Community Sports

Avalon offers three times the fun

Maira Macmallan, left, lines up a putt as Eileen Hickford waits on the eighth hole of the South Course at Avalon Golf Links.
Maira Macmallan, left, lines up a putt as Eileen Hickford waits on the eighth hole of the South Course at Avalon Golf Links. NIKI DESAUTELS THE BELLINGHAM HERALD

What sets Avalon Golf Links in Burlington apart from any other course in Whatcom or Skagit counties is its size.

No, not its length in yardage, but its number of holes.

Rather than sporting just nine or 18 holes, Avalon boasts three distinct nine-hole courses.

“It’s a big part of how we try to market the course,” Avalon golf professional Brian Kruhlak said in a phone interview. “We’re really into the ‘Pay for 18, Play All Day’ slogan. Twenty-seven holes is a perfect number of holes to play in a day. Thirty-six is too much. But here, you can play 18 holes, have a nice lunch, and then go out and play nine more in the afternoon.”

And make no doubt about it, each course presents a different set of challenges for golfers.

As well as possessing undulating greens, the South Course is known for its natural beauty with its views of the Skagit Valley and the farms below.

“We like to say the beauty is the biggest hazard out there,” Kruhlak said.

The West Course is the course that is easiest to score birdies or eagles on, because it is shorter. But it is also tighter, demanding players be accurate.

“Both par 5s on the West Course are reachable (in two),” Kruhlak said. “The challenge is keeping your ball in play. If you do, you certainly can score well on this course.”

The North Course is unique, because it has three par 3s, three par 4s and three par 5s.

“The neat thing about it is you never play the same par two holes in a role,” Kruhlak said. “Some places you go and get stretches of par 4s, and that can get a little boring. The North Course is our most favored nine among our customers.”

Kruhlak takes us on a quick tour of the three courses at Avalon:

Signature hole

South No. 2

“It plays out toward the valley. The green is situated on a plateau, where you can look over the entire Skagit Valley. It’s just a beautiful hole. When they first staked the holes, I knew that would be a special spot there.”

Member’s favorite hole

North No. 6

“595 yard, dogleg right, par 5. A beautiful hole. It has a huge, 2-acre pond that fronts the green. The pond runs 170 yards out all the way up to the green. Ninety percent of the players will lay up in front. It makes it challenging to stay away from the pond.”

Toughest hole

North No. 7

“It’s a dogleg left par 4 that goes right through a grove of cedar trees. When Robert Muir Graves designed the course, we didn’t have a whole lot of evergreen trees. When he came across the cedar trees he really wanted to keep them, so he carved out a really narrow path through them. It’s the only hole in all 27 that doesn’t have a bunker, but it’s still the most difficult.”

Easiest hole

West No. 5

“It’s a great risk-reward hole. A drivable par 4 with a big pond down the right. Obviously it’s a big risk to put it in the lake all the way along, which doesn’t work out to well. But if you drive it out there, you can easily make birdie.”

Hole not to underestimate

South No. 3

“Shortest par 3 on the course. But it sits in a corner of property where the wind swirls. It has a two-tiered green with dramatic slope. If you miss it on the right side, it’s very difficult to chip or putt. You see it’s a 137-yard par 3, and you think it’s going to be a piece of cake, but it’s not. It’s one of my favorite par 3s anywhere in the world.”

Best hole to grip it and rip it

West No. 6

“It’s got a wide landing area. Great payoff for gripping and ripping, in that you can get a mid- to long-iron into green of a par 5. Great reward for ripping it, and there is a nice generous landing area.”

Best risk-reward shot

Tee shot on West No. 5

“It’s a reachable par 4, but a great risk. One that most of our members think is worth it. It’s fun to get it up around the green. I think it’s neat to have a reachable par 4. I love the risk-reward aspect of it.”

Toughest green to read

South No. 1

“Interesting challenge on the South Course with the greens being as undulating as they are. All of us who play out here believe that there is a pull to Sedro-Woolley. We like to say that all putts break to Sedro-Woolley. There’s not supposed to be grain in our greens, but on the South Course they do have a slope that is hard to see or some type of grain. No. 1 South appears to slope from back to front, but in fact the balls tend to break toward the back of the green.”

Worst place for ball to land

The pond on North No. 6 and 7

“Your drop is going to leave you in a bad spot. It will make it very difficult to recover for an up-and-down to make up for your penalty stroke.”

Pro’s tip

“You must realize that length is not biggest concern. It’s all about accuracy at Avalon. Keep it in play, and you’ll be all right. There are very few places where you can hit a wayward shot and get away with it … You have to stay focused and hit it straight. You don’t need to hit it long.”