Road Holes — 01 June 2015 by Jim Street
U.S. Open — Northwest Exposure looms

DUPONT, Wa. — Northwest Exposure could become a catch-phrase for some of the golf courses located within a 30-mile radius of Chambers Bay Golf Club, site of this month’s U.S. Open.

Among the beneficiaries will be The Home Course, located just 12 miles south of Chambers Bay.

“History tells us that the amount of play will pick up after the Open, especially if the (professional) players like the course and the P.R. is good,” said Ron Hagen, the semi-retired Director of Golf at The Home Course. “(Chambers Bay) is not a typical Open course. It’s unique, and you don’t really know how the players will react until they play it.”

Meanwhile, golfers from around the world are in for a real treat when they get here. “You can kind of draw a circle around the Tacoma metropolitan area where visitors to the U.S. Open will want to play golf,” Hagen said.

“They will play as many courses as they can during their visit.” Among the most popular public courses are the Olympic Course at Gold Mountain, located near Bremerton, and The Home Course, a 7,424 yard (from the Dynamite tees) par-72 layout that recently hosted the first stage of Sectional qualifying for the U.S. Open, which will be played at Chambers Bay on June 18-21.

For the past three years, the trio of courses have teamed up for The Championship Package.

“We had to cut back on the amount of play this year because Chambers Bay reduced the number of rounds because of the Open,” Hagen said. “But the Championship Experience has been very popular.”

Indeed, golf enthusiasts from around the world will trek to this area, bring their golf clubs, and experience the game in a location where major professional golf tournaments are rare. This will be the first time in history that the U.S. Open is played in the Northwest.

Good vibes surely will have a residual impact on the entire region.

Although The Home Course does not have quite the glowing reputation of Chambers Bay, which is regularly regarded as the best public course in the state of Washington, there are some spectacular holes with sensational views.

Views are spectacular at The Home Course

Views are spectacular at The Home Course

“If you catch a pretty nice day, you get a great view of Puget Sound and Anderson Island on the No. 2 green and No. 3 tee,” Hagen said. “When you go down No. 7, you get a magnificent view of Mt. Rainier. Usually, you’ll see some deer, lets of deer and a lot of eagles.

“One thing you find here is that it is very fair off the tee,” he added. “Then things gets interesting. Once you reach the greens, that’s where the fun starts.”

Except for No. 12, which currently is playing as a 214-yard par-3, there are no houses bordering the course.

When The Home Course opened in 2007, two weeks after Chambers Bay and two years after it could have opened if not for needing the go-ahead from the Department of Ecology, No. 12 was a par 4. As the story goes, some errant shots were hit into a certain residence, irritating the owner so much that the hole was shortened to a par 3. The old green is still there for golfers to see as they take a long walk (or ride) from the No. 12 green to the No. 13 tee. The trek gives you some additional time to absorb the rich history of the site.

When the U.S. took over the construction of the Panama Canal in 1904 from France, the explosives used were produced where The Home Course currently sits. The project took an additional 10 years to complete.

During its operation, the DuPont Company had a fleet of narrow-gauge locomotives and rail cars to deliver materials and explosives between the old DuPont Powderworks Plant and the Puget Sound.

“There were about 10 (concrete) houses located on the property,” Hagen said. “They all had chutes going out of the houses, which is where they made dynamite and nitroglycerin and if anything went wrong, the workers could jump into the chutes and get out safely.”

As an added touch, and respect for history, the tee markers are replicas of dynamite sticks — fuse and all.The Home Course (11)

There are still remnants of the houses located on the golf course, one of them visible from the first tee, another on No. 4, two more on No. 10 and one in the middle of the fairway on No. 15. A railroad was built to transport the explosives to nearby ships for the long trip to South America.

A railroad trestle is visible on the No. 5 cart path. Some apple trees, planted in 1833, are still around and located on the left of the No. 1 tee.

They are on land that used to be Hudson Bay Fort and, according to historians, there once was a six-hole golf course near the fort. On the right side of the first fairway is a fenced-in cemetery, the final resting place for settlers and Indians from the Nisqually Tribe.

The Weyerhauser Company purchased the property in the early 1970s with the intention of developing a residential and commercial community. But the Department of Ecology nixed those plans in the bud and the property was then purchased by The Washington State Golf Association and Pacific Northwest Golf Association.

“We can’t plant trees here because it is reclamation project,” Hagen said.

Although only eight-years-old, The Home Course has an impressive resume.

It co-hosted the men’s U.S. Amateur with Chambers Bay in 2010 with qualifying rounds being played at both courses on alternating days. The Home Course also hosted the final U.S. Women’s Amateur last summer.

This summer is all about the U.S. Open.

“It will be exciting for us in June and afterwards,” Hagen said. “A lot will depend on the players and the reaction from the media. If it comes off reasonably well there will be a lot of players who will play here.”

 

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Jim Street

Jim’s 40-year sportswriting career started with the San Jose Mercury-News in 1970 and ended on a full-time basis on October 31, 2010 following a 10-year stint with MLB.com. He grew up in Dorris, Calif., several long drives from the nearest golf course. His first tee shot was a week before being inducted into the Army in 1968. Upon his return from Vietnam, where he was a war correspondent for the 9th Infantry Division, Jim took up golf semi-seriously while working for the Mercury-News and covered numerous tournaments, including the U.S. Open in 1982, when Tom Watson made the shot of his life on the 17th hole at Pebble Beach. Jim also covered several Bing Crosby Pro-Am tournaments, the women’s U.S. Open, and other golfing events in the San Francisco area. He has a 17-handicap, never had a hole-in-one, although once he came within two inches of an ace, and witnessed the first round Ken Griffey Jr. ever played – at Arizona State during Spring Training in 1990. Pebble Beach Golf Links, the Kapalua Plantation Course, Pinehurst No. 2, Spyglass Hill, Winged Foot, Torrey Pines, Medinah, Chambers Bay, North Berwick in Scotland, and Princeville are among the courses he has had the pleasure of playing. Hitting the ball down the middle of the fairway is not a strong part of Jim’s game, but he is known (in his own mind) as the best putter not on tour. Most of Jim’s writing career was spent covering Major League baseball, a tenure that started with the Oakland Athletics, who won 101 games in 1971, and ended with the Seattle Mariners, who lost 101 games in 2010. Symmetry is a wonderful thing. He currently lives in Seattle and vacations in Arizona (and other warm climates) as much as possible.

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