Whatcom County has 13 public courses ranging from par-three layouts to resort-level Loomis Trail Golf and Country Club and Semiahmoo Golf and Country Club, which was designed by Arnold Palmer.

With gasoline prices going higher than a Bubba Watson drive, the words “golf road trip” might take on a different meaning this year.

Instead of a journey to golf hotbeds such as Bandon Dunes or Bend in Oregon, the prudent decision might be to head to the golf-rich Bellingham area. You are still getting away and playing good courses but not draining your gas tank and checking account.

In the late 1990s, Whatcom County’s golf marketing folks called the area “Monterey North” after the famous Monterey Peninsula in California best known for Pebble Beach Golf Links. The name “Monterey North” didn’t stick but the reputation for good courses has remained.

The reason Whatcom County has so many good golf courses can be found across the border — Canadians. They are the same reason you can now fly directly from Bellingham International Airport to Maui or to Denver, Palm Springs, Las Vegas, Oakland and Los Angeles.

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The Canadians on the flights out of Bellingham are avoiding high airport and airfare taxes in Canada. The Canadians on the Whatcom County golf courses are looking for good golf at reasonable prices. After the round, they use their NEXUS passes to zip back across the border in time for dinner.

British-born Tony Dear, whose website www.Bellinghamgolfer.com covers the game in Bellingham, said the percentage of rounds by Canadian golfers varies by course and proximity to the border.

“But it’s probably fair to say roughly 40 percent of the rounds played in Whatcom County are played by Canadians,” Dear said. “The figure is probably closer to 50 percent if you include the Graham Cooke-designed course in Point Roberts which is part of the county but a 75-minute drive north from Bellingham into Canada then back out again.”

For golfers from the central Puget Sound area, the quality Northwest Washington courses start south of Whatcom County line. Eaglemont, just east of Mount Vernon, and Avalon, with its 27 holes outside Burlington, routinely attract Seattle-area golfers.

Whatcom County has 13 public courses ranging from par-three layouts to resort-level Loomis Trail Golf and Country Club and Semiahmoo Golf and Country Club, which was designed by Arnold Palmer. Both of these Blaine courses are longtime residents on state top-10 course lists. Semiahmoo is open for public play on odd-numbered days and Loomis Trail on even-numbered days.

Golf road trips tend to be getaways for bogey golfers or better, and the courses with reputations are often targeted.

In Whatcom County, that would be Loomis Trail, Semiahmoo, Sudden Valley Golf and Country Club, Shuksan Golf Club, North Bellingham Golf Club, Homestead Golf and Country Club and Lake Padden Golf Course. Although most of these names sound private, the courses are public or semipublic.

Adult weekday summer prices range from a bargain $27.60 at Lake Padden to $70 at Semiahmoo and Loomis Trail.

In Washington, Bellingham is to golf what Westport is to salmon fishing. Whatcom County residents know and appreciate that fact.

As Bellingham lawyer Philip E. Sharpe, Jr., said, “We’re lucky to live in an area with so much good golf at reasonable prices.”