Like most golf courses in Northwest Washington, Sudden Valley Golf and Country Club is not at a loss for beauty.
Tucked in next to Lake Whatcom in the Sudden Valley development outside Bellingham, it’s hard to find a more attractive course anywhere.
But Sudden Valley is not all about looks. The course also has some great golf holes.
In an online poll conducted last year by The Bellingham Herald, Sudden Valley had five holes selected to the Northwest Washington Dream 18, by far the most of any course.
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It also received a four-star rating from Golf Digest.
The course’s director of golf/golf professional Greg Paul said he believes the club’s semi-private makeup also makes it special.
“Our course is the centerpiece of the (Sudden Valley) community,” Paul said. “It has the character of a club. We are open to the public, but we are semi-private. We’ve got the third-largest membership, and that gives you the dynamic of the club, but we’re open to everyone else. We kind of fill in around the club.
“It creates a neat sort of atmosphere, where everybody knows everybody.
“Plus it is on a beautiful piece of property, one that you just can’t get for golf courses any more.”
Paul give readers a tour of the course by breaking down some of its key holes and giving a few tips:
“It’s the one everybody remembers because of its sheer beauty. There is not another hole that has a location like that. The green borders Lake Whatcom, and you see the Stewart Mountain in the background. Plus it’s a great hole — it’s our No. 1 handicap hole.”
Members' favorite hole
“The Cliff Hole. It’s a dog-leg left par 4 that has a 150-foot drop off the tee to a generous landing area. People love that tee shot. Then you have to play target golf to the green that is protected by a grass bunker and two other bunkers. It’s really our second signature hole. It’s unusual to have two signature holes like that.”
“It’s not the longest, but it is tough. It has the No. 3 handicap, so that means it scores the second toughest on the front nine. You have the creek running down the left side that is out-of-bounds, then it cuts in front of the green and goes down the right side. You have bunkers protecting the left side of the gree and a line of trees that separates the fairway on No. 9 from the driving range. You have to hit the perfect drive and then you still have a tough 150-yard shot to a well-protected green.”
“It’s a downhill, 167-yard hole to a big green that is protected by two bunkers. You have an elevated tee, so you can see it real well, and even if you miss (the tee shot) will roll down there and get close. It should be an easy par, and even if you miss the green it’s not a bad up and down.”
Hole not to be underestimated
“It’s only 336 yards, so it doesn’t look like much, but it’s a tough drive and you must be accurate through the chute off the tee. There is a landing area to the right, but it is a dog-leg left with elevation change. You have to make sure you pick the right club or your distance will be off as you approach a well-protected green. You need accuracy and you need to get on the green.”
Best hole to grip it and rip it
“There is a generous landing area. There is a pond on the left side, but most long hitters can hit it over that, and there is plenty of room to bail out to the right. The hole typically plays down wind, so it’s a great hole to pull out the driver.”
Tee shot on No. 15
“It’s really tempting to take your tee shot over the top left and try to get it close off the tee. You can see the tops of the 150-foot Douglas Firs to the left, and if you take it over the top you can set yourself up for a possible eagle. But there is out-of-bounds left and right, so you have to be careful.”
Worst place to get stuck on course
Left or right off tee on No. 17
“You are hitting out of a chute on No. 17, with trees lining both sides for about 70 or 80 yards off the tee. If you push or pull your shot off the tee, it will bring you down in there, and then the meter is running. If you don’t make it out of the chute clean, it’s going to be a long, difficult hole.”
Toughest green to get good readNo. 6
“It’s a two-tiered green that breaks away on the edges. The tier runs laterally, so you get a lot of side break as well. The front third breaks off the green, so there are a lot of breaks and multiple reads. The shade can also play tricks on as you try to read.”
Tip to playing the course
“You have to realize the differences between the front nine and the back nine. On the front nine, there are a little more generous landing areas off the tee, so it’s easier to take the driver out and play a bit more aggressive. However, starting with No. 9, you have to change your playing style. You have to play placement golf and hit from A to B. You work the ball from spot to spot and take eagle out of the equation.”
Meet the club professional
Club Pro since: Fall of 1992
Previous experience: Served as assistant pro at Sudden Valley after he started at the club in 1981. He served as the first club pro at Avalon Golf Course for 18 months, before returning to Sudden Valley to take the head pro position.
Why a club pro: “Growing up, being around golf is all I wanted to do. I grew around Gray’s Harbor Country Club in Aberdeen, working around the pro shop and the clubhouse. I spent every day I could out there.”
Top accomplishments: 1998 Merchandiser of the Year by the Western Washington Chapter of the PGA. “Nothing playing wise. You have to be on a different level to accomplish that. You can’t run the business and get out to fine-tune your game at the same time, so at some point you have to make that choice. So I made the choice to focus on the business and try to keep my game in good shape.”