Morning Drive Field Trip
I was lucky enough to be part of the team that took a trip to Chambers Bay ahead of the US Open, and I have to say it blew me away - once the morning fog cleared! Coming from the UK, links is where my true golfing heart lies. I love the scenery and the way the golf course looks visually - encouraging you to get creative and work with the ground. As designer Robert Trent Jones Jr said, he likes the "ground game". This is a course that demands creativity and knowledge. Rarely will you aim for a pin. The greens at this course are the most challenging of all, not only are you dealing with rare fescue grass but run-off areas can be extreme and placement is crucial. All in all though, the beauty captured me - the Puget Sound and lone fir tree are mesmerizing. But be prepared for a workout, this course is a 7.5 mile walk, with a lot of elevation! Enjoy.
May 29, 2015
US Open preview
This was a special day no matter the enjoyment of the course because I was able to share this walk with my colleagues and friends, Cara Robinson,Daman Hack, and Charlie Rymer.Our goal was to learn every inch of Chambers Bay in preparation for Us Open week on Morning Drive. Consider that it took us 6 1/2 hours to complete our round because we were filming and taking a lot of notes between shots. We were given a three hour buffer from the next tee time so we did not have to rush and that helped with gaining knowledge but it did have an affect on concentration. This experience is special for several reasons. First, there is nothing really like it in the United States and the views are breathtaking. Bandon Dunes is the best retail golf experience Ive ever had because of the variety,quality of golf,and unmatched service. Chambers Bay stands alone with no other course options so you must really commit to this trip. Chambers is very generous off the tee with extremely wide fairways but its visually intimidating because the areas you see clearly off the fairways are so penal and domineering. Listen intently to a local caddy and trust where they tell you to hit your shots based on your skill level. The fescue greens really distinguish this course from other "links" style offerings in the United States. They are firm, difficult to get your ball to spin and depending on the time of year you play they may be spotty. The ground is very firm and the walk is 7 1/2 miles up and down this converted gravel pit and you also play along the perimeter of the bluff on the par 5 8th hole. The challenges are blind second shots to several holes with extremely contoured greens with huge banking on many of them and extreme false fronts that penalize even the slightly missed target yardage. The best holes in my opinion are the ones that run through the valley and I prefer the inward 9 to the outward 9 for that reason. I would recommend playing the right teeing ground on the 9th hole if possible because I think its a much better hole from that angle. The greens as a whole have enormous contour that are not consistent in how they slope. Very few greens are pitched from back to front and I dont think there is enough area between the massive bunkers that front many of the greens to consider it a truly great links because you still have to play the ball in the air long enough to carry the bunkers and then rely on the slope of the greens to give yourself a reasonable putt. I think the overall design would have been better with less bunkering fronting the greens and allowing more use of the areas in front of the green to run shots onto the putting surfaces. The closing stretch is all you want in beauty and drama and hopefully you time your playing of the 15th, 16th and 17th to see a train roll by against the Puget Sound. Chambers Bay is a great story of a county committing to building something their towns people can be proud of and they should be. The golf experience is tough, rugged but unique. The staff is world class with every person insuring you have the best time possible. They really embrace and value that you have made the trek to their lone golf experience at Chambers Bay.
May 27, 2015
For the golfer who lives for the spectacular walk
For the golfer who lives for the spectacular walk and the stunning visual, Chambers Bay offers both in abundance. Even beyond the wildness of the golf course – heaving green complexes, orange and auburn-colored heather, yawning bunkers framed by unkempt rough, remarkable elevation change – this is a golf course blessed with location.
Chambers Bay in University Place, Washington – a suburb of Tacoma - sits hard by Puget Sound, separated from the water only by a narrow sandy beach and a ribbon of railroad that is visited several times an hour by freight trains, an echo of sorts of England’s Royal Lytham and St. Annes, whose opening holes run adjacent to the St. Annes railway.
It is one of many aspects Chambers Bay shares with golf in the United Kingdom. The golf course – the site of an old sand and gravel pit – has firm, tight terrain that can make shot-making a guessing game. Well-struck shots occasionally find collection areas, rough and cavernous bunkers (sometimes in a row) and the seemingly poor shot can sometimes, luckily, find safe passage.
Trusting your caddie is essential at Chambers Bay.
My best shot of the day came on the difficult par-4 16th hole when my terrific looper, Jason, insisted I aim my approach along the rough line some 40 yards left of the flagstick. I hit my 9 iron along said line, lost sight of the ball as it disappeared below a mound, and was shocked to walk up to the green and find it 15 feet from the cup. (That I three-putted wasn’t Jason’s fault).
