Like the city itself, golf in Seattle is diverse, ranging from wind-swept links to hilly inland tracks that run through the forests of evergreen that gave Seattle its nickname, The Emerald City. But what all have in common is golf with a view; one of Puget Sound, Lake Washington, or mountain ranges, including the majestic Mt. Ranier, add to almost every experience. The Seattle area’s natural assets are on full display at many of the area’s golf courses, including those on our short list below. Even better, Seattle’s temperate climate makes it a year-round golf destination.
Plus, when you rent a car with Avis you can sneak in a little golf on any of these great courses with $25 off your round if you book through Golf Now – pickup available directly from Seattle Tacoma International Airport.
Talk about a fantastic recovery. After closing for almost 7 months and renovating all the greens with poa annua (replacing the rogue fescue that brought all the bumps and complaints) Chambers Bay can confidently claim its status as the top-rated course in the state and #24 on Golf Digest’s America’s 100 Greatest Public Courses. Host of the 2015 U.S. Open, and just 40 minutes from SEA-TAC, the Robert Trent Jones Jr. design features a knockout routing beside Puget Sound with glimpses of the Olympic Mountains. It’s walking only on this ode to links golf where names of holes (Foxy is named after the 14th at Royal Dornoch in Scotland), an active railroad, fescue, dunes, and swirling winds that can play naughty or nice amp up the links feeling as the hilly terrain adds another dynamic. A caddy is a good investment for first time players. Soak in all the beauty after your round at the outdoor deck overlooking the course.
It’s only a half-hour drive southeast of Seattle but you’ll know you’re in Husky territory from the moment you arrive until you finish up on the 18th, where the giant purple “W” flanks the green. Tees are named freshman, sophomore, and so on all the way to the Husky tips at 7,304 yards. Nestled in the foothills of Mt. Rainier and home of both the University of Washington Men’s and Women’s golf teams, the course is in great shape regardless of the season. It’s become the go-to course for serious players in the area; you’ll find the die-hards here on the gloomiest of Seattle days. The John Fought design has generous landing areas for those who like to grip it and rip it. It plays tough enough for some of the best college amateurs in the country, but with tee options aplenty you can pick what challenge you’re up for. Expect a pretty good pace and walk if you like, but if you take a cart you may be able to squeeze in more holes with the replay rate. Stop by the Varsity Grill, a low-key sports bar with some local craft beers on tap, big-screen TVs, and a patio overlooking the course.
The Golf Club at Newcastle
If you're trying to impress a client, this high-end daily fee is the place to do it. For starters, the panoramic views of Seattle and the surrounding Olympic and Cascade mountain ranges and waterways are nothing short of spectacular. The grounds feature two designer courses, an 18-hole bentgrass putting course, the top amenities of a private club, a bagpiper at sunset during the summer months, and a 19th hole with a cozy pub and outside patio. The 7,024-yard Coal Creek, designed Bob Cupp with input from local hero Fred Couples, has better views, and its 300 feet of elevation change can make for a thrilling round. The par-71 6,632 China Creek Course plays shorter and easier, and a good bet if you want the Newcastle experience at a lower price point. Like many courses in the area, you can walk it but be advised there aren’t many flat lies on either course. After, retreat to the enormous to the manor born clubhouse for a well-earned libation.
Here’s a chance for fans of Arthur Hills to play one of his few designs in the Pacific Northwest, the only one in the state of Washington. Within half an hour of the city, Harbour Pointe is set among rolling hills framed by evergreens that define the area. Rustic touches like wooden foot bridges and rock walls add to the woodsy feel. It features two distinct nines—the front is flatter and meanders through wetlands (bring your A target game or you’re likely to dunk one). The back nine is narrower and more hilly, and provides the most scenic hole on the course—the signature 394 yard par-4 11th hole. You tee off looking at Puget Sound with the fairway dropping off at the 150-yard marker to the postage-stamp green nearly 100 feet below. There are even 4 sets of tee boxes in the 6,000-6,800 yard range so you can really customize your challenges. The Pointe, the 19th hole, has a nice list of local beers and wine along with wraps, salads, nachos, and burgers.
The Olympic Course at Gold Mountain
Many will say this is the best bang for your buck in the state, offering a perfect combo of price, design, and conditioning. The setting is quintessential Washington, right down to the imposing evergreens and snowy mountains. It’s also known as the place where Jordan Spieth won the 2011 U.S. Junior Amateur. The Olympic Course, newer and more challenging than Cascade, has more hills and water hazards with plenty of elevation changes and towering trees lining the fairways, and is surprisingly generous off the tee. The finishing holes are fun, especially the 18th, which is a drivable par-4 (for some) and genuine birdie chance. Getting there is part of the fun, too. It’s an hour travel time by the Bremerton Ferry or you can drive around through Tacoma and across the Narrows bridge. The recently spiffed up deck is a nice spot to sample a craft beer, or you can start earlier in the day with a Gold Mountain beer caddy. Fill up with your favorite brew before hitting the course and save $1 off two pints every time.