Changing the face of Championship golf in the Pacific Northwest

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“Putting greens are to golf courses what faces are to portraits.”

          -Charles B. Macdonald

In July of 2016 the USGA accepted Pierce County’s invitation to host the 2019 U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship, giving Chambers Bay the privilege of being the first municipal course to host the USGA’s newest Championship and joining an elite list of courses, including the Olympic Club, Winged Foot, and Pinehurst, that will have hosted the U.S. Amateur, U.S. Open, and U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championships.

Meanwhile, we had come to terms with the inevitability of a natural evolution to Poa annua-dominated putting greens, and we were adjusting agronomic practices to attempt to accelerate the transition. Then in early 2017, turfgrass health issues surfaced on three putting surfaces (No. 7, No. 10, and No. 13) and it was determined that we needed to re-surface those greens. We chose to do so with a local source of Poa annua sod.

Early results of that sod work prompted conversations between Chambers Bay, Pierce County, and the USGA about the prospect of re-grassing all of the greens. By the end of that year, consensus had been reached that such a project would not only ensure better putting surfaces for future Championships, but would improve the every-day experience for our customers.

Now, with the 2018 growing season nearly behind us, we’ve experienced universally positive feedback about the three Poa annua greens.

“The people I have talked to have been nothing but positive about the Poa annua greens that they’ve played,” said Larry Gilhuly, USGA Agronomist. “Players think the greens are spectacular. They’re firm. They have good pace.”

Consequently, we are formally announcing the commencement of the remainder of the project. The course will close as of Oct. 1, 2018, and is planned to re-open with Poa annua putting surfaces in March. The transition from fescue to Poa annua putting greens will provide long-term benefits to the facility and ensure that we host an exemplary U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship in 2021.

During the closure the golf shop and restaurant will be open as follows:

M-F – 11 a.m. – 3 p.m.

Sat & Sun – 8 a.m. – 3 p.m.

The golf course closure will not impact operations of the Chambers Creek Regional Park.

Throughout the process we will provide regular photo, video and narrative updates.

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Showing 24 comments
  • John M. Ennis

    Very sound decision!

  • David E

    Honestly – this is a very good move. As much as I like the experience, I was not planning to head back to Chambers until the greens changeover was “completed” — so I’ll be VERY happy to play this spring! The prospect of not getting myself out there for a couple years while the changeover happened gradually was a sad one… and now a prospect of the past!

  • Art Arnold

    I was fortunate to play Chambers Bay prior to its hosting the US Open. I was very disappointed in the disservice the USGA handed to Chambers Bay at that event. And given what the USGA has done to outstanding courses since the Chambers Bay Open, I would keep them and their agronomists as far away as possible. It is a shame that Chambers Bay must change the native grasses to accommodate USGA tournament needs. Chambers needed nothing to make it exceptional when I played there.

  • James Sundell

    Wow! Quite a project for the golf course. When finished this will be a true destination for golfers from all over the world.

    • Steve Rolfe

      Poa Annua is a native grass. In fact, it is an invasive species that will take over whatever grass has been planted. The problem with other grasses is they don’t hold up and will eventually be displaced by Poa Annua.

    • MC Golfer

      Poa annua is also a native grass!

  • Mark Sxhedlee

    Nothing but spin. We’ve known this since The Open. Governments shouldn’t lie.

  • Jeff Wilson

    This is long overdue. Chambers Bay is such an awesome golf course with the exception of the below average greens. Now the whole experience will be truly worth the money it costs to play golf there. Hats off to them for facing the music and getting their greens up to a higher standard, once and for all.

  • Jack Morris

    Let’s hope that the change to poa annua greens holds up on this gorgeous venue!

  • Mark Hollinger

    Well a little disappointing as we had planned to play the course in Mid-October, but probably in the best interest of a world-class golf course long term. I have been fortunate to play all over the world and would put Chambers Bay in the top 25 I have played anywhere. Good Luck!!!

