The Home Course is about as good as modern public golf gets. Everything is super-sized–the fairways, greens, and bunkers are all at massive scale–which makes some sense for this course, to allow for the frequent winds off Puget Sound. The Home Course is very playable for golfers of all skill levels, but still poses a significant test for low-handicap or scratch players.
As a championship test, it’s more interesting than its sister, Chambers Bay, thanks to more challenging green surrounds, and its scenery is almost as good. The par 3’s in particular will definitely get your attention here. The course features gentle elevation changes throughout the course, for the most part, very walkable distances between greens and tees. The front nine is probably two shots harder than the back.
Although homes are visible from about six holes, they don’t even come close to coming into play (yet…there are some empty areas that look like prime territory for future development).
“Home’s” condition far exceeds that of a typical daily fee course. The greens are very true and well-paced, but the fairways could be mowed a bit shorter (and to be honest, seeded with a sparser grass) to allow for more ground game. The rough is not overly penal but does make it difficult to control the distance of the approach shot.
Architecturally, it’s unfortunate that the design mimics a typical John Fought layout so closely, since Fought has already been so prolific in the Pacific Northwest. Most of the holes are virtually indistinguishable from those at Trophy Lake, Washington National, Crosswater, or The Reserve (all solid courses, to be sure, but nothing truly remarkable given the potential of their sites).
There’s also very little variety. Even the handful of short two-shot holes have large greens, wide fairways, and expansive bunkers. I hit the same club (hybrid) on three of the four par 3’s and hit either a 6- or a 7-iron to about 60% of the par four greens.
The Home Course does have five standout holes, however: #4, #8, #9, #17, and #18 are particularly memorable.
Overall, even if the course is somewhat bland from an architectural standpoint, it’s a very enjoyable walk at an amazing value.
451 / 312 Yards
The Home Course does not exactly ease you into your round. The opening tee shot plays semi-blind (there’s quite a bit more fairway to the left than one can see) and into the prevailing northwest wind. It’s also not exactly a short hole at 451 yards from the Dynamite tees (cleverly named, as the course lies on the former site of an explosives manufacturing facility for E.I. DuPont de Nemours).
As with all of the fairways at The Home Course, there’s plenty of room at the first, but the best angle into the green is actually from the right-hand side. The right side also happens to be lower in elevation, so unless you pure your first swing of the day, that’ll be semi-blind also. A good drive should leave a mid- to long-iron from the top of a rise in the fairway. Someone playing from the wrong set of tees may be able to bash a drive over the rise, which will mean hitting from a downhill lie into the green.
The green cants gently from left to right, but rather severely from front to back, and only the brave will attempt a run-up shot between or over the two gaping bunkers in front. Bailing out to the righthand side won’t kill you, though, and should be a reasonably easy up-and-down.
All greens at The Home Course are relatively fast and firm, though for some reason, this one seems even more so. The length of the second shot combined with the direction of the green’s slope mean that hitting a shot tight to a front pin is next to impossible. The plus side is that many first putts of the day will be uphill.
On a sunny day, the glorious views of both Mt. Rainier and the Olympic Range are evident right off the bat.
The Olympics are in full-view off the 2nd tee, and the speed with which architect Mike Asmundson directs the golfer to The Sound recalls both David Kidd and Tom Doak’s routings at Bandon / Pacific Dunes.
There’s no reason not to hit driver off of #2 tee, though iron is plenty of club. The corner of the bunker on the right only requires about a 240-yard carry from the Dynamite tee, and there’s obviously plenty of room to the lefthand side. The right side leaves both a flatter lie and a better angle into the green, but because it’s only a short-iron in, positioning is largely irrelevant.
The green cants gently back-left to front-right, though there is a reasonable fall-off at the left-hand side. Short and right leaves a very straightforward up-and-down to just about any pin.
413 / 297 Yards
The second of two “breather” holes before a series of stern tests. It’s hard not to pause and admire the Sound View from the tee box before hitting almost directly towards Mt. Rainier. The bunker on the left is actually about 300 yards away from the Dynamite tee, and actually can’t be carried despite what it appears from the tee box.
Hitting towards it will shorten the hole a bit, and despite a better angle, will leave a semi-blind shot into the severely-tilted green. Aiming at the 150-pole leaves a short iron and a reasonable shot in.
The rear of the green pad is built up perhaps 35-40 feet from its surroundings, giving some indication just how severe the slope really is.
228 / 123 Yards
The Armory is the first of two consecutive holes where which set of tee markers one plays has a tremendous impact on the difficulty of the hole. Not only does the hole require a long forced carry with a long-iron or hybrid, but a bunker determines the accessibility of a particular hole location from the black or Dynamite tees. From the blues on down, the bunker has a decreasingly significant effect on the golfer when the pin is on the left half of the green. The raised green pad makes it very difficult to play a run-up shot, which is a bit of a shame on such a long hole that plays into the prevailing wind.
The fourth features a three-tiered green whose highest point lies in the middle, but the slope to either side is pretty mild. Two-putting can be a challenge, only because one is likely to have such a long birdie putt after a tee shot of 200+ yards.
