Set within the rolling hills on Washington State University’s Pullman campus, the 18-hole layout at Palouse Ridge Golf Club is a bold, dramatic design that emanated from the drawing board of architect John Harbottle III and it’s the home course of the university’s Cougar golf teams.
The course replaced an old 9-hole layout dating back to 1925, which had two sets of tees for every hole, but it measured less than 6,000 yards (with a course rating of 65.4 against a par of 72 and a very low slope of 110) so it was hardly likely to ever challenge anyone other than a recreational golfer.
The old track was closed in 2006, before the bulldozers moved in to fashion the new $12 million course on part of the same site and on adjacent land acquired for the redevelopment. Two years later, on 29th August 2008 to be precise, the new course made its much-anticipated debut.
The 589-yard 5th is a very tough par five, with a broad swathe of wetland area cutting across the fairway at a diagonal angle. The offset green is slightly raised and well protected by bunkers so only the most precise approach shots will hit and hold the putting surface.
The back nine – configured with three par threes, three par fours and three par fives – plays shorter than the outward half and it concludes with back-to-back par fives, the second of which doglegs sharply left and uphill to a tiered green that’s benched into a hill in front of the clubhouse.
The issue for Palouse Ridge is its lack of visibility being located in the southeastern area of Washington State. The design is the handiwork from the late John Harbottle who tragically died suddenly in 2012 and his work is likely not known to many. The facility is owned by Washington State University and is located on rolling terrain that clearly provides a wide range of topography for golfers to both enjoy and overcome with shotmaking prowess.
One of the real virtues of the course is the constant change of pace. The flow never stays in any predictable pattern and the golfer must need to constantly adjust to the different situations encountered with balls that are both above and below one's feet.
Interestingly, Palouse Ridge has five par-5 and five par-3 holes. Usually, situations of this type can be a most difficult exercise as such holes can often feature a true weakness in either of the par designations. That's not the case here -- the variety is good.
Harbottle worked under Pete Dye before branching out on his own and his work includes a flair of the old time layouts from Scotland mixed with a modern day connection. To his considered credit -- there is no forced usage of concepts that would work in opposite ways to the quality of the land itself. Blending naturally is a strong suit at Palouse Ridge. The vistas of the property also add to the enjoyment of the round.
Many golfers may not be aware of the caliber of golf to be found in the eastern half of Washington. The recent additions of Gamble Sands in Brewster and the top tier Wine Valley in Walla Walla are clearly gems to visit. One can head to nearby Spokane and enjoy a few of the layouts there with the Chandler Egan layout at Indian Canyon a worthy inclusion.
Be prepared to play your best right from the outset. The outward nine is both demanding and beguiling. The terrain flows like an ocean on a stormy day and the juxtaposition of the bunkering and green contours is done very well. There are no shortcuts on this half of the course. If you have a weakness in one's game it will be unearthed.
Palouse Ridge finishes in an interesting manner. In the final five holes you encounter two par-5's, a tantalizing shot par-3 and two relatively short par-4 holes that are clear birdie opportunities if wise execution occurs. Smartly, Harbottle gives players an opportunity to recover lost shots made earlier in the round. The mixture of the holes is quite good given the limited amount of land in this corner of the property.
by M. James Ward