Friday, January 31, 2014

TPC Snoqualmie Ridge

January 31, 2014

I was able to kick my 2014 golf season off today at TPC Snoqualmie Ridge. This was a huge boost to my spirits as I have been battling spinal stenosis, receiving spinal injections in the C5 and C6 area of my neck, and going to physical therapy for the past five and a half weeks. Now that everything seems to be getting back to normal, it felt good to be able to go out and play a round of golf.

The Jack Nicklaus-designed championship golf course opened in 1999 and is a member of the Tournament Players Club network operated by the PGA Tour. Since 2005, it has hosted the Boeing Classic, a 54-hole Champions Tour event in late August. It is the only TPC Course, as well as the only Jack Nicklaus Signature Course, in the Pacific Northwest. In 2000, the year after TPC Snoqualmie Ridge opened for play, Golfweek 
ranked Snoqualmie Ridge 3rd out of 23 TPC courses in 2000. In that same year, the golf club was voted the #1 course in the state of Washington by the state's golf professionals.

The course measures 7,264 yards from the tips, but I decided easing back into golf after a 5 week absence probably would be better experienced from the blue tees.  

The entrance sign to the property.

When I arrived, it was raining, and had been for the past several days. It is the Seattle area in January afterall. After checking in at the clubhouse and looking around the fantastic dining room with a magnificent view of Mt. Si, I headed out to the driving range to stretch and warm up. I donned my new rain gear I received for my birthday earlier in the week and then broke out my clubs. I was tentative at first, not wanting to reinjure my neck, but as I worked through my wedges, into my hybrids, and finally to my woods and driver, I was confident that I would be ok. A few putts on the putting green showed me they were in great shape and the ball rolled true even though it was soaked through and through.  Great job grounds crew! The golf gods must have been watching over my opening round of 2014. As I approached the first tee, the rain stopped. It remained cloudy and overcast most of the round, but there was no rain. I removed my rain gear and teed up for my first shot of the day.

A note before I start laying out the course through photos. My new digital camera still hasn't arrived. I am expecting it sometime next week, just in time for my Bandon Dunes trip. So, I carried my iPad with me and shot all of my photos using it. Some photos may appear grainy or of poor quality, but it is the best I could do in a pinch.

Hole #1 from the tee box looking down the fairway.

Standing on the first tee box, the fairway turns slightly to the right. A drive down the right side over the barely visible sand trap allowed my ball to roll down a small hill and right to the middle of the fairway. Again the golf gods smiled on me giving me a nice shot in short grass after a five week layoff.

While on my way to the green, the rain started again and lasted through holes 2 and 3. Not wanting to ruin my iPad, I skipped taking photos on both holes. I can;t wait for my new digital camera to arrive so I no longer have to worry about the elements with my photo documentation. By the time I arrived at the 4th tee box, the rain had let up again, and would remain so for the rest of the round.

Hole #4 looking from the tee box towards the green.
I was initially worried about this hole. I was unsure I would be able to carry the trench at the bottom since I was still swinging at about 70%, getting the feel for my body's reaction to playing again. The holding back kept my drive out of the center, and it landed on the top of the front right sand trap. I thought it was initially going to stay up, but it rolled into the trap. Luckily, with the sand being soaked and packed, I was able to use a hybrid to put it on the green.

Approaching the green from the fairway on Hole #4.

View from the 5th Tee Box looking down the fairway.
Something I started noticing by the 5th hole is quite a few holes on the course are blind tee shots. Luckily I was using my Callaway Upro MX+ and was able to use the flyover feature to show me where to land the ball.
View of the approach shot into the 5th green.

I also found that on a good many holes, you have to be careful with your approach shots. The course has the word ridge in its name for a reason. If you go to far or to wide, your ball will roll down mountainous type of terrain and you are adding a penalty stroke.

Approaching the 5th green.

Notice the sharp slope on the right? Luckily I kept my ball to the right and it didn't come into play. Left is death on this hole. I am not sure what happened to my shots of hole #6 but I can't find them at the moment. So, onto Hole #7.

Another blind tee shot to the fairway on Hole #7.
This hole is where my tentativeness and 70% swing power got the better of me. I was aiming to drive it over the right bunker as I thought that would put me into the fairway with a good look at the green on my second shot. It's longer than it looks from the tee box and my drive was lower than normal. I ended up striking the top of the hill between the right and center bunkers where my ball plugged. It is difficult enough hitting a golf ball from that kind of lie, but a plugged ball makes it a nearly impossible shot.

Standing at the top of the hill, just above the three bunkers in the above shot.

Approaching #7 green.

#7 green
 I didn't realize from the fairway, just how tight this green was. It made for a very challenging hole. Again, too far right on your approach shot means nothing but bad mojo from the woods.

#8 tee box looking down the fairway.
This isn't so much a blind shot as it is a long, long hole that turns slightly left.  Go to far left or try to trim the left edge and your ball could be in no-man's land.  Also, this is where the houses really started showing up on the course. I was a bit disappointed in how many houses surrounded the course but it is what it is.

