January 31, 2014
I was able to kick my 2014 golf season off today at TPC Snoqualmie Ridge. This was a huge boost to my spirits as I have been battling spinal stenosis, receiving spinal injections in the C5 and C6 area of my neck, and going to physical therapy for the past five and a half weeks. Now that everything seems to be getting back to normal, it felt good to be able to go out and play a round of golf.
The Jack Nicklaus-designed championship golf course opened in 1999 and is a member of the Tournament Players Club network operated by the PGA Tour. Since 2005, it has hosted the Boeing Classic, a 54-hole Champions Tour event in late August. It is the only TPC Course, as well as the only Jack Nicklaus Signature Course, in the Pacific Northwest. In 2000, the year after TPC Snoqualmie Ridge opened for play, Golfweek ranked Snoqualmie Ridge 3rd out of 23 TPC courses in 2000. In that same year, the golf club was voted the #1 course in the state of Washington by the state's golf professionals.
The course measures 7,264 yards from the tips, but I decided easing back into golf after a 5 week absence probably would be better experienced from the blue tees.
|The entrance sign to the property.|
When I arrived, it was raining, and had been for the past several days. It is the Seattle area in January afterall. After checking in at the clubhouse and looking around the fantastic dining room with a magnificent view of Mt. Si, I headed out to the driving range to stretch and warm up. I donned my new rain gear I received for my birthday earlier in the week and then broke out my clubs. I was tentative at first, not wanting to reinjure my neck, but as I worked through my wedges, into my hybrids, and finally to my woods and driver, I was confident that I would be ok. A few putts on the putting green showed me they were in great shape and the ball rolled true even though it was soaked through and through. Great job grounds crew! The golf gods must have been watching over my opening round of 2014. As I approached the first tee, the rain stopped. It remained cloudy and overcast most of the round, but there was no rain. I removed my rain gear and teed up for my first shot of the day.
|Hole #1 from the tee box looking down the fairway.|
Standing on the first tee box, the fairway turns slightly to the right. A drive down the right side over the barely visible sand trap allowed my ball to roll down a small hill and right to the middle of the fairway. Again the golf gods smiled on me giving me a nice shot in short grass after a five week layoff.
While on my way to the green, the rain started again and lasted through holes 2 and 3. Not wanting to ruin my iPad, I skipped taking photos on both holes. I can;t wait for my new digital camera to arrive so I no longer have to worry about the elements with my photo documentation. By the time I arrived at the 4th tee box, the rain had let up again, and would remain so for the rest of the round.
|Hole #4 looking from the tee box towards the green.|
I was initially worried about this hole. I was unsure I would be able to carry the trench at the bottom since I was still swinging at about 70%, getting the feel for my body's reaction to playing again. The holding back kept my drive out of the center, and it landed on the top of the front right sand trap. I thought it was initially going to stay up, but it rolled into the trap. Luckily, with the sand being soaked and packed, I was able to use a hybrid to put it on the green.
|Approaching the green from the fairway on Hole #4.|
|View from the 5th Tee Box looking down the fairway.|
|View of the approach shot into the 5th green.|
|Approaching the 5th green.|
Notice the sharp slope on the right? Luckily I kept my ball to the right and it didn't come into play. Left is death on this hole. I am not sure what happened to my shots of hole #6 but I can't find them at the moment. So, onto Hole #7.
|Another blind tee shot to the fairway on Hole #7.|
This hole is where my tentativeness and 70% swing power got the better of me. I was aiming to drive it over the right bunker as I thought that would put me into the fairway with a good look at the green on my second shot. It's longer than it looks from the tee box and my drive was lower than normal. I ended up striking the top of the hill between the right and center bunkers where my ball plugged. It is difficult enough hitting a golf ball from that kind of lie, but a plugged ball makes it a nearly impossible shot.
|Standing at the top of the hill, just above the three bunkers in the above shot.|
|Approaching #7 green.|
I didn't realize from the fairway, just how tight this green was. It made for a very challenging hole. Again, too far right on your approach shot means nothing but bad mojo from the woods.
|#8 tee box looking down the fairway.|
This isn't so much a blind shot as it is a long, long hole that turns slightly left. Go to far left or try to trim the left edge and your ball could be in no-man's land. Also, this is where the houses really started showing up on the course. I was a bit disappointed in how many houses surrounded the course but it is what it is.
When I finally got up the hill and followed the fairway, I was surprised by what I found with the green. It was a tough shot, with water and bunkers all around, and having to make the approach shot from a sloped fairway. Very tough hole but one of my top three favorites from the day.
|#9 green looking from the tee box.|
The front nine finished off with a shot across water to all green. On this day, the hole was set on the very far left side of the green, making it easier than it would probably normally be, and most certainly an easier placement that what is faced during the annual August tournament hosted here.
|#10 view from the tee box.|
Number 10 was another hole that is tougher than it looks, at least for me. It is a fairly short par 4 but all up hill. I knew I probably wasn't going to reach it due to my playing with 70% swing stroke so I made sure to put my shot over the left bunker and into the short grass, setting me up for a much easier approach shot. This was one of my two birdies on the day!
|Looking down the fairway from the #11 tee box.|
Number 11 wasn't a very interesting hole in my opinion. The bunkers don't really come into play from what I can tell and it made for a "meh" hole for me.
|Looking toward the #11 green from the fairway.|
As noted above, yeah there are sand traps here, but they aren't positioned in a challenging spot in my opinion. I think the architect could have done a better job with placement to make this hole more interesting.
|#12 tee box looking down the fairway.|
Here is where I really started enjoying the course. Holes 12-15 are a fantastic run. This is another blind tee shot, but observing the cut and lay of the fairway, I could see the hole turned left. Too far left is death on this hole.
Another hole where if you go too far over the green or too far left, you aren't finishing with a par. After the disappointing 11th hole, this hole, and especially the green, was a pleasant surprise.
|#13 tee box looking towards the green.|
This was a fantastically challenging short par 3. Too far anywhere and you are pulling a new ball from your bag. That hill guarding the left, back, and right of the green is a LONG way down.I wished it hadn;t been so foggy on this day. I am sure the view from this hole is spectacular.
|The #14, signature hole.|
When I arrived at the #14 tee box, I just stood there for 3 minutes or so and took it in. I wish I had taken a better photo from the tee box, but I was too busy taking in the hole and enjoying the experience. What you don't see in the photo is that it travels down the right side hill, turns back left at a 90 degree angle, and then the fairway follows the hill upwards by a green silhouetted by tall evergreens. My photo really doesn;t do the hole justice at all. It is also a risk/reward shot. If you can carry your drive 240 or so, you can reach the green of this par 4 in one. I knew I couldn't do it on this day and opted to put it center fairway over the bunker in the middle.
|Looking back up the fairway towards the tee box from where I just hit the ball. It gives a good view of what you have to clear.|
|Looking at the 14th green from the fairway.|
|Tee box at #15 looking down the fairway.|
|#16 from the tee box|
|#17 green from tee box|
|#18 tee box|
|#18 looking at green from the fairway.|
|Looking back down the 18th fairway from the green.|
Overall, I had a fantastic time at TPC Snoqualmie Ridge. The course is very well maintained, even in the winter off season, and the care put into the course truly shows. My heartfelt thanks goes out to Matt Brown for allowing me to come and experience this course and I hope to one day return to play it again on a sunny, blue sky day.