Chambers Bay was originally nominated as a gem by Mal and added to the Top 100 website in June 2008. Mal’s comments are as follows:
"Chambers Bay might be Washington's newest golf course – opened in June 2007 – but I’m sure it is set to be a high flyer in the magazine rankings very soon. It was designed by Robert Trent Jones Jnr and is actually a pretty true model of the old-fashioned links courses of Britain and Ireland. Set on the Puget Sound, it’s certainly much closer to the pure form of coastal golf than many other courses in the US which claim to be links-like.
I’m going to watch this course with interest over the next few years as it will host the 2010 Amateur Championships and the 2015 US Open. What’s even more impressive is that you can pay and play this municipal track and if you happen to be a Pierce County resident you can play for half price and if you’re up for a second round in the same day it will cost a mere $50. I love it and write this nomination with reluctance as it’s still fairly quiet despite the local ballyhoo but I figure soon enough the world will know all about Chambers Bay and it will eventually become as popular as Bethpage Black."
Built within a disused gravel mine by the shores of Puget Sound in Washington, Chambers Bay was commissioned by Pierce County in a $20 million development designed to rival the best municipal facilities in the country.
Rather than describe particular holes of note, it’s maybe best to use the following link to access the club’s own hole-by-hole guide. This offers a wonderful description of every hole.
The course was set up to play very firm and very fast by the USGA, but was berated for the inconsistent nature of the greens, some of which lacked grass. In an interview, Gary Player labelled Chambers Bay as “one of the worst golf courses I’ve seen in my 63 years as a pro.” Lee Westwood was much kinder, stating: "It's the kind of course I'd like to come and play with my mates, with a cart and some beers."
Ironically, despite the hullabaloo, Jordan Spieth (the world’s best putter statistically at the time) prevailed, adding a US Open title to his first Major won at the 2015 Masters earlier in the season.
Big, bold ,vertical - Chambers Bay. Golf course architect Ronald Fream shares his thoughts on the controversial US venue.
Played here yesterday, on a perfect day no rain or wind. The course was in decent shape fairways and bunkers well maintained. But to the topic every want to hear the putting greens. They've improved from before but they're still bumpy. Not the best surface. Course is odd, kinda gimmicky. Seems like they want to drill into the players mind that there playing a links style course bringing too many odd highlight worthy nuances. A couple would have sufficed not multiple on ever hole. Seems like a hodge-podge of course put together. But would I play here again? Given the 89 dollar fall rate and course drainage yes. Would I be willing to commute from afar to play here NO. The course isn't bad but it just isn't great.
I was blown away by Chambers Bay. It was the one of the funnest course I have ever played with dramatic uphill and downhill holes. The similarity between fairway and putting services combined with the various side and backboards in the extreme green surrounds dictated an imaginative style of play unique in my experience to this point. Especially memorable are the long extremely downhill tee shots on the Par 4 5th and 14th holes and the uphill drivable 12th.
I placed this course twice in 2012 and returned in 2015 for the US Open. It is misleading for your main review commentary for this course to include a sensationalist quote from a grumpy old man who failed to differentiate golf course design from that was a USGA manipulated set-up exacerbated by abnormal circumstances (or vice versa) - the weeks leading up to the 2015 US Open were unusually hot and led to a baked out course. This, combined with an unfortunate green infestation and very bad spectator routing devised by the USGA, provided for a tournament that was overshadowed by the opinion of some that the course wasn't fit to stage a US Open. None of the above factors can be attributed to the design of the golf course itself. My view remains that the 2015 US Open was a perfect storm situation for Chambers Bay and neither the players and spectators on site nor the world watching at home got to see CB in anywhere near its best light. Since 2015 the greens have been completely re-done and I am hoping the one day soon it will be announced that the best players in the world are to return to CB for a major tournament. Lest we forget it still produced a thrilling climax with the best player in the world at the time prevailing (Spieth). I would urge Top 100 to have a rethink and redraft your main review for this course and delve deeper into the course itself. There are some sensational holes and the 15th is up there with the best par threes in the entire US. There is so much to remember: the 1st and 10th tees facing Puget Sound and played into the dunes; the sweeping uphill 4th and 13th holes; the dramatic tee shots with amazing panoramic views from high above for the 5th, 9th and 14th holes; the 16th and 17th running alongside the rail tracks; and of course the exceptional 15th. Golfing Nirvana in the kingdom of Kurt..we like that!
I’m guessing not too many Brits have had the chance to play Chambers Bay, but it’s been on this old man’s bucket list for a while. As many have said, the views out over the Sound were fantastic. RTJ was given carte blanche to create whatever he wanted from a blank sheet of paper; and he certainly went to town! Yes it’s tough, and yes there’s a lot of waste areas.....but you can plot your way around if your smart. Of course you do need to be playing very well to score somewhere near your hcp. The condition of the course was excellent and the greens were firm and true. Pin positions were very challenging, with quite a few on the edges of greens with tricky drop offs. Trouble is you can’t be to conservative either as you could be left with a long putt with lots of borrow, which were extremely difficult to lay dead. I played a few over par, but loved every moment.
