For generations, the Gebbers family have been well known in Brewster and far beyond for their commitment to fruit farming (they own one of the largest orchards on the edge of the Okanogan Valley) but a decision was made in the new millennium to diversify their agricultural operations using around 120 acres of a 1,000-acre tract on top of a sandy mesa that overlooks the Columbia River Valley three hundred feet below.
David McLay Kidd was entrusted with the design of the Sands course and his reputed budget of only two million dollars to construct and grass the holes, which is way below the average cost of building an 18-hole layout these days, was put to good use as he fashioned firm and fast fairways and installed massive fescue putting surfaces. It helped to have pure sand to work with, of course, which took drainage issues out of the equation.
Off the fairways, there are extensive areas of desert scrub and long, snaking native-sand bunkers so looking for lost balls in knee-high rough is not going to happen here. The property has one main canyon running through it but there are only two short forced carries across desert washes to contend with. Walking is encouraged though, for those who decide to ride, there are no restrictive cart paths that have to be adhered to.
Apart from the three wonderful short par fours at the 2nd, 8th and 12th, feature holes here include par fives at the double doglegged 6th (where the tee shot is blind) and the wickedly contoured 13th (with two huge bunkers on its right flank). The downhill 6th is the toughest of the par threes, measuring all of 265 yards from the back tees – at least there’s a bail out short and right for those who can’t fly the ball all the way to the green.
DMK Golf Design added a 14-hole short
course, called Quicksands, to the existing eighteen at Gamble Sands in 2020; it's due to debut in spring 2021. According to David McLay Kidd: “It will spill out of the clubhouse and meander across some fantastic sand
hills before returning to the clubhouse.”
Gamble Sands, designed by David McLay Kidd has received much praise. It deserves its recognition as one of the most fun courses one will play.
There is much to like here including a very good routing that moves in all directions. The course presents a visual spectacle both from the holes themselves and the distant views across the valley to the river, the small town below, and the surrounding hills. There are many good holes here due to the blowout bunkers, an excellent use of holes across the significant change in land forms, and a good variety of yardages across the pars. The green complexes are interesting with large rises, false fronts and interior movement even if some of the greens are slightly flattish.
The course is designed to play firm and fast leading to favorable rollouts.
The green complexes offer ample options from just off most of the greens whether using a putter, a wedge or something else.
On the negative side, the course is perhaps too easy as indicated by its slope rating of 120 from its longest tees which led my playing partner and I to wonder if players praise it a bit higher than it deserves due to shooting a low score. The fairways are very wide and rarely is one penalized by landing on the wrong side. Even the eighteenth which features a substantial fall-off down the left side that can leave one’s ball perhaps 60 yards farther away from the intended line is not overly punitive as one can easily reach the green in three given the downhill nature of the hole. I also felt that the majority of the holes lacked strategy and decision-making as to alternatives until one was greenside. The greenside bunkers are not overly difficult fitting with the idea of ensuring the course is not overly punitive.
The course did have a lot of dead grass/bumps around the collars of the front nine of the greens. These disappeared on the back nine and I assumed they are slowly fixing each hole one-by-one. In general the greens play slow.
The course plays 7227 yards from the Medal tees, par 72 rated 73.4/120. From the Back tees the course is 6664 yards rated 70.7/114. There are three sets of lesser tees and one combination tee called the Sands. We were fortunate to be paired with a member as well as a friend of his who have played the course for many years. Their insight into the course did serve us well.
1. Par 4 – 506/397. The beginning hole is a fine dogleg left with the first view of the large bunkers on both the left and right. The ideal line is to the right side of the fairway for a better view of the green, however going left shortens the hole and if one walks out to the fairway to see the green it becomes a relatively simple shot into the green. I felt this hole might penalize the longer player if they played from the Back tees. There is another large bunker right of the hole. The first green is large and not overly complicated.
2. Par 4 – 340/297. This short hole is fun with a center-line bunker about 50 yards from the green. The green has a small bunker on the right while the entire left side and rear is also bunkered, sitting perhaps three feet below the putting surface. The green sits off the fairway to the left. This is a prime example of what makes Gamble Sands a fun course because the hole is lovely from the tee with a beautiful backdrop as the green is perched on the top of the hill before the land falls away. This is also one’s first look at the Columbia River which resembles more a lake given its width. This is one of the few holes where Mr. Kidd has one make a strategic decision if one is slightly longer off the tee. For shorter hitters this is a more routine golf hole.
