Nature’s gifts in a game: Golf at Riverbend provides both

Updated: September 3, 2020

By Marie Lemond, Special To Inside Golf

When it comes to outdoor fun, a nature-walk or a round of golf are high on my list. Doing both at the same time is tops. In my neck of the woods, the ideal place to do that is Riverbend Golf Complex. 

Riverbend is a public golf course nestled in the countryside of Kent. Not so much built on the land, Riverbend merges with it. The course features views of Mount Rainier and the winding Green River. Nesting eagles, herons, ducks, frogs, turtles, and king fishers are at home on the course. What a thrill it is to see an eagle or heron on wing while I golf.

A mix of conifers and deciduous trees grow throughout the course—cedars, firs, willows, maples and cottonwoods. Many of the cottonwoods are old growth trees. Some act as wind breaks along the edges of the fairways. The breeze rustling their leaves is like nature-made music to me as I golf along. The number 15 tee box sits in a kind of cottonwood-canyon. At that hole, a perfectly struck ball makes a resounding ‘ping’ that echoes up through the trees. 

Wide swaths of buttercups, daisies and tall grasses create lush areas between the fairways. In spring and summer, two large ponds on the course, one on the front nine and one the back, offer special beauty then. Adorned with silvery plumes of maiden grass, purple fronds of cord grass and brown cattails, the ponds host a noisy neighborhood of croaking frogs, quacking ducks, and piping redwing blackbirds. Dragonflies and butterflies flit about among the fronds. A glimpse of them gliding by makes me forget the bogeys on my scorecard. 

The course is flat and not hard to walk. But the water hazards, bunker positions and deceptive placement of trees make it challenging. Hole #2 is an especially good example. 

Standing on the tee box, hasty golfers see the fairway as wide and straight. How tempting it is to swing away. But caution is king on hole two. 170 yards out from the tee box two colossal cottonwoods guard each side of the fairway. Worse still, both trees have deep tree wells and the fairway slopes into them. The safe landing area is only 30 yards wide. Botch your first shot on hole two, and your second will likely be a hack shot, made from in a well, up against some bark.

Of all the holes at Riverbend, I enjoy number 14 the most. Left of the fairway sits a 500-yard belt of wild woodland. 

It provides perfect habitat for the finches, flickers, robins and warblers that carry on like a chatty class as I stroll by. Many a time I have hooked my shot into that tangled tract of trees and underbrush. But such bad shot isn’t all bad. Searching for my ball, I’ll have the chance to spy a flash of yellow wings or hear the sweet trill of some rare bird.

At Riverbend Golf Complex, golf comes with a jumbo dose of nature. It is a peaceful place where the flora and fauna turn a round of golf into a stroll through a preserve. Riverbend really does make golf more than a game—it makes the important things in life hard to take for granted.

Marie Lemond is an essayist and avid golfer living in Washington State. Her work has also appeared in Country Magazine, Women and Golf Magazine and at Visit Marie at