Close-up look at golf courses in northwest Washington

Updated: May 2, 2012

Editor’s note: The Bellingham area offers some of the top courses in the Pacific Northwest. There is public golf, resort golf and private golf. The far Northwest corner of Washington State has a delicious menu of golf treats, all in various shapes and sizes of plush greenery. 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.

Shuksan Golf Club
With the Shuksan Golf Club in Bellingham, the theme is nature. There are wetlands throughout the golf course and the first bit of water trouble comes into play on the very first hole.

Elevated tees and greens are prominent throughout the layout as the course varies over 100 feet in elevation. 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. And as a result the ratings from the white tees went from 121 to 131. Newly re-designed bunkers, water features and more have added to the course. Golf Digest has always rated this outstanding with course four stars since opening in 1991 and the course keeps that rating year after year.

A new 250-seat outdoor terrace has opened for golf events, wedding receptions and more. The new Clubhouse Grille is also a hit with golfers at Shuksan.

Lake Padden Golf Course
If you are looking for some of the best in public friendly golf, then look no further than Lake Padden, located just south of Bellingham.

The course has undergone plenty of great changes through the years and improved maintenance has the course featuring some solid fairways and greens that roll true.

The course is also home of the Bellingham Amateur, which is held every Labor Day weekend.

Eaglemont Golf Course
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. Golf Digest ranked the course 10th in the state of Washington along with awarding it 4 stars in 2009. Eaglemont is a challenging course, but provides multiple sets of tees for all skill levels to enjoy.

The John Steidel-designed course offers the challenge of long carries over wetlands off the tee and on approach shots. Success with those shots is what keeps players coming back to Eaglemont.

Eaglemont was voted #10 on Golf Digest’s recent list of the top courses in Washington – and a new clubhouse sitting on top of a hill opened last year with a spectacular panoramic vista.

Semiahmoo Resort Course & Loomis Trails
The 36-hole destination resort, located in Blaine, offers two of the toughest and also acclaimed public courses in the state with Loomis Trail and Semiahmoo Golf & Country Club. Both are top ranked courses and both are extremely challenging with plenty of water hazards to boot.

Loomis Trail was ranked as the 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. Some great golf and a restful stay at the resort are sure to be a winning combination.

Both courses are a treat. And many golfers head north just play a golfing doubleheader, playing both in the same day. And some even stay at the resort and do it the next day.

Semiahmoo features a tough one-two punch with hazard-filled hole Nos. 11 and 12. Water lines the right side of the fairway at the 371-yard par-4 11th hole and flanks the green, making both the tee shot and approach tough on even the most skilled golfers.

No. 12 is a 173-yard par-3 requires a tee shot over water. There is bailout room left to avoid water, but miss it right and you’re wet.

North Bellingham Golf Course
North Bellingham Golf Course opened in 1995 and is a Scottish style links golf course. 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, making 14 of the holes play with a water hazard and 58 white-sand bunkers. This test is accented by the views of the Cascades.

North Bellingham also has plenty of holes which grab your attention early and keep it the rest of the round.

Homestead Golf Club
The Homestead Golf and Country Club is located on the outskirts on Lynden on what was once dairy land.

Now the land serves as a nice attraction and getaway for Pacific Northwest golfers.

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. If you stay dry a birdie is a possibility, but par is still a good score on this beautiful hole. The club includes a hotel, multiple dining options and a fitness center for vacationers.

Avalon Golf Course
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. Three separate nines make up the 27 holes and are simply named the South, West and North Courses.

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). Avalon also provides golfers a free round on their birthday with proper identification of course.

Orcas Island, Lopez Island and San Juan Island Golf Courses
A trio of nine-hole courses including 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, as it was designed and built in 1960. It’s a popular destination in summer and was recently purchased by a young local family, the Taylor Family. Lopez Island was built more than 40 years ago and is open to the public. San Juan sits near the popular tourist town of Friday Harbor and offers a links-style track.

Sudden Valley: A different look
Sudden Valley Golf Club 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.

The Bellingham course started a Greenshield Drainage System project, making playing conditions drier and more playable each year. The course, 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 Greenshield project. This will improve the landing area on its signature hole, known as the cliff hole, which has golfers teeing off some 300 feet above the fairway.

PDF: Map of northwest golf courses