Whidbey Island’s Holmes Harbor has an interesting past

Updated: September 3, 2023

By Steve Turcotte

There might not be a course with a history like the one Holmes Harbor on Whidbey Island has. This is a course that traces its history back to 1939 when it opened for play. Since then, anything that could happen to the course has happened to the course.

The course ran into financial trouble but former Seattle SuperSonics Jack Sikma and his group saved the day when it bought the course and turned it into a terrific Par-64 gem in Freeland, Wash. It seemed that the course might just thrive.

But it didn’t. The course was sold in 2003 and Paul Lavin was brought in as head professional – getting his first look at Holmes Harbor. He liked what he saw from the moment he arrived, but financial troubles arose again.

In fact, the course closed for four years before re-opening in 2013. But the new owner had a short-lived existence at Holmes Harbor before Lavin was able to step in and sign a lease agreement with the Holmes Harbor Sewer District in 2016. And when Lavin took over, the course was in rough shape. And that might be a nice way to put it. It took him two years to get the greens to look like greens again and four years to get the course back to looking like a golf course.

Paul Lavin

And now, Lavin has a winner.  He has done plenty of extra touches like edging the cart paths, putting in new bunker sand and re-doing all 40 bunkers, killing weeds and giving the course the facelift it needed – and deserved.

“We finally have the course to the point where it is great to show it off,” said Lavin. “It’s a fun layout for everyone to play and the conditions are great.”

From the first hole and its awesome view of the Puget Sound to the dogleg par-5 18th hole, Holmes Harbor has something for everyone. It plays as a par-64 and 4,279 yards. And don’t think this is just some pitch and putt. The par-4 11th hole is a monster with water off the tee and in front of the green. The 18th hole is a dogleg left with trouble left and a corner blocked with trees.

And just getting to Holmes Harbor just might be half the fun. You can make the drive around up Interstate-5 and head down 52-mile long Whidbey Island or take the ferry from Edmonds. For those with a boat, there is a 100-foot dock below the old clubhouse. And when you get there Lavin and his three Yorkies Ted, Sweet Pea and Sabina will be there to greet you.