Review: Aldarra Golf Club

Information

  • Sammamish, Washington
  • Members only
  • Tom Fazio (2001)
  • 153rd in the US (Golf Digest)

Sammamish features two of the top courses in the state of Washington: Sahalee, which you can read my review of here, and Aldarra, Tom Fazio’s 2001 design. Everyone thinks of Sahalee and Chambers Bay when you think of Seattle due to their slew of major championships hosted between the two, however, Aldarra is my vote for the best course in the area (note: I’ve yet to play Tom Doak’s Tumble Creek Club in Cle Elum).

The course is on some pretty interesting topography, meandering through some very hilly land on the east side of Seattle.

The first tee shot feels very Fazio, like most of the course, but is still a nice opening tee ball. Doglegging to the left, playing a stout 440 yards.

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Longer players can take it at the three bunkers on the left, flying the water left

The approach is played with wedge or 9 iron to a fairly undulated green.

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The second, a par 3, plays ever-so-slightly uphill, playing closer to 185 or 190 than the 181 scorecard yardage says.

The third, a great tee shot, doglegs up and to the right over a natural depression area.

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The hole only plays 563 yards, but on a wet day–common in Seattle–and at sea level, 563 plays longer than you think. Basically a three shot hole.

I felt the bunkering style, especially with Fazio’s clean bunkering edges, really matched the vibe and feel of a good Pacific Northwest course. Orange sand is a trademark at the high end clubs in Vancouver, BC, and at Aldarra its slightly orange, not sticking out too much but just enough to be visually interesting.

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Looking up towards the green on the par 5, 3rd after a tee shot left-centre

The fourth and fifth both feature very difficult tee shots. Lined by huge pines, these two par 4’s feel like they’re in the Pacific Northwest.

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The approach to the 369 yard par 4, 4th

Unlike nearby Sahalee, I felt like there was still good variety, even if they were fairly claustrophobic tee shots. The fourth is short enough to let you lay back if driver is uncomfortable, while you could still get closer to the green if you were confident.

The fifth is significantly longer than the fourth, playing upwards of 450 yards, but a lovely swooping dogleg right made for a beautiful tee shot.

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Zoomed in from the blue/Championship tee box on the 5th

Once you turn the corner you have a nice approach to a fairly manageable green. Nothing crazy here!

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The 6th is a solid par 3. Over a creek that looks natural to me, a 200 or so yard mid to long iron is needed to be dancin’.

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The right side pretty much bowls in, so we had an easy pin the day we played, but I could imagine how difficult a back left pin would be.

Like the 2nd and 3rd, 6 and 7 are a par 3-par 5 combo. 7, however, 7 is fully reachable at 504 yards from the back deck. The tee shot moves slightly to the left, but for a better angle you should keep it right side, if you can (I couldn’t!).

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From the left side of hole 7, the player is forced to work a draw in instead of having an unobstructed view of the green

The green complex here is lovely too, perched up above a slew of bunkers, featuring some nice movement in the front portion with a ridge dividing the front and back.

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The 8th is a long 4 at 471 yards, and the tee shot plays close to a cape hole. It’s kind of a “bite off as much as you can chew” shot, but its probably just best if you hit it right of the big tree. The inside corner is all environmentally protective hazard, so you can’t play it even if you do hit it in.

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Don’t be fooled: the carry looks shorter than it is

The approach favors a draw, and don’t go long (it’s death).

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A fun fact about Aldarra is it’s build on an old Boeing Farm, so there’s still some structures around the course that give it a cool vibe. On the picture above, you can see one of the old farm houses, and below on the par 3, 9th you can see some old Silos.

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Speaking of the 9th, it’s the shortest hole on the course, only playing 152 from the Aldarra tees. The green is pretty small and devilish, however, and a creek runs in the front and left side of the green.

The 10th starts the two hole slog up the hill, but they both play pretty short, with 10 playing 357 as a 4 and 11 plays 525 as a 5. I found both holes fairly forgettable, and are likely the two weakest holes on the course (although 10 did feature a fairly interesting green complex).

The 12th is the best view on the course, with the next hole being a serious contender. It’s rare you see back-to-back par 5’s, but the 12th is 515 yards as a 5 following the uphill par 5, 11th.

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A lovely tee shot at Aldarra’s 12th, which bends slightly to the right with views of snowcapped mountains in the back

I could imagine this hole playing as a par 4 for bigger tournaments. It’s not an overly long par 5, and it does play downhill. For a USGA qualifier or something for University of Washington the course would play firmer. This is a definite birdie opportunity though!

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I really liked this green complex, too. There’s a ridge that runs in the middle, almost splitting it into two bowls.

The 13th is the longest par 3 on the course, measuring 1 yard under 250. Thankfully, it plays downhill, and it is a redan style hole, so you have some options on the tee.

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The natural contours short right can help benefit the player who wants to play a different route

I was pleasantly surprised by how firm the short right area did play. I was expecting it to be fairly soft, but it was firm enough to accept a high shot and not plug or land soft. My only criticism is the short right area could feature bigger undulations to help the redan play, well, more redan-ish. It’s still a redan but just a little more extremity short right would help!

The tee shot at the 14th plays very similar in yardage and layout as hole 1. It’s a slightly bigger dogleg left with no water on the inside corner.

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Aldarra features some pretty good views, but from the cart path on the right side of the fairway looking down this hole was pretty special. The members I played with said they’d like to see the club remove some of the trees behind the green to open up views down hole 1, which would be awesome!

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Lovely rolling terrain at Aldarra’s 14th

As you can see below, you do get a peek at hole 1 from the middle of the fairway. A little more tree clearing would make this view amazing.

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The 15th starts “the gauntlet,” a tough finishing stretch to conclude the round. Believe me, it does play very difficult. The holes to finish play 234 – 3, 475 – 4, 340 – 4, 438 – 4.

15th is the signature hole at Aldarra, with an old Boeing silo to the left and a massive pine tree framing this hole. A lovely two-tiered green complex with some interesting movement, a right run off area, a left false front and two bunkers make this long par 3 play very difficult.

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I didn’t really like the 16th too much. In the infamous stretch at Aldarra, it just kinda feels like a throwaway hole, and 8 is a much better long par 4.

The 17th was an interesting hole as well, playing 340 yards, moving back up the slope. There is a whole lot going on in the fairway, with what you think is two fairways, trees, and all sorts of stuff.

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The goal is to hit it about 250 left side fairway

As you can see below, if you don’t hit it far enough, or hit it right, you’re left with a really strange approach up the slope with trees in play.

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I feel like it’d be a cool short par 4 if they made it all fairway and put a bunker where the farthest tree left is. It would help remove the awkward trees and likely play similar off the tee.

The 18th is a very difficult closer. It’s not crazy long at 440, but right is death, and left is a pitch out from the gunk anyway, so make sure you save enough energy for the final driver of the day.

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After you navigate the tee shot, you’r forced to carry the ravine that’s on the right side of the tee shot to get to the green. There’s also bunkering short left and right, and the green is pretty undulated. No easy pars here!

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Once you complete “the gauntlet” and you’re done your round at Aldarra, you’re rewarded with a lovely view of 18, 15 and 16.

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Aldarra is a great club. A nice clubhouse with a really impressive locker room, a good practice facility and a fantastic golf course. I found myself thinking, “I could play here every day,” and even though it has its downfalls, it’s a very enjoyable round start to finish. It’s my choice for the best in greater Seattle, and only second to Gamble Sands in the state. Aldarra is a treat and worth playing!

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