Who wants to play golf in the Pacific Northwest in winter? Well, the most important thing is that you can. Scott Hanson and Craig Smith show you where this winter is, our series of reviews of Teeing Off golf clubs. So pack the clubs and read on.
There are many good reasons to play golf in the winter, and if you have the chance to play a good day and on a dry course, it can be a lot of fun.
But when we got out of our cars early in the morning at Oakbrook Golf Club, near Tacoma, the only thing I could think was that it was 26 degrees and no one in his mind would want to play golf in such conditions.
There was not another car on the parking lot and we assumed the course was closed. We were disappointed that this was not the case and it was more a survival than a pleasure in freezing conditions.
But about two weeks later, we replayed a day in Oakbrook that was supposed to be very ugly, with heavy rain and strong winds in the forecast. We were pleasantly surprised when we played 18 holes mostly dry and discovered why Oakbrook had a reputation for being one of the best rainy courses in the area.
It will be both an Oakbrook magazine and a general discussion of golf in winter, which has its own pleasures and benefits.
Playing fees are lower in the winter and there are fewer people playing, which makes the rounds more relaxing: do not worry about being too slow or frustrated if the group in front of you is. You can even take your ball, clean it and put it back on the ground nicely without being called a cheater.
Yes, golf in the winter can be very fun for many days. But it can also be less fun, like when the course is frozen and you play on temporary greens.
We had a bit of both during our two rounds at Oakbrook, which we chose for their reputation as a good winter course and also for their somewhat recent conversion to public racing after being a long-time private country club.
We must emphasize that the condition of golf courses in winter varies enormously. While the Oakbrook fairways were tough and the balls were rolling well despite the recent rains, we also played on terrain where almost every disc is integrated and needs to be excavated.
But for golfers who do their homework – both on course selection and on weather forecasts – there is no reason not to play. At least some days.
As Craig said: "A nice round in winter lends itself well to congratulations for having ventured on the course. A round in tough conditions is just a survival walk in duck hunting gear where you count holes – "Six more to do, five more to do". "
Hanson: My dad and my usual golf partner picked me up for our second tour in Oakbrook (not the frigid), and the first thing he said was that he was not going there. It was raining so hard and the wind blew so much that I did not even try to argue, but I asked if I could borrow his rain pants. (Yes, something that a real winter golfer should probably own.)
As we talked for a few minutes, the rain stopped and he had a change of heart. Although happy, I was also worried that it would not work out for us both: he would play in the rain and I would not have his rain pants anymore.
I should not have worried myself. It was one of my most enjoyable parts of the year. It rained for a few holes and hard for a few minutes, but each time the conditions were uncomfortable, he was released.
Oakbrook Golf Club began in 1966 as a private club. It is now an 18-hole public course in Lakewood. Mature firs and oaks are scattered on the course. 208880 (Greg Gilbert / The Seattle Times)
It had rained a lot the previous two days, but the course was in excellent condition. I only had mud on the ball a few times, and only when I was out of the fairway. The fairways were firm, and I never stopped marveling as I watched the balls roll on terrain after hitting the ground. The greens seemed in summer, and sometimes, when the sun was rising, I almost felt like playing in May.
We played a combination of white and green tees (6,047 yards) and found it hard enough but we still gave bogey (and double bogey) golfers a chance to score well. The fact that we saw less than a handful of golfers during our round was great for us (but not for the course revenue). And the course was in such good condition that the carts were allowed (instead of being confined to trails to protect the fairways).
The restaurant was a welcome sight, especially after our tour in the cold. Not only was our food good – club sandwich, hamburger and seafood stew – but I found the sensation in my toes.
Black-smith: Playing in winter teaches you to face different conditions and focus on the areas of your game that require work. On the one hand, you can drop and hit an extra ball after missing a shot because you will not cause a delay.
Oakbrook has been private for so long, so I think 75% of the public golf players in the Puget Sound area do not know that this good course exists. The fact that four invitations to the Washington Open were played says a lot.
Also: although there are houses on every hole, I have never seen so many American flags floating at home. I trace this to the proximity of the Lewis-McChord common base. the course is aptly named because it is bordered by hundreds of oaks.
Oakbrook was built in 1966 as a private club and became public in 2012 after its purchase by Ryan Moore Golf, the company led by PGA Tour player, Moore. Columbia Hospitality manages the course. The good restaurant offers "steak nights" and other promotions to attract non-golfers to the Tacoma-Lakewood-University Place area.
At Oakbrook Golf, golfer Brian Petoletti, DuPont, trains on a high tech indoor tracking device. An on-screen reading will give you data on your swing and your accuracy. 208880 (Greg Gilbert / The Seattle Times)
Hanson: The first round in Oakbrook. I'm not sure that humans should even be outside when it's 26 degrees, not to mention golf. The fairways had a layer of ice on them and temporary greens were placed in fairways close to the real ones. It's just not the same in a fairway.
Craig discovered that there was an advantage to playing in the Arctic. His tee shot on the only hole filled with water touched the ice that covered him, bounced into the red danger stake above the pond, and then bounced back on ice, where he stopped. The ice was so thick that Craig probably could have gone there and fired a shot, but "probably" was not enough to convince him. But he recovered his ball using a club to remove it from the ice.
Black-smith: Temporary greens, which are just open areas of the fairways, are like a fresh salmon craving and receive a box of cat food. I had used to play one hand with the club that I had used last to finish it off. Another problem with temporary greens is that they eliminate almost all the bunkers on the edge of the greens and that the treatment of the bunkers is part of a round of golf.
When Scott dropped a 100-meter token into the hole on a temporary green, the consensus was, "Too bad you messed up this shot on a green temp."
Also: If you do not have a GPS, Oakbrook can be hard to find if you are not familiar with the area. Do your homework to avoid frustration. … Thirty Canada Geese landed on the 18th fairway when we played in warm weather. … Signage to the next hole is inadequate on some holes where the next tee is not obvious.
At the Oakbrook Golf Club store, Jeff Mehlert's "Hank" dog welcomes you with pleasure. Jeff is director of golf in Oakbrook. 208880 (Greg Gilbert / The Seattle Times)
What makes a course is good in the winter? "Two words: sand and drainage," said Larry Gilhuly, an agronomist for the United States Golf Association. "If you do not have sand, you will do better to drain well." Good winter courses stay dry and firm, even during rainy periods. But many courses in the surroundings turn into a serene mess in winter. … Some lands place tarps on their nine greens overnight in cold weather so golfers can use them in the morning. … Washington and other northern states do not allow the display of winter scores for disability index purposes. One reason is that the ball does not roll as far in winter and soggy conditions as in the other three seasons. Another is the use, sometimes, of temporary greens.
Black-smith: A nice thing about playing with Scott and his father is to hear these three wonderful words: "Nice shot, dad!
Rating (1 to 4 stars)
Hanson: 3½. The course is worth playing all year round and is the subject of a discussion of the best rainy course in western Washington.
Black-smith: 3. Solid course unknown to many golfers. It's worth the detour.
Resist the weather
Here are 10 other courses that are worth playing in winter because they are relatively dry. (in alphabetical order). The list was established with the help of several officials and local golf players.
Oakbrook Golf Club
8102 Zircon Drive SW, Lakewood, Washington 98498; 253-584-8770
Scott Hanson has covered golf for the Seattle Times since 2005; Craig Smith covered golf for decades for the Seattle Times before retiring in 2008.