Location: Shelton, Wash.
Architect: Gene Bates
Tee — Yardage | Rating / Slope:
Championship — 7,269 | 75.2 / 140
Tournament — 6,766 | 72.6 / 133
Players — 6,312 | 70.5 / 128
Masters — 5,848 | 68.3 / 123
Forward — 5,313 | 70.7 / 125
Players — 6,312 | 76.3 / 140
Masters — 5,848 | 73.8 / 134
Saturday morning green fee: $$$ [$100-$149. Dynamic pricing starts at $99 per golfer. Inclusive of a GPS-enabled golf cart, practice balls before your round and tax.]
Caddie service: No
Walker friendly: No. Carts are mandatory.
Starter: Unforced and natural, Salish Cliffs is an expression of the beautiful piece of property on which it was built. Carved from pristine hardwood forests, the dazzling layout — designed in 2011 by architect Gene Bates — calls for one strong shot after another. He's succeeded in one of an architect's toughest tasks: the forward tees give duffers a fighting chance, but the low handicappers are in for a fight.
Play because ...: Salish Cliffs is not your typical hit-n-giggle resort course; it's challenging and makes a golfer think around the layout. Bates' design entices a golfer to flirt with danger to gain the preferred angle of attack to the green. He is a master in the art of illusion, making something look more intimidating from the tees than it actually plays. Approach shots must be pin-pointed to well-protected greens, many with intricate, jagged-edge bunkering that often had me in a pickle. Owned and operated by the Squaxin Island Tribe, Salish Cliffs is the centerpiece of a destination resort that is home to the region's largest smoke-free casino and includes golf, fine dining and a spa.
Takeaway: A well-conditioned course in a beautiful part of the country at a good value: what's not to like? Salish Cliffs is not about length; it's about width. Golfers will want to play it again with some additional course knowledge.
RATINGS [1 to 10 scale, 10 being the highest]
Food | Beverage: 9.0
Pro shop: 7.0
Course difficulty: 8.0
Pace of play: 9.0
THE COURSE | Scorecard
Best par 3: No. 3 [291 | 233 | 211 | 188 | 184 yards]
It is paramount to get off to a fast start at Salish Cliffs because the challenge stiffens quickly at the third, a brute of a par 3 that plays downhill into a prevailing wind. From the tips, it stretches 291 yards and a driver may be needed off the tee. A par here is to be cherished.
Best par 4: No. 2 [305 | 276 | 250 | 245 | 219 yards]
Among the more distinctive holes is the second, a (potentially) drivable par 4. Err on the side of cautious? Not me. It’s a casino course, so I gambled, taking an aggressive line over a bunker on the right and flirting with a hazard line. My hammered drive found the green laced with bold, provocative contours, but left a downhill eagle putt that was slick but not terrifying in its speed. I missed the putt, but still celebrated the round's only birdie as if I had just pulled blackjack at the nearby Little Creek Casino. It is a well-designed hole, rewarding those attempting the heroic carry while also leaving an option for those unwilling to assume the risk.
Best par 5: No. 18 [537 | 514 | 492 | 471 | 406 yards]
It's only fitting that a "casino course" begins and ends with risk-reward par 5s. Find the first fairway and the downhill par-5 hole will reward two good pokes with an eagle putt. No. 18, though, takes the cake with one last chance to get home in two. The key is threading the needle between water to the right and a bunker that stretches much of the driving zone along the left. Then the fun really begins. While there is plenty of room to bail out left, the approach must carry a lake to a double green (shared with No. 9).