Course Review: Chambers Bay
The first hole at Chambers Bay <br>heads out towards Puget Sound<br>USGA Photo
The first hole at Chambers Bay
heads out towards Puget Sound
USGA Photo

Editor's Note: This story was published prior to the 2015 U.S. Open. We would love to know what you thought about Chambers Bay, now that the dust has settled.


by Greg Austin, AmateurGolf.com Player Staff

I recently had the opportunity to play three rounds of golf at the site of the 2015 US Open, Chambers Bay Golf Course in University Place, Washington. Bottom line -- I cannot wait to see PGA professionals tackle this course in US Open conditions!

There are very few, true, links-style courses on this side of the Atlantic, but this one is a true gem. I have not had the opportunity to play the four courses at Bandon Dunes, but I believe that Chambers Bay must give them a run for their money and may even surpass them in some aspects.


With just a 45 minute drive from the Seattle- Tacoma International airport, Chambers Bay is easily reachable for the golf traveler. There are not many places to stay in the immediate vicinity, but Seattle is a beautiful place to visit and the short drive from Seattle or Tacoma to Chambers Bay each day is quite easy.


Driving onto the property at Chambers Bay, you are not immediately overwhelmed. There is not a Donald Trump-style grandiose entry gate, fountain or clubhouse. The sign out front blends into the local landscape, and the on-site clubhouse is small and unassuming. This may be a problem when it comes to hosting the Open in a few years, but it allows the average golfer to get onto the golf course before feeling overwhelmed.

The personnel in the pro shop were extremely helpful and friendly. We got checked in easily enough and proceeded back out to meet the shuttle bus down to the first tee area and caddie shack and then on down to the driving range.


Since this course was built on the site of an old rock quarry, the clubhouse is at the top of the huge pit that contains the course. One thing that should not be missed is to walk out the back of the clubhouse and take in the amazing view. The clubhouse commands a view of the entire course. There are only one or two holes that cannot be seen from the back deck. It's a beautiful sight that every visitor needs to take in.

Since Chambers Bay is a walking only facility, they offer free pull carts to every golfer or the chance to employ a caddie. The caddie fee was quite reasonable when compared to most courses. I am not one to usually employ a caddie, but having heard about the undulations on this course, I thought that bringing along some local knowledge would be highly useful. This turned out to be a great choice. The caddie not only saved my back by carrying my bag, but he definitely helped me out with reads on every green and suggestions on where best to TRY to hit my drives and approach shots.

It's amazing how quickly you lose depth perception when there are no trees on a golf course. Chambers Bay literally has one tree on the course. Lone Fir is situated behind the green on the par-3 15th hole. I highly recommend hiring a caddie and tipping generously.


Prior to starting our round, we took the bus to the bottom of the road to the practice area. They have a nice grass range and chipping area available for use with your paid green fee. This was our first chance to get used to hitting off the sand-based dirt and practicing our knock-down shots for the windy conditions. We took the bus back up to the starting area and hit the practice green. This was our first hint of the true challenge of this course.


The greens at Chambers are extremely difficult to read. They are hard as a rock, with a very strange crusty grass on them. You need to hit your putts firm to hold their line, but beware of being above the hole.


The first hole is a long par-4 that heads toward Puget Sound. The tee shot is essentially blind since you can't see over the rolling hills in the fairway to the landing area.

We quickly learned through the first several holes that the caddie knew best. You need to play the slope and the roll on every shot. Short wedges don't check up. Long irons will roll for dozens of yards. And the breaks on the greens can either be subtle or severe, but you better play them correctly.

Most of the holes have generous landing areas off the tee, but if you happen to miss the fairway, you will either be in unpredictable rough or a very difficult fairway bunker. If you don't judge your lie correctly, you could spend your next several shots getting out. If you manage to hit the fairway, you need to pay attention to the pin placement on the green, the slope of the green, and where the danger is.

The par-4 7th hole is a true beast. This dogleg right hole turns and heads straight up the hill to an elevated green with a severe false front. There is a monstrous fairway bunker that runs the entire length of the right side of the hole, and there are two large mounds in the fairway approximately 100 yards short of the green. If your approach shot lands on the front of this green, it will most likely roll 40 yards back down the hill for a devilish short wedge shot.

Once you survive the 7th hole though, you don't get a rest. The 8th hole is the number one handicap hole and is a narrow par-5 that you demands a straight drive. If you manage to hit a monster drive in the fairway, you might have an opportunity to go for the green in two. But, you better get the ball on the correct level or you will just be looking at a 3-putt par. The 9th hole is one of the signature holes at Chambers Bay. From the back tees, it is a 224 yard par-3 that plays 80 feet downhill to a green with a significant amount of slope. The safe play is actually to land short left of the green and roll up onto the putting surface. Anything left of that landing area though could get caught up in the high grass on an extreme slope. Short right will put you into a tough bunker. And anything long will bounce downhill quite a distance past the green. As brutal as this all sounds though, you can't keep yourself from smiling the entire time!

Chambers Bay rewards good shots and calls for creativity. You might need to play your shot 90 degrees away from the hole in order to get anywhere near making your putt. The views are spectacular! And even when it's raining, the scenery is unbelievable. Puget Sound, the boats, and the islands across the sound are simply spectacular!

On the back nine, Chambers Bay gives you a chance to get a few strokes back with a couple of short holes at No's. 10 and 12. The 12th is a narrow, drivable par 4 that allows you to hit anything from 7 iron to a driver off the tee. With the entire hole situated in a half-pipe, it invites aggressive play. And when the pin is located in the back, it's a blast to use the bank behind the green and feed the ball 20 yards back down the hill to easy birdie distance. Of course, just as many double bogeys are found on this hole as birdies, but it's a blast.

The finishing holes at Chambers Bay make sure that you take some beautiful images home with you. With 15, 16 and 17 playing right along the railroad tracks and Puget Sound, make sure you ask your caddie about the wind and where to land your ball. Turn back toward the clubhouse and head slightly uphill and make a birdie on the par-5 18th and there's nothing in your head except anticipation for your next round at Chambers.

Amazingly enough, most of the locals that I spoke to had only played Chambers one or two times. Many of them thought it was too hard and couldn't believe it when my 20-handicap friend said he loved the course.

No doubt, the walk is one of the more difficult ones you will encounter (the hike up to the 7th green was worth the entire caddie fee I paid to not have to carry my bag) but don't let the "walking only" aspect of Chambers Bay stop you from playing there.


Chambers Bay is one of the few places that tests every part of your golf game while making you smile the entire time. I play a fair amount of golf, and my primary goal is to play as many different courses as I can. But as soon as another chance presents itself, I cannot wait to get back out to Chambers Bay and play again. And I know it will be an amazing week of golf for spectators and pros alike, when the world's best players tackle this course in US Open conditions in June of 2015.

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