Northwest Trip, Part 3: Green Grass & Gloomy Skies

The weather has been pretty ugly up here and I haven’t had much free time for golf anyway, but I was able to squeeze in another couple of rounds before getting home. Thankfully, the gloomy skies were counterbalanced by a lot of green grass on the courses I played, so that was nice to see coming from drought-stricken California.

On Thursday afternoon, there was a little break in the weather and I was able to sneak out for a round. Since I am staying in Vancouver, I wanted to try and get in one round on this side of the river…

Camas Meadows Golf Club • Camas, WA • 10/29/15

I booked a 2:00 tee time to take advantage of the afternoon price drop. It was still $43 with a cart, but I was glad to see it wasn’t too crowded out there. I wanted to get around as quickly as possible. I did have to play through five groups on the course, but otherwise I was able to play at a very brisk pace and it worked out perfectly.

With all the rain, the course was playing as cart path only, which was a bit of a nuisance. This course is not set up that well for it. On one hand, it’s nice that the paths are set off to the sides and don’t detract from the aesthetic presentation of the course. However, in a place where it is wet much of the year and they play as cart path only a lot, it seems like a questionable set up. There is a lot of slippery turf and muddy spots, and you have to be very careful. I found out the hard way as I had a pretty nasty fall on the steep hill between the 9th cart path and fairway. It’s basically a 45-degree slip-n-slide there right now!

The wetness did make it hard to fully enjoy this nice course. At the same time, it’s Washington in late October, so it is to be expected and you just have to deal with it. Beyond the extra sogginess, the course was in great overall condition. Things were lush and green throughout. The wetness did soften the greens some, which is a good thing. I could tell they normally might be somewhat firm here. Still, they were rolling very smooth and fast as the recent aeration was already pretty much healed.

Camas Meadows offers some nice diversity in terrain and layout elements. The opening hole flows with several holes on the back, flat and tree-lined with a tricky dogleg right. Then, another stretch on the front nine opens up in more of a meadow setting, as the name would suggest. There are a couple long forced carries over marshy long grasses. Then, there are some holes with slight hills and more trees and natural hazards in play. There are some short holes and some long ones, each offering a different strategy and set of challenges. On the back nine, some really nice houses line several of the holes. Unfortunately, it was too cloudy for me to catch any of the views of Mt. Hood that you see on their website. Still, it’s a very nice overall setting for a course.

I’m not sure what would be considered the “signature” hole here, but the 11th stands out as an interesting one. It is very short, but you have a long forced carry off the tee and then an awkward angle in with a dogleg left. Of course, big hitters might go at the green, which certainly favors a strong right-to-left ball flight because some trees guard the corner up near the green.

The 18th is a good and demanding finishing par-5 with kind of a double dogleg design that can be tricky to navigate, and then you have a small pond guarding the green. One of Camas Meadows’ more interesting features is the life-size Spider-Man perched up in one of the trees along this fairway. I do not know why it is there, but it is.

Ultimately, I am glad I got to squeeze in this round at Camas Meadows. It is a fantastic course with a great southern Washington setting. It is a fun and challenging layout that most people will find interesting and enjoyable.

Some pictures from Camas Meadows Golf Club (10/29/15):

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Even though the weather was ugly most of the week, I actually got in more golf than I expected to while visiting the Portland/Vancouver area. However, on Sunday it was time to start heading home. Of course, I found time to stop for one final round along the way…

Grants Pass Golf Club • Grants Pass, OR • 11/1/15

Even though I grew up nearby and I’ve always wanted to play this course, I just never had the chance. Part of the reason is timing because this is a semi-private club that’s generally only open to the public in the afternoon. I rarely found myself driving through Grants Pass at a time that worked out to play this course during its available hours. It worked out well this time, though, so I booked a 12:04 tee time and headed out there while working my way south.

I was the first public time off, but they had me by myself and I was directly behind a foursome and then a fivesome of members. Eventually, they both let me play through and another slow group ahead only played nine holes, so things opened up nicely on the back nine and I got around in just over three hours. It was exactly what I was hoping for, so I could get back on the road. It was also great that I avoided any of the rain that was forecasted to come in during the afternoon.

The price was a reasonable $40 with cart, which is less expensive than I had expected based on the rates listed on their website. The carts here are all ready for the rainy season with the club covers and even canvas doors/curtains that you can close up if it really gets ugly.

The original 9-hole course opened in 1946 and then the other nine holes were added in 1972. You can definitely tell the two nines were built at different times. The front nine is a more traditional and flat parkland kind of course. There are some water hazards in play, but most everything lays out nicely in front of you and the landing areas are generous. In general, though, the actual fairway cuts are somewhat narrow throughout this course.

The back nine tightens up and becomes more of a target layout with hillier terrain, narrower angles and more significant doglegs shaped by the trees and hills. Personally, it’s more my style, but I enjoyed both halves of this course a lot.

To add to the enjoyment, Grants Pass GC was in great shape overall. The tee boxes were excellent and the fairways were extremely lush and nice throughout. Either they hadn’t got as much rain here during the week as up north or the course drains better. Though it was still quite soft, things weren’t nearly as mushy and wet as I had gotten used to in Portland. The main areas of rough were lush and nice, but not too penal. Along the outer edges and in areas under trees, the grass coverage got spottier. The greens were soft and rolling smooth/true at medium speeds. The bunkers were perfect and all clearly fluffed up by maintenance in the morning.

One thing to note is that holes 5 and 6 were playing to temporary greens on Sunday. There was a sign in the pro shop that said they are this way “until further notice.” It’s kind of a bummer, especially on the 6th hole. That is probably the best hole on the front nine and it’s pretty much neutered by the temporary green set up. I didn’t notice any significant damage on either of the regular greens and I didn’t see any signs of maintenance, so I am not exactly sure why they are closed. It’s just something to ask about if you happen to play here this winter.

Though there’s a couple of tricky holes on the back nine, I don’t know if I would call anything here a “signature” hole. The layout won’t blow you away, but it provides enough diversity and challenge to keep you interested. The great conditions and nice rural setting add some appeal, as well. The fall colors were cool, as you’ll see in the pictures, even though the skies were gloomy. That’s just the way it usually is this time of year.

I would definitely recommend Grants Pass Golf Club as one of the better courses in the Southern Oregon area, where there aren’t a ton of courses to begin with. It’s well worth a stop if you are driving through or staying in this area.

Some pictures from Grants Pass Golf Club (11/1/15):

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