Laid out on high ground above the Cle Elum River, the spectacular 18-hole Tumble Creek mountain golf course is an understated Tom Doak layout that’s situated next to Suncadia Resort’s 36-hole golf complex.
Members and guests of the private Tumble Creek community enjoy privileged access to the four star resort and its two public 18-hole courses: “Prospector,” Arnold Palmer’s 2004 offering and the Jim Hardy/Peter Jacobson-designed “Rope Rider,” which opened in 2012.
In true minimalistic Tom Doak-style, very little earth was moved during construction of the course, except at the 450-yard 5th, which doglegs left down into a valley. On the back nine, back-to-back par fives precede the 405-yard 16th, a par four that veers past water on the left of the fairway to a green that’s heavily protected by sand on its right side.
Tumble Creek at Suncadia, designed by Tom Doak, is in a setting that is among the most beautiful locations I have ever played offering multiple views across a valley of the Cascade Mountains. The course is expertly routed to take advantage of both the views as well as the substantial shifts in the terrain. Due to the land movement one never feels as though they are playing a hole that is similar to what has come before resulting in each hole offering a new playing experience.
It is difficult to pick between Aldarra and Tumble Creek as to which is better but I might give a slight nod to Tumble Creek as it is more playable than Aldarra. Aldarra offers more of a challenge and has the more difficult beginning and ending to the course. Tumble Creek ends on lower ground well below the clubhouse with two rather simple holes. However, the back tee on sixteen at Tumble Creek has one of the most marvelous views I have seen on an inland course as well as the golf hole is very good. One could likely discuss the merits of both courses and whichever one favors, they are not wrong and one is picking from two very fine courses.
My other comparison of Tumble Creek was against Rock Creek Cattle Company, his other course built at elevation on hilly terrain. I think Rock Creek Cattle Company is the superior golf course due to a higher level of challenge due to more difficult driving corridors and more difficult green complexes. Both courses will penalize one if they stray too far into the woods/high grass but errant or weak shots at Rock Creek will require nearly perfect shots to have a chance at recovery whereas Tumble Creek emphasizes recovery a bit more.
Unlike several of his other courses, Mr. Doak does not have any “wild” greens at Tumble Creek. While there are several difficult greens, they are not unfair as they are more sloped with shallower internal swales. The greens reminded me of the greens at Lost Dunes in Michigan. There is a good mixture of large and small greens with many of them featuring smaller mounding alongside the green’s edges.
The course offers wide fairways for average players of length and higher handicappers. I thought the course played more difficult for the longer hitters due to the placement of the fairway bunkers as well as the turns in the doglegs. That is the mark of a good layout.
There is a sparse usage of bunkering on the course which is appropriate given some of the ways a ball will run on the fairway. Had Mr. Doak used more bunkers, the course might have become unfair. This is not to suggest that the course lacks bunkers as there are plenty to serve both as guide points and for defensive purposes.
There are a couple of standout holes on the course and they are where the best land is. One wonders whether the routing was influenced by knowing that these holes simply had to be made, and then the rest of the routing had to link to these holes. These are the fourth, fifth, eleventh and the sixteenth.
The course is 7071 yards from the championship tees, par 72 rated 74.3/133. The tournament tees are slightly less at 6930 yards rated 73.6/130. Even though the course is at elevation and plays shorter than its length, I would not recommend many play these tees. The challenge tees at 6664 yards rated 72.5/128 which we played. There are two sets of lesser tees as well as a set of “Doak” tees that sometimes lengthen a hole or shorten it even below the middle tees. I suspect the Doak tees might be the most fun tees on the course. The layout has a nice balance of longer and shorter holes across all of the par’s.
1. Par 4 – 399/383/370. This is a somewhat difficult starting hole playing straight out with three bunkers built into the right side where a knob is. Trees come in from the right that can block one’s line to the green. The green sits perhaps 40 feet above you resulting in a blind shot for all players. The green is large with subtle interior depressions. Off to the left side of the green are three bunkers with a double bunker leading to a tougher sand shot. I thought this to be a very good starting hole as it takes prime advantage of the land movement.
2. Par 3 – 200/185. This par 3 plays downhill to a wide green with a single bunker on the right. The green has less pronounced movement and slope in it for the front half.