3. Par 5 – 632/623. The tee plays over a forced carry as the land falls away from the tee. One has to carry this drop-off and the fronting bunker to the fairway which feels like it is a dogleg right off the tee but is actually a straight shot once one picks their line. Picking a line more to the left and being able to carry the bunker will lead to a favorable roll-out as the hole goes downhill after the large bunker. The remainder of the hole plays uphill. There is a bunker further up on the left that pinches into the fairway. This is one of the rare fairways that Mr. Kidd narrows at the area where the average player likely wants to land their second shot. The green complex features a deep bunker on the left about 15 yards from the green and a tiny almost pot-like bunker on the right front corner. This green is thin but relatively simple going slightly to the right with not a lot of tilt.
4. Par 3 – 165/161. The tee box has one play over a forced carry of a long bunker the length of the hole that runs down the right side. It sits about 3 feet below the fairway/green. The green is expertly sited as if it sits on a peninsula. A small, but deep bunker is just off the right middle of the green. The green wraps itself around the left bunker creating a much easier front pin position than a rear position. There are some swales in the green but they are not excessive. My partner went through the green nearly into the rough behind the green but chipped in for a birdie to a tough pin position middle right. I played to the left middle of the green away from the danger for an easier look at birdie. This is a nice par 3 due to the infinity-like look behind the hole as the green is placed at the edge of the fall-off to the valley below.
5. Par 4 – 501/483. My partner and I felt this to be the poorest designed hole on the course but others might disagree. Much like the third one plays over a forced carry of lower ground/scrub with a long fronting bunker before the fairway that goes all the way behind the green on the right. As this is a more pronounced dogleg one wants to carry the dogleg as much as possible. However, the correct line is to go as far left as one dares but yet right of the rise in the land that you can see. Cutting this dogleg more to the left really leads to nothing as most balls will run downhill and end up in a lower section of the fairway to the right anyway from 190-140 yards from the green. The closer one gets to the green the more even the shot for the green as further out will have a downhill/sidehill lie. From the right side the green is bracketed by a large mound creating a blind shot into a relatively thin green from that angle. That long bunker fronts the mound so one must carry the mound or be left with a shot in the bunker to go over a mound perhaps as high as 20 feet to that thin green. Complicating matters is a somewhat big bunker on the left front of the green. It is nearly impossible to hit an approach shot from that collection area on the right side of the fairway over the mound and hold the green without going into the bunker or going into the mound on the left side of the green where a bad lie/scrub awaits. The proper play off the tee is that left side for a view into the green although it is also not likely to be a straight view. For longer hitters that left line also has a bunker at the turn in the fairway. We felt the mound on the right of the green was a bit too high although certainly a mound enhances the hole while the bunker on the front left should be removed as it is too punitive and not in keeping with the spirit of the course.
6. Par 3 – 264/230. The longest par 3 comes next. The hole plays downhill with a large bunker running down the left side. On the right side is a very wide landing zone and steep hill. We were instructed to hit far to the right as the slope of the land would take a ball onto the green. My playing partner hit it so far right off the tee he picked up his tee and was about to put his club in his bag shaking his head at a bad shot when our companions said “here it comes.” His ball ended up about 10 feet from the flag. In sum, you can hit it as far right as you want off the tee here which makes the hole a bit too easy. The best feature of the hole is a green that has decent interior movement.
7. Par 4 – 493/456. This is arguably the best par 4 on the property playing down and turning right. One must avoid the long bunker on the right and the bunker on the left that comes into the fairway and is fairly deep. There is a small center-line bunker about 90 yards from the green. There is a deep bunker on the left about 30 yards from the green that I did not think was necessary. A final long bunker starts on the right about 40 yards from the green eating into the front right half of the green. The green is influenced by this bunker on the right that effectively splits the right half into two pieces. I really liked this hole for its visual attractiveness and clever green.
