Chambers Bay Golf Course Review

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Introduction

One of the best features of golf is being able to play the same courses that the pros play.  We’ll never take a swing inside Wrigley Field or Fenway, but any of us can tee it up and walk in the footsteps of Jordan Spieth and his 2015 US Open victory at Chambers Bay, and I’d strongly recommend that you do.

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Practice Facilities

Chambers Bay’s theme of “big” starts with the practice facilities at Chambers Bay.  The range is huge, the putting greens (one near the range, one near the first tee) are huge, and the short game area is huge.  Whether you’re hitting a few balls before you tee off or rebuilding your swing, you’ll find plenty of space to spread out.

The only complaint I have about the practice facilities is that you need to take a shuttle to get from the range to the first tee.  It’s a short drive and the shuttle runs constantly, but I like being able to hit balls until I walk straight to the tee.

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Amenities & Customer Service

Chambers Bay is a walking only course, and it’s a substantial walk – approximately eight miles with plenty of elevation.  To preserve your energy and enhance your experience, I strongly recommend taking a caddie.  The professional loopers have immense knowledge of the course that will shave many strokes off your score.  Just as important, they’ll make your experience more fun.  Our caddies, Willie and Beau, were invaluable, and I’d highly recommend requesting them for your round.

In terms of amenities, Chambers Bay hits that perfect combination of providing what you need without going over the top.  The building at the first tee/turn is a perfect example: restrooms, snacks, drinks, and not much else.  There’s also a restroom and snack tent that you walk past three times while playing.

That doesn’t mean that souvenir seekers and hungry golfers will be disappointed.  The clubhouse and restaurant on top of the hill provide excellent food and a huge array of shirts, hats, and other goodies to take home.

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Beauty & Scenery

I can count on one hand the number of courses that are as visually impressive as Chambers Bay.  Whether you’re looking at it from the elevated patio at the restaurant or down at course level, it sprawls endlessly in every direction.  The scale of the place has to be experienced – it’s huge!  Look at the size of the dunes in the picture below if you don’t believe me.

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This course would be impressive anywhere, but putting it on Puget Sound is what moves it into rarefied air.  When the sun breaks through and the water shines crystalline blue, it’s absolutely breathtaking.  Looking out toward the water, you see this palette of colors ranging from dried out browns to verdant greens that instantly erases any frustrations you have with the game.

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Course Conditions

Forget the whining of the prima donnas on the PGA Tour – Chambers Bay is in great shape.  The course is built to play firm and fast, and it does just that.  You’re going to experience tight lies throughout the course, and the rough is tall and wispy, not thick.  The greens are as fast as they can be given the severity of the breaks.

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Course Design & Difficulty

There are many things about Chambers Bay that are worthy of discussion – the variety of holes and the importance of the ground game to name a couple – but in looking back at the pictures of my round, my overriding thought is, “That was a really fun round of golf.”  The holes are memorable, and you’ll get to hit shots that you remember from the 2015 US Open.

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Robert Trent Jones II designed a wonderful variety of holes at Chambers Bay, and, within each hole, there are countless options for how to play.  The driveable par 4 #12 (pictured above), is a great example – you can hit almost any club off the tee, and none of them guarantees an easy second.

Adding to the variety is the fact that each hole can change character with different pin placements.  The greens are massive and features huge swales and tiers.  A hole that’s an easy par on Monday can be a double-bogey waiting to happen on Tuesday.

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All of that said, the most important thing to know heading into Chambers Bay is that the ground game is going to have a massive impact on your round.  The hole above, the par 3 ninth, gave an object lesson in that during my round.  The front of the green slopes hard from left to right, but the pin was too inviting and one of my playing partners took it on.  He landed his ball in the rough left of the green then watched it roll…and roll…and roll…into the bunker on the right.

It’s hard to prepare for this kind of golf since so few courses in the US play this firm, but there are two things you can do.  First, trust your caddie.  When they hand you a club, trust it.  Second, have the right attitude.  Chambers Bay may break your heart at some point, but it will bail you out at another.  Enjoy the breaks – good and bad – and enjoy the shotmaking options in front of you.

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Conclusion

If you’re looking for an unforgettable, bucket list golf experience, Chambers Bay is it.  It has everything you can ask for – jaw dropping views, memorable holes, and enough amenities to round out a perfect day of golf.  The best endorsement I can give it is this: if I am ever in the area again, I will pay the $275 green fee without hesitation.

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Matt Saternus

Co-founder, Director of Instruction at PluggedInGolf.com
Matt is a golf instructor, club fitter, and writer living in the northwest suburbs of Chicago. Matt's work has been published in Mulligan Magazine, Chicagoland Golf, South Florida Golf, and other golf media outlets. He's also been a featured speaker in the Online Golf Summit and is a member of Ultimate Golf Advantage's Faculty of Experts.

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3 Comments

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  2. I played the course after it first opened and shortly after it was announced to get the US Open. I then played it again the year before the US Open. I don’t care what the tour pros said or people who watched it and complained. This place is awesome. I want to go back again.

    Word of note. The second time I played it, me and my buddy played 36. On the second 18, when we caught a group and told them we were on our second loop, they had the same look on their faces as if we told them we were going to swim across the Sound. Take my advice (and the review’s advice): just stick to 18, and take a caddie.

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