Now here comes the unbelievable bit. My wife and I were visiting a friend in downtown Seattle, and stupidly I had not appreciated how far it was from Downtown to Chambers Bay, but thought heh we will just do a round trip by taxi (!). I went to sort out the taxi with the hotel concierge too be told the journey will take over an hour and the round trip cost $260! Well on top of fees, caddie etc that would have been crazy, so I regrettably emailed my contact at the course (Brent, the Director of Golf) to say sadly I couldn’t make my 9am tee time. Long story short, Brent arranged to drive the 41 miles into the city and pick us up at 6.30am, and then had his assistant (Brian), who was going to a baseball game in the city, drive us back afterwards. Brent said he just didn’t want me to miss the probable once in a lifetime opportunity. How about that for hospitality, service and just true kindness! My US playing partners on the day were just blown away by this gesture. Once again my sincere thanks to Brent and Brian. I hope I get a chance to repay the favour some day.
I'm a Brit and played Chambers Bay in 2010 on a trip that also included playing all 4 courses at Bandon. Chambers Bay was a level up from anything at Bandon and the conditioning was immaculate. Watching the US Open on the TV in 2015 was painful and unfortunately the majesty of the course was completely overwhelmed by the condition of the greens. Fortunately the majority of reviewers love Chambers Bay - they are correct in loving it.
What a great golfing experience and a must if you are in the area. Its priced fairly and the staff for a municipal course is more in line with an elite level public course (which it is). The views and the walk alone are worth the trip. There are a number of memorable holes that will stick with you (that's always a must in my opinion of a great golf course).
My reasoning for only giving it four stars are the following:
-Too many waste areas, RTJ JR simply got carried away, they don't add that much to the course.
-Some of the green complexes were too severe and too punishing, but clearly a lot of folks think that's cool, so I'm in the minority on that one.
-The conditioning was just ok, nothing spectacular
Those are the only negatives I can come up with. Number 8 and 9 are great finishing holes to the front side and number 10 starts with a a drive up the shoot with bunkers and hills on each side. The par 3's on the back are down by the Puget Sound and are both fun. And of course number 18 we all know about with what happened at the US open.
I will say I'll be back to play this course as my brother will be up in the area for the next several years. I can't wait to experience it again and you should pull the trigger too if you are thinking about it.
I first came to CB in 2009 when checking sites for future championships and found it was going to host US Amateur and US Open. Had some friends playing Amateur and they told me it was great ... but controversial. After the 2015 it was confirmed to be controversial but IMO also confirmed it's greatness. And made me want it to play it desperately. It happened 3 weeks ago and it was a blast! Anyone criticising the course without having played it should at least go and play not one but at least 2 rounds. And then do it, but I can confirm that their opinion will change. And if not played it please do not , what you experience standing there hitting many of those golf shots and walking that course with breathtaking views of the bay is something special.
It was a FAM Trip for IAGTO TTOOs and my only regret is having arrived the night before 1am to my hotel room before a 6am wake up call and an 8am tee time. I was tired and for sure influenced in some missed shots and poor putting, but can't complain about it. It is just feel how much better it would have been with a proper rest the night before!
You arrive to the Club House which is above the highest point of the course (tee 9th) and then after the check in a shuttle takes you down to putting green and driving range, perfectly well organized and in time to get some balls hit at the range and testing the greens before 1st tee.
The festuca greens were extremely controversial in 2015 and it is an issue they are taking care of properly. Already 3 greens have been moved to Poa Annua (they look great!) and the other 15 to be done this fall starting early October.
The course has it all: rolling fairways, severely sloped greens, heroic carries over massive waste bunkers, extremely good ecuation for risk-reward shots, amazing views and already the history of 2 great tournaments with 2 great champions (Uilhein and Spieth).
Another of the features is that most par 4s (except 2nd and short 12th) could be played as 500+ yards par 5s so you can turn this course into a par 80 if you want to playing with your friends. Is this bad? Not at all!!!
The greens design is awesome and demands precision and creativity in shot making, the best shot is usually not direct to the pin but using the slopes inside and outside the huge greens. This can't be bad, it makes you think wisely every shot before hitting and thinking many times that the place where to (or where NOT TO) miss is even more important than aiming the hole.
A good example of this is par 5 4th where after a nice tee shot over the sand the safe line is way left to have a clear 3rd shot which can even be putted (I did so!) but if going to the pin you have to carry extra club (and you will need many yards by air) allowing the slopes to bring back your ball. But if you miss short or right, you will for sure score over par.
I can say there are no weak holes and the nicest ones were all four par 3s, especially 15th where tee box is way up (same as 9th, but this one closest to the water) and a green that demands a very high shot in order to hold it. and this is not easy when hitting it into a 1 club wind in your face.
