Gamble Sands

No. 2 at Gamble Sands

Brewster, Washington. Par 4, 340 yards

Gamble Sands sits hard against the mighty Columbia River, on a bluff 300 feet above it made entirely of pure sand. From the bluff you can see the North Cascade Mountains and a huge bend in the Columbia, with the Okanogan River coming in from your right. It’s the most amazing vista, and on top of it I got to build this simple, beautiful, hopefully elegant golf course that ranges across hundreds of acres.

There’s not a tree in sight on the course. It’s covered in fescue and little scrubby bushes. If you go on the attack, the golf course can raise up its claws and bite you. If you don’t—if you just want to get around—the fairways are wide and the greens are soft and huge. Often, I hear people say, “I shot my best round ever there the first time.” Then the second time they get greedy. That’s when her teeth come out. 

The second hole was originally meant to be a par 3. You would come off the first green to the right and play down to a modest 175-yard par 3. As we started to figure out the details, Casey Krahenbuhl, who was my colleague on that project, said, “Hey, this would make a way cooler drivable par 4.” Hell if he wasn’t right. That opened the floodgates: Once we built that drivable par 4 and loved it so much, we built two more on holes 8 and 12. Gamble Sands has seven potentially one-shot holes: four par 3s, and three short par 4s.

No. 2 starts from an elevated tee location, staring down at probably the best view on the golf course. The hole from the tips is only 310 yards. From the regular tee, it’s maybe 290. You can hit a driver to pin high right of the green, and the contours are going to kick you onto a kidney bean-shaped green where the golf ball gets sucked down into the middle of the putting surface. Right away, No. 2 teaches players that the ball is going to bounce at Gamble Sands. If you can cover that center bunker with a 3-wood or a driver, it is going to kick to the left toward that green and you’re going to have an eagle pop. I haven’t heard of any aces yet, but it’s definitely in the cards. 

If you want to lay up, there’s a bunker right in the middle of the fairway, because I hate when people just laying up. I want to force you to think about it. If you really want to lay up, you have a few ways to do it. You can hit an 8-iron and then a 9-iron or wedge into the green. Or you can try to hit a rescue club over that center bunker, and then you can play a little gap wedge bump-and-run. Better yet, a little chip shot with a 7-iron (that would be my play). Hell, you could even putt it. 

No. 2 sets the stage for a golf course that wants you to be aggressive. I don’t want people to be playing defensive golf. I don’t want you saying, “It’s not worth the risk.” I want to green light you. The punishment for error is not going to be fatal. I want you to be bold, to swing through the ball, get your weight through, and really drive it home. No. 2 sets that stage. It tells you right away: Don’t lay up, pull your driver, bomb it. Go for it.

It is definitely one of my most fun holes. I just wish it was No. 17 and not No. 2. That’s my only gripe. 

Gamble Sands