The 10 best golf courses in Washington (2022/2023)
As part of GOLF’s course rating process for 2022-23, our fleet of 100-plus expert panelists identified the best golf courses in Washington. Browse the links below to check out all of our course rankings, or scroll down to see the best courses in Washington.
GOLF’s other course rankings: Top 100 Courses in the World | Top 100 Courses in the U.S. | Top 100 Courses You Can Play | Top 100 Value Courses in the U.S. | America’s Best Municipal Courses | The 100 Best Short Courses in the World
1 = Top 100 Course in the U.S.
P = Public/Resort Course
V = Top 100 Value Course in the U.S.
M = Top 30 Municipal Course in the U.S.
Ed. note: Some courses were omitted from our rankings because they did not receive enough votes.
The best golf courses in Washington (2022/2023)
1. Gamble Sands (Brewster) [1, P]
After stamping his name on some penal, polarizing courses, Bandon Dunes designer David McLay Kidd had what he described as a come-to-the-mountain moment. It was time to revert to what had worked so well at Bandon and place a renewed emphasis on fun. In apple-orchard country in Eastern Washington, Kidd shaped fairways as wide as airstrips, but he gave them ample movement while adding contours that steer borderline shots away from trouble. Greens are sizable and rumpled, too, with tightly mown runoffs where putter is often the wiser choice than wedge. “Fun,” it turns out, isn’t losing your ball. It’s finding it with ease, and then sorting through the many options for how to play it next.
2. Chambers Bay (Tacoma) [P, M]
Robert Jones Jr., with the on-site help of Bruce Charlton and Jay Blasi, created a superb addition to the Pacific Northwest landscape. Previously, the best-known courses in the area featured soaring fir and other distinctive hardwoods. Chambers Bay brought scale and width to the region, with stunning long views in all directions. The stretch from 13 through 17 is the stuff of dreams with its requirements alternating between power and finesse. Recently regrassed, the firm playing conditions allow the design to play as well as it photographs.
3. Wine Valley GC (Walla Walla) [P]
4. Sahalee — S/N (Sammamish)
5. Aldarra (Sammamish)
6. Seattle CC (Seattle)
7. Tumble Creek (Cle Elum)
8. Fircrest (Fircrest)
9. Gold Mountain — Olympic (Bremerton) [P, V, M]
Not much has changed since 2011 when then-17-year-old Jordan Spieth won the U.S. Junior Amateur here — because why mess with a good thing? Elevation changes produce challenging lies on wide fairways lined by 100-foot fir and cedar trees. The greens have plenty of subtle breaks, and adjacent collection areas will test your short game. The course drains well (a handy trait in the Pacific Northwest), but there is permanent water on six holes. Only one hole — the signature par-3 16th — is all carry over the hazard. The reachable par-4 closer offers a huge risk/reward opportunity, with water up the right side to the green. The Seattle ferry docks only 15 minutes from the course.
10. Canterwood (Gig Harbor)
How we rank our courses
For GOLF’s course rankings lists, each panelist is provided a list of hundreds of courses and “buckets,” or groupings. If they believe the course to be among the best in its category (World, U.S. Value, etc.), they check the corresponding box to place it in a specific bucket. Panelists are also free to write in courses they felt should have been included on the ballot. Points were assigned to each bucket; to arrive at an average score for each course, we divide its aggregate score by the number of votes. From those point tallies, the courses are then ranked accordingly.
The key to the process is the experience and expertise of our panel. Hailing from 15 nations and all the worldwide golf meccas, each of our 115 handpicked panelists has a keen eye for architecture, both regionally and globally. Many of our panelists have played more than 1,000 courses in 20-plus countries.
Because we don’t prescribe a set method to assess courses as other ranks do, no one opinion carries the day — our rank is a democracy. Some panelists believe that enjoyment is the ultimate goal, and thus prioritize design attributes such as width and playing angles, while frowning on upon having to constantly hunt for balls in thick rough. Other panelists value challenge and the demands of hitting every club in the bag. Still others consider a course’s surroundings and overall environment of paramount importance, thereby emphasizing the setting and naturalness of the course. In the end, allowing raters to freely express their tastes is what produces the desired eclecticism in our Top 100 lists.
Panelist integrity is vital. Voters with any ties or associations to eligible courses must flag such conflicts. Panelists also know not to let the quality of their play influence their ballot — same for a luxe experience or clubhouse. While opulence may make for a more a memorable outing, it’s not what GOLF’s course lists are about. Our focus is on design and architecture. We study the course, not the trappings around it.
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