WA-List » 18 Holes in Chambers Bay

18 Holes in Chambers Bay

Published by Steve Campion. Category: Sports & Recreation

See also: Washington Golfers in the US Open

There are 18 holes in Chambers Bay and each holds a Northwest story.

Washington hosts the U.S. Open for the first time June 18-21, when the world’s top golfers test their skills and compete on the challenging and scenic links golf course in University Place.

The setting is remarkable. Chambers Bay, the relatively new (2007) public-owned course built atop a century-old sand and gravel mine, is often compared to the grandest golf course in the world: Scotland’s St Andrews, the birthplace of golf itself. It sits adjacent to Puget Sound in the carved-out bluff north of Chambers Creek. For most of the course, golfers can see four forested islands and the Olympic Mountains across the beautiful expanse of water.  In various places they might also catch glimpses of the Tacoma Narrows Bridges and come within a few dozen yards of a busy railroad line.  Robert Trent Jones II designed and landscaped the 250-acre shorefront course with dunes, wide vistas and fairways of fescue grass.  (He retained one tall tree that had survived the decades of mining.)  It looks almost natural — as if Puget Sound wind and waves carved the undulating hills, sowed beach grasses, and manicured the greens.  It’s a beautiful place.  And a world-class golf course.

Many of the features in and around Chambers Bay are memorialized in the names of the golf course’s 18 holes.  We’ve listed those holes below.

NOTE: The course is variable and holes may be played with different pars and different distances depending on the tees used.  The numbers listed below show some that variation; few are permanent.  We chose to group them as the first and second nine rather than the front and back nine because the 18 holes weave together with golfers on the first nine often crossing paths with those on the second nine between holes.  The course is so large, though, and separated by dunes, that players are usually sheltered from other holes while on the fairways.


Chambers Bay.

The golf course itself was named for it geographical location on Chambers Bay near the mouth of Chambers Creek.  The creek was named for Thomas McCutcheon Chambers (1795-1876), a pioneer who settled on the creek in the 1840s, built three mills there, and served as a judge in the early days of Lewis and Pierce counties. Chambers is buried about three and a half miles due south of the first tee.

The first nine

Hole #1: Puget Sound.  Par 5 (or 4).  West 465-598 yards.

Chambers Bay wastes no time, starting with a long par 5.  The 1st hole is named for the vast expanse of water dominating the view from the tee.  The fairway heads westward toward the water.  Just to the south, the 18th hole runs parallel to the 1st, but in the opposite direction.

Hole #2: Foxy.  Par 4.  North 337-399 yards.

Playfully named for Fox, the closest of four forested islands visible from the course.  It also pays homage to a famous 14th hole on a Scottish links golf course.  There is a perimeter walking path that more or less circles the entire golf course. We say more or less because the path actually cuts through the course here.  Holes 2, 16, and 17 are actually west of the perimeter path.  The other fifteen holes are enclosed by it.

Hole #3: Blown Out.  Par 3.  Northwest 130-198 yards.

This hole honors the brisk wind that blows in from Puget Sound and swirls among the dunes, challenging golfers to take notice of yet another variable in their game strategy.  The 3rd hole is one of the shortest holes on the course.

Hole #4: Hazard’s Ascent.  Par 5.  Southeast 424-530 yards.

Mt Rainier, Washington’s highest point, rises above the horizon southeast of Chambers Bay.  It was first climbed by Hazard Stevens (and Philemon Van Trump) in 1870.

Hole #5: Free Fall.  Par 4.  Northwest 423-488 yards.

This name describes this part of the course as it plummets downhill from the tee to hole.

Hole #6: Deception Point.  Par 4.  South 315-495 yards.

There’s a double meaning here.  Deception Pass is a well-travelled bridge and waterway a few counties to the north.  More immediately, though, the bunker near the green here is apt to deceive the unwary.

Hole #7: Humpback.  Par 4.  Northeast 435-508 yards.

