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

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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