On further consideration, Gene Bates won't be pinned down on a signature hole at the emerging Salish Cliffs golf course near Shelton.
It’s not that any one hole isn’t worthy. Bates, the course designer, had said on our first meeting that No. 16 “might be our signature hole.”
Maybe it was the sun that emerged from the stubborn clouds last week that shined a new light on the golf holes rising to life in the rough textures of the Kamilche Valley forest.
But in our next conversation, Bates sounded like a case could be made for just about any hole on the course to be the signature hole.
They’re all his babies, and he loves them all.
“As they’re starting to unfold,” Bates said, “there are more and more signatures across the site.”
Ray Peters, executive director of the Squaxin Island Tribe, owner of the Little Creek Casino Resort property that is home to the new course, said, “There’s not just one or two signature holes. Every hole is going to be a golf experience.”
Peters, who counts Bates among the “select few” elite golf designers, said Salish Cliffs will be long enough and tough enough to attract championship competitions.
“Gene Bates-designed golf courses really allow for the challenge of the high-level professional golfer,” Peters said, “but his tee structure allows beginners to go out and enjoy their experience.
“We just happen to have a fantastic piece of property to let his creativity come out.”
Bates’par-72 layout will reach nearly 7,300 yards from the back tees, which he calls the “Tiger tees.” The blues will play at about 6,800 yards, the whites 6,400, the reds 5,500 and the short green tees will play at 5,200 yards.
Players will open with a decent challenge on No. 1, a 515-yard par-5 that had been penciled in for 550 yards (from the tips) until last week. Bates realized two other par-5s were plenty long – No. 8 at 605 yards and No. 10 at 600 – plus he was squeezed for space at the green end of the hole. The revision allows more room behind the green.
No. 2 plays up to a plateau green, a par-4 reachable for some hitters at 300 yards.
The 605-yard 10th offers the broadest fairway on the course.
Course management is at a premium on No. 11, a 420-yard downhill par-4, which features a wetland cutting across the fairway about 330 yards from the tee.
The 405-yard 12th offers a steep downhill, so if you land the ball just right you could catch a “speed slot” and roll as close as 90-100 yards from the green, Bates said.
The aforementioned No. 16, whether it ever ends up a signature hole, remains a Bates favorite.
“It’s just going to be so pleasing to look at,” he said, “and so easy to understand how to play it.”
It’s a beauty, he said, but it’s a beast. A long par-4 at 450 yards, No. 16 stands as proof that the game doesn’t end when you reach the green.
The sloping green, 60 yards deep, can mean a two- to three-number difference in club selection, depending on placement of the hole – back, middle or front.
In the minds of golfers, the signature hole can mean the shape and landscaping of a hole, or the unique golf challenge it presents, or the purely esthetic: The views it affords of the golf course and the world beyond.
By the latter standard, No. 18, a 540-yard par-5 which shares a green complex with No. 9, might be a contender. Looking to the east-northeast from the 18th fairway, the sight lines, as of last week, extended all the way to Puget Sound.
“We took down a bunch of trees that all of a sudden opened up a gem of a view,” Bates said.
A golf course’s signature hole, of course, is little more than arbitrary, a symbolic label.
Gene Bates is putting his signature on Salish Cliffs. Which of his golf holes will stand out, beyond all others, will in the end be decided by the golfers who finally get to tee off at Salish Cliffs next summer.
WHEN, WHERE AND HOW MUCH
Peters said Salish Cliffs is on track to open for play in late spring or early summer.
He’s now in the process of hiring a course superintendent. Later, Peters and the tribe will turn to hiring a director of golf.
Construction is expected to start soon on the clubhouse, a lodge-style structure with a traditional American Indian longhouse exterior. A wraparound porch will overlook No. 9 and No. 18.
Fees aren’t set, but Peters promised they’ll be affordable.
“It’s going to be an incredible golf course,” he said. “It’s a course that can demand a higher fee than we’re probably going to charge.”
TAKE THAT FURLOUGH AND GOLF IT
Whether the furlough (temporary layoff) day is all that great a deal for the state’s beleaguered budget is being debated, officially and unofficially, in conference rooms, around the water coolers of state offices, and maybe, before all is done, in a courtroom.
Bottom line: It’s not a wonderful thing to be docked a day’s pay in 10 of the next 12 months.
But it’s a day off, and Tumwater Valley Golf Course is easing the pain with a good deal – no debate about it. For an upfront $199, a state employee on furlough can play 18 holes on all the scheduled layoff days. The deal includes power cart and range balls and $10 credit in the River’s Edge restaurant.
The first furlough day was Monday; the next is Aug. 6. A call to Tumwater Valley at (360) 943-9500 can get you all the details.
As the saying goes, golf will get you through a day of no money better than money will get you through a day of no golf.
Olympia freelance writer Bart Potter can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org