On my recent Hooked On Golf Blog World Tour stop in Washington (state) and Vancouver, Canada, I had the chance to play a new course called Salish Cliffs. Salish Cliffs is located in Shelton, Washington, about 1.5 hours southwest of Seattle. The course opened in September 2011 as part of the Squaxin Island Tribe’s Little Creek Casino/Resort. I’ll be posting my golf travel review of Little Creek’s resort soon.
Salish Cliffs Golf Club Overview
Gene Bates is the course architect for Salish Cliffs. I’ve played many Bates designs, and I can honestly say this is the best one I’ve played so far. The previous Bates designs I’ve experienced don’t have the dense forest and interesting terrain that Salish does. Bates did a fantastic job utilizing the terrain to make a fun, challenging and beautiful track.
The course measures at 7,269 yards from the tips with a par of 72. Course rating from the tips, a.k.a. Championship tees is 75.4 with a slope of 137. There are five sets of tees which make the course playable and enjoyable for golfers of all levels.
|Masters (Men/Women)||5848||Men: 68.2 Women 74.0||Men: 121 Women: 132|
I’m not sure what is a better club to pick on the tees at Salish. I found myself reaching for my Nikon more than my driver. Most holes are framed up by beautiful tall pines and thick mountain forest.
Tee shots on many holes have forced carries which require a solid and accurate shot to reach the fairway. Unlike courses which are far less interesting, the different tee boxes on the course present different angles as well as elevation.
Speaking of elevation, there are some great elevation changes from the teeing areas. Hole #3 comes to mind, a 291 yard par-3. Don’t let the yardage fool you, the drop is probably worth 2-3 clubs. No need to hit driver.
Some landing areas on the par-4’s and par-5’s may look narrow from the tee. They’re usually wider than they appear. Hole shapes call for a nice variety of shot shapes from draws to fades to the ever difficult straight shot. Strategic fairway bunkers look rugged and rough around the edges, but don’t have as much of a bite if the ball settles into the middle.
Lies in the fairways at Salish Cliffs are not overly difficult. Fairway sloping is gradual and smooth and there are a lot of moderately flat lies. A few holes however, feature some challenging and fun elevation changes, calling for steady swings up or downslope. Club selection from those positions is crucial for hitting greens in regulation.
I was literally taken aback when I stroked my first putt on the first green. I was first out and the course was covered in morning dew. Despite the dew, I managed to knock my first putt OFF the green. These babies were ultra-smooth and mega-fast. I can honestly say that these greens are the best I’ve putted in 2012, considering condition, speed and receptiveness.
In shaping these greens, Bates didn’t opt for the nutty and extreme slopes we are seeing in some new courses. Instead these greens have subtle breaks with the occasional level change. They’re challenging but fair. Speed is key.
On The Course
Being first out and a single, I was able to play at my own pace and enjoy the fantastic and clear morning air. As the sun came up I was able to get some great photos. I played as the aforementioned morning dew wore off and I had to gear back the putter even more on those smooth greens as they dried out later in the morning.
I was struggling a bit with my game. I find it tough to do these tour stops and play really well. I’m often a bit too hyped and excited to stay relaxed, especially when I’m playing such wonderful tracks as Salish Cliffs. I did manage to get the swing straightened out and payed some decent golf on the back nine, playing the final five holes in +1.
The finishing 18th is a fun hole to end on. The tee on this par-5 reminds me of the 18th at Augusta National, hitting through a chute in the trees (see photo under “Tee” heading above). 18 gives the player an excellent shot at a birdie and going home happy. That’s just what happened for me.
A couple of neat course features to mention here. The 9th and 18th greens are shared, like the courses in Scotland. There’s also a spot the course where there’s a shared tee, which is cool.
My favorite holes are the par-4 11th, par-4 15th and par-5 18th. The 15th starts with an elevated tee, drops down to the fairway and then heads back up a steep hill. Check out the photo above.
Salish has an extensive practice facility. There is a large practice green, elevated driving range and several chipping and putting tee areas with their own individual tiny greens to practice short game.
The clubhouse at Salish fits right in with the vibe and terrain, a mountain style log cabin/lodge. Inside the clubhouse are the pro shop, two level restaurant and a nice bar. Patio seating in the back is very nice.
If you are up in the northwest to check out Chambers Bay, Seattle, Olympia etc., get down to Salish Cliffs and play a round or two. It is worth the drive. Salish Cliffs is a beautiful mountain course with conditioning that rivals the top courses I’ve played. The design is fun, challenging and tops aesthetically. There are no parallel holes, no homes or buildings on the course anywhere. It is pure mountain golf, tranquil and serene. Bring your clubs of course, and bring your camera too.
Thanks to my new friends at Salish Cliffs and Little Creek Resort. I’ll be back as soon as possible!