- Sammamish, Washington
- Kieth Evans & Ted Robinson Sr. (1969)
- 98th in the US – South/North loop (Golf Digest)
When someone thinks of golf in Washington, the typical course that comes to mind is Sahalee. Exclusive, yes, but it’s also opened its doors to numerous high level events, most notably the PGA Championship in 1998, and the 2016 KPMG Women’s PGA Championship.
The course features three loops: East, North, South. My round started on the East, which isn’t apart of the tournament 18.
The East nine starts on a dogleg right par 5, playing 536 yards from the back deck. From the prairies, the yardage suggests you can get home in two, but it’s two pretty big pokes at sea level, especially with having to shape a shot right to left over a pond.
The second hole is a mid length 4 that wasn’t really that eventual. Pretty straight, uphill a bit.
The third was the true introduction to Sahalee’s infamously tight fairways. A 400 or so yard par 4, this hole doglegs hard to the right, forcing you to hit a cut. And no, you can’t hit it over the trees, they’re too close to the tee and too tall. Hopefully you’re having a good ball-striking day (unlike I was) when I played!
Once you get around the corner, you have a nice view into the green that I felt like was a pretty solid green complex.
The fourth is a pretty standard par 3 that plays fairly long at 200 yards. The fifth doglegs slightly to the left, and at 518 yards, is reachable in two. However, like all holes at Sahalee, you must get the ball in play for any chance at scoring. The 6th is similar to the 2nd, where it’s a fairly straight hole that’s a mid length par 4.
The 7th was another standout on this side. I felt like the dogleg rights on this side were stronger than the dogleg lefts, and offered more shot variety off the tee. A little shorter at 390 yards, this tee ball should (optimally) be worked left to right.
The green features a kidney-like shape to it, making for some fun pins.
The 8th is the final par 3 on this side, and plays shorter than the first one, topping out at 185 yards. However, slightly uphill, I felt like this hole did play harder than hole 4.
I felt like the 9th hole was probably the strongest hole on the East. 410 yards, the hole doglegs left, with a bunker about 280 off the black tees on the right side. That’s a pretty good line to either hit it at with three wood or draw driver off it.
A wonderful look at the green rewards those who can thread the needle into the fairway (below).
The East feels like a warm up for the tournament 18, composed of the North & South nines. A couple dogleg lefts, a few dogleg rights, a couple straight holes, The East forces you to hit it all. I felt like the variety was lacking on this side, though, as a lot of the holes blend together.
The tournament loop starts on the 406 yard, par 4 1st on the South. The tee shot is super claustrophobic, especially as a first tee shot. Right out of the gate, Sahalee forces you to hit it on a rope!
The second is a dogleg left par 5 that is reachable in two, depending on if you get it in the fairway off the tee. The tee shot doglegs hard to the left. After navigating the signature trees, You have a long iron or wood to a green guarded by a pond short right. I thought this green was pretty neat, with a back right tongue clearly designed for a Sunday pin.
The third is a pretty standard par 4, doglegging to the right with no fairway bunkering in play. Two bunkers guard the green, but at 415 yards, they shouldn’t come into play with a short iron.
The fourth is maybe the tightest par 4 I’ve ever played. It’s tough to actually tell which one is the tightest hole at Sahalee, but whichever one takes the cake is the tightest hole I’ve played. The hole is relatively short at 386 yards, but with a tree right side fairway and a big tree left side that limits shot options off the tee, the player is forced to hit a draw to the left side of the fairway.
A pretty good view if you can hit the fairway though. Conditions were immaculate after a pretty wet winter which definitely helped enhance the experience.
The 5th is a pretty difficult par 3, playing 195 with a pond short right. My host said this is probably statistically the hardest hole on the course.
The 6th is a reachable par 5, depending on which side you hit your tee shot on. The right side is completely blocked out, so you’re almost better to blast it down the left rough so you have a view into the green. The tree (way up, below) is apparently where Dustin Johnson would hit in in the Sahalee Players, which is crazy because it’s about 370 at sea level.
The 7th is a slightly downhill, straight par 4 that plays 420 from the back deck. The fairway is pinched by a tree on the right at about 270, and one of the left at about 290.
The 8th is my vote for the best hole on the entire course, mostly because it actually feels really open off the tee and is a pretty neat tee shot. This is probably a hole you’ve seen players who are apart of the Sahalee Players field hit stingers and all sorts of shots on.
The tee shot is flanked by three bunkers on the outside corner of the dogleg right. The right one is probably a good aiming point with driver, and at 444 yards, slightly uphill, driver is probably a good idea.
The 9th is the signature hole at Sahalee. 213 yards, playing 7 down, the green has water down the entire left of the green complex to a rather aggressively sloped hole. I really enjoyed this hole.
The South Nine is a pretty mixed bag. A few pretty good holes, like 8 and 9, and a few rather unmemorable holes. By the time you play either 9 or 18, you start to wonder how cool this place could be with a little (or a lot) of tree trimming. There’s no doubt it’s a first class experience that encompasses what the PNW is about, but you wonder if it’s putting a spotlight on some of the classic PNW design elements .
This is easily the best 9 holes at Sahalee. Better topography and hole strategy made the final 9, and the back nine at the championship loop, pretty good, and a good way to end a fantastic experience.
The first hole is another mid length par 4, doglegging to the left that is fairly tight off the tee. However, there’s some cool fairway contours that switches up the feel of this hole compared to the previous holes.
It features a pretty peaceful approach, with a peninsula green with two bunkering. Picture perfect.
The second is another dogleg left, featuring some interesting mounding at the start of the fairway to make it visually challenging (as if the tall trees lining the fairways like fans waiting for Tiger aren’t enough on you), but the real defining feature on the 546 yard, par 5 is the uprights closer to the green.
The 3rd is tight. That’s all I’ll say. Hit it straight and you’ll be good!
The fourth is a fairly standard par 3. playing slightly uphill, the 176 yard one-shotter has a green that has three tongues to the back left, right, and front.
I really enjoyed the 5th, which I felt like had the most strategic interest on the course. At 377 yards, it’s the shortest hole on the course, but 2 bunkers inside corner of the dogleg left and 2 on the outside made the tee shot awesome.
The 6th is a longer par 4 that has a fairway that feels like it tighter than it is since it plays slightly downhill. The fairway is pinched on the right by a tree about 290 off the tee. The 7th is also very tight, a dogleg to the right with a bunker on the outside corner and a tree on the right side of the hole at about 270 off the tee. You’re gonna wanna hit this tee shot left, because:
The 8th plays similar to 9 south, a little down, water short, but instead of water left its right. A very picturesque hole!
The 9th is a fairly standard par 5. 535 yards, slightly uphill, with two bunkers on the inside of the corner.
The North Nine is definitely the most architecturally interesting 9 Sahalee has though. I felt like there was good variety in holes, and even though it still felt too tight, it was a lot of fun. In order, I think North, South and East, in that order, is how they stack up against each other.
Sahalee is a first-class experience worth going to at least once. Is it the best course I’ve played? No. Is it the worst? Absolutely not. Sahalee has fallen victim to too much tree planting, and the club seems to like it like that. It’s interesting that Sahalee’s biggest signature feature also happens to be its biggest downfall as a track, but nonetheless a special place to spend a day outside of one of my favorite cities.