Some may find the course quirky, but if you like links golf and the spirit of the ground game, you will be invigorated by this 7.5 mile trek (wear comfortable shoes and socks for it is a hard walk).
In this era of Instagram, you will be moved often to snap a picture of the many stirring views, including the glorious fir tree that guards 15 green and 16 tee (it is the lone tree on the course), not to mention the occasional sight of dolphins breaching in the distance.
The golf course is Hillside (England) meets Streamsong Blue (Florida) with a dash of Dornoch (Scotland) and Bandon Dunes (Oregon).
Play from the correct tees, load up on some extra pearls, and embrace this beautiful brute.
May 26, 2015
A bold selection by the USGA
Chambers Bay is a unique golf course. And golfers that have never played true links golf will be blown away by it. Even though the dunes on the property aren't "natural" they certainly feel as if they are. And this combined with the fescue mix of grasses produces an authentic Irish links experience. But keep in mind, this isn't an experience that is enjoyed by all golfers. It's a tough walk, can be VERY windy, highly challenging, and golfers will face shots they have never seen before. Those that like a more predictable and comfortable form of golf will be intimidated and uncomfortable. But the right attitude can yield one of the most memorable golf days in your life.
I'm not sure what reaction Chambers Bay will receive from the pros in the U.S. Open #I'm guessing mixed#. Chambers Bay is a bold selection by the USGA. It won't look or feel like a U.S. Open. The setup will be critical. It's a golf course that could quickly get away from officials and "cross the line." I hope it doesn't. Regardless of the U.S. Open outcome this is a bucket list golf course for avid golfers.
Chambers Bay is a walk on the wild side. It will challenge you mentally and physically. It's relentless. While a caddie is not required, it is a wise investment. Kemper Sports managed facilities have phenomenal caddies. And you need their expert advice for at least the first couple of times you play this course. And I'm not talking about just reading the greens. There are blind tee shots and hidden sideboards around the greens that caddies will point out.
Here are a few pointers. Fescue grass is not perfect. The greens are inconsistent in speed and firmness. You will be fooled by putts. You will miss some short putts that "bump." Don't take it personally.Although the fairways are wide, your ball will run out into the rough. Be careful walking in the rough. It's very east to twist an ankle. Embrace the ground aspect of links golf. Put the ball on the ground quickly and watch it run out. You may find that you like the creativity involved in this style of play.
PLAY THE PROPER TEES FOR YOUR SKILL LEVEL. Leave your ego at home.
Bring Advil. After 7 and a half miles on uneven ground you will need it.
Try the clam chowder and fish and chips in the restaurant. I'd suggest a little Tabasco on both.
And finally. Bring a camera!
May 26, 2015
One of my favorite places to play
I get the criticism of Chambers Bay. It's a somewhat controversial place - it's part golf course, part public park built by the tax payers of Pierce County. It's part links, part modern marvel shaped from an old gravel pit. I've played it three times, and there are holes that don't fit my eye or my game. I have never, however, come off the golf course feeling disappointed about the experience. The setting is intoxicating. Some shots - like the par 3 at no. 9, the uphill driveable par-4 at no. 12 and the "lone pine" par 3 at no. 15, and the 16th hole along the railroad on the Puget Sound - just stick with you. Should the firm and fast conditions get out of control at the U.S. Open, the pros might meltdown, both on the scorecard and in their impressions of one of America's most unique courses
May 24, 2015
Great test of Golf,
I am a single digit handicapper who lives about 35 minutes south of Chambers Bay. I have played Chambers approximately a dozen times, including a day last June when they set up the course from the Open tees for members of the mens club. That day we played the course as a 7400 yard par 70. Brutal! I just recently played Chambers (May 10th, 2015) and found the course to be in terrific shape tee to green. Since the day this course opened, the condition of the greens have always been this courses' weak point. During this past round, I found 12 of the greens to be very, very good, not perfect, but very good. 6 of the greens did not roll quite as smoothly as the other 12 but their speed was consistent with the other 12 which historically has not been the case. Cosmetically these 6 greens are not as attractive as the other 12 because there are places where the grounds crew has graphed new fescue sod into the old sod to replace thin patches that have never really taken hold. Also, these 6 greens are a bit sandy, as you might expect as they are bringing them up to speed, so that also contributed to their play. For a bit of perspective, I played Chambers last August, and thought to myself then, that I didn't know how the USGA would get the fescue to fill out in time given our Northwest Winters and the period of time that fescue apparently goes dormant. During that round last August, the greens where inconsistent, bumpy and in some cases very thin. Having said that, I was amazed at how good the 12 greens that I described above were during my most recent round (especially considering how bad they were last year) and have complete confidence that the remaining 6 will be as equally good in the next month. I also must say that it is my experience that putting on fescue is definitely different then putting on bent or poa annua. It is hard not to let the appearance of the fescue taint your perception of how true the ball is rolling or how healthy the grass is. To be blunt, fescue is gnarly looking and makes it hard to accept as a putting surface, especially after a lifetime of playing on bent or poa. I completely understand any critical comments from anyone who played the course more than a couple of months ago. The greens have been terrible at times as they tried to get them into shape. It is also my opinion that because of the undulations of the greens and their vast size, reading short putts is very challenging. As a result, most people I know who have played Chambers have putted poorly (comparatively speaking) given the difficult nature of reading these greens and immediately conclude that it must be the condition of greens and not their chosen line or speed. Again, from tee to green the course condition is superb. I look forward to the Open being played here and believe this course is a terrific test of golf requiring total focus and a commitment to each and every shot; anything less will cost you precious strokes.
