A tour of golf in Northwest Washington

Updated: March 3, 2010

The far Northwest corner of Washington State offers a delicious menu of golf treats, all in various shapes and sizes of plush greenery.

The area north and south of Bellingham booms with golf personality and championship challenges.

Bargain prices, stellar maintenance, beautiful layouts and breathtaking views combined with the upcoming pristine spring and summer weather makes the Northwest corner of the state a can’t-miss golf destination.

From Arlington to Blaine, there’s always a fine-tuned layout to play, a posh place to stay and a price that’s guaranteed to be well worth the investment.

At every dogleg, there’s a new treasure to find in this area. Every golfer, from novice to pro, can find something that suits their game and satisfies their golf appetite.

Go take a bite out of some of the state’s best courses and a region filled with enough quality to make it worth a summer tour.

Every stop along the way offers something worthwhile. Here’s some of what Inside Golf recommends each golfer experience as they take in the Bellingham area and its golf courses.

Semiahmoo: Extraordinary resort
The 36-hole destination resort, located in Blaine, offers two of the toughest public courses in the state in Loomis Trail and Semiahmoo Golf & Country Club. Plus, there are plenty of water hazards between the two.

Loomis Trail was ranked No. 1 public course in Washington by Golf Digest (2005) and was the only Washington state course ranked in the nation’s Top 100. Loomis Trail, open to the public on even days of the month, combines the magic of scenic beauty and dry conditions suitable for year-round play.

Tree-lined Semiahmoo, ranked the No. 3 public course by Golf Digest (2005), offers five holes with water and a course that can stretch to 7,005 yards from the tips. This course is open to the public on odd days of the month. A winning combo – Golf and lodging at the resort inn.

Holmes Harbor: Small package big fun
Located in Freeland on Whidbey Island, Holmes Harbor Golf & Beach Club proves big things come in small packages.

The par-64 course measures just 4,371 yards, but provides many big-time vistas and one par-5 among its offerings.

Holmes Harbor overlooks an inlet along Puget Sound’s panoramic Saratoga Passage and views of Mount Baker and the Cascade Mountains. The 18th hole, the lone par-5 at 463 yards, concludes the round with great look at the harbor and the Cascades.

The course was previously owned by a group headed up by former Seattle SuperSonics standout Jack Sikma, but now is owned by Mark Schuster. Golfers can enjoy a fine meal or beverage at the Beachfire Grill, located at the marina.

Homestead Farms: The island
The island green at the par-5 finishing hole brings many golfers back to the Lynden course. The 525-yard hole offers gutsy and talented golfers the opportunity to go for the green in two, but the shot requires a carry over water and precision to hit the island green.

Golf Digest once ranked the hole’s green as one of the nation’s top island greens. The finishing hole, surrounded by walls of flowers, water and sand, is aesthetically pleasing.

Stay dry and birdie is a possibility. Par is still a good score on this beautiful hole.

North Bellingham: Some links to try
North Bellingham Golf Course is links golf – this course gives golfers that links-style feel. The openness leaves one exposed to the elements and one’s game at the mercy of the wind at times.

The greens are firm and fast, making a balky putter something to leave at home. The well-manicured greens roll true and put a premium on good putting.

The layout offers 12 ponds and many white-sand bunkers. This test is accented by the views of the Cascades.

Eaglemont: Hills and more hills
Mount Vernon has a true treasure in Eaglemont Golf Club with its meandering fairways, shots over wetlands and eye-opening views of the Olympic and Cascade mountain ranges.

The John Steidel-designed course offers the challenge of long carries over wetlands off the tee and on approach shots. Success with these shots is what brings players back.

The carved-from-the-forest course provides many changes in elevation and has added new tee boxes in recent years to accommodate all calibers of golfers.

Avalon: All-day golf an option
The kingdom of Avalon, home of All-Day golf – Avalon Golf Links of Burlington is the only 27-hole facility in the area and well worth the 50-minute drive from the Seattle area. The name Avalon means an island represented as an earthly paradise in the western seas to which King Arthur and other heroes were carried at death, is a golfing paradise just off Interstate 5.

The Robert Muir Graves-designed course is a bargain all the way. Avalon offers a pay-for-18 holes and play all-day promotion seven days a week, 365 days a year (rates vary depending on the day of the week). Also, Avalon provides golfers a free round on their birthday with proper identification.

Shuksan: 15 years old this year
The theme of the Bellingham course is nature. There are wetlands throughout the golf course and the first bit of water trouble comes into play on the first hole.

Elevated tees and greens are prominent throughout the layout, again, starting on the first. Ten Mile Creek meanders throughout the layout and cuts across many of the fairways to keep golfers on guard.

Shuksan Golf Club added length to the course recently and it now stretches beyond 7,000 yards from the back tees. The course makes you hit just every club in your bag.

Golf Digest has always rated this outstanding with course four stars. A must play when in the area.

Sudden Valley: Two different nines
It just so happens that the Bellingham course has started a new Green Shield Drainage System project, making playing conditions drier and more playable each year.

The signature hole is the 15th hole, known as the cliff hole. Everybody gets great hang-time here.

Sudden Valley Golf Club, designed by Ted Robinson and ranked a four-star offering by Golf Digest, will improve drainage on all 18 holes with the selection of one hole per year for the Green Shield project. This will improve the landing area on the cliff hole, which has golfers teeing off some 300 feet above the fairway.

The tee shot must be precise and long for a perfect angle to the pin. The shot can be intimidating, but rewarding if placed properly.

The course is known for its two distinctly different nines. The front nine, which winds past the southern shores of Lake Whatcom, is relatively flat and open. The back nine, which feels carved from a forest, wanders through the trees and offers some narrow fairways and variation in elevation.

San Juans: Three courses to try
A trio of nine-hole courses – Orcas Island Golf Club, Lopez Island Golf Club and San Juan Golf & Country Club – provide quality golf to vacationers in the San Juan Islands.

Orcas Island is the oldest of the three courses, opening for play in Eastsound in 1949. It’s a popular destination in summer. Lopez Island was built more than 40 years ago. San Juan sits near the popular tourist town of Friday Harbor and offers stunning vistas during the round.