8. Par 4 – 310/305. Much like the second, this short par 4 plays to the edge of the fall-off to the valley. This hole features three staggered center-line bunkers as well as a long sand/grass bunker off to the left just short of the green. A final bunker is placed off to the right roughly equal to the second center-line bunker for those trying to play out to the right of them. I went into the second center-line bunker but as the narrow green sits slightly below you I was able to hit it onto the green and have a decent look at birdie. I suspect Mr. Kidd ran out of room here and did what he could with the bunkering to make the hole more interesting. The green is one of the better shaped greens with a spine coming halfway through on the right, although not as pronounced as some others.
9. Par 4 – 421/380. This is another dogleg right. The green and tenth tee box are the farthest from the clubhouse as this is not a course where the front nine returns to the clubhouse. This hole features flanking bunkers at the landing zone where he narrows the fairway to the green. The bunker on the right continues down the right side of the fairway and green. The green is wonderfully angled to the right consistent with the shape of the hole with a lot of room to miss to the left for a chance at recovery. Once again the hole ends with a look down across the valley. I thought this to be one of the better holes on the course.
10. Par 3 – 147/132. The par 3’s are good at Gamble Sands. Although this one lacks the drama of the fourth with a carry, it is not as forgiving as the sixth. One has to hit a good tee shot here. There is a lot of sand down the right side that fronts most of the green making the tee shot a forced carry. Sand is also down the left side beginning halfway there coming into the left middle of the green. The green appeared almost multi-tiered to me although not overly so. The green is shaped in three sections that bulge out. From the tee this is a very attractive golf hole.
11. Par 4 – 426/402. From a higher point for the tee one plays down and want to avoid the long bunker on the left with a small bunker at its end placed inside the fairway. There is more than enough room to go left of these two bunkers. The longer hitters will fly these bunkers. There is a long, irregular blowout bunker down the left side but it is really only for eye candy. The green is odd shaped, angled to the left and shaped like a peanut. There is a middle front bunker and one at the rear placed before a rise of scrub. It is an okay hole due to that interesting shape of the green.
12. Par 4 – 327/296. The final short par 4 is next. One needs to avoid the blowout bunker on the right as well as the very small center-line bunker. However, once again there is ample room to the left of these two bunkers. The green complex features a long and wide green with a small bunker front right and a very large bunker going down most of the left side. The left greenside bunker needs to be avoided but should be easily done given the length of the approach shot. This hole does offer a decision for the longer player as to whether to drive the green.
13. Par 5 – 562/538. I liked this par 5 playing gently to the right for its entirety. Another large blowout bunker goes down the right side. Mr. Kidd adds another center-line bunker in play for the average length player’s second shot but once again there is ample room to miss it to either side. About 15 yards short of the green is a bunker on the right that comes halfway across the fairway with an opposing bunker on the left just off the fairway. The green is very long and raised to the back but also mimics a punchbowl. There is a lot of short grass around the green.
14. Par 4 – 445/393. This hole might be the most fun on the course as it has long bunkers beginning almost from the tee on either side with the left side bunker being very wide. This bunker ends with a separate bunker that somewhat comes into the fairway. The green is placed behind a bunker that cuts across the front half right of the green and continues down the right side. Another bunker on the left begins about 60 yards before the green going down half of the left side. This fairway has some decent ripples and rolls in it leading and longer hitters can get reasonably close to the hole. The green has good interior contours leading to my only three putt of the day although my partner birdied it.
15. Par 4 – 470/453. We felt this to be the hardest hole on the back nine, although the fourteenth is rated harder. You play over a valley to a slight rise in the fairway with the hole turning right but with the green set off to the left. There is scrub and bushes off the left side that one can hit into off the tee as they try to avoid the long bunker angling into the fairway coming from the right. There is a very long bunker beginning 120 yards from the green on the left that comes into play as it creeps into the fairway offset by a small bunker on the right which narrows the fairway all the way to the green. The green has sand on both sides and is raised at the back. This is not only a hard hole but a good one.
16. Par 3 – 220/193. We felt this only to be a long hole with a long waste bunker on the left that does not come into play as well as a bunker on the right 20 yards short of the green that also is likely not often in play. The more problematic bunker is a small one on the front left corner of this green which is thinner at the front before widening. It is a somewhat standard hole.