3. Par 4 – 359/321/313. This short hole is a dogleg right with five bunkers placed on lower ground on the right side. The ground tilts towards these bunkers. If one goes right they will likely be blocked by trees. However, if one plays to the short grass in front of the green they will have a good chance to recovery. The green sits perhaps 20 feet higher on a promontory with dramatic fall-offs on all three sides, although more pronounced on the right and rear. This is a green with a lot of interior movement beginning with a front swale and various little shelves as one works their way back.
4. Par 5 – 607/587/544. This is a very fun hole working itself up the hill with a substantial falloff down the entirety of the left side. The hole plays downhill to a broad fairway with three left side bunkers moving one’s line to the right. The second shot is blind up a steep 50 feet rise where the fairway tilts strongly to the left. One has to go as far right as possible unless they can hit their second shot 240 yards or more where the fairway levels off instead of tilting. The green is placed on a flat piece of land and sits more to the left than it appears. The left side has three bunkers with the first one beginning about 20 yards short of the green. All of these bunkers are below the level of the green. There is a single large bunker placed short of the green on the right on flat land. The green is sloped slightly to the rear so shots need to land on the front in order to hold the green. Although I kept flirting with the left fall-off along the fairway followed by going through the green on the right, I liked everything about this hole.
5. Par 4 – 395/381. One of the more visually appealing tees shots comes next. This hole plays downhill to a dogleg left with two large bunkers on the outer corner and one on the inner corner. Longer players can likely fly the bunkers but the fairway does narrow after the turn. Shorter players can land short of them but then they have a long approach shot into one of the narrower openings to a green on the course due to the presence of two flanking bunkers placed about 15/10 yards from the front of the green. For those playing aggressively into the green they have to ensure their ball does not run through to a back left rear bunker that is hidden. I liked the visual of this hole from the tee to the green. This is my favorite hole on the front nine, narrowly edging out the first and fourth.
6. Par 4 – 425/404/365. This hole plays very differently from the back tees as it has a long forced carry to a more severe dogleg left. From the tees we played the hole plays straighter. Also from the back tees the inner corner bunkers come into play whereas from our tees one can either carry them or easily play to the right of them. The green complex incorporates a center line bunker about 10 yards short of the green and flanking bunkers on the front corners of the green. From the back tees this is an outstanding hole but from “members” tees this is less compelling. My understanding is that there used to be tall grass on the right beginning about 50 yards short of the green and the hole would be better if it still had that.
7. Par 3 – 222/205. Probably my least favorite hole on the front nine is the seventh which is simply long. There is an early bunker on the right about 50 yards short of the green and another on the front left corner. The green is somewhat flat but I did not get a great look at it as we played through the group that was ahead of us. There did not appear to be any compelling mounding near this green.
8. Par 5 – 506/487/459. This “shorter” par 5 is mainly straight with three scattered bunkers on the fairway, two on the right and one on the left. These bunkers are deep near the lip. The green complex is excellent with three fronting bunkers on the left and one on the right that is 15 yards short of the green. The green is off to the left a bit and shallow. Any shot hit with any pace into it will tumble off the green in the back leaving a chip onto a green that will run away from you going back to front. The smart play is to stay to the right of any flag on the left of the green due to the smaller target. I loved the green here as well due to the surrounding mounding just off the green.
9. Par 4 – 457/440/399. This is perhaps the most difficult hole is the ending for the outer nine. This hole plays as a dogleg right that if you stay too far right you will have a blocked line to the green. The fairway pinches in as the land falls down beginning about 170 yards from the green. The green is placed on a plateau with a left central bunker, another bunker to the left and then two smaller but deep bunkers on the front right corner. From the lowest point of the fairway about 80 yards from the green there is a rise of perhaps 40 feet to this green which is tilted back to front with a lot of interior movement. I found it odd that this hole is rated only the fourth hardest on the front as I thought it offered the most decisions and the more difficult shots in order to make par. This hole is a great example of routing it to capture all of the land movement from tee to green.
