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Originally published June 23, 2007 at 12:00 AM | Page modified June 23, 2007 at 2:02 AM

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Chambers Bay golf course opens today

Chambers Bay | The Pierce County municipal course, which opens today, already is being called one of the country's best.

Seattle Times staff reporter

Chambers Bay


Location: About five miles south of the Narrows Bridge in University Place, at 6320 Grandview Drive West.

Greens fees (taxes not included): Between $65 and $150.

Designer: Robert Trent Jones II, LLC.

Par, length: Par 72. Five sets of tees, from 5,253 yards to 7,585 yards.

Ratings, slope: Men, back tees, 76.9 rating, 135 slope; white tees, 70.1 rating, 122 slope; women from forward tees, 70.5 rating, 122 slope.

Caddie fees: Single bag, $35 plus tip; double bag, $70 plus tip.

Golf carts: Permitted only for golfers with medical conditions or disability. Caddie must be hired to drive cart.

Craig Smith

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UNIVERSITY PLACE — The most anticipated opening of a golf course in state history happens today as play begins at Chambers Bay.

This is not your father's municipal golf course.

This is a $20.7 million course with aspirations of hosting a U.S. Open.

The Pierce County course is envisioned as a golf destination for affluent players from around the world who won't wince at the $150 weekend greens fees.

Even before its opening, the course is getting rave reviews.

Gushed Bradley S. Klein of Golfweek: "A stunning technical achievement, one that appears entirely natural, Chambers Bay clearly rates among Golfweek's Best top 50 Modern Courses (post 1960)."

Chambers Bay


Location: About five miles south of the Narrows Bridge in University Place, at 6320 Grandview Drive West.

Greens fees (taxes not included): Between $65 and $150.

Designer: Robert Trent Jones II, LLC.

Par, length: Par 72. Five sets of tees, from 5,253 yards to 7,585 yards.

Ratings, slope: Men, back tees, 76.9 rating, 135 slope; white tees, 70.1 rating, 122 slope; women from forward tees, 70.5 rating, 122 slope.

Caddie fees: Single bag, $35 plus tip; double bag, $70 plus tip.

Golf carts: Permitted only for golfers with medical conditions or disability. Caddie must be hired to drive cart.

Craig Smith

Klein calls Chambers Bay "the most carefully crafted and well-designed municipal golf course to open since Bethpage State Park's Black Course in 1936. The big difference is that Chambers Bay, perched on the windy shoreline of Washington's lower Puget Sound, has a better natural setting and makes for a more exciting walk."

Bethpage hosted the 2002 U.S. Open, and that was where Pierce County executive John Ladenburg got the inspiration for Chambers Bay.

"The danger is not to aim high and fail," Ladenburg is fond of saying. "The danger is to aim low and succeed."

Before it opened, Chambers Bay had reservations for 4,600 rounds in its first 30 days. The goal is to average about 35,000 rounds a year.

The 230-acre course is the centerpiece of a 930-acre park the county bought for $33 million in 1992, when the property was a sand-and-gravel quarry.

Already, there are 3 miles of paved public trails on the property, including a section that goes through the golf course with little noticeable impact on golfers.

Eventual plans are to add 8 more miles of trails, put in a grass-bowl amphitheatre that can accommodate 4,000, and build a bridge over the railroad tracks that hug the coastline. That will open 2 miles of beach to the public for the first time in more than 100 years.

The links course was designed by the noted firm Robert Trent Jones II, LLC. Ladenburg calls the course property "a sandbox" in which Robert Trent Jones Jr. and his associates were turned free to work their magic. They moved about 1.4 million cubic yards of dirt and sand to create mounds and open areas that look natural but were crafted by bulldozers.

This week Jones, whose firm has designed more than 240 courses worldwide on six continents, called Chambers Bay a "once-in-two-decade piece of land."

Jones said Chambers Bay is "true and pure" links golf like that of Scotland, because the course is next to the sea, near an estuary and is built on sand. Golfers have the option of playing bump-and-run or flying shots to the greens.

Northwest golfers are accustomed to trees, but there is only one tree on this course — a Douglas Fir behind the 15th green.

The park and course offer mesmerizing views of Puget Sound, and the panorama of the entire course is visible from the roadside path on the bluff overlooking the property.

The course is operated by Kemper Sports of Chicago, which also operates Bandon Dunes in Oregon.

Officials from the United States Golf Association were consulted during planning and construction to make sure the course could handle a U.S. Open. Chambers Bay officials also have been in contact with the PGA of America, which runs the PGA Championship.

Major tournaments are scheduled nearly a decade in advance. But two reasons for U.S. Open optimism are that the USGA, under executive director David B. Fay, likes public courses, and the Northwest is the only part of the country never to host one.

Craig Smith: 206-464-8279 or csmith@seattletimes.com

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