17. Par 4 – 420/411. You tee off uphill over a short waste area with sand down the entirety of the right side continuing beyond the green. This is a semi-blind tee shot. There is a large blowout bunker on the left coming into the fairway. This is a more difficult hole for the longer player as the fairway tightens closer to the hole. A final central bunker fronts the raised green which has a larger right side and good internal movement. There is ample short grass behind the green.
18. Par 5 – 578/514. The finishing hole offers a broad fairway with a central vertical spine dictating a fall-off down the left side with the right side having a much more favorable roll-out. As the hole is downhill either way one will get a nice roll forward. There is sand down the entity of the right side as well as higher ground as the green is in a bit of a bowl. A final center-line bunker is about 95 yards from the green. One can roll their ball onto the green from the right side whereas the left side has a bunker wrapping itself around much of the rear. There are small swales and rises in the green. This hole is more visually appealing than difficult.
I do not think that Gamble Sands is the best golf course in Washington. I would place it in the top five and give the nod to Wine Valley which also features a links-like experience, better greens. Wine Valley’s routing and design yields a better championship test of golf. I do think Gamble Sands is the number one course for fun but it is not a championship golf course due to being too easy unless the wind is very high. For average length players too many of the holes are devoid of strategy. It is the longer hitters that have to be concerned with some of the tighter fairways due to the placement of the bunkers. Seattle Golf Club is nearly its equal in fun. Gamble Sands emphasizes both visually appealing golf holes as well as the surrounding beautiful vistas. I would certainly place Gamble Sands ahead of Chambers Bay which suffers from too many overly contrived architectural features and has several holes on land unsuited for golf. Sahalee, Aldarra and Tumble Creek are more of a test of golf with Aldarra and Tumble Creek nearly the equal in visual appeal, just not as consistent due to more trees or holes on lower ground.
Gamble Sands is a course that one should make the pilgrimage to play. My itinerary took me to Seattle, then out to Spokane, then back to Cle Elum, over to Tacoma, down to Walla Walla, then back to Spokane before heading up to Brewster. That was followed by a drive to Portland. All of that driving was worth it to play Gamble Sands. While a par 3 course has been added (Quicksand) which we played, I do think another course and more lodging would elevate this even higher as one of the top destinations for golf in the USA. I certainly place in high in my list of most fun golf courses to play. When including the visual appeal of the course, it is a must-course to play.
The course is very strategic, plays fast and firm, and is loads of fun to play. After the round, I was wishing I could play again after struggling the first round despite striking the ball very well. I found myself falling into the traps designed by the course architect and turning birdie opportunities into bogies. Given another round, I think I would put the ball in better spots around the course and use the slopes around the greens to get the ball close. I highly recommend getting the yardage book and using the tips listed. A few memorable holes from the round:
1 - The opening dogleg left par 4 immediately shows the strategy it takes to play Gamble Sands. A drive down the left leaves you with a blind approach over a dune while an approach from the left side of the fairway opens up the green and gives you a look at the flag.
6 - A 260 yard par 3 from the back tees that plays way shorter. Any ball right and short of the green will use a giant slope to feed the ball onto the green. Trust the yardage book and aim well right of the green.
13 - A reachable par 5 that features a blind approach shot into a large punch bowl green.
Gamble Sands is perhaps David Kidd’s return to what made him famous at Bandon Dunes with that minimalist links like approach to golf. Some call Gamble Sands feel good golf and while that might depend on the tees you choose one thing is certain, there is plenty of space and shortgrass out there. The fairways are very wide but the visuals are excellent, the bunker shaping fits perfectly into the Eastern Washington dune country. There are wonderful views looking down onto the Columbia River as well.
If fun golf is the kind of golf that delivers personal best rounds for many players and provides the kind of fun that makes you want to return then I’d say that pretty much hits the mark for Gamble Sands. It plays very firm and fast and that may be new for many PNW players, especially if they haven’t been to Bandon or Chambers Bay. This firm and fast makes the course play a lot shorter than what’s on the card. However, it opens up options to use the ground game and percentage wise this doesn’t happen often enough in the US.
I was told they are looking at designing another 18 holes here in Brewster which is great news and a win for feel good golf. They have perfect country for it out there. As far away as it felt from everything I was amazed at how many people were there and they all had one thing in common as far as I could tell. They were having a great time.
