It’s not difficult to figure out what sets Bellingham Golf and Country Club apart from the other courses in Northwest Washington.
“It’s a 1912 old-style country club,” head golf professional Mike Montgomery said in a phone interview. “We have big, old, mature trees lining the fairways. It creates a different look than what you will see on many of the younger courses in the area. You don’t seem too many younger courses that are build on land with mature trees like we have. You need to look at courses that have some history, like ours.”
In addition to the mature trees, Bellingham also has a history of small, fast greens and firm fairways and being kept in impeccable condition.
“Each hole is it’s own little entity,” Montgomery said. “You don’t feel like you are seeing every other golfer on the course. Each hole, you feel like you are out there by yourself. It’s a peaceful, enjoyable experience.”
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Montgomery gives us a taste of that experience by taking us on a tour around the course:
“To some, it all about the controversial tree, especially for the bigger hitters. It lies right where you would like to start your drive … It’s about 150-foot Douglas fir, probably a few hundred years old. Dave Bocci, our course superintendent, has the right to remove any tree he sees fit except that one. That one would take a vote by membership to get out of here. For a long hitter that wants to reach green in two, it lies right in your way.”
Members’ favorite hole
“It’s a beautiful setting. The tee is right below the balcony on the clubhouse, so the pro shop and clubhouse are right on top of the first tee. It looks down quite a long fairway. It can create some first-tee jitters. It’s a fun hole, a 485-yard par 5 that creates great opportunity for big hitters to have an iron into the green with a big drive. It definitely gives them a chance to get a birdie right off the bat. For the average golfer, it’s relatively easy par.”
“It puts lot of pressure to make 4 on No. 1, because you know 5 is very likely on the second hole. It’s a soft dogleg right, that has a good uphill nature to it ...There is out of bounds to the right and the rough is heavy to the right and left. If you get in the junk, you’re dead … The green is severely contoured. For a fairly decent sized green, there are very few useable pin locations, because it is so severely contoured. You see so many three puts that it bring bogey back into the ballgame, even if you’ve hit two perfect shots to get to the green.”
No. 1 easiest birdie
“It’s the easiest hole to birdie. It’s got a fairly wide fairway. If you get a pretty good drive, you’ve got 220 to the green, so you can hit and iron. Big hitters can use a 5 or 6 iron to the green.”
Toughest green to read
At least on a severity scale. We have a few greens with double tiers. Three or four greens have double-tierness. Anytime you have to go from one level up to another or vice-versa, it makes it very difficult to judge distance.”
Best risk-reward shot
Second shot on No. 7
“Let’s say it’s the most alluring shot. I don’t think it’s a good gamble. If you get through that gap, you start thinking to yourself, “I should have intestinal fortitude to go for the green,” even though your gut is telling you it’s probably not the smartest play. There is a creek in front of the green, barely to the right is out of bounds. There are a batch of trees to the left or right that can be clipped and drop into a hazard or out of bounds … It’s a lot of fun to think about, but not necessarily a wise choice.”
Worst place for a ball to land
Creek on No. 1
“Every day I start groups off from the first tee, and I see every day I see somebody top it and end up in the water — from the scratch golfer to the high handicapper. You always have a crowd, so you’re going to have people watching ... You, literally, need to hit it 50 yards to clear that creek. There are a lot bad places to hit it, but to add insult to injury, the most embarrassing place is the creek on No. 1.”
Hole not to underestimate
“I think on a scorecard, you may say it’s No. 18, because it’s a par 3. To some, it’s an odd way to finish, but I know several great golf courses end on a par 3 ... The fact that it’s 192 yards and you need to hit anywhere from a 3- to 5-iron into that hole, it plays longer and more difficult than any of our par 4s.”
Best hole to grip it and rip it
“If you hit it long, maybe you can get there in 2 and take a shot at a birdie. It has a generous fairway. The longer hitters can clear the fairway bunkers, but if you miss it a little you’ll be in that fairway bunker. It’s one hole that I focus on hitting it harder.”
“It’s something that I picked up from longtime members and what told I told the (Class) 2A boys before played the state championship out here. A lot of people come in and we have hole location sheets that tell them exactly where hole is. You don’t need it. If you play to the middle of green on our small greens, you’ll never be in trouble. You’ll never have a long shot.”
Meet the club pro
Club pro since: 2005
Prior to that: Served as an assistant club pro and Tacoma Country and Golf Club for 8 1/2 years and at Rainier Golf and Country Club for 4 1/2 years.
Why a club pro? “I played competitive golf since I was 6 years old. To me being around the country club and playing competitive golf and having great respect for PGA pros who helped me through my childhood.”