654 / 458 Yards
I didn’t have the heart to go all the way back to the Dynamite tees on this hole (they’re a full 75 yards behind), but this hole was plenty long enough from the Blacks. The fairway looks like a nice little saddle off the tee, but the best line is actually over the inside corner of the left-hand bunker, since the hole works its way to the left at the crest of the hill. There’s a little speedslot as an extra reward if you ARE able to carry that bunker, putting the green within reach for super-long hitters. Otherwise, middle of the fairway is just fine if you’re going to play it as a three-shot hole.
The second is actually one of the tighter shots on the course, and the swales in front of the green make it a) difficult to run the ball up if you’re going for the green in two and b) tough to get a level lie for your third. Although the hole location on the day I played was relatively benign, right at the front of the green, anything close to the back edge would be downright devilish no matter what club one hit in on the approach. Swales and falloffs would take all but the most crisply-hit approaches right into some very proximal greenside bunkers.
209 / 151 Yards
The sixth was one of the weakest holes on the course, I thought…not because it wasn’t difficult, but it was one of the few holes at The Home Course where I wasn’t excited to hit the tee shot.
Three boring saucers surround a three-tiered back-to-front saddle green…it’s almost as if Asmundson knew this was going to be the weakest hole but needed to get from the fifth green to the seventh tee somehow. So he threw all of the modern gimmicks at the hole he could to try to distract you.
There is an amazing view of Mount Rainier off to the left as you approach the green, though.
434 / 325 Yards
The seventh was another one of my not-too-favorite holes (thinking back, other than six and seven, I really liked the front nine). At 434 yards, you’d think driver was a near-must to have a decent approach to a green that is fronted by water and bowled at the back edge…but unfortunately it’s taken out of your hands by a severe downslope just in front of the pond…which you can’t even see from the tee. Blind hazards are never a good thing, particularly on a high-end daily-fee course like this one with a lot of first-time players.
So after a solid fairway wood, you’re looking at a downhill shot with a mid-iron to a rock-hard green. When the pin is in the front, as it was the day I played, there’s literally no way to stop the ball on the green. Perhaps as the course matures a bit, the green will soften, making this less of a concern. It’s unfortunate that Asmundson felt the need to take the pond so far to the left, so as to cut off any chance at a run-up shot for the well-placed tee shot down the left-hand side…perhaps one can use the green contours when the pin is on the right-hand side, but it doesn’t work on the left.
561 / 466 Yards
The eighth starts a stretch of four pretty cool holes. At 561 yards, it’s quasi-reachable, except that the tee shot is uphill, and the angle on the second shot is unique, as I’ll explain in a few sentences. It’s actually a really attractive tee shot, and an old wooden-rail fence meandering its way along. There’s no sense of constriction but some curiosity at what might be just over the of the hill. The far right side is absolutely the best line if you’re trying to reach the green in two.
Upon reaching the crest, there’s a spectacular view of the Olympic mountains and a vague notion that it’s still better to approach the green from the right side. But the first time around one doesn’t truly appreciate just how far right, or the dire necessity if you want to get close to a hole position on the left side.
That’s because a HUGE knob guards the front-left corner and is positioned extremely close to the putting surface. No matter the loft you come in with, that ball ain’t stopping until it’s rolled two-thirds of the way to the back. It may or may not be natural, but by using it Asmundson has created a very rare breed of hole: the medium-length par five that makes you think about how to play it.
432 / 331 Yards
The ninth was absolutely one of my favorite holes at The Home Course…probably because it’s the one that feels most from another era. It’s also one of the more deceptive holes one’s first time around the course. The tee shot is absolutely stunning, working its way over the crest of yet another hill, and down towards one of the few glens of trees on the entire golf course. The wooden rail from the last hole makes a return appearance, with a hazard down the left.
The hazard looks mildly threatening off the tee but actually there’s plenty of room down the left-hand side, and you could be blocked out, particularly for right hole locations, if you hug the right-hand side of the fairway too closely.
The green looks typically modern from the approach–without much interest–but its interior contouring is pretty special. There’s a medium-size plateau at the back of the green that pokes out into the center as a little ridge, so it has quite a bit of influence over any shot that isn’t perfectly struck.
569 / 432 Yards
The Back gets off to a somewhat disappointing start, as the walking golfer is left with a fairly hefty trot to the 10th tee, and transported from the bucolic splendor of the 9th green to another semi-blind tee shot where the real eye-catcher is the backdrop of suburban Tacoma. But put the houses out of your mind, and you realize “Narrow Gauge” is actually a pretty solid risk-reward hole.
A good tee shot to the right-center of the fairway will leave a little bit of a downhill lie, making the second shot a little tougher than you might envision. But, while it doesn’t appear so from the fairway, there’s actually quite a bit of room over the right greenside bunker (perhaps 20 yards?) before you reach the green. Balls should get a nice little kick forward.