Another double meaning.  The green leading to the 7th Hole rolls up and down AND whales have been known to visit the Sound.

Hole #8: High Road / Low Road.  Par 5.  South 488-614 yards.

At 614 yards (using the Championship Tee), this is the longest hold on the course and it stretches almost due south.  On the cliff above the 8th fairway is the long eastern leg of the park’s perimeter walking path.

Hole #9: Olympus.  Par 3.  West 168-227 yards.

On clear days the Olympic Mountains graceful rise along the northwestern horizon.  Mount Olympus is the tallest peak in the range.

The second nine

Hole #10: High Dunes.  Par 4.  Northwest 330-436 yards.

The path to the 10th hole rests in a long “valley” between two high dunes that run parallel to the fairway.

Hole #11: Shadows.  Par 4.  North 402-537 yards.

The name is said to have come about from the evening shadows that reach across the rolling texture of the course on the 11th hole.

Hole #12: The Narrows.  Par 4.  North 246-311 yards.

At Chambers Bay’s northwest corner golfers might glance around the bend (or through the trees) and see the two bridges that cross Puget Sound from Tacoma to Gig Harbor.  The Tacoma Narrows is the name both the waterway and the bridges share.  They are among the longest suspension bridges in the world.  One opened in 1950, the other in 2007.

Hole #13: Eagle Eye.  Par 4.  South and southeast 437-534 yards.

The 13th hole is Chambers Bay’s northernmost fairway and can be seen up close from the perimeter trail.  It arcs across the top of the course far away from the opening tee and the 18th green.  It also has a name with a double meaning.  A good golfer might play the par 4 hole in two strokes and thus score an “eagle.”  Eagles of the avian kind are also common in the area (and are hard to miss when the big birds soar overhead).

Hole #14: Cape Fear.  Par 4.  Northwest 383-546 yards.

Named in part for the shape of the fairway and green, this hole is reminiscent of a shoreline cape.  The hole is also capable of instilling fear in the unprepared golfer.  Like the 5th tee a short distance to the south, the 14th can be seen from the perimeter trail’s high eastern leg.

Hole #15: Lone Fir.  Par 3.  Southwest 103-167 yards.

While trees surround the course at Chambers Bay, only one is rooted on the course itself. It’s difficult to not notice the lonely fir standing tall among the dunes and it’s straight ahead of the 15th tee.  This hole is one of the shortest on the course.

Hole #16: Beached.  Par 4.  South 323-423 yards.

The course dips down toward the mixed sand and gravel shore of Puget Sound on this hole and continues southward on the next.  The course never touches the beach, however, because train tracks get in the way. (See Hole #17.)

Hole #17: Derailed.  Par 3.  South 119-218 yards.

Sandwiched between Puget Sound and the golf course here is a busy railroad line carrying freight and passengers north and south many times each day.  A passing train is likely to be heard two or three time during every 18-holes of golf.  If you want a double meaning, consider the 17th hole as the place where a good golf game can veer off the tracks.

Hole #18: Tahoma.  Par 5 (or 4).  East 487-604 yards.

The final hole at Chambers Bay — and the championship hole at the 2015 US Open — is a mammoth, slightly uphill par 5 on the course’s southern boundary.  Golfers here will pass the imposing ruins of the massive concrete bins used to sort sand and gravel during the land’s industrial days.  The hole bears what is considered to be the Indian name for Mt Rainier: Tahoma.  The word is also the source of Tacoma’s name.

PHOTO: Chambers Bay at Winter Sunset © Steve Campion, 2015.

SOURCES: We enjoyed the nicely illustrated book America’s St. Andrews : linking golf from its past to its future, publicly-owned Chambers Bay is the dream realized by Blaine Newnham (2014).  We also referred to Town on the Sound: stories of Steilacoom edited by Joan Curtis, Alice Watson, and Bette Bradley (1988), and the Chambers Bay Golf Course website.  Most enjoyable of all: we both walked and biked the trail surrounding the course several times.


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