Golf courses have been one of the few places of solace in these times of pandemic. While parks, gyms and movie theaters have shuttered, courses throughout Southwest Washington have been thriving.
Fresh air, exercise and some vitamin D while trekking around with a set of clubs offer small respite in uncertain times.
“If we were in a situation where we weren’t able to golf, it’d be a lot scarier. There’d be a lot more unease about what’s going on,” all-region golfer of the year Graham Moody said in a recent interview.
And while golfers in this region seem to flee across the river to explore Portland’s best 18-hole offerings, Southwest Washington and its 14 courses shouldn’t be slept on. It’s no golfer’s paradise, but there’s plenty of challenging, unique and scenic holes to bogey.
This tour through the area’s best is meant to resemble an actual course. Specifically, it’s a par 71 that plays 6,500 yards from the tips. As you progress through this make-believe track, imagine money on the line with your favorite golfing buddies and a brew or two in the bag. Then go out and play. Even with a three-putt or two, it’s a net positive for your mental health.
Dream 18 — Front 9
No. 1: The Cedars on Salmon Creek No. 7 (par 4, 395/380/307) — We start off with our only hole featured from the Salmon Creek course. An easy tee shot to a wide fairway should favor the right side. The approach shot to a long tucked-away green in the shadow of a neat trestle bridge must clear the hazard in front with long shots punished as well.
No. 2: Tri-Mountain Golf Course No. 3 (par 4, 436/395/353) — A chance to unleash the big stick with few places your tee shot can land that take you out of play on the hole. The approach shot will always flirt with the water hazard on the right side as an undulating green sneaks back behind it. There’s more room for error here than most think.
No. 3: Royal Oaks Country Club No. 5 (par 3, 160/124/104) — While Southwest Washington leaves much to be desired from its par 3s, Royal Oaks doesn’t disappoint. This shorty — aptly titled “Waterloo” — and its tiered green serves as a wake-up call on this fictional 18.
No. 4: Club Green Meadows No. 5 (par 5, 558/511/371) — Few par 5s keep you captivated tee to green like the fifth at Green Meadows. Out of bounds sits on both sides of the tee shot on this dogleg right. The green slopes hard toward the water hazard and will kick any poorly struck shot toward trouble.
No. 5: Royal Oaks No. 3 (par 4, 423/367/319) — One of my favorite holes in this exercise, the dogleg left with a creek that cuts through the fairway looks like a hole one might see on Golf Channel. “Burnt Bridge” isn’t the toughest of holes but its green keeps golfers on edge.
No. 6: Longview Country Club No. 6 (par 4, 375/358/304) — This is the most unique hole featured on this list. The dogleg right’s primary feature is a massive gully midway through the fairway. Longer hitters could clear it to set up a short pitch shot into a tricky green guarded by three bunkers. The smarter play is to lay up and take a mid-iron in.
No. 7: Camas Meadows No. 12 (par 5, 566/508/426) — The drive is more open than it looks from the tee box so bombs away. This green is reachable in two for longer hitters if you’re comfortable navigating a pair of tall oaks that guard this long green. A small vineyard behind the green sets your mind at ease as you tackle those nervy putts.
No. 8: Tri-Mountain No. 15 (par 3, 167/124/96) — The most scenic hole in the area, this par 3 gives a perfect sightline to Mount St. Helens on clear days. Wind is this short hole’s biggest defense so take some extra time to take in the views while you pick your club.
No. 9: Three Rivers Golf Course No. 9 (par 4, 397/375/270) — The Kelso course’s signature hole is always a fun cap to the front nine. A long iron or hybrid tee shot sets you up for a short iron approach over a water hazard that’s taken plenty of tributes to the golf gods through the years.
Dream 18 — Back 9
No. 10: Royal Oaks No. 13 (par 5, 555/506/437) — A true three-shot par 5, dubbed “The Monster,” gives duffers no breaks. The second shot is the most important on this hole, as anything on the right side of the fairway is shielded by a giant oak tree. The green is the stuff of golf nightmares.
No. 11: Orchard Hills Golf & Country Club No. 17 (par 3, 205/187/139) — The Washougal course’s signature hole is picture-perfect. It’s an unsettling view from the tee box as there looks like there’s little room for error on this long par 3. Anything short is testing the creek as a small runup hill toward the green falls back toward the water.
No. 12: Lewis River Golf Course No. 6 (par 4, 367/342/308) — My favorite hole in Southwest Washington features a simple tee shot to a fairway that drops off to a second level. The green, guarded by a creek in front, is tucked between trees, giving you a few peaceful moments in the woods as you navigate the large dance floor.
