Craig Smith and I finally teed it up again.  

It had been a few months since we played a round together, at Nile Golf Course in Mountlake Terrace in May, just after golf courses had received the OK to reopen after being closed because of the coronavirus pandemic.  

Seattle Times golf writer Scott Hanson and golf writer emeritus Craig Smith don’t profess to be the best golfers to ever hit the links. But that’s precisely why you should take notice of their golf course reviews. They travel around the region playing public courses and report back on what’s great, what’s not and everything in between in Teeing Off.

I’ll blame the pandemic. Seeing friends during this time is something I just don’t think about, plus I have been on loan from the sports department to news department to help with COVID-19 coverage. Result: We didn’t get to a lot of courses as we had done the previous two summers.

So that made our recent round at Riverbend Golf Complex in Kent a bit more special, and it reminded me that although I like golf, the camaraderie (we played with my father and my daughter) is what I enjoy the most.  


The good  

Scott: With five tee boxes, Riverbend can test good players from the back tees while also being a good course for advanced beginners. Elizabeth, 12, played from the purple tees (the shortest of the five), which measure 4,435 yards. … Easy to walk because it is flat. … The final two holes, with water in play on both, are very good. The 18th is a par-5 that wraps around a huge pond and might be the best hole on the course. … Greens were in good shape.  


Craig: Good length — 6,663 yards from the back tees, which needless to say, as bogey golfers past our prime, we avoided. … I used every club in my bag and to me that’s always a sign of a course with variety. … Three huge ponds that legitimately could be called small lakes and about 50 bunkers. … No homes. … Food and beer on the patio at Half Lion Public House, the facility’s restaurant, got a thumbs up from us. . … Mount Rainier was drop-dead majestic in the background as we came down the 18th fairway.  

The bad  

Scott: No driving range for now, because the one across the street has been undergoing renovation and expansion for several months. It is schedule to reopen Sept. 19. … Course is in good shape for a municipal course, but no one would confuse it with a country club.  

Craig: Par 3s are nothing special. … Because of its popularity, slow play can be a problem, but we played in just over four hours. … Seems a shame that you don’t get more views of the Green River when you play the course.  


Course is owned and operated by the City of Kent and is among the busiest in the state with more than 60,000 rounds most years. Course opened in 1989 and was designed by John Steidel, who also designed Lynnwood Golf Course and Apple Tree in Yakima. … What was a par-3 course across the street and justified the name “golf complex” for Riverbend is now an apartment complex. … Holes 11-15 are on the other side of the Green River. Crossing the bridge, you mingle with folks headed for the Green River Trail.

Snake gets name  

Craig recently bought a 1-foot rubber snake for this betting game: If you 3-putt, you have to carry the snake until someone else 3-putts and takes possession. The golfer carrying the snake after nine holes has to pay the others in the foursome $1 each, and so does the person who has it after 18 holes. Elizabeth, who was initially scared of the snake but ended up wearing it around her neck, gave it a name during the round — “Arnold.”  

Beware the praise

After 13 holes Scott turned to Craig and said, “You’re playing better today.” Craig promptly shot a 10 on the next hole and did it without penalty strokes.  



Scott: 3. There is a reason it’s so popular: It’s a solid municipal course that’s enjoyable to play.

Craig: 3. Enjoyable course that can test almost anyone if proper tees are chosen.

Riverbend Golf Complex

253-854-3673; 2019 W. Meeker St., Kent (west of downtown Kent; Green River divides course).
Par: 72
Rating/slope: Black tees, men 71.5 (what expert should shoot), 127 (113 is typical course difficulty rating); Blue tees, men 70.0, 126; women, 75.9, 131; White tees, men 68.5, 125; women, 74.1, 127; Green tees, men, 66.6, 116; women, 71.3, 124; purple, men 62.2, 105; women, 65.4, 112.
Yardage: Black tees, 6,663 yards; blue, 6,323; white, 5,990; green, 5,514; purple, 4,435.
Rates: M-F $40, weekends $46; Seniors (55 and over) $32 M-F; Juniors (17-and under) $22 M-F, $24 weekends.
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