The only golf course opening in Washington state this year is Gamble Sands, a links-style course debuting August 1 on a 350-acre site overlooking the majestic Columbia River. The location is in Brewster, a small town in north-central Washington, three and a half hours east of Seattle and two and a half hours west of Spokane. The course is named for the first settlers in the area—the Gambles—and was designed by Scottish native David McLay Kidd, whose resume includes designing The Castle Course in St. Andrews, Scotland, a course at Oregon’s Bandon Dunes, and Tetherow Golf Club in Bend, Oregon.
With five sets of tee boxes, the par 72 links-style course stretches to 7,169 yards from the tips. Among the highlights:
• No homes or highway noise on the course.
• Grass is predominately fescue.
• Course is built entirely on sand.
• A dozen holes have stunning views of the Columbia River.
The course is part of a resort development called Gamble Ranch, whose master plan and conceptual design was completed in 2008 by the architectural firm GDB of Portland, Oregon. Plans envision a high-end, Pacific Northwest destination resort community with a variety of recreational activities. With spectacular weather that features 300 days of sunshine annually, the resort’s main focus will be two world-class golf courses, starting with Gamble Sands, followed by the Cliffs. The resort will eventually include an amphitheater, equestrian center, boutique hotel, spa, fitness center, cottages and estates.
On his website, Kidd shares his philosophy of golf course design: “It seems to us that through the creation of courses during the past 20 years, a great course is defined by creative strategy and designed tight lines of attack, juxtaposed with generous fairways and green surrounds. Finding a wayward ball should be probable. This is often how golf courses present themselves in Scotland. The great Links have benign rough (most of the time) and a lot of space to miss, but not much to make birdies.”
Visitors to Gamble Sands will see first-hand the forgiving fairways, coupled with challenging tight greens.
The odds-on favorite for the course signature hole is No. 2, a 270-yard, par 4. From any of the five tee locations, golfers are treated to a spectacular view of the Columbia River 600 feet below. The green is protected on the left by sandy and sagebrush wasteland; to the right is a bunker. The suggested ideal tee shot is a few yards right of the green as the ball will funnel down toward the hole.
No. 10 is a 140-yard par 3 with a huge target green that should please most golfers. However, the numerous undulations on the green make it challenging to find a decent area on the green that doesn’t break. There are also bunkers on the left and right that protect the putting surface, and only a really bad shot will find either trap.
The No. 13, a 505-yard par 5, is a left-hander’s delight. All of the trouble is virtually on the right side of the fairway. Trouble areas include sand, sagebrush and rattlesnakes, which especially love the summer heat of central Washington.
The No. 14 is a 437-yard par 4 and is unique in that it offers golfers a choice of two fairways. The one on the right is much wider, while the one on the left is farther away from the tee, but closer to the green. Big hitters usually go left, while the rest of us aim for the right.
The finishing hole is a modest 475-yard par 5 that features a dogleg right that takes you to the brand-new clubhouse. A long, accurate drive should put you less than 200 yards from the green. Approaching the green from the right side of the fairway is the best strategy, just try and avoid the natural bunker near the green.
Gamble Sands was designed to be a walking course. The designer suggests that using a caddy is the most traditional way to enjoy and experience the true links-style golf course.
The local team of caddies, many of whom have caddied at the highest level, will share their knowledge of the course with you. “They will provide you with a traditional approach to course management by providing accurate yardages, locating pins, evaluating turf speed, measuring wind, reading the greens, and presenting you with an overall strategy to maximize the strengths of your game,” says Kidd. The forecaddie base fee is $100, or $25 to $30 per person.
Visitors will notice that there are no golf cart trails on the course; however, carts are available upon request.
For more information or to make reservations, visit gamblesands.com.
Rick Stedman is an avid golfer, RVer, and writer. Rick writes a weekly golf blog, “The 19th Hole,” which is published every Saturday at rvlife.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.