  • Raj LP

    I was fortunate to be able to get out for a round last week. Good luck to everyone. Can’t wait to get back out there. (Please don’t raise prices)

  • Dean Roberts

    Now make the course spectator friendly after the Open debacle and you’ll have something

  • Tony DeMarco

    I agree with the statement above. Raj is wondering the same thing I am. Who is picking up the tab? The high cost to play this course is an attempt to create an air of exclusivity. Its a county owned, public course. Not Augusta National. Send the USGA the bill.

  • JP Agnew

    I have made the 4 hour drive from Vancouver BC to play Chambers on several occasions. Not only do I immensely enjoy this course but always had a great time staying in Tacoma for a few days while our group played in your area. The transition to the new green surfaces is a very welcome development. I love this course but the grass of the pacific northwest will always eventually take over green surfaces and it was difficult to play these greens in the last few years. This change will firmly place this course in the rightful position where it should be as one of the best courses you can play in North America.
    I am looking forward to playing again when the project is completed.

    J.P Agnew
    Vancouver BC

  • shane

    i actually loved the greens – but i haven’t seen them in bad condition – i know the pros complained (babies) – they were typical of links style greens – the bump and run – a bit sad really

  • BMatt

    The original fescue greens had their chance. After 11 frustrating years of temp greens, bare spots and bumps – they’ve got to go. They’ve been the black eye on a world class layout since the course opened. I don’t really blame the pros for their comments about the greens during the US Open. As a NW golfer, I was embarrassed that our course had such a terrible showing in our first shot at a major since the 90’s. Yes the USGA burned the course out, but the greens were going to suck regardless. They’ve never been right. The 3 greens that have already been replaced are perfect. Looking forward to the new rugs, no temps, and hopefully another major.

  • Steve Rolfe

    My question is why resodding was necessary? Doesn’t Poa Annua take over greens in the Northwest anyway in about 5 years.

  • Neil Salaria

    Well, it’s a bittersweet feeling. What made chambers bay unique was the grass, that is local to this region, and it required a different skill set to play and succeed on the course. Honestly, the pros had no right to complain about the greens, especially if they were competing for millions of dollars in prize money. A major championship needs to be difficult, and pros should be able to adapt to unique landscape and green conditions. But since Chambers bay wanted to get back into the USGA and be in contention to host another tour event, they had to make the changes, and I frankly don’t blame them. Just don’t raise the prices that it takes away from the local folks who have supported this course through the tough times.

  • Scott Dennis

    Looking forward to playing again this Spring. My only request would be that you push to keep the greens firm and relatively fast so that this amazing links course does not turn into a schizophrenic blend of an awesome layout and contour, but shooting darts to the pins if the greens are not firm and fast. That would take so much of the fun out of the course. In the end, I’m grateful for having such an awesome venue in the NW, so best of luck with the greens and see you in the Spring!

  • mike preiss

    The first time I played there was about 8 months before the open and I loved the fast firm fescue greens and its a little sad to see them go but seems they have been difficult to keep up to standards so I am fine with it. The greens were not perfect at the us open they were good enough to shoot a backside 29! by Louis O (open record) and quite frankly it was one of the best and most exciting us opens in years, so the layout was fantastic and with the greens better they need to bring it back. Just don’t invite Billy boy

  • Dave K

    The old greens were terrible. I’ve played CB twice and never putted on greens as weird (and slow) as these. Look forward to getting to a more conventional putting surface to compliment the extraordinary layout with gorgeous vistas!

    • Mike Preiss

      “Traditional” greens are fescue in links courses and they were slow? I don’t think I have ever seen them slow but okay. There have always been a few Pro’s that complain about open conditions since forever and it was “burnt out” because it plays harder firm and fast, if it were slower and greener the winning score would not have been -5 it would of been more like -15 and that aint no us open. Remember this years British open? brown, dry and dusty!! and awesome! links at its best. Americans need to understand not all courses have to be pristine green like Augusta

      • Mike Preiss

        Just read your comment properly “conventional” not “traditional” my bad, but the rest I stand by!

  • MC Golfer

    The course probably should have had Poa annua greens from the get go. I hope RTJ Design and USGA reimbursed the county for the failed Fescue Experiment.

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