May 18, 2015
I played on a Saturday in late March. The weather was decent, sunny, but windy (20 mph and variable). Pace of play was great. A few of the holes/greens were closed due to the US Open being in a couple of months. Although this wasn't a huge deal, I'm concerned that once the event leaves they may have a hard time keeping those holes/greens in tip top shape.
The course itself was great - but it is really close to being top notch. A solid 4 star course. You can tell that they moved a lot of dirt to make the course and sometimes you are left wondering why did they moved so much. The first several holes are great links style holes. Some interesting angles off the tee and some well positioned mid fairway mounds - which I'm not a huge fan of, but they add some difficulty. Balls runs a lot on the fairways.
Couple of holes I'll comment on...
Holes 1 - 6 are all good holes, really good holes. Interesting features in the fairways and great greens with run off areas on many of them. 7 had a temporary green so I can't really comment. However it is VERY uphill and makes the hole difficult. Hole 8 is a long par 5 that runs along the top of the bluff overlooking the course. It feels a little bit like the didn't have the room so they had to manufacture a hole here and it had to be an uphill par 5 because this hole sets you up for the 9th hole which is a ridiculously downhill par 3. It must fall a 100 feet. Although I play most of my golf in Colorado and am familiar with a lot of elevation change, the 9th hole is just too much. I believe this is one of the reasons the put another tee box in place for the US Open.
10 and 11 are both great links holes. However, 11 does have one of those big grassy knolls in the middle of the fairway. 12 is a short, 'go for it' par 4, although it too was closed for the Open. I like short par 4's a lot, but you have to give the player something to aim at off the tee and that really isn't the case on this hole.
The closing 6 holes are the best on the course in my opinion. If the other 12 were all like these, I'd give this place 5 stars. 15 is a great slightly downhill par 3 hitting right into the bay. Beautiful hole with a huge greens and great bunkers. 16 is actually one of my favorite all time par 4s. Not too long or short. A tough drive with a fairway that slopes slightly right to left. Huge bunker lines the right side of the fairway with the bay to the right of that. The green on this hole is great - open at the front but narrows towards the back of the green. 17 is a nice down hill par 3 with another large, but interesting green.
18 is great hole. Huge bunker 3/4 of the way up the fairway that is a place you don't want to be. Is a great reachable par 5 for the amateur and my guess a beast of a par 4 for the pros.
All and all, I really liked the course and put it in the solid 4 star category. I'd give it 4.5 stars if I could. In my opinion there are a couple of things that keep it from being one of the world top's courses (holes 8, 9 and 12 for instance), but I'd play it again if I got the chance!
April 22, 2015
Bucket list , No regrets , Tour tough
12 Handicap , play often , 69 years , Marin County, Discount Bob
Great experience, played 2 days, 10 am tee times , went by myself, all very , very good. The walk was fine, not difficult, weather was perfect, caddies were fine ,
The course was interesting , highly nuanced , gettable on a good day, routing was good, greens interesting , some difficult approach shots, some easy,
I think that there is no comparison to Bandon , Bandon being a much better venue, with 4 courses that are sensational.
If you want to watch on TV and say , I Did That, then run to go.
Its definitely a go to place, once.
Shot 85 and a 79
September 8, 2014