Salish Cliffs Is Worth The Drive From Seattle
This article first appeared in the Globe & Mail in August 2012
The Seattle area was a golf magnet for Canadians long before the USGA awarded the Open to Tacoma’s Chambers Bay for 2015. With its proximity to Vancouver and its year-round facilities, the environs of the Emerald City have been popular for courses such as Sahalee, Washington National and the Golf Club At Newcastle.
But there’s a sterling newcomer just 70 minutes south of the metro Seattle area that’s vying for the affections of Canadians. The 7,269-yard Salish Cliffs Golf Club, part of the Little Creek Casino Resort and run by the Squaxin Island Tribe, is just 20 minutes from the state capital at Olympia. As the course literature says, “some drives are worth making”.
Designed by Gene Bates (Circling Raven, The Rise, Whiskey Jack), this challenging bent-grass course opened in 2011 to positive reviews. And why not? Rolling through elevation changes of over 600 feet, Salish Cliffs incorporates the best of modern golf while observing the environmental sensitivities that have made it the first Salmon Safe course in the U.S.
For golfers who enjoy privacy, 16 of the 18 holes are lined with evergreen and cedar, the only sounds from the eagles overhead and the wind through the leaves above. The log-cabin style clubhouse, with its wrap-around porch, continues the Northwest theme. There are also a range of tees that allow casual players and low handicappers a great day.
Having spent a day playing the course, a few holes stand out. The par-5, 532-yard first sets up the day, with the drive playing around an immense tree guarding the right side of the fairway. The landing areas are generous at Salish, but as on No. 1, the fairways tighten and demand accuracy as you approach the greens.
The No. 1 stroke hole is No. 8, a 601-yard par 5 that gradually doglegs to the left. While the fairway is receiving, the hole puts a premium on proper landing locations. Adhere too closely to the left side and you’ll be cut off on your approach to the sunken green that runs back to front and is bunkered on the left side.
Both of the finishing holes on the nines end at a large common green next to the clubhouse. The 409-yard No. 9 comes out of a chute framed by water to the left and forest to the right. Too long a drive will get you wet on one side and land you in rough and trees on the other. The 18th, a 537-yard par five that doglegs right from an elevated tee, forces a choice of going over the pond to a narrow landing area on the green or laying up before the pond.
Salish Cliffs has priced itself competitively to encourage players to make the drive to the Olympic Peninsula. Rates, including carts with GPS, range balls and tax go from a very attractive $89-99 (all prices in U.S. dollars). There are afternoon rates as well.
Perhaps the best way to enjoy the trip is to stay at the Little Creek Casino Resort itself. There are stay-and-play packages that reduce green fees to a very competitive $79. In addition to the casino, the 190-room resort features the Skookum Spirit Cigar Lounge and Seven Inlets Spa, several excellent restaurants featuring local produce and big-name acts ranging from comedians Dennis Miller, Frank Caliendo and Bill Cosby to a host of popular singers.
If you’d like a nearby course to accompany the drive to Salish Cliffs, tryThe Home Course in nearby DuPont, Wash., for an explosive time. This 7,434-yard course is on the grounds of a former explosives plant and some of the blasting sites are incorporated into the layout. The elite tees are appropriately called the Dynamite tees. But you can have a blast (enough!) playing up at the blacks (7,037 yards), blues (6,629) and whites (6,093), too.
While not having the tree-lined experience of Salish Cliffs, the Home Course still affords beautiful views of the snow-capped mountains and Puget Sound. On the day we played, a bald eagle perched in a tree above us as we teed off, remaining happily in a Douglas fir for 20 minutes.
One added bonus for Canadians in the state of Washington is no state sales tax on good purchased there. While this doesn’t apply to services, it can make buying clubs or golf apparel an attractive extra to your trip.