatmeal for breakfast accompanied with fruit and milk. It’s cheap and hard to screw up. I would give the course another go when the greens are running better but not so sure I would stay for multiple nights given the lack of quality food. I’m sure it’s a better course during normal conditions but it’s no Bandon Dunes!

  9. Jim barber Says:

    Scheduled to play it next week. Gamble says greens not to be punched till after closure next month. Someone’s putting out bum dope.

  10. Mark North Says:

    Some of the courses you list here are pretty lame. And Alderbrook Golf & Yacht Club wasn’t anywhere to be found. What a joke.

  11. chris Says:

    looking to play at Suncadia in a couple weeks, but my all time top 5 as of now I would have to say in no particular order would be Bear Mtn, Desert Canyon, Druids Glen, Alderbrook Golf and TPC Snoqualamie.

  12. Kevin Says:

    Gamble is a nice course but definitely not top ten in state and it definitely is not worth what they are charging for greens fees.

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