What’s it like to play Chambers Bay Golf Course? In a word, dreamy

GOLF Instruction Editor Nick Dimengo describes the majestic views and layout of Chambers Bay, saying it's his favorite course from 2023

Chambers Bay is the quintessential links course — and it took the author a decade to finally experience its bliss firsthand. / Nick Dimengo

Let’s take it back nearly a decade, to when Chambers Bay Golf Course was hosting the 2015 U.S. Open — which ended in dramatic fashion, with Jordan Spieth winning his second major championship after Dustin Johnson missed a putt on the 18th hole.

I was about two years into my time living in Seattle, and it seemed like everybody but me had some sort of hook-up for tickets to the event. So as my friends experienced the drama unfold in person, I was (jealously) left watching it all on TV like so many others.

Because of this, Chambers Bay seemed untouchable to me, and something I had always put on a pedestal. It amazed me when someone I knew said they had played the course, because it just seemed so out of reach for me — but that all finally changed this year.

Fast-forward to today, and Chambers is actually my de facto home course — and it seems to get more majestic each time I arrive on its grounds.

If you’ve never been to Chambers Bay, it’s sort of unassuming.

First off, it’s located in University Place, a small community just outside Tacoma (which itself is an hour from Seattle), so it’s not as if the course is smack dab in a golfer’s paradise.

The tree-lined street that leads to the entrance of the course is long, with each roundabout and nearly every home on it looking identical.

At Chambers Bay, I discovered a golf moment I didn’t know existed
By: James Colgan

Upon entering the parking lot to the course, you’ve got to keep your head on a swivel as you turn in, because you actually drive over a park’s walking path that loops around half the course — a subtle reminder of the suburbia that borders this former U.S. Open site.

But once you actually arrive, it hits you — pure bliss.

As you overlook the Sound of the Pacific Ocean, the best word to describe that moment is dreamy, with the sunshine, mountains, water and a fresh Pacific Northwest breeze welcoming you.

It’s almost as if you won golf’s golden ticket and you just escaped reality.

Approaching the clubhouse, the 2015 U.S. Open branding is right there to welcome you on the doors, presenting an intimidating reminder about what lies ahead — a course that can chew you up and spit you up if you’re underprepared.

It was at this moment before my first time playing Chambers that it began to feel so real. That this beast of a links course was like something I’ve never experienced.

As you get shuttled down the winding road to the first tee box, the view is spectacular, and depending on the time of day, you either get an unmatched sunrise in the morning time, or Golden Hour in the late afternoon.

Prior to my friend and I teeing off, the starter gave us a few words to help us plan ahead.

“Be careful with those greens, boys,” he joked. “They’ve got dinosaurs and elephants beneath them.”

Ah, yes, those damn greens.

For those who forget, the putting surfaces were a sore subject ahead of the 2015 U.S. Open — and they reared their ugly head on the final hole when Johnson missed a would-be-tying putt. Although Chambers Bay has since redone them, they’re plenty difficult.

As for my round, well, let’s just say two-putts became the norm — with more than a handful of three-putts.

The greens aren’t so much fast as they are big and hilly. So you have to deal with multiple slopes and breaks that make it near impossible if you’re anywhere outside of 15 feet on your first putt.

And if you come up short or aren’t precise with your approach shots, be sure to bring a towel and some sunscreen, because the bunkers are more than happy to devour your ball.

This is why Chambers requires impeccable course management and smart golf, because if you’re too aggressive, you can find yourself racking up strokes in a hurry.

Throughout the round, I had OK shots, a couple superb shots and a few shots I’d rather not write about. And while my expectation was to go low at Chambers Bay, as a first-timer, it was hard to maneuver such a difficult trek — but even after shooting my worst round in about four years (a 97!), it’s hard to find anything bad about that day.

Chambers Bay, One Year Later: Lessons Learned From Its 2015 Debut on the Big Stage
By: Alan Shipnuck

In my opinion, Chambers Bay is the quintessential links course.

As I’ve said before, it’s exhilarating, exhausting and emotional, and if you allow the beauty of its surroundings to distract you, you’ll find yourself happy as a clam — but not-so-happy with your golf score.

Just a few years ago, I never thought I’d get the chance to experience a U.S. Open site for myself. But after making Chambers my unofficial home course, where I visit about three times each month for lessons with GOLF Top 100 Teacher Brian Mogg, I’ve realized just how grateful I am to do what I do for a living — and to share my experiences with fellow mid-handicappers.

Yes, Chambers has gotten the best of me during the two times I’ve played it, but there’s no place I’d rather tee off from on a crisp, Pacific Northwest day. And, in time, I know I’ll tame those dinosaurs and elephants to find myself on the cusp of breaking 80.

Exit mobile version