Playing the course brought to my mind many shots I remembered from the US Open:
- 16th: that shanked iron from Branden Grace that cost him the Tournament!
- 18th: there is a plaque where Spieth hit is second shot to the green. Also at the green there were 3 tees showing position of 4th round pin, DJ's first putt and the short one he missed. Of course greens were not as fast, but I made the first one! And the second one was close and with no break, hard to believe Dustin missed it.
- 12th is very reachable and a clear birdie/eagle chance but the green is huge and with several platforms, if you miss walk away with your par and smile!
- 7th ... that second shot up the slope is even more severe than 18th at Augusta National.
- 17th were Jordan made double .... the view from the US Open tee is intimidating!
We wanted to be challenged and played almost 7200yds, lathough windy as the fairways rolled firm and fast and many tee boxesare elevated, it doesn´t play that long. And the fact of using the tip tees is that you get the best views from each hole and the entire course.
After finishing and lunch everybody went back to hotel to rest after a demanding round of golf... but although being VERY tired I went for 9 more and replayed the back 9. It is that good and for sure deserves another chance hosting the big event. With new greens and the experience of 2015 absorved, it will be a blast.
Again, before saying this course is a bad one, go and play it. And let it be at least 2 rounds. It is excellent, one of the most fun I have experienced. And a perfect warm up for some days at Bandon Dunes. Chambers Bay rocks and really hard!
I can't think of a modern course that has been so controversial and has such a wide range of ratings. Some have argued it is too wild, while others say the wildness makes it the most fun course they've ever played. The greens were not their best during the U.S. Open, but I've heard they are now much better.
No one can say the scenery is anything less than spectacular.
I think the course is underrated. I think it is better than Streamsong Blue and Red, but it won't get ranked that high because of some of the wild greens. If they toned down some of the greens, it is a Top 50 course.
The fairways are very wide and the greens are big. It is playable and fun for the high handicap, but challenging to the scratch golfer. The perfect combo.
This is a follow-up to my previous reviews from 7 years ago. I was remiss in not giving an update from 2015 as I was a walking scorer at the US Open.
I walked inside the ropes Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Sunday. I was the scorer for Rory McIroy for his amazing Sunday round. What a thrill!
Sadly, the USGA let the course get out of hand. When I stopped by on Tuesday to scout the place out, I was stunned. It was already in Sunday condition. Toasted! I was like "Oh my gosh, the USGA has a problem on its hands." So sadly, Chamber did not show itself well. And I will tell you the greens looked much worse on TV than they did inside the ropes.
I have also played Chamber 10+ times as I used to live in Seattle. I am also a Links Ticket Holder in St Andrews. And I have played the likes of Muirfield (2x), Carnoustie (2x), and Royal Dornoch (4x). Yes, I am a links golf geek!
So what do I have to say about Chambers? Honestly, to me it is the most fun golf course I have ever played ANYWHERE. Even Tiger commented "You can play every hole 4-5 different ways." What fun! To have so many options and can allow your creativity to come out as you can have fun trying to play different shots. But also be prepared for a very challenging walk.
Well said! Chambers is so much fun to play, and that's considering that the greens were still bad as of June 2017. My daughter's husband was stationed at nearby Ft. Lewis and I played Chambers 8 times in 4 visits to the area. After playing it the first time, I had no desire to play any other courses in the area. I'm sure there are some fine courses, but why pass on Chambers Bay?! When they get the greens figured out, its going to be fantastic! Definately a 6/6!
With the US Open starting today, I thought a review of my recent round at Chambers Bay would be appropriate. The views of Puget sound are delightful—one of only four US courses I can think of where one can see the ocean from every hole (Fisher’s Island, Trump Los Angeles and Wanumetonomy being the others).
But all this talk about it being more like an Open Championship course doesn’t feel right to me. Yes, it’s by the sea, and yes it’s sand-based, but you won’t find this kind of elevation change on the Open rota. Moreover, since Trent Jones has provided relatively few opportunities to play running shots into greens, the aerial game traditionally favored in US Opens will again be prevalent here.
That said, there are other links-like challenges here, most notably the fescue, the heavily contoured greens and the strategy required to deliver the tee ball to the location where it offers the best approach to the green. There are a number of splendid holes—for me they included the 10-12 stretch along with 4, 7, 9, 17 and 18. Number 2 was also fun, but I could find no resemblance to Dornoch’s dogleg right, plateau green hole from which it takes its name.
While purists will note that Jones moved huge amounts of dirt, he did a fine job routing the course. Holes run in all directions, creating additional challenges in the usual windy conditions. The course has had conditioning problems (a number of greens were closed throughout 2014), but seems to have solved that problem for now, though I did see a fair amount of poa annua—a surprising phenomenon for such a new course.
This is hardly the ideal municipal course and would be a tough one to play every day—more so, in my view, than the 136 slope from the middle tees indicates. Nonetheless, if you’re willing to be beaten up by knee-high, plenty of bunkers,and wild chips and putts, it can make for an excellent golf experience.