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Best of the Best 2015 | Journeys: Golf – Gamble Sands

In remote Washington, a winning bet for every type of golfer...

Photo by Laurence Lambrecht

In remote Washington, a winning bet for every type of golfer.

In recent years, golf-course architects have attempted to broaden the appeal of their designs by creating layouts that accommodate players of all abilities. Some have come close, usually by offering a throng of tee boxes. But until last summer’s debut of the David McLay Kidd–designed Gamble Sands, no architect has been so successful at building a simultaneously fun and formidable course for both high and low handicappers.  

Opened last August amid the apple orchards of central Wash­ington (roughly a 3.5-hour drive east of Seattle), Gamble Sands raises accessibility and enjoyment to new levels—and could signal a new direction for the sport. “I want to partner with the golfer,” Kidd says. “If he has some degree of talent, I’m going to help him get around this golf course, to score, to have fun, and to want to play it again and again.” 

Wide open and splayed across the top of a sand mountain, Gamble Sands uses its size as an invitation. It is almost impossible to miss the course’s fairways, allowing even a novice to feel comfortable and confident with driver in hand. But the genius of Gamble Sands was not in making it easy; it was in making it as challenging as the golfer desires. Better players will clearly see the best routes to scoring, as well as the risks—mostly in the form of sand—in the sinuous, easily walkable design. Along the way, golfers of every ability will enjoy the panoramic vistas of the Cascade Mountains and Columbia River. In short, there is simply no way to go 18 holes at Gamble Sands without smiling.

Plans for the club, which is a good distance from any luxury hotels, include a 37-room lodge scheduled to open next summer. For the time being, the club is offering a unique membership program that, for a onetime fee of $100,000, offers unlimited golf for the member and his or her family. The program has no future dues, and the club promises full reimbursement of the initial fee plus interest over the course of 10 years.

The future is clearly a focus for Gamble Sands’ architect, who hopes his latest creation represents a new approach to golf-course design. “The game we love has to change direction,” Kidd says. “It may take 20 or 30 years, but we’re going to realize that people play this game for fun.” Today, at least, there are few courses anywhere that are more fun to play than Gamble Sands.

Gamble Sands, gamblesands.com

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