If you’re playing #10 as a three-shot hole, the best angle for your approach is from left-of-center, where you’ll have a bit of an uneven lie. It also seemed to play about half a club longer for me. There wasn’t much to the green, as I remember. But it was an enjoyable hole.
340 / 274 Yards
I have to say, Asmundson’s Challenge wasn’t much of a challenge. But given the impending stretch of holes from #13 – #16, it’s nice to have a birdie opportunity thrown in ahead of time.
It’s basically a drivable par four, with the prevailing wind. Even if you don’t drive the green, you’ve got a fairly straightforward pitch shot. The gaping bunker that commands your attention off the tee is actually far enough in front of the green that missing anywhere left or right of it leaves a pretty straightforward pitch shot.
Additionally, the pin positions could get pretty nasty, with falloffs into collection areas on both sides. But on a typical day, this is a hole you need to take advantage of.
165 / 122 Yards
I think, or at least I *hope* that this is a temporary hole. The walk (or drive) from the 11th green to the 12th tee was about 400 yards in-and-of itself. It looked like they were trying to grow in some fairway that hadn’t taken hold yet.
The green on this hole was pretty boring and the cart path was awfully close to the lefthand side. That’s about all I can remember.
466 / 340 Yards
Thirteen feels like a “transition” hole where Asmundson is just trying to get you out of the woods for good and back to the “Sound” part of the property. The fairway is wide enough to land a 747, but into the eponymous headwind you’ll need to knuckle down and focus on your trajectory.
Even a well-struck tee shot will probably leave a fairway metal or hybrid into the green, but there’s plenty of room to hit the run-up here. The green actually wasn’t as dull as you might think on a hole of this length, with a fairly subtle Biarritz in the middle. Just enough visual interest to keep you on your toes, but easy enough to read such that a player skilled strong enough to reach this green in two has a legitimate birdie putt.
196 / 119 Yards
The only hole on the course that feels like it should be in Florida. It’s a long carry over water to a big,flat green. There’s plenty of room to bail out left and the up-and-down from over there isn’t bad. The banks aren’t shaved so tight that a ball will roll back into the water, but I suspect they might be when the US Am match play qualifying rounds are played here in 2010.
433 / 298 Yards
Fifteen was one of the coolest holes on the course, I thought. The tee shot is a little deceiving. The large ridge on the left-hand side looks like it’s pinching the fairway in, and encouraging a right-center or even right-right tee shot.
But in actuality, there is a TON of room over that ridge, and the left side is actually the best angle into the green for certain hole locations. In that way, it’s kind of a poor-man’s version of Coore & Crenshaw’s ridge hole (#4) at Bandon Trails.
The shape of the green, and actually the contouring as well, is one of the most interesting on the course, a little half-boomerang, half-redan with all sorts of ruffles, shelves, and ridges. This would be a spectacular hole, in my opinion, if the fairway were about two-thirds as wide and the mounding behind the green were removed, making it a truer redan on the second shot.
559 / 460 Yards
There was surprisingly little interest on a hole named “The Works,” other than the to thread your second shot between the large knob and the bunker. There’s a Mackenzian dearth of fairway bunkers on this hole making the tee shot a total giveaway. The green is fairly challenging but dull in appearance.
Given the upcoming thrill of the 17th, perhaps Asmundson is simply trying to lull the player to sleep here and jump up and bite him on the green (if so, the strategy worked on me; I made bogey from 120 yards in).
400 / 282 Yards
Probably the most scenic hole on the course, with views of the Olympics, the Sound, and Mount Rainier on three sides. It’s the final semi-blind tee shot on a course that’s full of them. I say that affectionately–with the fairways as wide as they are, I think the semi-blindness of the tee shots in general makes them exceptionally thrilling to hit–you always feel like you’re accomplishing something if you can figure out just the right line to get you maximum distance.
At any rate, back to the 17th. It’s really a fascinating tee shot. The further right you go, the more likely you are to get the benefit of the speed slot as far as distance is concerned…but you’d rather be even further right to have the best angle into the green, as there is a gaping bunker that protects the lefthand side. It’s a pretty sharply raised green, appropriate for a hole where most players will have a wedge approach, and the falloff/false front is not a feature you want to mess with. And depth perception is difficult with no mounding behind the green to assist the indecisive golfer. It’s a brilliant hole at a brilliant time in the round after you’ve just played three brutes in a row, with a final beast on 18.
470 / 348 Yards
As a Championship test, eighteen is a brilliant finishing hole in my opinion. It’s not the most interesting hole on the course, but it requires the golfer to hit two very solid shots to reach in two, and with the late-afternoon sun illuminating from behind, it’s peaceful and stern at the same time.
Strategically, the tee shot is considerably more interesting than the approach. Due to the right-to-left slope in front of the right-hand side of the green, it’s actually best to flirt with the lefthand fairway bunkers…you’ll also have a far better view of the green from there. Tee shots in the right rough will leave a largely blind second shot.
Approach-wise, there’s plenty of room for weaker players to run a shot up, and if their wedge game is solid, they should have no trouble getting up-and-down from 40 or 50 yards.