Sounds like a combination suited for success if you ask me.
The course throws pretty much everything at you, Reachable 5’s, cut off as much as you can chew risk reward lines, drivable par 4’s, heroic shots and tons of choices. Greens are huge and roll very nicely. There are plenty of backboards to be creative with and as long as you are not in one of the bunkers or waste areas you can pretty much putt from anwhere around the greens which helps to make it fun for all hcp levels.
If I were to be critical of one thing it would be the lack of internal movement in the greens. They are huge greens but for someone that loves putting there are not so many compelling putts out there.
I highly recommend a visit and think it’s fun for everyone. If you have one of your best rounds ever, great, let us know!
Just completed a recent trip of St Joseph CC, Wild Horse (NE), Gamble Sands, Manito CC (Spokane), Chambers Bay, and Sahalee. Of all those courses if your forced me to pick a favorite it would be Gamble Sands. What a fantastic golf course. My brother and I played 36 this past Sunday and also stayed at the INN and did the 18 hole course on the gigantic practice green. The course itself is routed perfectly and has sets of tees that make it very difficult and very playable. We played the Sands tees for our first round out and it was windy. The wind plays a huge factor in how this course plays. It was very difficult under windy conditions. In the afternoon the wind died down quite a bit and we played the green tees and the course was borderline easy. Either way depending on conditions, they will have a set of tees that will fit most golfers to where they can enjoy their round regardless of skill level.
The conditioning was also superb. Obviously it is a very firm course, but there is not a lot of gimmicky stuff like you may see at Chambers Bay. Its all right in front of you. David Mcklay Kidd did a wonderful job with this fantastic piece of property. There is a good amount of sand and waste areas, however, it looks very natural and is not overdone like a Robert Trent Jones Jr course. The bunkers are located in the proper spots and there is nothing added that would be considered unnecessary.
The views are a sight to see. The sun going down over the mountains and the Columbia River will take your mind off everything even if you aren't having a good round. So worth the experience and I would encourage anyone to go despite the location.
Played 36 holes (07/16) and I have to say it is a fantastic piece of property with a really fun golf course laid out over top of it.
Played the first morning round with a twosome and another single (really good guys) and we played from the greens at 6200yd and then I went back out at lunch time and played from the 6700yd orange tees. Definitely a more enjoyable course from 6700, but it is still good fun from the greens, just a few too many 9s and PWs from there.
The turf was awesome, most linksy turf of any course I've played that wasn't Bandon or a heathland/links course in the UK/Ireland. The playing conditions worked great with the course layout to enable you to play whatever type of shot you visualized. As someone who draws the ball (R to L) I felt the course set up more advantageously for that shot shape than the reverse. Not excessively so, maybe 60/40 or 70/30. Great to see a course touted as 'walkable' that genuinely was.
Looks like DMK has learned some valuable lessons from his show how clever he is phase at The Castle Course, Stonebrae, Tetherow. Going the C&C route, puts Gamble Sands way closer to his Bandon effort than the others.
Very few criticisms about the course, except that there are likely one or two too many 'reachable' holes out there. 3 par 4s reachable off the tee and 2 par 5s reachable in two removes some of the neatness/uniqueness of being able to reach such holes IMHO. #8 should probably have its teebox pushed back 30-40yds. I'm not a long hitter by any means and reached them 8/10 times in my two rounds. There could also be a tendency for tee shots on some holes to collect in the same area. Green speeds could also stand to match the pace of the practice green; however, I understand they have to be protective of the speeds for when the wind comes up. The bunkers are definitely hazards and that can be taken either way really.
The course really is out in the sticks, but if you like golf and playing new courses, I think you'll be happy you made the effort.
After a 6-hour flight from Boston, I faced a long 4-hour drive to the clubhouse. In total from Cape Cod, it took us just over 13 hours to reach our destination with a 2-month-old baby in tow. On any given day, the drive out to Gamble Sands from Seattle is painful and mind numbing as you cross the Washington desert. Needless to say, my expectations for the David McLay Kidd golf course were sky-high by the time I checked in – all the hype better be worthwhile!
