July 30, 1999
I traveled to Seattle, Washington recently, and decided to check out the Northwest golf scene while there.
What a difference a few thousand miles can make!
There are over 50 public golf courses in Seattle’s metropolitan area. According to some locals, many courses are plagued by overuse, with six-hour rounds all too common.
Naturally some enterprising developers are doing something about the demand for a better golf experience. The recent television ads by local billionaire Bill Gates for Calloway Golf may have helped.
I played The Golf Club at Newcastle. It’s the newest entrant among the upscale daily fee courses now available in the land of Microsoft. Newcastle opened for business May 8, 1999 with Coal Creek, its first of two full-size 18-hole courses. “We’re doing remarkably well,” said Dominic Marconi, an assistant pro.
The second golf course, China Creek, is now under construction. Robert Cupp designed both courses with the help of PGA Tour pro and Seattle native Fred Couples. This connection enables the club to market the layouts as Fred Couples Signature Designs.
The beautiful huge clubhouse sits at the top of a high hill looking west to Seattle and the Olympic mountain range beyond the city. From the clubhouse the Coal Creek course starts downhill, returns to the clubhouse for the 10th tee, and goes down and up again to the finish.
I played with club members Bill Thalen and Scott Slaymaker, along with Marty Johnson, a retired local high school golf coach with a 5 handicap.
It’s always fun to watch somebody that good. He shot a 75. I didn’t.
I had a self-caused brutal re-introduction to the difference between mountainside golf and the flat courses of the Cape Region that I usually play.
Vertical drops of 50 to 60 feet on par 3s were typical. Uphill and downhill elevation changes of over 80 feet on the par 4s and 5s made club selection more guesswork than usual. Nonetheless, there was only one blind tee shot, so the terrain gives players fair warning.
The greens were hard and fast. In addition, beyond the first cut of rough lay large areas of grass over a foot high. Many of these areas were called preservation easements, and were marked as lateral hazards. Balls hit into these areas could not be retrieved. At most of these spots it appeared that erosion control was the main goal, and not just a fun way to frustrate less accurate golfers.
The views along the way made up for wretched putting and other goofs. From several greens and tee boxes, seeing this magnificent region for miles in all directions was simply a delight. The score no longer seemed to mean that much.
Coal Creek measures 7024 yards from the tips, 6011 from the regular tees, and 5153 from the forward tees. It has five par 5s and five par 3s, which is bit different from most par 72 courses.
Memberships are available, but the club is primarily aimed at the daily fee market. Marconi said they want Newcastle to be a “destination course for the area,” and the staff clearly understands what that takes.
They are cordial and professional. The employees greet all players warmly, handle the golf bags from the cars to the carts and back again, clean the clubs after the round, and remind all golfers to use the driving range. The US$125 fee includes an hour’s time with unlimited range balls before the round.
Marconi said that Newcastle’s mission is to “Exceed the expectations of our visitors.” Looks like they’ll meet their goal.