Washington’s Top-10 Public Golf Courses

Published on Wednesday, August 5th, 2015 in Features | News | Slider

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Our 2015 rankings feature one bold newcomer, one intriguing upset, and a smorgasbord of mind-blowing golf

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

Two years ago, we surveyed the rankings put out by national writers and course reviewers and thought, What the heck do these guys know about golf in our state? So, we took it upon ourselves to create an official ranking of Washington’s public golf courses — one voted on solely by Washington golfers, that players, pros, general managers and club members could point to with pride and say, “We made it.”

Our first top-10 — released in August 2013 — crowned Chambers Bay No. 1, as does this year’s. It’s no surprise — with the wave of enthusiasm for the 2015 U.S. Open, Chambers was all but a lock to take home the top spot. Before the team down in University Place decides to rest on their laurels in advance of the 2017 rankings, however, they may want to glance in the rear-view mirror — because the headlights of their competitors are closing fast.

HOW THEY SCORED

Course (First Place Votes) Score
1. Chambers Bay (11) 219
2. Gamble Sands (7) 192
3. Wine Valley (5) 157
4. Gold Mountain (Olympic) (1) 147
5. Salish Cliffs 119
6. Palouse Ridge 104
7. White Horse 49
8. Rope Rider 48
9. The Home Course 47
ALSO RECEIVING VOTES (Winner of Readers Choice vote indicated with an asterisk): Prospector at Suncadia 41, Trophy Lake 41, Desert Canyon 33, Washington National 26, Bear Mountain Ranch (1) 21*, Apple Tree 20, Newcastle-Coal Creek 17, Semiahmoo 15, Indian Canyon 13, Avalon 9; Eaglemont 9, Druids Glen 7, Downriver 6, Port Ludlow 6, Lake Chelan 5, Camas Meadows 4, Kayak Point 4, Liberty Lake 4, Elk Ridge 3, Kitsap Golf & CC 3, Gold Mountain (Cascade) 2, Skamania Lodge 2, Harbour Pointe 1, Lake Padden 1, Loomis Trail 1, West Seattle 1.

In 2013, Chambers Bay dominated the rankings, earning more than two-thirds of the total first-place votes and outpacing runner-up Gold Mountain (Olympic) by more than 43 points. This year? Not so much. More than half of 2015’s panelists ranked a course other than Chambers Bay No. 1, with newcomer Gamble Sands siphoning off seven such votes to finish a strong second, just 27 points out of the top overall spot. The yearling’s strong debut is especially impressive given its remote location and the limited time panelists have had to make the trip — indeed, nearly a fourth of our voters indicated that they hadn’t yet played Gamble Sands at the time of their rankings, while the 19 voters that included both Chambers Bay and Gamble Sands in their lists were almost perfectly split on which they prefer — 11 ranked Chambers higher, and eight favored Gamble. It’s easy to foresee a 2017 ranking with a new No. 1 — like Spieth and Rory, this is a rivalry that’s just heating up.

Of course, Gamble Sands is hardly the only course making a noteworthy leap in 2015 — with six full seasons now under its belt, Dan Hixson’s Wine Valley vaulted Gold Mountain (Olympic) for the third position, while a fantastic renovation at the hands of the late John Harbottle continued to work wonders for the Suquamish Tribe’s White Horse Golf Club, which moved up two spots. Suncadia’s Rope Rider course, which opened in 2011, also seems to have benefitted from the additional two years, jumping over its older sibling, Prospector, and into the top-10 for the first time.

To make sure that our panelists represented a true cross-section of Washington golfers, we sent a call out to men and women, young and old, from all corners of the state. We called golf writers, photographers, pros and other industry insiders, certainly, but also reached out to regular everyday public golfers — those without any particular allegiance or debt, who pay for every round out of their own pocket and truly understand a good golf value. Our only rule was that a course had to be open to public play — no velvet ropes and stuffy coats here.

We combined each voter’s individual ranking into a master list using the formula described on page 39 and pulled out the top-nine vote-getters, then threw the next seven courses on the list into a poll and asked our readers at CascadeGolfer.com and our followers on Facebook and Twitter to choose among them which was most deserving of the 10th and final spot.

The result is a complete ranking of Washington’s best public courses, as selected by Washington golfers just like yourself (and if you voted online, including yourself). We’ve also included lists of the top-10 courses in each of our state’s four major golf regions to help when planning that late-summer golf trip, as well as rankings by price point, to help you find the state’s best golf values at any budget.
We’ve been saying for almost a decade now that there’s no better place in America to be a daily-fee golfer, and the courses on the following pages are all the evidence we need. The next time you have friends in from out of town, take them to Prospector, Washington National, Coal Creek, Apple Tree, Desert Canyon, Trophy Lake, Semiahmoo and Loomis Trail — and then tell them that none of those courses made our state’s top-10, and watch their minds explode.

These 10 tracks are the best that Washington has to offer in 2015 … now get out there and enjoy ‘em.

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