Salish Cliffs Golf Club
The last stop on our Pacific Northwest summer tour was Salish Cliffs in the town of Shelton, just minutes away from Olympia, Washington. After playing links golf at Bandon Dunes resort, then being on the rugged terrain of Chambers Bay, and hiking it to the desert area for a spin around McLay Kidd’s brilliant design at Gamble Sands, it was time for a traditional style tree lined Northwest routing at Salish Cliffs. This 7,269 yard Gene Bates design features 320 acres and extreme elevation changes through out the routing.
The Clubhouse and course at Salish Cliffs are part of the Little Creek Casino Resort owned by The Squaxin Island Tribe. At just four years since its opening on September, 2011, Salish Cliffs has become a favorite of the region. Views of the Kamilche Valley, and beautiful native flora only add to Gene Bates’ brilliant routing.
The 514 yd par 5 first hole (from the tournament tees – 6766 yards) requires a soft left to right ball flight around tall foliage that guards the right side of the fairway, from there you can give it a go.
photo courtesy of Salish Cliffs
The second hole is another that moves left to right, this par 4 plays only 276 yards from the Tournament tee and only 250 yards from the Players tee. If you’re gonna get on the board early, these first two holes set you up for good birdie chances.
233 yard par 3 third hole plays much shorter because of the elevated tee, but there is nowhere for a big miss here. Short is fine, and so is the left bunker . . . but a wayward miss will get swallowed up in the tall fescue surrounds.
401 yard fourth moves slightly right to left to a generous landing area, find the shortgrass here and you’ll likely have no more than a short iron in.
The approach to the fourth looks like there’s no where to land it, a Sunday pin for sure.
The gorgeous 168 yard sixth. Other than it’s simple beauty, note the devilish front bunker and false front that persuade you to take an extra club. The back left portion of this green falls away from the player, so only a precise strike will do here.
371 yard seventh, just torch it between the conifers . . . inside the left fairway bunker is your aiming point with the driver, but the prudent play might be a fairway club or hybrid from this box.
The 601 yard eighth from the championship tee, truly a great spot. Although we were in Washington State, there were times when the property at Salish Cliffs reminded me of one of my favorite northeast layouts – Hamilton Farm in Gladstone, New Jersey.
The tee at the 409 yard ninth, thread your tee shot through the opening, but avoid the lake on the left. Just inside the right fairway bunker is a good aiming point.
A view of the ninth green form across the lake, both nines finish on a shared green (eighteenth on the left).
568 yard tenth is the longest par 5 on the inward side, three solid shots are required here for any chance to score.
428 yard eleventh is like being in an evergreen colosseum, take a moment and soak it in. This is one of the few holes at SC where there is nowhere to miss.
Bates’ bunkering and green complexes at Salish are worth the price of admission alone. The bent grass surfaces are consistently slick and smooth with plenty of movement . . . very few dead straight putts on this Gene Bates design.
394 yard twelfth is all about getting in play, but if you take note of the tree line ahead you can see the how the hole gently meanders to the right.
Although the hole gently moves right, a draw approach into the twelfth green is preferred . . . as you can see, missing this target left leaves an extremely difficult par save.
The 188 yard thirteenth features one of the most undulating putting surfaces on the course, find the proper level or a three putt is very likely. After squandering numerous birdie chances throughout the day, I hit it tight here and lipped out yet another.
414 yard Fourteenth is completely unique to the rest of the course, the fairway and putting surface seem to sit lower on the property and the hole plays more lateral than linear. The approach is to a wide surface just over a small creek that is surrounded by wild flowers. This part of the routing feels akin to a ballad in the middle of a hard rockin live set (if you will).
The approach to the fifteenth, although it’s a short shot – it’s another where Bates keeps you from seeing the surface from the fairway adding just a hint of uncertainty, and therefore requires pinpoint accuracy.
A close up view of Bates’ sand work shows extreme detail, reminiscent of the great work by Hurdzan and Fry.
428 yard sixteenth is a stunner, tough and beautiful. Play it safe to the left or take on the fairway bunkers.
Seventeenth plays straight downhill 161 yards from the back tee. The lid finally came off the jar here . . . birdie at last. All of the one shotters at SC are worthy (and with great variety).
514 yard eighteenth hole is a magnificent finishing hole, your aiming point is the left fairway bunker in the distance – avoid the right side as everything funnels towards the tall fescue and lake just right of the fairway.
The ninth and eighteenth holes wrap around a lake, the long fescue is a certain lost ball for anything that misses just 5 yards right of the wide fairway.
Approach to the last, your last chance for glory.
To be honest, even though Salish Cliffs had been on my radar since our last trip to the area in 2012, I wasn’t expecting to be wowed only because I had just spent 14 days at Bandon Dunes, Chambers Bay and Gamble Sands – three of the best public access facilities in America. The entire staff at SC is knowledgeable and friendly, the weather was picture perfect (that never hurts), and the course and its splendid natural surroundings exceeded expectations by miles. If you’re a resident of Washington State or you’re traveling to the area and haven’t played Salish Cliffs, it has earned our admiration as a Must Play! Washington resident and good friend Jeff Rawlins joined me for the day and was equally impressed by the expereince. When you arrive, tell the staff we sent you. . .
For more info visit: http://www.salish-cliffs.com/
Special Thanks to David Kass