The Squaxin Island Tribe and Little Creek Casino & Resort has set out on a commitment to keep Salish Cliffs Golf Club atop the best golf courses not only in Washington State but also to stay on top of the ratings for top Casino courses in the U.S. and to be recognized in the National Rankings of All Courses.
Let it be clear, the 7,269 yard course, built on 320 acres with 600 feet of elevation change has not gone unnoticed in its nearly 12 years of existence. Quite the contrary, the course and facilities have rocked the awards and media accolades.
To name a few of their favorites . . .
2011 – National Best New Course – Golf Week & Golf Digest
Top 100 Public and Top 100 Resort Courses in the Nation
Top 10 Casino Courses in the Nation
Best Courses You Can Play – Washington
#1 Ranked Golf Course in Washington State
#1 Course In Washington State for Amenities
#1 Pro Shop in Washington State
World’s First Salmon-Safe Sanctuary Golf Course
The award-winning course is conveniently located just over an hour’s drive SW from Sea-Tac airport or right at two hours north from Portland International airport. The actual town is Kamilche which is near Shelton, Washington. It is important to note, that because of its temperate climate, the course is blessed with the ability to have year-round playability, not shut down for months as many of the northern tier courses often are.
So why create an aggressive new master plan to include the complete renovation of all 63 bunkers at a cost of $2,000,000 plus the replacement of every bridge on the golf course when you are already at the top of the golf charts?
Two reasons . . . One, to stay on top, you have to continue to lead, improve and innovate. The Tribal council is proud of their achievements and accolades, but by no means are they content with the status quo and have planned for continued growth and features well into the future.
Number Two, the Pacific Northwest can be a challenging weather location on course infrastructure. With four distinct seasons, it can takes a toll on a facility, especially bunkers and wooden structures such as bridges. To remain as the best, you have to continuously maintain and improve the facility to a championship level.
Gene Bates was the original architect and mastermind of this award-winning course, so the Tribe has brought him back to contribute to the new master plan. It is an aggressive and very impressive undertaking which may include the following . . .
Rebuild all 63 bunkers with “Billy Bunker” materials for long-term resilience
Rebuilding all of the course bridges in a Pacific Northwest architectural style
Improvement and expansion of the practice area and driving range
Creation of a short-game practice area as part of the learning center
Building a new 9 or 18 hole golf course to complement and bolster the current course
Create multiple ponds and lakes to augment water storage, irrigation and course aesthetics
Building a new clubhouse to host events and expanded banquet area
Creation of a series of golf course villa cabins for private parties and family stays
Develop a golf academy for both adults and tribal youth to develop lifetime skills
Every plan has to have their hands-on leaders and for Salish Cliffs, one of those would be their Head PGA Professional, Tyler Brown. Hailing from golf rich California. He has both the requisite golf professional skills, but he absolutely embraces the opportunity that the Salish Cliffs offers. If there is one thing that really stands out, it would be his passion for the Tribal members, and especially the Tribal youth.
He sees the Casino, Hotel, Amenities and Golf Course as a resort destination AND a learning center for the Tribal cultural customs of the Squaxin people.
“There is so much to do and learn here,” says Tyler, “the hiking, biking, fishing, shell fish gathering, kayaking and potential guided tours are all mixed with a world-class spa and dining opportunities. The words ‘Stay & Play’ can extend far beyond just golf. As a corporate or family retreat, this is a place where multiple memories and learning opportunities can be made.”
This is a topic where the head professional, Tyler Brown becomes introspective, “We are a Tribal project, we are talking about building skills, community pride and lifetime jobs for our community. As we grow our resort, the amenities and programs, our Tribal youth will be learning not only about their unique culture, but will also develop diverse job skills that make them employable anywhere in the world. I am proud to be part of that kind of an opportunity.”
Among others, another key member of the Tribal management team was Raymond Peters, who has been deeply involved with the project from the early day one planning stages, through construction and then much of the past 12 years of the course’s maturation. His official title is, Intergovernmental Affairs/Tribal Council Liaison, but he has been but one of the many important public faces representing the award-winning project from its inception.
He states that the original concept for the course and resort had many goals and points. With some of the strongest ones here:
Add amenities to the resort to capture a new market demographic and enhance the gaming experience at the Tribal Casino.
Pay homage to the Tribal land and culture, keeping it in a natural state for the Tribe and existing wildlife to include our native salmon runs.
Create meaningful long-term jobs, careers and recreation for both the Tribal and our local community residents, developing work skills that can transfer to employment or recreational enjoyment worldwide.
