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.
The 18 holes at Chambers Bay lie between water and a steep hillside and a fair amount of earth was moved from the latter to fashion dune shapes and fairway corridors during construction. The resulting links-like layout is very free flowing with pleasant changes in elevation throughout the round.
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.
Chambers Bay played host to the 2010 US Amateur Championship, which Peter Uihlein won. In 2015, the U.S. Open came to Chambers Bay stopping in the Pacific Northwest for the first time in the tournament’s 115-year history.
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.
I played Chambers Bay during winter conditions (on a mild enough day). My only real knowledge of the course prior to this were from reviews online and the TV coverage at the 2015 US Open.
Arriving at the course, I was captivated by the panoramic view from the cliff beside the clubhouse. The grounds are expansive and you can see it all and more from this vantage point. It certainly adds to the anticipation levels.
Firstly, let’s focus on improvements. There was of course criticism of the greens at the US Open in 2015, both in terms of surface and the severity of some of the slopes. The course now boasts newly planted poa annua greens replacing the previous fescue surfaces. There is no doubt these greens are now top level putting surfaces. The only question would be whether they are in keeping with the links feel the layout leans towards. I would need to play it in summer to truly decide that but I was impressed with the condition I found them in.
The most striking thing about this course is the elevation changes and the apparent severity of some of the contouring around the green sites. In parts, this contouring was also criticised after the US Open. Work has been done on a number of holes to lessen the severity of the green shapes and run offs, most notably at the 7th and shows a policy of continual improvement on behalf of the management committee.
Turning to my views on playing the course, I have to say I really loved it. It is boisterous, bold and in your face and asks lots of tough questions. I knew all the holes before I played them from T.V. footage but I was more impressed by some of the feature holes than I thought I might be and a number of the weaker holes had more character than I had expected.
The Redan hole at the 3rd is a well framed example, although I didn’t get the pleasure of playing the hole with a back left flag. Hole 7 is one of the toughest par 4’s you’ll play in the world, with the uphill elevation change adding at least two clubs on to the 482 yards. Hole 9 is an incredible par 3 with the elevation drop to the green even more spectacle than can be appreciated on TV.
The back nine is even more memorable as a collection of holes with the standout being the run 15-17 and the par 4 10th played down towards the Puget Sound. My least favoured hole resides on this nine however, the driveable par 4 12th. For me, the green is too severe and the uphill tee shot is quite frankly, the dullest on the course. It may be a little harsh but I imagine you would play that hole a lot of times with similar results to the same flags. I think it tries to be a memorable feature hole but for me, it is memorable for the wrong reasons.
Overall this is a wonderful golf course and a unique test in terms of courses I have played in the USA. I note it is just outside the USA top 100 courses right now. I think with the change to the green surfaces and subtle changes to a couple of the green sites, this may well make its way back in there in the coming years.
Chambers Bay is located in a former sand & gravel quarry abutting the picturesque Pugent Sound, and is owned by the local Pierce Council.
The course plays like a links course with firm fescue fairways & greens, and some gorgeous red fescues waving in the rough.
Some holes proceed through enormous dunes reminiscent of Ballybunion, or the back nine at Tralee - others run along Pugent Sound a la Whistling Straits. Others still head up and down the side of the quarry, and have significant elevation change.
RTJ Jnr states that he designed the course for the better player- but that anybody can play it. Maybe so, but it would be an extremely daunting course for the lesser player .
We were extremely fortunate with the weather when we played- it was warm and sunny with a light breeze- perfect for golf!
The starter advised me that the course played 400 yards longer than the card because of the elevation change so I moved forward one tee- but it really didn't work for me- I still could not reach some of the longer 4's and was was too close on a number of others to play the course as it should be played/or as I would have liked.
Chambers Bay is one of the most visually spectacular courses I have played- with eye candy everywhere, and rivalling Whistling Straits in regard to the number of waste bunkers used for cosmetic purposes- with no strategic value- even alongside teeing grounds.
But I like RTJ Jnr courses, and this is no exception. There is real variety in the holes, a nice routing, some super short 4's, excellent bunkering- and the course is very strong strategically.
I was constantly asked to make decisions about how much to take on- both on the tee shot and the approach- it is all laid out before you to decide... In this regard it reminded me a little of Kinloch in NZ- but much more scenic..
Before we played we knew the course had also garnered some criticism for being too hard on the average player, and that the greens were too severe . With my experience playing at the National GC in Australia (also RTJ), I thought the enormous greens were largely appropriate- not overdone- but testing and appropriate for a windy course.
However like the National, balls missing greens tended to "gather" in collection areas which end up being a mass of divots. This is a problem for Chambers Bay .
The elevation changes were at times significant and I found them difficult to club first up (a caddy would help!)- but obviously some experience of the course would remedy that.
My biggest issue with the course was the crazy pin positions on 12 and 13. Hole 12 is a short par 4 with a radical green as it's main defence. There is a large mound in the centre of the green and the pin was on top of that mound looking like a candle on top of a plate of icecream. You could chip or putt to 4 or 5 feet either side of the hole and roll off 20 feet.