Before you even hit a ball, the epic elevated views of the Columbia River and nearby plantations are off the charts. The drive is completely worth it as the topography is great for golf and in abundance for as far as the eye can see.
It doesn’t take long for you to fall in love with the golf course itself, and the routing quickly offers up spectacular views. I was consistently very fond of the short par 4s, especially those with infinity backgrounds behind the green. You’re constantly changing direction and using your imagination to use the exciting slopes, some of which are of enormous scale. Despite the scale, nothing ever seemed out of proportion and I could tell that the architect successfully focused on ensuring the golfer has as much fun with the layout as possible. Fun on a golf course for me is hitting unique shots into never-before-seen topography – and Gamble Sands scores an A+ in that department.
The sheer width of the fairways is spellbinding in places as it tumbles up, down and across the beautifully undulating land. The golf at Gamble Sands is hugely enjoyable and I was delighted to hear that David McLay Kidd presented his masterplan for the second golf course in the Spring of 2018 to the land owners. The commencement of the new course will be dictated by how successful the apple/cherry farming goes to help finance the project.
I will absolutely return.
I can’t fault Gamble Sands, apart from the location, which is far from convenient – it took four hours to get here from Seattle. A quick mention about the staff, I found each and every one to be genuinely gracious without being sickly, I’ve never come across such engaging people before.
The previous reviewer has covered the holes in more than enough detail. Suffice to say there are so many good holes that you could almost discuss each and every one positively. I understand a second course may be earmarked which will make GS a destination… as it stands it’s absolutely worth the trip to play this pure fescue layout which is incredibly links like. It’s another great course from the underrated David McLay Kidd and well worthy of its ranking in the national hundred.
In the go-go days of course development in the 1990's in the United States there was a strong push to bring to fruition various golf courses where overall difficulty was the prime emphasis. The reason? Developers in their zest to outdo various competitors often gave clear instructions to hired architects -- include any and everything you can -- just be sure the course had serious teeth. What didn't dawn on those then -- but does now -- is the intense effort -- financially to keep such courses operational as enthusiasm from players waned fairly quickly.
Tougher courses only meant longer rounds -- meaning added frustration for players - in addition to numerous steps maintenance wise in order to keep such layouts going forward. Numerous architects took their cues from developers who erroneously concluded such courses would draw more players to the game -- when in actuality the reverse happened.
David McLay Kidd, a Scotsman, was a virtual unknown when tapped by course developer Mike Keiser to design Bandon Dunes which opened in 1999 -- the first of several highly successful courses to come into existence along the Pacific Ocean and Oregon coast. Keiser parlayed that success into future design projects and opted to dial-up the difficulty meter with those that followed. Kidd's work at Tetherow in 2008 -- also in Oregon -- was panned by many as overdosing on a range of super demanding elements with little room for success. I personally think the criticism was harsher than needed and that Tetherow has a number of interesting elements -- a future review will be forthcoming.
Nonetheless, Kidd recognized the pushback and opted to move his design efforts in a far different direction. Possibly impacting that desire was the feelings from Keiser -- a prime mover in resurrecting classic / fun courses -- who opted to leave Kidd on the sidelines regarding any future work together. The pair have since reunited with Keiser hiring Kidd to design the second course at Sand Valley in north central Wisconsin -- the first layout opens this summer and designed by the winning tandem of Ben Crenshaw and Bill Coore. Keiser's change of heart came about because of the effort Kidd would do for a course located in central Washington State.
In 2014 Gamble Sands Golf Club opened in Brewster, Washington on behalf of its owners the Gebbers family who had made their mark in growing world class apples and cherries. Kidd's effort involved a site 500 feet above the Columbia River Valley and richly blessed with magnificent views of the immediate area and, best of all, free of choking housing or other such eye-catching distractions. At Gamble Sands -- Mother Nature reserves the front row seat.
One of the main issues in attempting to bolster playability with any design is the slippery slope one can face because the fine line between playability and pedestrian outcomes. While the former is sought -- the latter can easily take hold with shots and holes that are nothing more than rudimentary and lacking any real purpose. Elasticity -- while rightly praised -- is quite hard to achieve when factoring in different levels of players.