Expand the resort’s footprint from a primarily local facility to a regional / national facility, especially targeting Washington, Oregon, Idaho, California and our Canadian friends up north.
To accomplish these goals, the course had to be highly regarded in design and playability. However, also as important, the course had to build an outstanding reputation for service, experience and maintenance conditions in order to build exceptional PR both locally and nationally. By the looks at the list of golf and amenity awards, they have done that and more.
Raymond is quick to point out that, “The Tribal Council understands that to stay on top, you have to continue to excel and grow. Just maintaining will just not work for the future. The new master plan is designed to maximize the resort experience driving more people to the property. Whether that means expanding the practice facility, adding holes or beautifying the property with new bunkers, bridges, ponds or casitas, each step is calculated by the Tribal Council to stay true to the original goals. This is what drives the overall resort concept and it is a key component of the next step in developing the master plan for Salish Cliffs.”
As for the new changes, Golf Architect, Gene Bates is looking forward to working with both the golf staff and tribal leaders to take an existing award-winning facility to a whole new level. The remake of all 63 bunkers project is huge and it will allow Gene to connect with his long-time friend and construction partner, Bob Pearsall who was the lead driving force on the original course construction. Nobody knows the course better than Bob, who has been the on-course superintendent and is virtually responsible for all of the course awards bestowed on the property over the past 12 years. Putting those two together again means nothing but good things are about to happen at Salish Cliffs.
The next few years are going to see some incredible changes that are sure to draw a national following to augment an already appreciative local golf patron base.
The Pacific Northwest and the State of Washington are setting the stage as the next big mecca for quality golf, vacations and cultural experiences. The region is already nationally known as a “bucket-list” of beautiful places to visit. That is soon to become an even more desirous location, especially If you are a player living in the Pacific Northwest, your golf life is about to get a lot better.
There is a new top dawg at Circling Raven Golf Course in Worley, Idaho.
Introducing, Christopher Runyan, PGA, Circling Raven’s new Director of Golf.
Runyan, a U.S. Marine Veteran and life-long Palouse native, joins the golf club with a fist full of prestigious awards himself. He believes that each season offers the opportunity to build upon the previous one. Given the awards and accolades they have both won, he and the Course are setting the bar high.
“Having lived and worked in the region for many years I have always admired Circling Raven – its vast, beautiful setting and Gene Bates’ ingenious course design,” said Christopher Runyan, PGA, Circling Raven’s new, award-winning Director of Golf. “The course has been the stage for many top competitive events – from the state amateur to the Circling Raven Championship, an Epson ‘Road to the LPGA’ Tour event – and it has never failed to garner lavish praise from the players for its routing, conditions, and beauty.”
Christoper has won some very prestigious awards to include:
2021 Golf Digest “Best in State” Golf Coach
2020 PGA of America, National Patriot Award Recipient
2019, 2018, 2013-16 Pacific NW PGA Section Patriot Award Recipient
2019 Golf Digest “Best in State” Golf Coach
Typically, northern tier golf courses slow down or shut down during the long Winter season, not so at Idaho’s Circling Raven Golf Course. They stepped it up big time with a new Director of Golf, new course awards and even a new $225,000 purse for the Epson, “Road to the LPGA Tour” event held annually on or about August 21-27. . . (Formally the Symetra Tour)
Circling Raven opened to the public in 2003 and since then they have garnered the acclaim of both the media and the golfing public with multiple top awards such as:
Best Casino Course in America
Top 100 U.S. Resort Course
#1 Public Course In Idaho – Golf Digest & Golfweek
2X PGA Merchandiser of the Year – Resort Category
And now, 20 years later, it has garnered the #1 Public Course In Idaho Award, for 2022-2023 by GolfPass’s – Golfers’ Choice Awards.
There have been lots of changes to the golf facility, hotel and casino over the years. Plus a list of awards for the original Gene Bates’ golf course design keeps growing. However, one thing that has NOT changed one bit is the course design itself. After these past 20 years, the original design has stood the test of time and the scrutiny of multiple course reviewers, critics, public and pro golfers.
Two reasons for this longevity . . . Gene’s marvelous and meticulous design over a tremendous variety of topography and #2, the amount of land the course is routed on. Typically, a par 72 course is built on 120-200 acres. In fact, the famed Old Course at St. Andrews is built on just 92 acres.
