Craig Smith and Scott Hanson picked a "Dream 18" from among nearly 2,000 golf holes on public golf courses from Olympia to the Canadian border and Sequim to Cle Elum.
It was a bit like judging the Miss America pageant, but our job was to pick a “Dream 18” from among nearly 2,000 golf holes on public golf courses from Olympia to the Canadian border and Sequim to Cle Elum.
We were looking for holes that stick in your memory, holes that you look forward to seeing again, like old friends or rivals. We were looking for holes that prompt you to ask other golfers, “What did you think of the double-dogleg par 5 at Alderbrook?” or, “Did you stay out of trouble on the 17th at Washington National?”
We can charitably be called bogey golfers, and we weren’t looking for the toughest holes or necessarily “the best” holes. We were looking for “Our Dream 18,” memorable holes we would enjoy playing repeatedly. We eliminated a lot of holes because they were too easy and a few because they were unreasonably tough. (We have a particular dislike for opening holes that are automatic bogeys or worse for the average golfer.)
Our rule was that each course could have only one winner but could appear on the honorable-mention list multiple times. In the event of honorable-mention ties, a course that hadn’t been mentioned got the nod. Any course that wasn’t open to the public every day was ineligible for consideration.
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We take a special pleasure in listing good holes on unacclaimed courses such as the honorable-mention selection of the par-3 15th hole at Sun Country Golf and RV Park outside Cle Elum. It’s almost a straight drop down a hillside and a kick to play.
In compiling the list, we talked to avid and weekend golfers, sportswriters, golf pros and others in the golf industry. We also drove hundreds of miles to examine holes. The main factors in judging were memorability, scenic values and challenge. Condition was a tiebreaker at times.
On some holes we scrambled to fill the list of five honorable mentions, and on other holes, such as No. 18, we found ourselves throwing wonderful holes off the list because there was a surplus.
We are sure of one thing: No one is going to agree 100 percent with our list (we disagreed on some holes), but that’s just another reason why golf is a special game and why restaurants serve more than one dessert.
Hole No. 1
Golf Club at Newcastle, Coal Creek Course, Newcastle
• Par 5. Yardage: 621 championship tees, 545 white tees.
People get married and have memorial services at Newcastle because of the views. No hole has a more spectacular view than the starting hole on the Coal Creek course. Is that Japan we’re seeing beyond the Olympics?
Honorable mention: The Classic (par 4); Snohomish (par 5); Gold Mountain-Olympic (par 4); White Horse-Kingston (par 4); San Juan Golf Club (par 5).
Hole No. 2
Kayak Point Golf Club, Stanwood
• Par 5. Yardage: 549 back tees, 499 white tees.
This is a dogleg and the tee shot is over a pond. Trying to do well on this hole without a good tee shot is like trying to run a bank without money.
Honorable mention: Druids Glen (par 5); Avalon-South (par 4); Port Ludlow-Tide Course (par 4); The Classic (par 4), San Juan Golf Club (par 4).
Hole No. 3
Druids Glen Golf Club, Covington
• Par 3. Yardage: 213 back tees, 170 (but often played at 145) white tees.
This is a par 3 where you say “whew!” if you par it. Long, narrow green with water (front left) and bunkers (on the right) invite disaster.
Honorable mention: Newcastle-Coal Creek (par 4); Cedars at Dungeness (“Old Crabby,” par 4); Golf Club at Redmond Ridge (par 5); Eaglemont (par 5); Willows Run-Eagles Talon (par 4).
Hole No. 4
Eaglemont Golf Club, Mount Vernon
• Par 3. Yardage: 223 back tees, 130 white tees.
A gorgeous downhill par 3 over wetlands. The hole is self-contained in a big bowl; when you turn the corner from the previous hole it’s a delight to come upon.
Honorable mention: Port Ludlow-Tide (par 5); McCormick Woods (par 3); Eagles Pride-Fort Lewis (par 4); Trophy Lake (par 4); Avalon-South (par 5).
Hole No. 5
Sudden Valley Golf Club, Bellingham
• Par 4. Yardage: 421 back tees, 391 white tees.
You feel like you’re in the middle of Lake Whatcom and have forgotten your fishing pole when you finish putting on this peninsula green.
Honorable mention: McCormick Woods (par 4); Prospector at Suncadia (par 4), Avalon-West (par 4), Port Ludlow-Tide Course (par 4), Bellevue Municipal (par 5).
Hole No. 6
Avalon Golf Links, North Course, Burlington
• Par 5. Yardage: 594 back tees, 525 white tees.
Long, appealing hole that curves near the end around a large ball-eating pond with cattails. Even the big boys have trouble taming this hole.
Honorable mention: Sudden Valley (par 4); Druids Glen (par 3); Mount Si (par 4); Chambers Bay (par 4); Hawks Prairie-Links Course (par 3).
Hole No. 7
The Home Course, DuPont
• Par 4. Yardage: 434 yards back tees. 339 white tees.
This picturesque hole offers a great view of Mount Rainier but was one of the tougher holes during stroke play last summer in the U.S. Amateur — with water and bunkers guarding the green.
Honorable mention: Washington National (par 4); Chambers Bay (par 4); Willow’s Run-Coyote Creek (par 4); Harbour Pointe (par 3); Avalon-North (par 4).