10. Par 4 – 432/396/369. The best view of the surrounding mountains is on this hole which tees off just beyond the clubhouse. We played this hole into a stiff breeze although not as windy as it can get due to the exposed nature of the hole. The fairway is very wide so the three bunkers on the right should be easily avoided. The more difficult bunkers are the front right corner bunker as the land slopes to it and the left side bunker placed just before a sizeable rise/mound off the left front of the green. If one is coming in from the left this mound can create a semi-blind shot into the green. I thought the green complex to be a lot of fun given the slope of the land surrounding it.
11. Par 3 – 185/168/147. This is the par 3 I remember the most. Again we played the hole into a breeze that made me take two extra clubs, when I should have taken three. The hole plays over a small ravine before rising. There is an early bunker that should not come into play. The more difficult bunkers are four down the right side and a large one on the front left corner. The green has a sizeable fall-off to the left side but anything hit to the right that does not catch one of those bunkers is likely a lost ball in the trees and tall grass. The green has slopes going each way almost across an axis. It is a very good par 3 due to the length, green complex, and visual appeal.
12. Par 4 – 447/414/366. This hole somewhat mimics the ninth moving to the right with the fairway substantially narrowing after the turn. There are two early bunkers I did not understand. Another bunker is on the inner corner forcing one to the wider part of the fairway. This is a heavily tree-lined hole. The green feels small from the fairway sitting below you and surrounded by three large and deep bunkers. Mr. Doak somewhat tricks you with the wider fairway and then providing a narrow corridor for the approach.
13. Par 3 – 184/163. This hole plays slightly downhill to a green well defended with two bunkers left and three on the right. The green has a fall-off down the right side and has a bulge on its right side. For me it is the second best par 3 on the course.
14. Par 5 – 604/570/517. I liked the double dogleg fourteenth snaking first to the right before moving back to the left. From an elevated tee there is a bunker down the right off the tee that effectively becomes a central bunker. The longer hitters can reach a pond down the left side forcing players to try to stay right off the tee and perhaps even get a favorable bounce forward off the hill on the right. There is a collection of three bunkers on the right about 40 yards from the green forcing a decision to be made to either lay up short of them or try to carry them. The smarter play is to lay up. The green has two bunkers left and one on the right. The green has a central tier creating a higher back side. There is a lack of mounding around the green. This is likely a better visual hole than from a playing perspective but it is a fine hole.
15. Par 5 – 516/488/453. The most fun par 5 on the course comes next playing as a dogleg right with a creek running through the fairway that will catch the longer hitters. On the other side of this creek is the widest part of a fairway on the course. A pond comes in from the left side to the front of the green. The green has two large bunkers on the right that are problematic as the green falls away from you to the left. This hole is perhaps a bit too easy as a par 5.
16. Par 4 – 402/379/353. From the back tee one hits through a chute of trees with a pond down the left side creating a sort of cape hole. One can also see the mountains in the distance. It is a beautiful view. The hole plays essentially straight from the member tee. There is a bunker placed inside the fairway about 25 yards short of the green. The right side has four bunkers while the left front has a single deep bunker. This green has a back half tier and various swales. It also has good mounding off the green. It is a very good golf hole.
17. Par 3 – 221/192/165. This hole feels like it should be more than it is. It does have four surrounding bunkers as well as a much higher back left to the green. Still, I thought the green should be even more raised.
18. Par 5 – 510/478/448. The eighteenth is perhaps a bit too weak as a par 5 and the tee probably should be moved back another 25 yards. The hole plays to a wide fairway as a dogleg left with two inner corner bunkers. There are two additional flanking bunkers 50 and 30 yards short of the green. The final bunkers on the course are two on the left side and one on the right. The green has the first real use of a false front with a large punchbowl on the left front creating a very makeable birdie or eagle chance if one can find it. The back right of the green is much higher. As this hole is, it appears the club wants people to walk away with a good memory as opposed to a negative one as this hole should yield no worse than a par assuming one avoids the bunkers. As this hole sits below a substantial hill to the right where the clubhouse and tenth hole are about 200 feet above you, this hole is protected from the wind.
While the course does not compare with the finest of Mr. Doak’s work at Pacific Dunes, Tara Iti, or Ballyneal, it certainly fits in with his next level of work at Cape Kidnappers, Rock Creek Cattle Company and Lost Dunes. As with most of his other work, one is over-joyed to play here as the course offers an appropriate mix of fun, visual delight and challenge. There are many very good holes such as the first, fourth, fifth, ninth, eleventh, and sixteenth. The members have a course that will both challenge them and provide a lot of enjoyment.