Gene’s Circling Raven design traverses a whopping 620 acres as per the specific request of the tribal leaders. The solitude of each hole, and incredible views that encompass mountains, forests, wetlands and the open grasslands of the Palouse Region are incredible. Add to this the unbelievable and diverse wildlife that includes; elk, deer, moose, bears, wild turkeys and soaring eagles, just to name a few. Without a peer, this is one of the most unique and open designs in the world of golf.
Owned and operated by the Coeur d’Alene Tribe, Circling Raven Golf Course is located in Worley, Idaho which is in the panhandle area just southeast of Spokane, WA. For flyers, Spokane’s Geiger Field is the best airport to fly into and is just under an hour’s drive away from the resort.
Visitors are also enamored by the beautiful hotel which touts a rustic vibe, multiple restaurants & bars, spa services, an exciting casino and a plethora of top quality entertainment and events. See https://www.cdacasino.com/ for more information on this incredible get-a-way golf destination.
Article & Golf Images by: John R. Johnson – J2Golf.com
Since its grand opening in September of 2011, the Gene Bates designed Salish Cliffs Golf Club has garnered the adoration and awards from every major golf ranking organization. From Golf Digest to GolfWeek and GolfAdvisor to local television’s, Evening Magazine, you will find Salish Cliffs Golf Club in print and film.
To name a few of our favorites . . .
Top 100 Public and Top 100 Resort Courses in the Nation
Top 10 Casino Courses in the Nation
Best Courses You Can Play – Washington
The #1 Ranked Course in Washington State
In addition, not only has the facility been ranked #1 in Course Amenities, it is also the #1 ranked Golf Shop in the State. One of our favorite and most unique awards, happened in 2012 when the golf course was certified as the world’s first “Salmon-Safe” golf course. A real testament to the ecological minded Tribal course’s treatment of the land and its resources.
The last eleven years have been a true climb to greatness. It reflects a total team effort by all parties involved. On the agronomy side, one of the brightest stars is the long-standing course superintendent, Robert (Bob) Pearsall. His tenure started with the course grow-in at the end of construction. His meticulous care in preparing for the opening and continued tutelage is responsible for the award-winning immaculate condition of the course today. Another advantage of having Bob on site, is that is a home-grown local, which gives him a lifetime of understanding the unique weather conditions of the Southern Puget Sound region.
However, to stay on top, you can never rest and be happy with status quo. So in 2022-2023 the course will undergo a two-year minor facelift with several new projects slated to keep Salish Cliffs Golf Club at the top of the ratings mountain.
So often in the world of Golf Architecture, a renovation goes to a low-bid new face or an industry brand name. In this case, they did go with a prominent industry brand – Gene Bates, the very same person who propelled the course to the original media awards and accolades. Why rock the boat of overwhelming success?
So trusted is Gene and his team, they are also slated for several master planning improvements for the entire facility. A show of respect of Gene’s vision for the entire facility.
Planned Golf Improvements
Bunkers – Over time all bunkers wear down, especially in a location that averages 90 inches of rainfall a year and had a one day total last year of 7.4” plus a monthly average of 9.2”. Gene will go with the Better Billy Bunker liner to help hold the sand and will stylistically change the bunker shapes and edges for a new look course wide.
Tees – The course is well used by a wide variety of players with strong fluctuations between ability, age groups and sexes. So not only will some renovations of the current tee locations be helpful, Gene will also add multiple forward tees to make the course more playable for all.
Bridges – They too can age with time, especially in a rain-heavy environment such as Salish Cliffs near Shelton, Washington. The new bridges will have a specific style to match the building architecture and look of the course.
Tree Thinning – More than most locations, eleven years in the Pacific Northwest will produce tremendous tree growth. It can quickly change the playability of a course and continued maintenance with tree growth planning must be constantly considered.
Irrigation Ponds – Even in a high rain environment, irrigation is a premier asset. The course drains well, so additional irrigation ponds not only aid in controlling drain runoff, but also utilizes that runoff to maintain daily peak course conditions.
Practice Area Improvements – The course has created a real increase in play and new players. To develop long-term players, a course needs to help them improve their game skills. Not only will Gene’s upgrades improve the practice areas and driving range, as you will see below in the site master plan improvements, the driving range renovations might provide event opportunities as well.
Site Revenue Improvements
As a Tribal Casino location, the site is loaded with amenities and potential for additional revenue streams. They are already blessed with a hotel, dining, spa, RV spaces, conference and gaming. The master plan looks to expand those amenities with the following improvements.
