Friday, August 10, 2012

Round #40: Washington - Sahalee Country Club (South/North)

You can not visit Seattle without dropping into the Pike Street Market where fish throwing is an art form to the thrill of the tourists. Our hotel in Seattle was a comfortably pleasant surprise, thanks to great reviews from TripAdvisor. Even the Seattle quilt shops were very quaint. 
Pike Street Market

They really love big fish in Seattle!

 Cedarbrook Lodge

Carriage Country Quilts

Aside from enjoying a day touring the town, I was there to play golf at the Sahalee Country Club. Envisioned from the start as a course that would play host to champions of the game, Sahalee was carved from a forest of towering cedars, hemlocks and Douglas firs under the design of renowned golf course architect Ted Robinson. Later, Rees Jones would lend his hand at renovations and improvements.
The course utilizes the natural topography and soil conditions of the Sammamish plateau, it is situated on and is embellished with native plants including large stands of rhododendrons. Sahalee provides 27 holes on three 9-hole courses of equal caliber (the North, South and East courses), any two of which can be combined to a standard 18-hole course. It is on the South-North course that some of the greatest names in golf have been tested.
Reflecting its status as the Northwest's premier golf course, Sahalee has hosted three major championship events. The 1998 PGA Championship was the first major event to be hosted in the Northwest since 1944. The tournament was won by Vijay Singh after he out dueled Steve Stricker by two strokes to capture his first major championship (some of you may recall Steve Stricker; a 3-time winner of the JD Classic tournament 2009-11). Craig Parry won the 2002 World Golf Championship NEC Invitational at Sahalee, breaking Tiger Woods' dominance of the event. Sahalee also hosted the 31st annual US Senior Open Championship in 2010, which is the major championship event on the senior tour.
I requested play on the South/North course, rated as the 50th best course in the USA by Golf Digest.

The clubhouse at Sahalee

Round: #40
Location: Sammamish, WA
Golf Digest Best-In-State Rank: #1
Date: 7 Aug, tee off at 1:10 PM
Conditions: overcast skies, 3 MPH wind, 65 degrees
Yardage: 6,754
Lost balls: 1
Score: 84 on a par 72

When I checked in the pro shop informed me I would be teeing off at 1:30 PM as a single player. My typical request to be paired with any local players paid off when the assistant pro approached me on the practice range and to ask if I could be ready to go in 12-minutes. He had approached some members to inquire if I could join their twosome and they had agreed. Eric Hanson is a 43-year old full-time father. His daughter, Maddie, is a junior club golf champion at Sahalee who will enter her freshman year in high school this fall. Eric’s wife is an accountant with the PricewaterhouseCoopers company. 

The 2nd member of our group was Scott Newton, a 54-year old portfolio manager for Charles Schwab. Scott enjoys a blended family of 2 kids from his first marriage and 4 kids from his current wife’s first marriage. The kids range in age from 19-36; the youngest will enter college this fall officially turning Scott into an empty nester.

Eric Hanson & Scott Newton

We teed off on the South course where two challenges became immediately apparent: narrow tree-lined fairways and “guard trees” that obstruct approach shots to the greens. I began playing well with tee shots in the fairway, and short putts that could not miss. I completed the South course with 2 pars and 7 bogeys for a respectable 43.

 501-yard par 5 hole #2 South

 View from the green back up the fairway on hole #2 South

 402-yard par 4 hole #3 South

 382-yard par 4 hole #4 South

 424-yard par 4 hole #8 South (view from the green back up the fairway)

181-yard par 3 hole #9 South

As we walked onto the tee box to begin playing the North course, Scott mentioned that it serves as the 2nd 9 holes for championship play because it presents more opportunities for a player to get in trouble. It did not take long to see the truth in his comment as my approach shot to the green on hole #1 North rolled into the pond that wraps around the green. I found the ball, but had to take a penalty stroke after pulling it out of the water. I ended up with a double bogey on the hole.

 397-yard par 4 hole #1 North

 View of approach shot to the green from the fairway on hole #1 North

View of the pond protecting the hole #1 North green

My problems continued on hole #2 North when I pulled my tee shot left into the trees - the first fairway I missed hitting. After hitting a provisional ball, we began to move up the fairway as Scott inquired what my handicap is. After telling him 8, he told me that he has never seen a player with a single digit handicap score below 90 in their first round of play at Sahalee. I responded that he just put a jinx on me, at least it appeared to be short-lived after Eric found my first shot in the trees. I chipped out into the fairway where my approach shot on the par 5 hole flew through the guard trees to land on the green. I 2-putted the hole for a par. 

 538-yard par 5 hole #2 North

View of approach shot to the green from the fairway on hole #2 North

The golf gods continued to help me shake off the jinx on hole #3 North when my tee shot into the fairway left a 210-yard approach to the green. My approach shot rolled onto the green where a 2-putt gave me another par.

 429-yard par 4 hole #3 North

View of approach shot to the green from the fairway on hole #3 North

My best shot of the day was on hole #7 North where I sliced an approach shot around the guard tree and landed on the green. A momentary lapse on the hole #8 North tee box gave me the worst shot of the day after my club hit the ground before making contact; the ball dribbled into the pond. My chip shot flew past the pin, a 2-putt produced my 2nd double bogey on the North course. With one other bogey and two double bogeys, I still finished with a 41 for a combined score of 84. It was a memorable round of golf for me on a great course, and I expect it proved memorable for Scott as well! 

 396-yard par 4 hole #6 North

 View from the green looking back up the fairway on hole #6 North

 372-yard par 4 hole #7 North

 View of approach shot to the green from the fairway on hole #7 North

 View from the green looking back up the fairway on hole #7 North

 173-yard par 3 hole #8 North (view from the green looking back toward the tee box)

 533-yard par 5 hole #9 North

View from the green looking back up the fairway on hole #9 North

Julie picked me up and we departed immediately on a 270-mile drive to Spokane. Along the way we stopped at the Palace Cafe in Ellensburg for a mediocre meal. Yelp reviews are not bullet proof. We drove by a local art-lover’s house as we made our way back to the interstate highway.

The weather forecast called for a high temperature of 80 degrees in Seattle. The overcast skies kept readings in the 60‘s which was very pleasant golf weather. We drove into clear skies and higher temperatures as we passed through the mountains. It was 92 degrees at 9 PM as we passed through Moses Lake. We were definitely headed into the heat wave that has been gripping parts of the nation. The clear skies did provide us with a gorgeous Western sunset (in the rearview window of our car!). 

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