Hole No. 8
Alderbrook Golf and Yacht Club, Union
• Par 5. Yardage: 536 back tees, 525 white tees.
This is a narrow double-dogleg that snakes uphill on this Hood Canal course. It’s a hole you don’t forget.
Honorable mention: Bellevue Municipal (par 3); Nile Golf and Country Club (par 4); Lake Spanaway (par 4); Willows Run-Eagle’s Talon (par 4); Avalon-South, (par 5).
Hole No. 9
The Classic Golf Club, Spanaway
• Par 5. Yardage: 563 back tees, 528 white tees.
Just like the 18th at this underappreciated course, the ninth is a par 5 that will take almost all players three shots to reach the green, which is sloped. Water is on both sides of the fairway. “It takes three really good shots to have a birdie putt,” said owner Mike Moore, father of PGA Tour player Ryan.
Honorable mention: Elk Run (par 4); Chambers Bay (par 3); The Home Course (par 4); Gold Mountain-Olympic (par 5); Gold Mountain-Cascade (par 4).
Hole No. 10
Prospector Course, Suncadia Resort, Roslyn
• Par 4. Yardage: 411 back tees, 375 white tees.
This is what mountain golf is all about — great views, challenges all the way including the multi-tiered green.
Honorable mention: Chambers Bay (par 4); Cedarcrest-Marysville (par 4), Shuksan (par 4), Druids Glen (par 4), The Home Course (par 5).
Hole No. 11
Harbour Pointe Golf Club, Mukilteo
• Par 4. Yardage: 394 back tees, 335 white tees.
Downhill hole with drop-dead views of Puget Sound and Whidbey Island. This hole belongs on a postcard.
Honorable mention: Trophy Lake (par 5); Newcastle-China Creek (par 3); Walter Hall (par 5); North Bellingham (par 5); White Horse (par 4).
Hole No. 12
West Seattle Golf Course, Seattle
• Par 5. Yardage: 515 back tees, 484 white tees.
The tee shot is above the fairway over a ravine, and trees on each side frame a beautiful view of the Seattle skyline. This par 5 is reachable by many players in two shots, but a stray shot here can lead to a big number.
Honorable mention: Gold Mountain-Olympic (par 3); Battle Creek “Rock Hole” (par 3); Chambers Bay (par 4); Jackson Park (par 5); Lake Spanaway (par 4).
Hole No. 13
The Golf Club at Hawks Prairie, Woodlands Course, Lacey
• Par 5. Yardage: 542 back tees, 495 white tees.
Water runs all the way down the right side on this long, scenic, memorable journey.
Honorable mention: Meadow Park-Tacoma (par 3); Shuksan (par 5); Battle Creek (par 5); The Classic (par 4/ 5 for women); Nile Golf and Country Club (par 3).
Hole No. 14
Jackson Park Golf Course, Seattle
• Par 4. Yardage: 402 back tees, 358 white tees.
The creation of a large reservoir on the right side of the fairway made this a country-club-like hole on a busy muni track. The elevated tee box makes the hole a visual treat.
Honorable mention: Kayak Point “split fairway” (par 4); Hawks Prairie- Links Course (par 4); Chambers Bay (par 4), Eaglemont (par 4); Trophy Lake (par 4).
Hole No. 15
Chambers Bay, University Place
• Par 3. Yardage: Back tees 247. White tees 103.
It was tough deciding which hole to use from this acclaimed course, but the nod went to the hole with the only tree on the course (although it’s rarely in play). For the U.S. Open in 2015, it could play as a long par 3 one day, and as a short one the next.
Honorable mention: Sudden Valley (“Cliff Hole”) (par 4); Washington National (par 4); White Horse (par 4); Sun Country-Cle Elum (par 3); Lake Spanaway (par 4).
Hole No. 16
Willows Run Golf Club, Coyote Creek Course, Redmond
• Par 4. Yardage: 299 back tees, 278 white tees.
Splendid curving hole in Sammamish Valley with water all the way down the left side. Player must decide how much to gamble with tee shot. A bad decision or bad shot results in a splash.
Honorable mention: Legion Memorial (par 3); Gold Mountain-Olympic (par 3); Auburn Golf Course (par 3); Chambers Bay (par 4), The Classic (par 4).
Hole No. 17
Washington National Golf Club, Auburn
• Par 5. Yardage: 543 back tees, 445 white tees.
Name a hazard and this hole has it — two ponds, a creek, fairway bunkers, greenside bunkers. One reason it’s a wonderful hole is because there are different ways to play it.
Honorable mention: Echo Falls (par 4); Gold Mountain-Olympic (par 4); Sudden Valley (par 5); Willows Run-Eagles Talon (par 3); Chambers Bay (par 3).
Hole No. 18
Olympic Course, Gold Mountain Golf Club, Bremerton
• Par 4. Yardage: 325 back tees, 255 white tees.
A risk-reward driveable par 4 that can provide more drama than a year of “CSI.” Fans on the deck high above the hole have a perch to watch eagles.
Honorable mention: Homestead Golf and Country Club-Lynden (island green) (par 5); Echo Falls (island green) (par 3); Trophy Lake (par 5); Kayak Point (par 4); White Horse (par 4).
Mapping the Dream 18
Where to find the courses in the Puget Sound region: See graphics from each hole on an interactive map.