No. 13: Camas Meadows No. 4 (par 4, 398/304/201) — The last of the tough opening stretch at Meadows, this tricky par 4 spells trouble for aggressive players. Dwyer Creek stretches down the left side of the fairway and guards three sides of the green. Approach shots must favor the right side runoff area or disaster awaits.
No. 14: Mint Valley Golf Course No. 17 (par 3, 177/154/97) — Another water clearance par 3 on this round through Southwest Washington’s best 18, Mint Valley’s signature hole can vary wildly in difficulty based on pin placement. A bunker behind the green and a large pond short and right give this hole its character.
No. 15: Club Green Meadows No. 6 (par 4, 310/305/256) — Highlighted by the wide-reaching branches of a large tree in the fairway, golfers can’t avoid having a shot affected in some way by this behemoth. Even a tee shot well-placed along the right edge of the fairway still has to be cautious attacking this wide green. Creative shots are rewarded.
No. 16: Longview CC No. 8 (par 4, 292/292/292) — Downhill drivable par 4 gives views of the Lewis and Clark Bridge from the tee. Water hazard and bunkers guarding the front of this green will give players second thoughts about pulling driver. The tree that lurks in the fairway may look daunting but offers little in the way of an obstacle for most.
No. 17: Royal Oaks No. 12 (par 3, 196/147/121) — This gorgeous hole forces golfers to flirt with “The Pond” in front of the green. It takes a healthy poke for most golfers, too, making this a perfect penultimate hole for this exercise. Imagine sitting on a one-stroke lead over your buddies looking at this tee shot.
No. 18: Camas Meadows No. 18 (par 5, 461/421/372) — A perfect finishing hole for golfers of any skill. A well-struck drive that clears the trees on this dogleg left leaves a mid-iron into a sizable green defended by a pond in front and bunkers on all sides. Even layups have to be precise to avoid the outstretched branches that block anything right.
Best of …
Best Course: Royal Oaks — It’s not a particularly fair or close competition between Royal Oaks and the other 13 courses in Southwest Washington. It’s beautifully manicured, has plenty of interesting holes and its greens play closer to Augusta National than the local municipal.
Best Public Course: Camas Meadows — Every hole provides intrigue, the greens are the best of any public course in the area and the practice facilities are an added bonus. It’s a little pricey — up to $70 — for what it is, but there’s plenty of options (weekdays, twilight times) to get on for much cheaper. Tri-Mountain is a close second place.
Best Value: Mint Valley — Since the City of Longview took over management of Mint Valley at the end of 2018, this course has improved drastically. It’s in the best shape it’s been in years and with rates as low as $15, this is the perfect track for budget golfers throughout Southwest Washington. It’s a fun course, quick to play and easy to walk.
Clark and Cowlitz County golf courses
Camas Meadows Golf Club (Camas) — 18 holes, par 72; Phone: 360-833-2000; Rates: $34-76; camasmeadows.com
The Cedars on Salmon Creek (Brush Prairie) — 18 holes, par 68; Phone: 360-687-4233; Rates: $30-40; golfcedars.com
Club Green Meadows (Vancouver) — 18 holes, par 72; Phone: 360-256-1510; Rates: Membership; clubgreenmeadows.com
Fairway Village Golf Course (Vancouver) — 9 holes, par 34; Phone: 360-253-9325; Rates: $20-35; ourfairwayvillage.com/golf
Hartwood Golf Course (Brush Prairie) — 9 holes, par 29; Phone: 360-896-6041; Rates: $14-16; hartwoodgolf.com
Lakeview Par 3 Golf Challenge (Vancouver) — 9 holes, par 27; Phone: 360-693-9116; Rates: $10-18; lakeviewpar3.com
Lewis River Golf Course (Woodland) — 18 holes, par 72; Phone: 360-225-8524; Rates: $30-50; lewisrivergolf.com
Longview Country Club (Longview) — 18 holes, par 70; Phone: 360-423-8500; Rates: Membership; longviewcountryclub.net
Mint Valley Golf Course (Longview) — 18 holes, par 71; Phone: 360-442-5442; Rates: $15-35; mint-valley.com
Orchard Hills Golf & Country Club (Washougal) — 18 holes, par 70; Phone: 360-835-5889; Rates: Membership; ohgcc.com
Pinecrest Golf Course (Vancouver) — 9 holes, par 27; Phone: 360-573-2051; Rates: $12-13; pinecrestgc.net
Royal Oaks Country Club (Vancouver) — 18 holes, par 72; Phone: 360-256-1250; Rates: Membership; royaloaks.net
Three Rivers Golf Course (Kelso) — 18 holes, par 72; Phone: 360-423-4653; Rates: $30; 3riversgolfcourse.com
Tri-Mountain Golf Course (Ridgefield) — 18 holes, par 72; Phone: 360-887-3004; Rates: $27-50; trimountaingolf.com