It’s a sunny day in Tacoma and shade is a rare commodity on the grassy knolls of Chambers Bay. Scanning the horizon there appear to be sea hawks tracing the sky. They’re swooping in concentric patterns and it takes a few moments to realize that I’m actually staring at kites. Optical treachery is par for the course on this Robert Trent Jones II course where putts are a lot like Transformers—way more than meets the eye.
Good thing I packed my Ecco Streets. The only essential I’ve forgotten at home were tees, but at courses of this caliber they always have you covered gratis, so no sweat. If you are not in top shape I’d highly advise visiting the Caddyshack before your round and hiring yourself a stout shouldered club-sherpa to tote your bag and share invaluable local knowledge.
“Pretend the hole is over here,” is a common refrain from my caddy, Wilson De Lancy Jr. The greens are fast and bumpy, and before I heed his advice my intuition can have me aiming as much as 180 degrees off target. Though there were quite a few serendipitous bump and runs that left me close enough to the pin that there was no need to hazard a guess. As an added bonus De Lancy also happens to be the author of an e-book on the best way to fix a slice and manages to considerably straighten mine out by the turn.
Chambers Bay is no pushover. When it hosted the 2010 U.S. Amateur, after the first couple rounds before some easier pin positions were selected and tee adjustments were made, only the top three names on the leader board were shooting under par. And as you've all seen with the 2015 U.S. Open attempting to tame this wild andscenic links laid out along Puget Sound with the Olympic Mountains looming in the distance is no picnic.
Originally used as a sand and gravel quarry, giant remnants of the site's mining history persist and are visible from the fairways. The concrete avant-garde shapes provide an angular, industrial beauty—alien to, and juxtaposed onto the course's natural curves and ornamental vegetation. There are some steep hill climbs, mostly from greens to the subsequent tee boxes where once can see how this spot might have just as easily been turned into a Motocross park before the golf course idea was cemented.
Chambers Bay attracts many joggers, power walkers and plenty of “trail candy,” as my caddy keenly points out when a duo of fit Lycra-clad ladies pass by causing his neck to crane. The connecting Grandview and Soundview trails loop around the periphery of the course and offer clear views of Fox Island and McNeil Island to the West.