TPC Snoqualmie Ridge

Hole 10 at Snoqualmie Ridge

The TPC designation lends golf courses a certain cachet. The oft-challenging TPC layouts share a number of recurring design features: risk-reward par 4s; grassy mounds and swales; tightly mown chipping areas; and at least one short-but-dangerous par 3, which often seems to appear at the 17th hole (a la TPC Sawgrass).

Surely one of the top dogs in the TPC kennel is Snoqualmie Ridge, located about 30 miles from the high-tech, coffee-guzzling metropolis of Seattle. Designed by Jack Nicklaus, Snoqualmie lies at the center of a planned community owned and operated by the real estate division of timber giant Weyerhaeuser.

Like a roller coaster racing through the foothills of the Cascade Mountains, Snoqualmie Ridge alternately climbs and dips throughout its 7,264 yards, constantly building in drama to a go-for-it par-5 finish, which comes with a genuine stadium-golf green.

Like a coaster, the adventure begins with little fanfare—No. 1 is a moderately interesting, 554-yard par-5 that swings right and asks the golfer to favor the left side on the lay-up to allow for an open approach. The fun begins on the caffeinated 3rd hole, a long par 4 at the highest point on the property, with views of the Cascades.

The adrenaline continues to flow at the 426-yard 4rth. Here an elevated tee seems suspended in the treetops, but well-grounded golfers will take care to avoid not only the hidden stream in the canyon below, but also the steep bunkering that runs along a ridge to the left.

Water enters the picture at the 529-yard 8th, where a small lake guards the green and makes a bump-and-run approach virtually impossible. On the 207-yard ninth, a much larger lake stretches from tee to green.

The action on Snoqualmie’s back nine is hot enough to melt surrounding glaciers. If you can negotiate a minefield of pot bunkers with your drive at the 353-yard 10t)), you’ll face but a short pitch to the green. The 426-yard 12th offers a look at what may well be the tallest waterfall visible from a golf course anywhere: 268-foot Snoqualmie Falls. During my visit a misty cloud hovered above the plunge pool, accompanied by a giant rainbow that promised hope for a successful finish.

And so it goes—long and short holes, up and down; the pacing of the layout is invigorating. The par-4 14th is the most exhilarating of all. Although the hole is 448 yards, the green is reachable from the tee—provided you’re gutsy enough to shortcut the horseshoe-shaped fairway and carry a drive 290 yards across a canyon. Even if you choose a more conservative tack, you’ll still need 280 yards to clear a pesky fairway bunker at the corner of the bend, so you may as well bet the ranch, right? Plan C—certainly the most sane strategy—is to deposit your ball on a hidden swath of fairway to the right, leaving 200 uphill yards to a tiny putting surface defended by a 14-foot-deep bunker.

The march up the 498-yard, par-5 18th must dodge an array of pot bunkers scattered in and alongside the dogleg-right fairway. Making the last few steps to the amphitheater green, I pretended I was waving to the gallery as I polished off another tour victory.