It was just 2½ months ago that former Times reporter Craig Smith and I wrote our previous Teeing Off, but it seems like 2½ years ago. We hadn’t heard of social distancing, the Mariners were in Arizona getting ready for the start of the season, and college basketball was gearing up for March Madness.

It’s a different world now, of course, because of the coronavirus pandemic. Things aren’t the same, even at golf courses, which were allowed to reopen Tuesday. You won’t see foursomes (unless they live in the same household), rakes at the bunkers or players sharing carts (or at least you are not supposed to) — but you should see a lot of social distancing.

Craig and I entered this new world of golf with a round at Nile Shrine Golf Course in Mountlake Terrace, a course that isn’t considered overly difficult, making it a good place for a couple of hackers who hadn’t swung a club in weeks.

First thoughts

Scott: I have played Nile several times over the years, and this week it was in by far the best condition I have seen, with the staff apparently having taken advantage of the time when no one was playing it. … It was also the quickest I have ever played the course. I am used to backups at the course, but we never waited and we finished in 3½ hours. … I have been walking every day during the shelter-at-home restrictions, but I realized about the 13th hole that there is a big difference between walking on flat ground and walking up and down hills while pushing a cart full of clubs.

The good

Scott: The par-67 course was perfect for a comeback. There are enough challenging holes to get your attention — the eighth hole, a 408-yard par-4 that includes a stream you have to hit over; and the 12th hole, a 381-yard uphill par-4 come to mind — but at 5,010 yards from the farthest of the two tee sets, it’s not going to beat your brains in. Still, a big number is possible on several holes with out-of-bounds areas in play. … There are a number of good, scenic holes. … Playing without delays, most likely because of fewer players on the course. … For the most part, players seemed to be following the new rules and keeping good social distance, but we did see one twosome sharing a cart. … Seeing Craig, at 75, easily walk 18 holes despite a balky knee and looking more fresh at the end than his playing partner who is 19 years younger.

Craig: Enjoyable course for recreational golfers. … It’s walkable, but not flat. … Convenient location. … Views of Lake Ballinger on the front nine. … Was in good condition. … Being back on a golf course was the same feeling of “FINALLY!” that my wife, Julie, a competitive senior rower, had expressed the previous day when she got out on Lake Washington.


The bad

Scott: I felt like crying on the back nine because the benches at each tee box were overturned to maintain social distancing. My aching knees were begging for a rest. … Kind of missed hearing the noise the ball makes when it falls into the hole. Cups now have a small piece of plastic pipe in them to decrease the depth of the hole so you can easily reach down and touch only your ball when retrieving it (and flagsticks aren’t to be removed from the hole). … Not being able to have lunch and a beer with Craig after the round.

Craig: We like to play with Scott’s father Dick and rotate a fourth player, but the limit is twosomes now. … No rakes in bunkers because they would be touched by many hands. You do your repair work with your wedge and yes, nothing beats a rake. … No range, and not much variety with the design of greens. … Some would say lack of length is a big negative, but Nile doesn’t pretend to be a course for scratch golfers.


Craig: Nile originally was a private Shriners’ nine-hole course that opened in 1968. The course added a second nine and opened for public play in the summer of 1996. The new nine had some solid holes but also a 75-yard par-3 seventh hole that I once wrote was “possibly the worst hole in Northwest golf.” Others complained, too, and the hole was lengthened and now plays at 154 yards. … I told head pro Joe Korn the course reminded me of Foster Golf Course in Tukwila — a decent course catering to mid-to-high handicappers. Korn, who went to nearby Foster High School, liked the comparison but called Nile “a souped-up Foster.” Nile has elevation changes, more bunkers and more out-of-bounds areas.


“That’s an interesting bunker on the right.” — Craig, before hitting his approach on the 16th hole.

“And I am going to visit it.” — Craig again, 10 seconds later, after a poorly hit shot.

Final thought

Scott: My knees hurt, my back ached and I never got over making a nine on the eighth hole, but boy, was it good to be back on the course. Can’t wait to play again.



Scott: 3. This is a fun course, and playable for almost all levels. Giving it an extra-half star than I anticipated because of the improved condition.

Craig: 3. Golf needs more courses like Nile.

Nile Shrine Golf Course

(425-776-5154 ext. 512 pro shop; 6601 244th St. S.W., Mountlake Terrace (on route off I-15 heading to Edmonds and Edmonds ferry. Visible from I-5).

Par: 67

Rating/slope: Yellow tees (Men — 64.2 rating, 110 slope); Red tees (Women, 66.2 rating, 113 slope).

Yardage: Yellow: 5,010 yards; Red: 4,503 yards.

Rates: M-F $32 Including tax, weekends $39; Seniors (60 and over) $28 M-F; Juniors (17-and under) $28 seven days a week.

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