Gamble Sands provides more than enough width on nearly all of its holes. The impact of wind is certainly present and having fairway corridors too narrow would only inhibit players and limit strategic calculations. However, width does not mean automatic acceptance of just any shot. Kidd imbued Gamble Sands with preferred angles and with green contours -- while nowhere near the ruthlessness seen at Tetherow -- possess the subtlest of twists and turns.
The opening hole at Gamble Sands is a splendid starter. The fairway turns left and the longer one drives the ball the greater the need to keep the ball away from bunkers which pinch in the drive zone.
The 2nd is a solid risk / reward hole. The Columbia River valley frames the backrdrop and the player must decide how aggressive to be on a hole just over 300 yards. Driveable -- yes. Easily done? Not at all.
At the uphill blind 3rd -- you encounter a 633-yard par-5 that requires three solid shots to get to the green which is well-protected by a pesky greenside bunker.
Providing for fairway ground movement is best seen at the long par-4 5th. The hole is grand in its scale -- a slight dog-leg right of 517 yards but if one's tee shot is played correctly can take advantage of the fairway contour and gain appreciable distance. The greensite is superbly done -- blocked from view if too close to the right side -- long and somewhat narrow with two bunkers flanking for the pull or pushed approach. It is the kind of hole one can easily envision in Scotland or Ireland.
The same happens so well at the 265-yard par-3 6th. On its face the overall distance might seem overwhelming but once again the opportunity to use the terrain to one's advantage is available -- provided the shot is shaped accordingly from right-to-left.
The short 8th at 313 yards is another well done hole with choices at the tee -- deciding what line of attack works best to a narrow green that accepts only well executed approaches.
The inward half of holes has less of the rolling terrain experienced on the outbound side but the various greensites employed on the final nine holes is particularly well thought out. Kidd consistently provides ample fairways but should players opt to get as much distance as possible they will need to be even straighter and favor certain sides to provide the best angle for one's approach. On a few of the holes you encounter bottleneck fairways -- not really impacting the shorter hitter but clearly forcing the longer hitter to be most aware of what lies ahead at all times.
The split fairway at the par-4 14th is well crafted and is followed by an equally daunting long par-4 at 467 yards at the 15th that's usually played into the prevailing wind. I especially enjoyed the uphill blind tee shot at the 17th -- there's a tendency to err more towards the left side but the reality is to do otherwise and favor the right. Again, Kidd protects the hole with a bottleneck fairway that's served by a solitary bunker on the left side. The putting surface is raised and has several different pin locations where corner placements will only intensity the need for a sound approach.
The par-5 18th provides a good opportunity for a closing birdie -- even eagle try -- but it lacks a bit more drama given the resourcefulness Kidd has consistently demonstrated with the other holes played prior to it.
Hats off to superintendent Chip Gaswell and his staff in having as firm and fast turf as possible. The playing conditions add wonderfully to the spirit of the architecture. Knowing how to make shots -- calculating both flight and roll is central to any success. Amazingly, Gamble Sands is one of several courses in the immediate area of eastern Washington that have opened in the last several years that are well worth exploring and include Wine Valley in the Walla Walla area and Palouse Ridge in Pullman. A multiple course itinerary works very well and there is on-site lodging available at Gamble Sands.
Fun golf was too often subverted during the last boom period of American golf construction and that price is still being impacted. Kidd skillfully created a layout where the emphasis is in providing rewards rather than bulking up on the penalty side. That doesn't mean Gamble Sands is devoid of challenging holes -- but those challenges are ones where the pain inflicted comes from a razor's cut not a swordsmen's beheading.
Getting to Brewster is no small feat for many but the areas is a fine destination for a whole host of tourism reasons. The game plan Kidd choose to follow certainly re-establishes him as an architect of note. The best testament one can say about Gamble Sands is that once the round concludes you want another go at it. Providing for smiles -- not lingering frowns is what the course does so well and what other courses in the years to come will need to emulate. Gamble Sands is a clear roadmap in which 21st century golf will need to go.
by M. James Ward
Great review, I was planning to make the drive out one of these days when I'm back visiting family and this review helps encourage that. Nice that Kidd is back on the right track and given the new opportunity with Keiser he clearly hit the nail on the head at Gamble Sands.