Trophy Lake Golf & Casting Club in Port Orchard, WA
Tee Time: September 24, 2013, 12:30, 61 F, intermittent rain
Designer: John Fought (1999)
Playing Partners: None
Tees: Blue, Par 72 (72.8 rating/131 slope/6,756 yards)
Course Handicap: 10 (9.0 index)
Stats: 84 (40-44); 32 putts; 10/14 fairways; 7/18 greens; 2 penalty strokes
That makes four awesome courses I’ve played in Washington this year. I’m starting to think there might not be any duds in The Evergreen State. Trophy Lake Golf & Casting Club in Port Orchard, about an hour’s drive from Seattle, is a nice, quiet spot to get in a challenging round of golf. Each hole feels different. The bunkers and rough are fait yet punishing, an honest test without any annoying gimmicks. Gorgeous forest surround the course, but luckily the trees are merely spectators. It takes a really wild shot to get trapped amongst the pines.
The 387-yard opening par 4 is a tough one, especially from off the fairway, so get over those first-tee jitters quick. It’s also the first look at the many elevated greens, often guarded by deep, massive greens. Give that this region sees about 150 days of rain dumping an average of 50 inches every year, odds are that you’ll find wet sand more often that not. Good luck getting a sand save out of that (I couldn’t). The 2nd is an introduction to one of the defining characteristics at Trophy Lake: monster par 5s, this one at 585 yards and the hardest of the group. A driver and 3-wood on the screws will still leave over 100 yards in. And these long holes, which include several tape measure par 4s, are made even harder considering you have to hit a ball almost to Canada in the heavy sea air of Puget Sound. Just 2 months ago I got to spend 5 days in the mile (nearly two-mile) high air of Colorado, launching high-altitude missiles that got up to 350 yards in the summer conditions. Now in the first week of fall in the Pacific Northwest, rain, wind and long grass had my top drives measuring 100 yards less. Mercifully, the par 3s are gently, like the 159-yard 3rd, a simple iron to a large green. The 4th is a long par 4 with two fairway bunkers guarding the landing zone as well a split level fairway that can leave some awkward side stances. The 5th is a long, 206-yard par 3. It plays slightly downhill and doesn’t have much bite aside from the length. The par-4 6th is one of the better guarded greens on the course. The very short, very uphill 8th is no cakewalk. Just long enough to be undriveable at 296 yards due to the mountainous upslope, there are sand traps right in the middle of all the desirable lay-up areas which could lead to some bogeys. The 9th is a downhill, 389-yard par 4 that plays downhill and with an easy wedge into the green, could be a satisfying way to head into the turn.
The par 4 10th possesses one of the most dangerous approaches, with hazard in front and a steep slope off the back that will send balls into the undergrowth. It’s the nearest the forest comes into play at Trophy Lake, and it’s uncomfortable having the trees so close, silently judging you in your own personal space. Kind of like the person reading all this over my shoulder from the seat next to me. Another titanic par 5 is next, at 558 yards. Two good shots to the ledge leave the best approach, otherwise it’s a blind shot to an elevated green protected by a deep bunker to the front left. The 13th is a longer, uphill par 3 at 178 yards, but luckily those sand traps are purely decorative unless you really shank one. Take an extra club to get past that false front, however. The 438-yard 14th is a par 4 that will probably require a hybrid (does anyone even use long irons anymore?) on approach. Good luck. The other short par 4, the 15th, is uphill just like #8, but not as severe. Still just out of reach at 310 yards. Darn. The backdrop at the 16th is pretty sweet. The opening to the bridge to the next hole is decorated with colorful flowers, driving over a pond on the way to the short 17th. It is only 135 yards, but the green plays pretty small. The closing 18th is as gorgeous as finishing holes get. From the tee, you can see past the 2 bunkers that sit on the right side to the clubhouse in the distance. From the fairway you can and should choose to lay up in front of the creek and then enjoy the amazing green. Putting with the soothing crash of the waterfall secluded just off to the side into a calm, murmuring creek has to calm your nerves and improve your stroke. Well, at least prevent a 3-putt.
There’s a lot to like about Trophy Lake. The setting and scenery are beautiful examples of what the game of golf is like in the Pacific Northwest. The staff is amazing. In the golf shop the pros are nice and engaging while the restaurant staff is very accommodating. I also loved the lodge feel of the restaurant, with vaulted ceilings and trophy heads lining the walls. The greens rolled very well, especially given that the back side had been aerated two weeks before. The front side was actually being sanded as I played, so half of every green was covered in more sand than David Hasselhoff. (Hey, why aren’t you laughing? That’s funny.) I had 3 holes where I putted through that sand and it was actually a fun challenge. The ball would skid through the pebbles and then start rolling after gripping the bare grass again, like sliding a shuffleboard puck with just enough tough to score points.
#7, Par 5, 517 yards, 7-handicap, My Score: 4
Layout: B+; lots of different looks to force all kinds of shots.
Amenities: A; a nice clubhouse and restaurant with a tasty hot dog.
Staff: A; everyone here is a pleasure to be around, from the head pro to the restaurant staff to the greenskeepers scattered about the grounds.
Difficulty: B-; the greens are very fair, and the trees are just for show. The length will make it hard to score your best here.
Scenery: A-; each hole feels like its own island, and with unique scenery and elements that make them memorable.
Value: B; $65 is a fair rate and competitive with the region, but courses should start offering aeration rates maybe..
Overall GPA: 3.73 (A-); definitely worth the drive over that scary Tacoma Narrows Bridge.