Chambers Bay: The Washington Public Golf Course and US Open Host

Chambers Bay golf course, a US Open course, looking down the fifth hole.
Looking down the fifth fairway at Chambers Bay. David Cannon/Getty Images

Chambers Bay Golf Course is one of the closest things to a true links course in the United States, built on sand and grassed completely with fescue on the shores of the Puget Sound. The course is located southwest of Tacoma, Wash., one hour south-southwest of Downtown Seattle.

In 2015 — just eight years after opening — Chambers Bay became the first golf course in the Pacific Northwest to host a U.S. Open.

For daily play, Chambers Bay is an expensive, walking-only (no riding carts) public course that routes golfers through dunes along wide fairways, with views not only of the Puget Sound but of the Olympic Mountains in the distance. While the course is located in a heavily forested region of North America, there is but a single tree on the golf course itself.

The layout challenges the eye and requires golfers to play links-style shots. The Chambers Bay website states:


"There is no 'line of play' around Chambers Bay, but rather an infinite number of strategies from tee to green that will get the player around the course successfully. Risk/reward opportunities abound, though wide fairways welcome all golfers to swing away."

The western edge of the property is bounded by water and train tracks, with that lone tree standing guard.

01
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Getting to Chambers Bay

General view across Chambers Bay golf course
David Cannon/Getty Images

As noted above, the golf course is southwest of Tacoma, Wash., about one hour south-southwest of Downtown Seattle.

For golf travelers, the airport of entry for a trip to Chambers Bay is the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SeaTac). The drive from the aiport to Chambers Bay is approximately 35 miles via Interstate 5 and typically takes less than a hour (depending on traffic around the airport, of course).

The contact info for the golf course is:

  • Address: 6320 Grandview Drive West, University Place, Washington 98467
  • Phone: (877) 295-4657
  • Website: chambersbaygolf.com

For those who'd like to start their trip in Portland, Ore., the drive north to Chambers Bay is also via Interstate 5, and is approximately 135 miles.

02
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Is Chambers Bay Open to the Public?

The 418 yards par 4, 6th hole at Chambers Bay Golf Course venue for the 2015 US Open Championship on August 12, 2014 in University Place, Washington
The coloring of Chambers Bay is dependent on how much rain the area is getting. This is the 6th fairway. David Cannon/Getty Images

Yes! Chambers Bay is a public golf course owned by the county (Pierce County) and available to anyone who wants to book a tee time. Stay-and-play packages are also available, as are a limited number of membership packages.

But it's expensive. The lowest non-discounted daily rates are around $200, and non-Pierce County residents pay closer to $300. (Those numbers do not account for any additional taxes and surcharges.) Offseason (winter) rates can dip into the $50-$60 range.

Also keep in mind that Chambers Bay is walking only. Call the phone number listed above for more info, or visit the course website to book a tee time.

03
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The Origins of Chambers Bay, and the Golf Course Architect

A view from beside the green on the 485 yards par 4, 13th hole at Chambers Bay Golf Course the venue for the 2015 US Open Championship
Taking in the view from beside the 13th green at Chambers Bay. David Cannon/Getty Images

Once upon a time the Chambers Bay land was an industrial site - a giant pit where sand and gravel were excavated. It was an active quarry for years (dating all the way to 1832), continuing even after purchase of around 950 acres by Pierce County in 1992 (230 of those acres are now accounted for by the golf course; the rest is a public park).

Along the way, the location was also the site of a paper mill, railroad center and wastewater treatment plant, among other uses.

Mining stopped in 2001 when a plan for a public park was settled upon; bids for golf course design and construction were sifted through in 2003.

The bid process came down to five designers or design firms: Robert Trent Jones Jr., Phil Mickelson, Hurdzan/Fry Design, John Harbottle III and Bob Cupp. Jones Jr.'s company was the winner (selected in 2004), and Chambers Bay became Jones' first-ever links-style golf course.

Construction began early in 2006, and Chambers Bay opened for play in June 2007.

04
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Chambers Bay Pars, Yardages, Ratings

The 167 yards par 3, 3rd hole at Chambers Bay Golf Course
The view from tee to green on the par-3 3rd hole at Chambers Bay. David Cannon/Getty Images

Chambers Bay Golf Course can stretch to 7,585 yards for "normal" play, but for the 2015 U.S. Open played as long as 7,700 in some rounds. The maximum possible length, given all available tee locations, is just under 8,000 yards.

