Whatcom Magazine

Whatcom Outdoors: Whatcom County’s golf courses offer bountiful beauty, varied challenges

Some golfers like to pick one course and stick with it year-round. There are good reasons for that approach, including improved course knowledge, camaraderie with other members, and, for frequent players, annual fees that typically drive down the cost per round.

I’m a transient golfer who prefers to take advantage of the amazing array of challenges that each of our Whatcom County courses provide. As we head into summer, my plan is to play all 11 public courses in the county in rotation.

If you haven’t committed to any one course, consider my plan, which, like the PGA tour, is grouped into regional “swings.”

Northern Swing:

Border courses, Lynden links

To start the summer with a touch of international flair, cross the border (four times, unless you charter a short flight) to play Point Roberts Golf & Country Club. While called a “county club,” Point Roberts is open to the public, with a nice layout of tree-lined fairways and plenty of well-placed water hazards.

Next, head to Blaine to play Semiahmoo Golf & Country Club and Loomis Trail Golf Club. These semi-private courses are beautifully manicured and managed, and always a delight to play. The pubic is welcomed at Semiahmoo on odd days of the week and at Loomis on even days.

Continuing east, your next two stops will be Dakota Creek Golf and Grandview Golf Course. Located in Custer, these relatively short courses are good options for beginners or to work on your game if you laid-off through the winter. Dakota climbs onto a hillside near the Canadian border, and from the fairways along the ridge it offers spectacular views toward the Strait of Georgia. Flat and inviting, poplar-lined Grandview is an ideal beginners’ course, but with enough obstacles to challenge almost any golfer.

Completing the Northern Swing, visit Homestead Golf & Country Club in Lynden. With its signature island green, the links-style course challenges your ability to play target golf around ponds and over creeks.

Central Swing:

Golf with a view

While different in style and attitude, one thing the Central Swing courses share is their magnificent views of Mount Baker.

Start at friendly little Raspberry Ridge Golf Course, at Pole and Hannegan roads. The short nine-hole course is popular with seniors, couples, and people eager to learn the sport. Situated in a pastoral setting surrounded by berry fields, it’s widely recognized as one of the driest winter courses in the county.

A few miles south, on Axton Road, you’ll find Shuksan Golf Club. Running in and out of a deep valley punctuated by meandering Ten Mile Creek, the course has several elevation changes that give it a distinct personality.

Completing the swing, head to North Bellingham Golf Course, at Smith Road and Guide Meridian. Another links-style course, its most distinctive quality may be the greens that are lightning-fast all summer. The layout takes full advantage of the prevailing winds, making it the truest links experience in the county.

Southern Swing:

Woods and wildlife

On the final swing, you’ll tee up at Lake Padden Golf Course and Sudden Valley Golf Course. Lake Padden is a city-owned park and, as such, is one of the best values in the state. Carved out of a dense forest of cedar and fir and accented with frequent wetlands and wildlife sightings, it’s one of the most popular and finest public courses anywhere.

At Sudden Valley, on the western edge of Lake Whatcom, the front nine hugs the lake’s shoreline while the back nine heads up through the woods and onto the hillside that overlooks the valley floor, making it play and feel like two different courses. Grazing deer, soaring eagles and the slapping sound of a boat heading through the gentle wake combine to make it a perennial favorite of county golfers.

Not to go unmentioned, while Bellingham Golf & Country Club is arguably one of the nicest courses in the area, it’s a private, members-only facility, so the only way you can play it is to join or to have a member invite you. If you’re fortunate enough to be invited, don’t pass up the opportunity. It’s a remarkable course with a storied history of excellence.

There you have it. Enjoy each of the county’s public courses. And consider yourself lucky; there are few if any other counties in Washington that can boast so many high-caliber courses.