Located 80 miles east of Seattle, Suncadia Resort is a Washington State Resort that features comfortable accommodation and a wide variety of outdoor activities including biking, hiking and golf.
There are three golf courses at Suncadia: Prospector by Arnold Palmer and Rope Rider by Jacobsen Hardy are both public access courses. The third course in a gated community adjacent to Suncadia is Tumble Creek designed by Tom Doak. Tumble Creek opened for play in 2005.
Let's hear from Tom Doak:
"Tumble Creek is the private side of Suncadia, just across the Cle Elum River from the resort lodge.
Even with 450 home sites inside its gates, the natural beauty of the property and the elbow room we were given by the developer allowed for a golf course that doesn’t feel the least bit crowded by homes.
The golf course sprawls across 400 acres, with big views of the river and the mountains to the west framed by the evergreen trees that line its ample fairways.
Though the setting is much different, we decided to style the features after the best parkland courses of the East, with classic tilted greens and tight bunkering that doesn’t try to compete with the landscape.
When the winds pick up in the afternoon, the course can be quite testing, so it is often used for U.S. Open qualifiers."
Tumble Creek is set in a beautiful mountain setting, with dramatic elevation changes, holes framed by pine trees, and snow capped mountains as the backdrop. It is a beautiful place to be!
I am a fan of TD's work and Tumble Creek is no exception. It may not rank be in Tom's best 5 courses, but only because of the quality of the competition, and truth be told, perhaps the lack of sea views .
The mandate was to build a playable members course, and it is a job well done. It is a course I could play over and over. Very little dirt was moved in constructing the course which looks natural in it's setting. It is perhaps one of the more subtle courses that Tom has done, but is not without interest.
I like a designer to require a player to make decisions, but not give nasty surprises. This course fits the bill The bunkering was strategically placed, eye catching without being gaudy, and one of the real strengths of the design.
The greens have movement, but were subtle enough and a little hard to read at times with all the slopes in the surrounds confounding us a little.
I am a lover of decision making short par 4's and Tom Doak is forging a reputation in this arena. A number of his courses around the world feature them- it's becoming an imposing list. Tumble Creek has some rippers!
Something I have not seen before but which appeals to me and makes perfect sense is the teeing options. Tumble Creek has multiple tees for men, and a ladies tee. The card also delineates a "Doak course" where Tom has made suggestions on which tee to play on each hole. This is the card I followed for the day.
Sometimes I was off the championship tee, and sometimes off the ladies! BUT I had to make a lot of decisions along the way which may not have been the case playing of the 'normal' mens tees .
As an example: On the short par 4 third playing off the forward tees the hole was nearly reachable for me if I took on all of the trouble, whereas off the mens tee I would have played wide of the trouble and had a wedge in without any real concerns..
Similarly on the par 5 fifteenth my tee was now forward enough for me to seriously consider carrying the water rather than laying up.. It's a concept I would like to see taken up more often .
Tom Doak likes to frame his holes, or have a focal point for them. At Tumble Creek the snow capped mountains were given that role. Tom also likes to show you where you are going.
Discreet gaps in the pines at the appropriate spot on the inside of the dogleg gave glimpses of the flags on a couple of holes. That is good design in my opinion
The front nine is predominantly on the higher ground and has some lovely movement throughout (bar the 8th which is almost dead flat). But even that hole was appreciated for the way the mountain backdrop was incorporated into the design, with the pines and bunkering framing the hole. And the tricky little green was a nice finish
The back nine starts high, and then winds down into the river valley where there are some pretty holes with water in play to keep you on your toes.
Tumble Creek is an impressive course in idyllic surroundings. That is one gated community who should be pretty pleased with themselves. It is a great spot and they have a really nice members course.
Peter Wood is the founder of The Travelling Golfer – click the link to read his full review
When my home course hosted a pro tournament Tumble Creek was one the list of courses I could play at. Before that day I never heard of this place. But Damm, Golf heaven. Quiet and undisturbed arrived half and hour late, as a non-member no problems the staff treated me like royalty. Beautiful track excellent service and immaculate conditions.