Here are the hole-by-hole yardages and pars for the Navy tees, which are the back tees listed on the scorecard for daily play:

No. 1 - Par 5 - 559 yards
No. 2 - Par 4 - 395 yards
No. 3 - Par 3 - 167 yards
No. 4 - Par 5 - 530 yards
No. 5 - Par 4 - 465 yards
No. 6 - Par 4 - 418 yards
No. 7 - Par 4 - 482 yards
No. 8 - Par 5 - 557 yards
No. 9 - Par 3 - 227 yards
Out - Par 37 - 3,800 yards
No. 10 - Par 4 - 398 yards
No. 11 - Par 4 - 457 yards
No. 12 - Par 4 - 281 yards
No. 13 - Par 4 - 485 yards
No. 14 - Par 4 - 496 yards
No. 15 - Par 3 - 139 yards
No. 16 - Par 4 - 396 yards
No. 17 - Par 3 - 172 yards
No. 18 - Par 5 - 541 yards
In - Par 35 - 3,365 yards
Total - Par 72 - 7,165 yards

(Note that during the 2015 U.S. Open, Hole 1 and Hole 18 both alternated between playing as par-4s and as par-5s.)

The ratings for tees listed on the scorecard:

  • Navy Tees: 7,165 yards, par 72, 75.6 course rating, 139 slope rating
  • Sand Tees: 6,513 yards, par 72, 72.4 course rating, 135 slope
  • White Tees: 6,015 yards, par 72, 70.2/76.2 (men/women) course rating, 127/137 (men/women) slope
  • Blue Tees: 5,278 yards, par 72, 71.5 (women) course rating, 128 (women) slope
05
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Big Tournaments Played at Chambers Bay

Chambers Bay during the 2010 US Amateur
When it doesn't rain for a long time, Chambers Bay plays fast, firm - and very brown - as it did for the 2010 US Amateur. Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

Chambers Bay was awarded the 2015 U.S. Open in 2008, not long after opening. But that was the second signficant event played there; the USGA broke the course in first with its amateur championship. Here are the major events thus far played at Chambers Bay, and their winners:

At the 2010 Am, Uihlein defeated David Chung 4-and-2 in the championship match. That tournament also featured Morgan Hoffman, Nick Taylor, Patrick Cantlay, Max Homa, Jordan Spieth, Russell Henley, Brooks Koepka, Justin Thomas and Patrick Reed, all of whom went on to tour careers.

06
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Names of the Chambers Bay Holes, Plus More Facts and Trivia

The 172 yards par 3, 17th hole at Chambers Bay Golf Course venue for the 2015 US Open Championship on August 12, 2014 in University Place, Washington
A train passes behind the 17th hole next to Puget Sound at Chambers Bay. David Cannon/Getty Images

The names of the holes at Chambers Bay are listed below, but first a few more facts about the Washington-state golf course:

  • In April 2008 some idiot vandalized that iconic single tree at Chambers Bay by hacking at it with an ax. At first officials believed the tree would die, but it held on and eventually regained health.
  • The golf course design companies bidding to build Chambers Bay were given two directives: make it a links, and make it a course that will get a U.S. Open. In 2008, a mere eight months after it opened, Chambers Bay was awarded the 2015 U.S. Open by the USGA.
  • Chambers Bay will be only eight years old at the time of the 2015 U.S. Open. But, according to Golf Digest, that's not the youngest course to host a U.S. Open: Northwood Club in Dallas was only four years old for the 1952 U.S. Open.
  • The Chambers Bay scorecard includes, next to the names of its tee markers, a recommended driver yardage for golfers choosing to play that set of tees. For the 7,165-yard Navy tees (back tees for daily play), golfers should hit driver 280+ yards. Driver averages of 225-280 yards are appropriate for the Sand tees (6,513 yards); 200-225 yards, the White tees (6,015 yards); and less than 200 yards, the Blue tees (5,278 yards).
  • The turfgrass throughout the course - tee boxes, fairways, greens and rough - is fine fescue.
  • Chambers Bay is the first U.S. Open course that is all fescue.
  • A public walking trail goes through the course.
  • The perimeter and some areas within the course boundaries include ruins of stone pillars left over from the site's industrial uses.

Hole Names at Chambers Bay
Front 9

  • No. 1: Puget Sound
  • No. 2: Foxy
  • No. 3: Blown Out
  • No. 4: Hazard's Ascent
  • No. 5: Free Fall
  • No. 6: Deception Point
  • No. 7: Humpback
  • No. 8: High Road/Low Road
  • No. 9: Olympus

Back 9

  • No. 10: High Dunes
  • No. 11: Shadows
  • No. 12: The Narrows
  • No. 13: Eagle Eye
  • No. 14: Cape Fear
  • No. 15: Lone Fir
  • No. 16: Beached
  • No. 17: Derailed
  • No. 18: Tahoma