With its new greens in place, Chambers Bay tops the list of Washington’s best public courses in 2019
Two years ago — in the last edition of our Washington public golf course rankings, released in all odd-numbered years since 2013 — newcomer Gamble Sands became the first course other than Chambers Bay to claim the No. 1 spot, routing the previously undefeated champ. Gamble Sands’ voting tally so outdistanced Chambers Bay’s, in fact, that it was fair to wonder if any existing course would ever retake the throne, or if we might just see Gamble Sands at the top until some new construction came along.
It would seem, however, that we wrote off the former champion far too soon.
Like Nicklaus at the ‘86 Masters or Ali against Foreman in Zaire, this wily veteran wasn’t quite finished yet.
HOW THEY SCORED
|Course||(First Place Votes)||Score|
|4.||Gold Mountain (Olympic)||(11)||761|
|6.||The Home Course||(4)||536|
|ALSO RECEIVING VOTES: Port Ludlow 260, Desert Canyon 240, Apple Tree 226, Washington National 214, Bear Mountain Ranch 211, Indian Canyon 148, Rope Rider at Suncadia 134, Druids Glen 127, Loomis Trail 123, Creek at Qualchan 119, Newcastle (Coal Creek) 117, Canyon Lakes 82, Hangman Valley 75, Links at Moses Pointe 71, West Seattle 48, McCormick Woods 47, Cedars at Dungeness 36, Gold Mountain (Cascade) 36, Shuksan 33, MeadowWood 28, Avalon 27, Alderbrook 26, Homestead Farms 26, Eaglemont 24, Highlander 24, Chewelah 22, Foster 21, Lake Spanaway 21, Jackson Park 20, Lake Chelan 20, Snohomish 20, The Classic 19, Kalispel 19, North Bellingham 19, SunCountry 19, Downriver 17, Horn Rapids 16, Leavenworth 15, Mount Si 15, Liberty Lake 14, Sudden Valley 14, Allenmore 13, Skamania Lodge 13, Battle Creek 12, Columbia Point 11, Riverbend 11, The Nile 10, Vic Meyers 10, Bellevue 9, Eagles Pride 9, Enumclaw 9, Hawks Prairie (Woodlands) 9, Mint Valley 9, Newcastle (China Creek) 9, Twin Lakes 9, Meadow Park 8, Rolling Hills 8, Sun Willows 8, Tahoma Valley 8, Auburn 7, Three Lakes 7, Cedarcrest 6, Kahler Glen 6, Lake Wilderness 6, Lynnwood 6, Redmond Ridge 6, Swinomish 6, West Richland 6, Elk Ridge 5, Tri-Mountain 5, Suntides 4, Desert Aire 3, Harbour Pointe 3, Hawks Prairie (Links) 3, Snoqualmie Falls 3, Three Rivers 3, Alta Lake 2, Capitol City 2, Echo Falls 2, Lake Padden 2, North Shore 2, Oakbrook 2, Village Greens 2, Fairways 1, Walter Hall 1.
Chambers Bay stormed back into first place this year with 1,107 total votes — a record haul for any course — to slip past Gamble Sands and reclaim its spot atop the rankings. Interestingly, despite a significant increase in total votes — nearly doubling 2017’s tally — Gamble’s first-place mentions only increased slightly, from 40 to 49, while Chambers Bay jumped from 17 first-place votes in 2017 to 43 this year. Did Chambers’ voters get complacent in 2017, only to come roaring back strong this summer? Did Chambers Bay’s new greens inspire more first-place votes? Or, is it possible that Gamble Sands’ remote location puts an artificial ceiling on its voting potential, as many potential voters simply can’t make the four-hour drive?
There’s definitely evidence for the latter — Chambers Bay’s 80-point margin over Gamble Sands can be entirely accounted for by the 32 voters who included the former in their rankings, but not the latter. Indeed, counting only the ballots that featured both courses, Gamble Sands placed ahead of Chambers Bay by a significant margin. Short of relocating to Western Washington, there may not be much more Gamble Sands can do to break through that ceiling.
Those top-two tracks placed well ahead of third-place Wine Valley (809) and fourth-place Gold Mountain’s Olympic Course (761), which swapped places for the fourth-consecutive year. Salish Cliffs maintained its spot just behind those four with 675 points, while The Home Course broke into the top-six for the first time ever, tallying 536 points to knock perennial “Big Six” member Palouse Ridge (513) down a peg. Suncadia’s Prospector course (350), Trophy Lake (337) and White Horse (289) rounded out this year’s top-10.
Voters included industry experts and golf insiders — golf writers, course raters, photographers, even a local celebrity or two — but the bulk of the ballots came in via e-mail, Facebook and CascadeGolfer.com from regular, daily-fee golfers like yourselves. Our magazine was created by daily-fee golfers, for daily-fee golfers — so, when it comes to ranking our state’s best tracks, you’re the ones we really want to hear from. Some of you like the courses with big views, others like the ones that represent the best values, while still others voted simply for the best tracks in their local area. Heck, if you’re anything like us, what you consider “best” likely has a lot to do with how you score when you’re there.
The only limits we placed on nominations were that a course had to be public (so long, Semiahmoo, we’ll miss you) and also had to be in the state of Washington (Circling Raven may feel like one of ours, but Idaho isn’t giving it away without a fight).
As a result of such a broad criteria, this year’s ranking includes the broadest list we’ve ever seen — exactly 100 courses in all, including all of the state’s biggest destination tracks, plenty of local, family-owned gems, and a handful so obscure that we had to Google them to make sure they were actually Washington public courses. In the ensuing pages, we break down the list by price point and region, compare ballots by men vs. women, pit so-called “experts” vs. readers, and also take a look at which courses made the biggest jumps in this year’s poll (we see you, Port Ludlow and Apple Tree).
We’re sure you’ll find places in these rankings where you agree with our voters, and others where you wonder if they’re playing the same courses you are. What no one can argue with, however, is the sheer depth of quality public golf courses in Washington state. Nineteen courses received at least one first-place vote in 2019, while the “second 10” — including Port Ludlow, Desert Canyon, Apple Tree, Washington National, Bear Mountain Ranch, Indian Canyon, Rope Rider at Suncadia, Druids Glen, Loomis Trail and Spokane’s Creek at Qualchan — would stack up favorably against the top-10 from almost every other state. Heck, Newcastle’s Coal Creek — with maybe the best views in all of Western Washington — can’t even crack the top-20!
And, best of all, only a handful of our state’s best courses top out at over $100, with the vast majority playable for just $60 or less.
It’s our hope that you’ll take inspiration from this list to try out golf courses you hadn’t previously considered, or to combine the region and price-point rankings on the following pages to craft long weekends and 36-hole marathon days that fit your time and budget. As your votes have once again indicated, there’s no shortage of incredible public golf courses in Washington state waiting to welcome eager golfers — here’s where your fellow readers suggest you begin.