Wednesday, August 20, 2008
A Walk About On The Chambers Bay Golf Course
Previously, I have seen The Chambers Bay Golf Course in two different ways, by trail and by sea. The golf course, surrounded by a challenging and picturesque paved walking/sports trail open to the public, has been a neighborhood exercise and fresh air haven for me since it opened. As a walker/runner on the trails, you get some views of the stunning golf course, sprinkled with players, particularly from the upper Grandview Trail. But many parts of the course seem rather hidden from view. I have also seen the course by water, from a boat’s perspective. From the water, it looks like the land fell down and got scraped all up. Eh, not such a big deal from that view.
But it was a big deal last week, when I joined my husband, Rick, as a “walk on” while he played the course (I have not swung a golf club in 10 years, so walking along was fine with me). Rick’s been golfing since he was a kid and claims this course as his most favorite ever. I wanted to get a picture of what he was talking about. And that walk about the course gave me some true perspective.
On the way down to the practice area, you feel like you are descending into a whole new world. The cheery golf staff and superb service, pretty scenery, and challenging practice area and putting/chipping greens, were a fantastic welcome for any golfer. Rick was paired up with a kindly father and son and their family friend (from Olympia and Salem, Oregon, respectively). All four were experienced, long time golfers. And right on the first hole, I made a keen observation right away: this course is challenging, big time.
It’s like this: you’re down inside this little bowl, looking up at the crisp blue sky, the trees and trail behind you, the sparkling bay waters in front of you, the bobbing boats, the crisp outline of the Olympic Mountains, and the cool, sweet saltwater beachy smell in the air. And while you could see folks on the trail, in many spots they can’t see you giving you this private little world. We even saw a falcon fly over us majestically carrying a fish in its talons, the fish’s tail still swinging. Yet don’t let this beauty fool you. The instant you swing that golf club, the scenery disappears and the course, says, “Hey! You are here for ME. I’m in charge.” Indeed!
Slow greens, narrow escapes, twisty par fives and par fours, wicked scrubby stuff that you DON’T want your ball to go into, and sand traps that will swallow your ball alive. For the golfer, your mind must be focused, you must plan your shots and lay-ups, the slopes and bends of the putts; if you don’t, it’s tough. And sometimes, just one errant shot can put your game in a world of hurt. My husband smacked a drive right into this steep hill of brush. He hiked up, muscles straining, to find the ball. Upon his return, his calves were covered in scratches.
The hills didn’t stop there either. The course goes up and down and back again. No correction: WAY up and down again. As a walking only course (carts are provided under very special circumstances only), it is not for the faint of heart. It’s 7 and ½ miles of demanding walking. Pull carts are allowed and available to rent (thank goodness). But many brave souls hauled their bags on their backs.
And remember, this course has ONE signature tree. So, there’s really no sun relief. I learned this the hard way. I didn’t wear a hat and forgot to wear sunscreen on my face. Enough said about that.
But despite the degrees of difficulty, and even when some of the golfers were completely mentally and physically worn out, they loved every minute of it.
I overheard some groups recalling their golf shots, whether they were triumphs or foibles and they wore them like badges of courage. And every one of them would come back for more, again and again. It was like being initiated into the big time golf world, in your own back yard and having a love/hate relationship with the game, with love coming out on top every time.
So, I got it. I got why the golfers go through this exercise. Heck, I was even itching to grab a club and give it go. And afterward, settling on the balcony of the clubhouse restaurant, a sunburned face, my dogs a barkin’, sipped a tall cool beer, and gazed out it all, wishing for the next time to get down in this golf course’s foxhole with the other golfers, swapping war and peace stories.
To note: photo above was taken by Rick Thompson May 2008