BIRCH BAY — Though Sea Links Golf Course just opened to the public on Saturday, there is a familiar feel about the course.
That’s because the nine-hole executive course is built on the same land that the 18-hole, par-3 Sea Links Golf Course was built on before it was forced to close in 2004 because of financial difficulties. Before that, the course was the Birch Bay Golf Club.
The course was purchased in August 2006 and reopened last week under the new ownership of Homestead Northwest, which is the owner of Homestead Farms Golf Resort in Lynden.
Reopening the course took some work, though.
“When they closed the course down in 2004, it was turned into a hayfield,” Sea Links head golf professional Chris Jorgensen said in a phone interview. “We had a whole lot of hay to bale.”
Course developers also went to work, refurbishing the greens and bunkers, improving irrigation and adding a pair of par 4 holes to the existing front nine of the old Sea Links course.
Actually, the course is still a work in progress. Jorgensen, who was the assistant pro at Homestead Farms, said the ninth hole is playing as a par 3, but plans are to turn it into a par 4 once the fairway matures a little.
The first seven par-3 holes are holes from the old Sea Links course, while the eighth and ninth holes will be the new par 4 holes.
“My vision is that this is definitely family-friendly golf,” Jorgensen said. “We hope to get a lot of junior and younger players who find it difficult to go to a big 18-hole course when they are only hitting the ball 50 or 75 yards. It makes it difficult and frustrating for them to pick up the game. Here, golfers will get to learn while they play a challenging course that is kept in excellent condition.”
Jorgensen said the new Sea Links course has been able to draw on the resources of the bigger Homestead course, including Homestead’s Director of Maintenance Mick O’Bryan.
“I think this course is a nice addition to Homestead,” Jorgensen said. “We’ll have the mean 18-hole course and the nice nine-hole golf course. I think it will be a friendlier version of golf for most players, even though there are still plenty of challenges out there.”
Jorgensen takes us on a quick trip around the new course:
“It presently is a converted par 3. When it’s fully functional, I think it’s going to be the hole … It’s your classic risk-reward short par 4. From the back tees it plays 324. But the problem is the lake takes you to 290 … It really is a hole, for the most part, that every player is going to have to maneuver a mid- to long-iron off the tee … Then the key is the approach shot to an extremely narrow, kidney-shaped green.”
“It has an elevation of probably 50 feet from tee to green. It’s about 130 yards. It’s a visually interesting hole. You get to see the entire green. There are a couple of tee placements that are pretty devious … I definitely wouldn’t say it’s the easiest hole on course, because it can definitely be difficult depending on where the pin is located.”
“From the back tees it’s probably the most difficult. The tee shot is blind up over a little roll then drops back down to the green. It’s fairly tight. It doesn’t have as much water as the No. 9, but it is very tight. It’s like hitting out of a chute. You pretty much have to pipe it, or you never know what’s going to happen on that hole.”
“It plays at about 100 yards. The green is one of the largest on the course and there’s not a tremendous amount of slope to it. It’s 100 yards, which is everyone’s favorite distance. The bunkers are in play, but really don’t factor into it much. I would say everyone should find it pretty easy.”
Hole not to underestimate
“It’s one of those holes when you walk up it’s right in front of you. The green is fairly simple. One bunker is right behind it. But even if you can’t feel it, that offshore breeze can play tricks with you … It seems like a nice casual staring hole, but before you know it, you’re putting for a bogey.”
Toughest green to read
It’s basically a hole that rises up 40 feet of elevation, but then drops back down behind the green. You’ve got slopes in back and front of the green, making it hard to read. You’ve got some slopes on the side, so it’s hard to read in relation to the general terrain. Just a tricky green to read … You can’t really say everything breaks toward the bay. It just doesn’t work that way.”
Best Hole to grip it and rip it
“If you have ability to hit is 285 plus in the air … No. 9 let’s you see what you’re made of. If you can make it, you’re one of the top hitters in the world. Not many tour professionals that can hit it 285 or 290 in the air. It’s a pretty good poke. But you get up there and you starting thinking to yourself, ‘I can do that.’”
Worst place for ball to land
It’s new sand. It takes a little while to settle, so balls are going to plug a little. Nothing worse than a fried-egg lie in the sand. The sand is a nice tan and gives the course a good contrast, but it can get pretty tough in the sand.”
Best risk-reward shot
“Even though it’s not an option for most players. If you’re playing from the white tees, then the carry drops down another 15 yards to about 265, and that’s doable by some long hitters who are middle handicappers. It’s really the only opportunity to challenge the hole.”
“Don’t underestimate the golf course. The length of the course give an impression that it’s easy. But the par 3s are challenging. Club selection is important. The bunkers and the water are there to get you if you aren’t focused.”
Head golf professional
Pro’s previous experience: Jorgensen worked as an assistant pro at Homestead Farms Golf Resort in Lynden. Before that, he played golf at Blaine High School and Washington State University and played on the professional tours off and on for seven to eight years.