Hole 13 is a short climbing par 5 with the green on a ledge. The back left pin was on the down slope of a steep ridge protruding into and dividing the green (with a drop off behind). I looked at these 2 holes from every which way, trying to see what the architect was asking, and concluded they were two of the silliest pins I had ever seen!
I can certainly see why the course could be considered controversial for a US Open- with slick greens and anything more than a gentle zephyr off Pugent Sound... But overall this is a gorgeous looking course that everyone should aspire to play. I certainly hope to play again one day. It was exciting, demanding, controversial, spectacular, and fun to play.
Notable holes include:
- the long par 4 opening hole (Pugent Sound),which heads off toward Pugent Sound, setting the scene for a spectacular day's golf
- the short par 3 third hole (Blown Out), which is impressively bunkered
- the uphill par 5 fourth hole (Hazard's Ascent), which plays to a green high in the dunescape protected by acres of sand
- the magnicent par 3 ninth hole (Olympus) is a drop shot par 3 with dramatic bunkering and knockout views
- the par 4 tenth hole (High Dunes), hemmed in by dunes either side of the fairway- and narrowing as you go
- hole 14 (Cape Fear), a dogleg par 4 where picking the line off the tee is paramount
- hole 15 (Lone Fir), an attractive short par 3 with acres of bunkering to carry and Pugent Sound as a backdrop
- hole 17 (Derailed), another attractive par 3 along the sound
Chambers Bay cannot be ignored. It could be a beast to play in any sort of conditions, and not everyone will love it. But it is spectacular, unique, and with the right mindset- outrageous fun! A must play.
Peter Wood is the founder of The Travelling Golfer – click the link to read his full review.
After watching the 2015 US Open, I put Chambers Bay on the bucket list of courses I wanted to play. For me, the 2015 US Open is one of the most memorable major championships from the last ten years. It was nice to put into context all the shots I remembered while playing the course.
I really enjoyed Chambers Bay, especially the finishing stretch from 14-18 and really the entire back nine. The course had wide fairways and offered different avenues of play. There were many holes where you could be aggressive off the tee with driver to cut off distance but taking on a bunker or a more narrow part of the fairway. You did not want to be in the fairway bunkers or in the long grass approaching elevated firm greens. I could see how a high handicapper could struggle here as there is a lot of elevation change and missing the fairways is quite punishing.
12 - Driveable Par 4 that was very memorable from the US Open. Green sits between the dunes and can be used as a punch bowl to funnel the ball onto the green. However, the green is very large with many contours so 2-putts are difficult.
15 - Beautiful par 3 with the bay in the background. One of the shorter par 3s however you are playing downhill and into the wind off the bay which makes distance control very difficult.
18 - Risk / Reward Par 5. If you want to get home in 2, you have to take on all the bunkers. Any layups must take the deep bunker in the center of the fairway out of play. The green has many contours that split it into 3 areas and the pin position could change your plan of attack.
I’m a bit late writing this review. I played Chambers Bay in September 2016 so things may have changed in the nearly four years since then. I hope so. It wasn’t the course, it was the experience.
Having hosted the US Open the year before we had the highest of expectations and because we were in Seattle on a trip I convinced my loving wife that the bus and taxi to get us to Chambers Bay would be worth the organisational difficulties. Even though my wife does not play! No, but she knows golf well and is perfectly happy sitting in the clubhouse having a cup of tea and reading her book. If you wonder why I’ve never managed to convince her to join me on the course it is because of her severe arthritis that can give her great pain in her feet and hips. Walking is difficult. Where golf carts are available she will often be my driver although I have to watch out she doesn’t run over me whilst looking for my ball. No golf carts at Chamber Bay.
In regards to the course, yes the greens were bad simply in terms of pace. A downhill putt on the last stuck on the downslope and didn’t run down that’s how slow they were. It was very frustrating to have to smash every putt.
I was playing with some higher handicappers who were struggling somewhat with their pace of play. I play relatively quickly but we got hassled by the staff who wanted us to speed up. I don’t mind that they are asking for play to be faster but having one of the staff asking my handicap, 7, and then being told, “Well that’s more like 16 around here!” It’s not. The slope adjusted number is 9 and in fact Chambers Bay has the same slope rating, i.e. degree of difficulty as my home course. I didn’t find it harder except for the greens being so hard to putt on. We were asked to change to more forward tees and even though I had paid a large sum to play I (reluctantly) agreed. But I wasn’t having any trouble from the tee I was playing from.
It did take us well over five hours to get around which at my home course is unacceptable. I don’t think I was a cause but it was a problem. However that was not the overriding nor unforgettable memory from Chambers Bay.
The clubhouse was a temporary and very small building. I would guess that four years on something more appropriate has been built. When I finally got back I found my wife in tears having been told to leave the venue because they had a wedding booked and there was nowhere for her to sit. She couldn’t find a seat indoors or outdoors and had to stand for three hours in great pain waiting for me to finish. She got no relief until we were leaving in the taxi.
It was such a bad experience that I cannot recommend that anyone ever go there.
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.
Excellent anecdote about the hospitality of the staff at Chambers. That does not surprise me. They have always been top notch. Kudos
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!