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Golf's a sailing breeze for Seattle's cruise ship crowd

By Chris Baldwin, Contributor

If you're taking a cruise to Alaska, Hawaii or even Australia, chances are you'll fly into the Seattle-Tacoma Airport and spend a day or two in here before or after the trip. Consider playing a round at West Seattle Golf Club, The Golf Club at Newcastle, Washington National or the Classic Golf Club in Tacoma.

seattle cruise ships
Seattle's downtown docks are filled with hulking cruise ships.
seattle cruise shipsSeattle - Safeco Field - MarinersNewcastle - Fred Couples design - Seattle, Washington areaSeattle - Pike's Market

SEATTLE — The Emerald City is such a cruise ship magnet that the airport screeners can tell you about the daily cruise rushes — the times when the Seattle-Tacoma Airport is so overrun by cruise shippers flying in and out to begin or end their journeys that the screening lines make a wait for a PlayStation 3 look like a breeze.

If you're taking that once-in-a-lifetime voyage to Alaska, Hawaii or even Australia, chances are you'll be spending a day or two in Seattle waiting before or after the trip.

There's plenty to do in the land of Microsoft. A trip to Pike's Market is a must. Maybe, you want to search out the first Starbucks in the never-ending roll of Starbucks. Safeco Field for a Mariner's game is popular (though it's actually something of a downer if you've been to baseball's other new parks). The Space Needle always ... well, it's no Eiffel Tower. Maybe, you want to catch some grunge music and feel the stare of an unwashed guy with a guitar who clearly thinks you're a lower subspecies.

OK, come to think of it, maybe the Seattle itinerary could use a fresh jolt. Doing anything on the list of usual suspects will put you on the exact same course as almost all the other 735,000 cruise shippers who pass through here every year. Not to mention the other nine million visitors Seattle claimed last year.

Going golfing though, that will separate you from the crowd. Far from crowd.

Despite the Northwest beauty in its midst — towering pines, glistening lakes, you name it — Seattle isn't much of a golf town. Oh, it has the golf courses. It just doesn't have the golfers to fill them.

This means cheap green fees, few waits on the tees and plenty of unexpected joy. Sometimes being in a town where golf isn't hip is just the trip.

Especially if you're going to be cooped up in a cabin about as small as Borat's welcome-to-America elevator room for 10 days in the near future. Get out and smell the piney air, my man. Get out.

"Two days of this," veteran cruise shipper Blake Whitefield said between swings at the showy Newcastle, "and I'm decompressed enough to hit the sea. A few birdies and it's even better."

Worse case, you have something pleasant to think about while you're hunched over portside with the sea sickness.

Seattle Golf Courses

The Seattle region doesn't have an endless run of top courses. Or anything close to it. But it has enough. The first thing you need to do is to get out of Seattle itself. Unless you're dying to play West Seattle Golf Club — a course with rolling hills and nice views that's the best of the city munis, but definitely still muni with long waits on the tees — you can skip the city itself entirely.

This means picking up a rental car. You don't want to be relying on Seattle's cab industry, where drivers charge $50 for a one-way trip between downtown and Bellevue, a glossy high-end suburb where golf is more respected.

If time's short in Seattle, with a hulking ship or something else calling you, get to The Golf Club at Newcastle. This two course complex carries the design touch of a native son (Seattle's Fred Couples) and soaring views of the Seattle skyline.

No. 1 on the Coal Creek course has you shooting at the top of the skyscrapers on the horizon with green and pines all around you. It's also a 621-yard par 5.

Just because Seattle is as laid back as a college kid whose parents are paying his tuition and credit card bills doesn't mean that its golf always is.

Washington National is another high-end course that can be squeezed into a full-rudder Seattle golf escape. Stretching out to 7,300 yards, this John Fought design has those pines, that Northwest striking blue sky (on the days it doesn't rain) and white sand bunkers that you will not forget. Or avoid.

Of course, high end means something a little different here than in Las Vegas, Scottsdale or Hilton Head. Washington National's top peak-season weekend greens fee comes in at $94.

With some area discount cards, it's possible to get on courses such as Newcastle and Washington National for less than $50.

Suddenly, you're glad all the folks hanging out in those coffee shops don't golf.

Unique Yarns

What if you just want a really good story to tell on the cruise ship though? One that can captivate the stooped-over crowd on the shuffleboard deck and tycoon gargling caviar in his super luxury cabin?

Play Tall Chief. This is a 12-hole course in Fall City. No, it isn't some super cool idea from a quirky innovator who realized most people don't have the time to get in a full 18 and yet want something a little more than a nine-hole course. Tall Chief used to be an 18-hole course, but it needed to give up the land on six holes for housing development to survive.

That doesn't mean you cannot spin some yarns about playing one of the nation's only 12-hole courses that would put the ship's captain to shame.

The Classic Golf Club in Tacoma is another interesting, unique course. It's not exactly isolated in Northwest nature and the trees are more oaks than gigantic pines, but golfers appreciate the challenge of its par 5s — and $25 greens fee.

Take advantage of it while you can. Soon, you'll be on a floating city where the prices make you feel like it's 3007. The cruise ship will undoubtedly have some kind of high-tech golf simulator on it though. One that could easily eat up those Seattle golf savings.

Not that you'll need it. You experienced the real thing in your time on shore. You rocked the boat.

Chris BaldwinChris Baldwin, Contributor

Chris Baldwin keeps one eye on the PGA Tour and another watching golf vacation hotspots and letting travelers in on the best place to vacation.

Reader Comments / Reviews Leave a comment
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    Cruise Ships


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