By Erik Matuszewski
One of the many beauties of golf is that the playing field itself is different everywhere you go.
There are true links, parkland courses, desert layouts, mountain courses, par threes, and more. The look and feel can change depending on the category of course, too, from a charming muni to a working man’s daily-fee or a posh private. And of course, geography might be the biggest variable, as a course in the Northeast will look quite different than those in Florida, the Monterey Peninsula, the Great Plains, Hawaii, Scotland, or the sandbelt region of Melbourne, Australia.
This is why so many of us avid golfers travel—locally, nationally or globally—to experience new golf courses.
It’s also at the root of my recent exchange with a fellow golf writer. His question was pretty simple: while many of us have played 36 holes in a day, what is the most diverse course combination you’ve played in a single day?
It’s very subjective, entirely based on your experiences, and naturally, got me thinking.
I actually gave my answer pretty quickly, in part because that day had been a calculated plan of attack on my part.
I’m a big college football fan; more specifically, a lifelong fan of the University of Washington Huskies, and despite living in New Jersey try to get out to Seattle at least every few years for a game. Several years back, when Nebraska trekked to the Pacific Northwest, I too made the journey—with both football and golf in mind.
I called in a favor to start my day with one of the very first tee times at Sahalee Country Club, one of the premier private clubs in the Seattle area and a layout that hosted the 1998 PGA Championship, the 2010 U.S. Senior Open, and the 2016 KPMG Women’s PGA Championship.
Sahalee has an unmistakable Pacific Northwest feel. The narrow fairways of the club’s three nines are lined with majestic and mature trees: Douglas fir, red cedar, and hemlock. Over the years, many golfers have affectionately (or perhaps not so affectionately) referred to it as “Sa-hallway,” given the exceedingly tight confines off the tee.
After my round, I drove less than 90 minutes southwest, skirting downtown Seattle en route to Chambers Bay, the brawny public course on the shores of the Puget Sound. Host of the 2015 U.S. Open, Chambers Bay is a public works project built on the former site of a sand and gravel mine. It’s a dramatic links landscape, with massive dunes shaped from the piles left by mining operations, wide fairways, and one single, solitary tree on the course itself: the “Lone Fir” behind the green at the par-three 16th hole.
The two courses were as different as night and day, and I enjoyed each immensely for their own charms. Ironically, the weather was also different at both venues—relatively clear and crisp in the morning, with a gray sky, and rainy, cloudy, and cool in the afternoon. True Seattle weather, some might say.
Some of the other diverse answers I’ve heard from golfers were intriguing. Among them: Forest Dunes and The Loop at the Forest Dunes Golf Club in northern Michigan; Caledonia and True Blue in Myrtle Beach; Kingsbarns and the Old Course at St Andrews; Whistling Straits and Blackwolf Run’s River Course at the American Club in Wisconsin.
So, I ask you, the reader. Whether it’s contrasting architectural styles or an utterly different look and feel, what is the most diverse 36-hole combo you’ve tackled in a single day?