#8 Green
When I finally got up the hill and followed the fairway, I was surprised by what I found with the green. It was a tough shot, with water and bunkers all around, and having to make the approach shot from a sloped fairway. Very tough hole but one of my top three favorites from the day.

#9 green looking from the tee box.
The front nine finished off with a shot across water to all green. On this day, the hole was set on the very far left side of the green, making it easier than it would probably normally be, and most certainly an easier placement that what is faced during the annual August tournament hosted here.

#10 view from the tee box.
Number 10 was another hole that is tougher than it looks, at least for me. It is a fairly short par 4 but all up hill.  I knew I probably wasn't going to reach it due to my playing with 70% swing stroke so I made sure to put my shot over the left bunker and into the short grass, setting me up for a much easier approach shot. This was one of my two birdies on the day!

Looking down the fairway from the #11 tee box.
Number 11 wasn't a very interesting hole in my opinion. The bunkers don't really come into play from what I can tell and it made for a "meh" hole for me.

Looking toward the #11 green from the fairway.
As noted above, yeah there are sand traps here, but they aren't positioned in a challenging spot in my opinion. I think the architect could have done a better job with placement to make this hole more interesting.

#12 tee box looking down the fairway.
Here is where I really started enjoying the course. Holes 12-15 are a fantastic run. This is another blind tee shot, but observing the cut and lay of the fairway, I could see the hole turned left. Too far left is death on this hole.

#12 Green.
Another hole where if you go too far over the green or too far left, you aren't finishing with a par. After the disappointing 11th hole, this hole, and especially the green, was a pleasant surprise.

#13 tee box looking towards the green.
This was a fantastically challenging short par 3. Too far anywhere and you are pulling a new ball from your bag. That hill guarding the left, back, and right of the green is a LONG way down.I wished it hadn;t been so foggy on this day.  I am sure the view from this hole is spectacular.

The #14, signature hole.
When I arrived at the #14 tee box, I just stood there for 3 minutes or so and took it in.  I wish I had taken a better photo from the tee box, but I was too busy taking in the hole and enjoying the experience.  What you don't see in the photo is that it travels down the right side hill, turns back left at a 90 degree angle, and then the fairway follows the hill upwards by a green silhouetted by tall evergreens. My photo really doesn;t do the hole justice at all. It is also a risk/reward shot. If you can carry your drive 240 or so, you can reach the green of this par 4 in one. I knew I couldn't do it on this day and opted to put it center fairway over the bunker in the middle.

Looking back up the fairway towards the tee box from where I just hit the ball. It gives a good view of what you have to clear.

Looking at the 14th green from the fairway.
I absolutely loved this approach shot. The green is surrounded by majestic evergreens. This is what I think of when I imagine golf in the Pacific Northwest. To your left is a mountain across a valley from the mountain you are standing on. It drops down quite steeply, but the valley is blanketed in an evergreen forest that is just incredible to take in.

Tee box at #15 looking down the fairway.
Another hole that requires a fairly long, straight drive if you want any chance of reaching the green in regulation.

#15 green

Another one of those approach shots that if you go too far over or to the left, you have lost another ball. This is also a hole I imagine has a tremendous view behind the green on a day when it isn't foggy and overcast.

#16 from the tee box
At first I didn't think much of this hole. It looked like a fairly straightforward challenge. It is only after you top that rise  that you see the truly difficult approach shot you are left with.

#16 Green
This is what #11 should have been. I went for it from the center of the fairway. I caught the top of the hill at the edge of the green but my ball rolled back into the sand. I was able to chip it out and get an up and down. But, in that trap, I couldn't see the flag from the depth of the trap. It is about 7-8 feet deep.  As you can see, the green is awful tight as well.  A very well designed hole!

#17 green from tee box
This par 3 has some meat on its bones as you have to clear water that runs right up to the edge of the green. And it is another tight green so if you can't spin your shot or make it stop, it is likely going off the back of the green as mine did.

#18 tee box
I have to say, after a very good round, I was a bit disappointed with #18. It probably had more to do with the fantastic run of holes I just experienced, but to me, 18 seems underwhelming. It is a long drive to clear those traps, and then it turns to the right. It is a challenging hole as it is uphill.

#18 looking at green from the fairway. 
This is where the fairway turns and you see the clubhouse standing at the top of the hill, looking down onto the green. If the Boeing Classic is tied and going into 18 to decide a champion, I can see where the clubhouse would make an excellent vantage to take it in.

Looking back down the 18th fairway from the green.
As you approach the green and look back down the fairway, you have a splendid view of Mt. Si. Unfortunately on this day, the clouds and fog stole most of the view from me. But there are some stunning photos of this view at the club's website.

The Scoreboard
As you walk off the 18th, you are greeted with the large scoreboard.

Overall, I had a fantastic time at TPC Snoqualmie Ridge. The course is very well maintained, even in the winter off season, and the care put into the course truly shows. My heartfelt thanks goes out to Matt Brown for allowing me to come and experience this course and I hope to one day return to play it again on a sunny, blue sky day.

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