When I moved across the country to take up residence in Seattle last month, one big question loomed: Where would I play golf?
I grew up in Williamstown, Mass., a small town in a sparsely populated part of the world. When you live out in the country, playing golf is relatively simple. A lack of demand means that the game is relatively affordable. A lower population means that crowds aren’t usually an issue. Small communities can be more welcoming to newcomers. And heck, there’s not even any traffic, so even the process of getting to and from the course is extremely straightforward. My first membership was $60 for an entire summer at Stamford Valley Golf Links, which turned into a nine-hole playground for me and my older brother. The golf course meant fun, it meant challenge and it meant whiling away summertime afternoons chasing the sunset.
About 20 years later, I took up full-time residence in New York City — and all but abandoned attempts to play regular golf near home. The greater metropolitan area is awash in fantastic courses, no doubt. But there were so many new barriers; rounds suddenly meant some combination of train ride and Uber, they often took five to six hours instead of three to four and the associated costs went way up, too — and joining a club seemed unrealistic in the short-term, at least. Golf, like most stuff, is just more difficult for the common New York resident. Whenever I traveled for work, I’d bring my golf clubs, but when I was home they gathered dust in the closet. (Worth noting that “in the closet” doesn’t actually apply in this case because again, this was New York. I didn’t have a closet. They stood in the corner, next to my Craigslist dresser.)
So what would I find in Seattle, still a major metropolitan area but with a smaller footprint, lesser population and greater connection to the outdoors. Would I discover more New York or Williamstown?
I knew about the highlights, of course. I’ve been shouting my adoration for the fantastic weirdness of Chambers Bay since it hosted the U.S. Open in 2015, and as the lead commander of Muni Mondays, I’d taken hole-by-hole tours of Gold Mountain, too. I’d seen pictures of Sahalee. I’d traveled to Gamble Sands in my mind. I knew Bandon Dunes was within road-trip distance. But what about for just an average Seattle afternoon?
I pulled up Google Maps the first night in my new apartment, and found that the closest outline of unmistakable golf-course green was right nearby: Interbay Golf Center! Done. One foggy morning that first week (not a rare thing, I hear) I booked a time for 8:30 a.m. Playing by myself, I still easily made it home by 10. When I did get home, I made another tee time.
I’ve been to Interbay five times now. Tomorrow I’ll make it six. Why? In short, the scene at Interbay is filled with simple pleasures that make me happy; here are some of my favorites:
A picnic table, a tee time, a hot dog and a Tecate.
A driving range with two levels! And with actual green-style targets to hit to. The best.
A steady chatter that spills from the snack shed to the sitting area to the putting green to the first tee, abuzz in the evening with content clientele.
A 7:52 p.m. tee time with more than enough light to finish.
A tee shirt and gym shorts and a dress code of whatever you want, really.
A challenging, no-frills 18-hole mini-golf course with a built-in speaker system and a killer soundtrack.
A par-4 opener, some 290 yards from the tips, just to ensure you can’t call it a “par-3 course.”
A clear dedication to pure greens despite the nonstop play that comes with the Pacific Northwest’s endless summer nights.
A true sense that you’re in the midst of a complete cross-section of Seattlites (note: I initially wrote “Seattlans,” but was corrected enough times within the first hour of publishing that I will never make this mistake again) of varying age, race, gender, income bracket and worldview.
A wide-open layout, 1366 yards from the tips, that’s genuinely beginner-friendly.
A blackberry bush behind the 5th tee where you can pick up a juicy snack and a view out into the Puget Sound.
There’s plenty of golf to explore in my new city, and I’m eager to get out in it — from the tree-lined pines of Sahalee to the wide-open moonscapes of Chambers Bay to the ferry ride that will get me close to Gold Mountain. In the meantime, it feels good to have a happy, comfortable base — a place that helps make the entire city feel a little bit more like home.
This is also part of our Muni Monday series, spotlighting stories from the world of city- and county-owned golf courses around the world. Got a muni story that needs telling? Send tips to Dylan Dethier or to firstname.lastname@example.org and follow Muni Mondays on Instagram.