TUMWATER, WA - Anyone who has driven Interstate 5 between Portland, Oregon and Seattle has passed the red brick tower of the Old Olympia Brewhouse.
This historic landmark stands guard over the southern end of Puget Sound like a medieval castle. Visible just above the brewery are the Tumwater Historical Park, Henderson House Museum, and Bing Crosby's ancestral home - all of which are welcome and interesting respites for the weary freeway traveler and family.
However, what one does not see from the Interstate is the beautiful Deschutes River basin which meanders behind and to the left of the brewery. This picturesque expanse of river bottom boasts one of Western Washington's best-kept golfing secrets - Tumwater Valley Municipal Golf Course. A once private club course, Tumwater Valley is not the typical city-run golf enterprise: the fairways are well managed and the greens well kept, the serene Deschutes meanders next to and through many of the course's eighteen holes, and year-round resident Canadian geese and Whitetail deer greet many early morning golfers.
But more than just these esthetics, the Valley, as it is known to the locals, has a mystique all its own. One senses it as ones motors down the long drive, passes the huge natural grass driving range, and arrives at the entrance to the pro-shop. Whether it comes from the early morning mist that rises from the lush landscape or from scenic Mount Rainier which looms behind almost every green, when one arrives at the Valley one feels tranquil. It is a unique experience to sense such peace when one enters at a new place; however, that is how one feels when one disembarks at Tumwater Valley.
In stark contrast to the serenity one perceives from the ambiance of the setting, the golf course challenges the adventurous of heart like a dragon of old would affront a Gothic knight. A true golfer will love the Valley - not for its narrow fairways, many sand traps, or picturesque water hazards, because these things do not exist here. What does reside here, however, is a course which thrashes and beats and claws at every potential conqueror.
Take for example, the fifth hole which measures 567 yards from the blacks, 486 from the blues, and 467 from the whites. Number Five - one of four long par five's on this course - punishes the golfer from the start. The tee for the fifth hole requires the golfer to hit a shot up a hill and between stands of evergreen trees, which line both sides of the fairway. The landing area for the tee shot, which is the narrowest on the course, falls away almost forty feet. Subsequently, if one hits the perfect tee shot on Number Five, one is left with a difficult 200-yard downhill lie second shot.
Laying up short of Number Five's downhill landing area is also a mistake, as a huge stand of evergreen trees curls into the fairway on the left. If one should happen to hit a great 200 yard downhill shot second shot or draw a 250 yard 3-Wood shot around the stand of trees, one still must avoid the huge sand trap which guards the front right of the green. As one might guess eagles are rare on this hole, but can be had if one puts a ball close and sinks a great putt across Number Five's undulating green.
The eighth and eleventh holes also chasten the golfer who would try to best them. Eight and Eleven are double teed and greened, with number eight playing the longest at 216 yards. Both holes play across natural ponds which extend almost from tee to green.
Standing on the eighth tee, one gets the perception that the hazard goes on forever - and it can if one is unwary. However, if one hits a good 3-iron off the tee on either of these holes, one can easily slay both these serpents.
Finally, just as one feels that the end of one's quest is in sight, the eighteenth hole rises to castigate the potential conqueror. After seventeen holes of muscle-aching and back-breaking golf, eighteen looms like monster. Playing 535 yards from the blacks, eighteen is the fourth longest hole on the course. Additionally, this brute's tee shot must carry the Deschutes River, which crosses in front of the tee, then snakes along the left lateral side of the whole hole. To convey this meandering river serpent, the bedraggled golf must crush a 240 yard drive.
If one should happen to hit a outstanding drive and an equally proficient second shot, one still has to negotiate the large sand trap which guards eighteen's rolling green. However, if one can beat the river serpent and vanquish the sand, a birdie or an occasional eagle can be had on this hole.
As the haggard conqueror sits tabulating his or her scorecard and thinks back over his or her round at Tumwater Valley, he or she will once again be struck by the beauty of this place - Mount Rainier looming in the distance, the Deschutes River rambling through the course, and the wild geese waddling across the fairway - and he or she will think to him or herself, "How could someplace so beautiful be such a bad dream." But to the true golfer that is Tumwater Valley - a place of both serene peace and medieval nightmare. It is a course worth playing if ever one is driving past the historic Old Olympia Brewhouse.
Tumwater Valley Municipal Golf Course
4611 Tumwater Valley Dr.
Tumwater, WA 98501