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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


Lorraine Hart said...

Nice piece Kim! You almost made me want to try golf...almost. I'm afraid, to paraphrase Mark Twain, golf has always seemed the ruin of a good walk to me. I like when a writer takes me into a different world and makes me feel comfortable. Nice photo too.

I do suggest some tree-planting for a bit of shade every once in a while.

Kim Thompson said...


Golf isn't for everyone, but for those who like it, you just don't like it, you love it.

I think this place captures that passion, but also holds interest for those who don't golf (like me right now).

The reason why there are no trees is that it's a links style course (like in Europe). That's the traditional style.


Stephanie Frieze said...

Thanks for the great post, Kim. I will refer my golf-playing, King Co. brothers-in-law!

Kim Thompson said...

Great, Stephanie!

Did you know that out-of-towners play the course more frequently than those in Pierce County. Isn't that something?

Anonymous said...

This blog has excellent writers and stories. This writing was one of the best of the best! Even though I don't golf (bad back from the Army), I used to caddy for my dad so I could walk around with him. I have to agree with Lorraine's channeling, er.. paraphrasing, of Mark Twain. Why ruin a good walk with golf? I walk the trail there about twice a week, along with Point Defiance or the waterfront. Its a treasure for the entire Nortwest. The new parking lots make it very easy to access; just don't get too dizzy on all the roundabouts driving through University Place.


Kim Thompson said...


Good morning!

Thanks for your kind words. You are so thoughtful.

Yes, the Soundview and Grandview Trails are jewels. We are down there a lot. It's great exercise and the views are just wonderful. My husband was treated to a school of some kind of porpoise that he saw in the water one run. I've seen bald eagles, falcons, and even a coyote! The new parking lots are terrific (and frankly, much needed).

Aren't the roundabouts a pain? I mean, I get why they are there, and it's working, but my mom-mobile is wide and they aren't the easiest to go around. Plus a lot of folks get confused as to what to do.

Point Defiance is my favorite gem though. I grew up in that park and my family enjoys it today. Do you walk the trails there or do you the 5 mile drive? I love the trails personally, though with my poor sense of direction, I tend to get lost!


JosephMcG said...

Great story... descriptive, enteraining, grabbed me and held me all the way through and the last few words would make TS Eliot smile... wow, Kim, on to the Pulitzer


Anonymous said...

Great post. I remember walking along Grandview while they were moving the earth to and fro. It is amazing how the old gravel pit was transformed. Thanks for the view from the course. Can't wait for the upcoming tournaments!

Kim Thompson said...

Hi Joseph:

You flatter me, fine man. Thanks!


Hello and welcome! Thank you so much. I remember the construction, too. I thought to myself, "How in the world are they going to pull this off?" But they did! I can't wait for the tournies either. I will be the first to volunteer for the Amateur and US Open!


M. Sugimura said...

Kim -

If my husband reads this he'll be absolutely green with envy. He's been hearing everything about this course, but as far as I know, thinks it will only be a dream to play (and pay) for it. Congratulations are in order to Rick, whose a great photographer as well. Wonderful piece!

Kim Thompson said...

Hi Mizu!

Thanks so much! Rick will be flattered by you picture compliment, too!

Do you guys like to walk? You and the hubby should come down and walk the trail surrounding the course. Mizu, your camera would be very happy here!


Patty Cake said...

I did not know you liked to golf, Kim. My husbands loves golf! Great post about spending some meaningful time with your husband :)