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2013 in Review

Last year, my USGA index skyrocketed to embarrassing heights and I scrambled for excuses in this year end post of 2012. And then I played the same type of schedule in 2013 and dropped down to my pre-season goal of a handicap in the 8’s, finishing at an 8.8. So I guess all my logic from last year didn’t hold water. Out of about 35 rounds, at least 20 were on courses new to me and I shaved 4 strokes off anyway. Only five rounds crept into the 90’s, and two of those were in February when I only had one working wrist. But only two rounds snuck into the 70’s, one of which won me $200. So now I’ve settled into a low 80’s threat in the midst of what are supposedly my prime physical years (though at the moment I look more like the “before” pic). So then what changed?

graig mantle kierland
This awesome swing was never the problem

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Chambers Bay

Chambers Bay Golf Course in University Place, WA

Pat, me and CJ
Pat, me and CJ

The Stats

Tee Time: May 20, 2013, 9:15, 66 F, light wind

Designer: Robert Trent Jones, Jr (2007)

Playing Partners: CJ Phelan, Pat Spomer, Thomas

Tees: Sand, Par 72 (72.4 rating/135 slope/6,513 yards)

Course Handicap: 14 (11.6 index)

Stats: 94 (48-46); 41 putts; 9/14 fairways; 5/18 greens; 0 penalty strokes

The Course

In 2015, the US Open will be held here at Chambers Bay. You’ll see stunning visuals of sailboats and yachts out on the Puget Sound. Countless slow pans of the lone Douglas Fir behind the 15th hole. Maybe even some Jimmy Roberts pieces about the site’s history as a gravel mine. It will look great on television and be one of the most unique majors in recent memory. But nothing compares to actually walking these links. Spending four hours hiking up and down the natural contours of the course, taking in the unmatched scenery with every stride and breathing in the refreshing sea air is hands down the best experience I’ve had yet on this young journey. High above the golf course sits the clubhouse and restaurant, with a panoramic view of the premises as well as an excellent club sandwich. Just be dead sure you have your valuables safely hidden in your vehicle before walking into the pro shop, where there will always be a line of customers purchasing various memorabilia. After checking in, a shuttle will transport you down to the practice range and the rest of the course, dropping off right by the snack shack. The quick bus ride down to this golf playground hauling all your gear gets the adrenaline going in much the same way that taking the gondola up the mountain up with skis in tow does, knowing an awesome day awaits.

chambers bay university place washington 2015 us open hole 15 lone fir
Hole 15, “Lone Fir”; you’ll be seeing a lot of this tree during the US Open coverage

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Gold Mountain Golf Club (Olympic Course)

Olympic Course at Gold Mountain Golf Club in Bremerton, WA

graig mantle gold mountain
Mike, Pat, CJ and me

The Stats

Tee Time: May 19, 2013, 9:44, 63 F, light rain

Designer: John F. Harbottle III (1996)

Playing Partners: Mike Harvey, CJ Phelan, Pat Spomer

Tees: Tourney, Par 72 (71.3 rating/129 slope/6,479 yards)

Course Handicap: 13 (11.6 index)

Stats: 88 (45-43); 29 putts; 7/14 fairways; 4/18 greens; 0 penalty strokes; 1 eagle

The Course

I’m not sure if anyone’s been watching that new North America series on the Discovery Channel, but playing the Olympic Course at Gold Mountain Golf Club feels like a round of golf in an episode of that nature documentary. It’s just you surrounded by acres upon acres of thick forests packed with Douglas Fir trees as far as the eye can see. A few miles up the road from Bremerton, Washington, is where you’ll find the large clubhouse and excellent warmup areas before playing one of Gold Mountain’s two golf courses, the other being the Cascade Course. Each hole feels isolated in a wilderness manner. Unless that group ahead of you is still on the green, you’ll never see another human or manmade structure for the entire round, making it feel like 18 holes on your own private golf course. There are elevation changes on nearly every hole and accuracy is important from the tee. It’s hard to really lose a golf ball here but get behind some of those evergreen trees and it can be just as bad. Our group had two shots that flew as far backward off a trunk as it had flown forward. The whole scene was made even more amazing somehow by the cloudy skies that dropped a bit of precipitation. It seemed like an Alaskan seaplane could roar over the ridge at any moment. Off in the distance, row after row of towering Douglas Firs rose up into the stirring clouds along the many ridges and mountains surrounding the golf course. I personally can’t think of any better setting than a thriving evergreen forest. Oh, and even the golf here is pretty good. Continue reading Gold Mountain Golf Club (Olympic Course)