Bungalows & Cabins – Private cabins are about as Northwest as it comes. The creation of stay and play opportunities right on course is a perfect pairing and expands the hotel room night capability. Sighting and locating them is part of Gene’s master plan visions. Who knows, perhaps one of the new nearby irrigation ponds might be stocked with trout for an added thrill for all ages.
Driving Range Amphitheater – An additional use for the range may be a venue for weddings and special events. Close to everything and a good scheduled use of open space.
Expanded Clubhouse – To mirror the outdoor event expansion capacity, having an improved clubhouse capability will help draw event organizers to choose the Club and Casino in future years.
It appears that the near future 2022-2023 renovations are going to make as much of a visual, playability and revenue impact as the original course for this growing and vibrant Pacific Northwest location.
For more information on this project or to inquire about your next grand idea, contact Gene Bates directly at the “Quick Contact” information listed below.
The Bates Golf Group thinks Course Rankings are a big deal, some don’t, but Gene Bates does. Awards represent all the hard work so many have put in to be a shining dot on state map and bright spot in their community.
Every year the rankers go out and evaluate courses on a 10 point criteria that encompasses many different aspects from layout, conditions, aesthetics, service and many more including, believe it or not . . . fun! Multiple rankers give it a score and then those scores are averaged to a final list per state.
While we are personally proud of the awards, as you can see it is truly a team effort. Without excellence in the construction, agronomy and maintenance, excellence in design does not look so excellent.
In addition, courses are also judged on service, staffing, clubhouse and how a person ‘feels’ or is treated while playing a course. Again, more team members and outstanding leadership is what determines overall awards.
To add to the award mix, there are many award bodies and types of awards. Take for example the awards at just one of our projects in the state of Washington. A Tribal Course that has really made the spot light . . .
Salish Cliffs Golf Club Awards
Golfweek – National Awards
Best New Course #8 2011
Top 50 Casino Courses #6 to #10 2012 – 2020
Top 100 Resort Courses #39 to #66 2013 – 2020
Best in Washington State # 3 & #4 2012 – 2021
Golf Digest Awards
Best in Washington State #8 & #10 2019 – 2020
Cascade Golf Magazine
Pacific Northwest #4 & #5 2013 – 2019
Top Ten Public Course
Golf Advisor Washington
People’s Choice Award #1 2020
Washington PGA Chapter
Resort Merchandiser #1 2012 & 2020
of the Year
As you can see – Awards are really a team effort from every aspect of a golf course facility.
The Golfweek 2021 state by State Rankings
Below is a list of the recently released Public Course Rankings for 2021. The Bates Golf Group designed SEVEN of their award winners. Four in the Top Ten in Utah alone . . . and that is a big deal.
Golfweek’s Best Public Courses – 2021 – Designed by Gene Bates
With this list of Golfweek’s Best Courses You Can Play, they present the best public-access courses in each state, as judged by their nationwide network of raters.
Ranking KEY: (m) modern, built in 1960 or after; (c) classic, built before 1960. For courses with a number preceding the (m) or (c), that is where the course ranks on Golfweek’s Best lists for top 200 modern and classic courses in the U.S.. * Indicates new or returning to the rankings.
It is not a coincidence that course architect Gene Bates is the master-mind of this outstanding Par 72, 6,807 yard championship tract. Year after year, the players themselves vote the Broken Sound’s greens as the #1 Greens found on the Senior Tour. The award is both a compliment to the green’s design and the outstanding agronomy by Shannon Easter, the Director of Golf Maintenance for Broken Sound.
You will find that the Gene Bates Golf Group designs are well represented at every major tour: PGA, LPGA, Senior, plus PGA of America, the USGA Championships and major tour events worldwide. Gene is also the designer for the lesser but very important tours such as the Korn Ferry tour and Symetra tour for up and coming men’s and women’s players in the world of golf.
It’s November in Boca Raton Florida, temperatures are in the upper 70’s, humidity is around 50 with a slight breeze.
It’s no wonder that the PGA Senior Tour has selected this time and this place, to start their season and host their TimberTech Boca Raton Championship. The tournament has been hosted here at The Old Course at Broken Sound for 15 consecutive years and is part of the Charles Schwab Cup playoff series.
The start of the Senior Tour season, plus the importance of the Charles Schwab points bring an annual star-studded line-up to the TimberTech tournament. World players, legends and greats such as Bernhard Langer, Mark Calcavecchia, Nick Price, Jim Furyk, Angel Jimenez, Ernie Els, K.J. Choi, Lee Janzen, Tim Lehman, Colin Montgomerie, Vijay Singh and Hale Irwin are in the field for this premier event.
“He doesn’t really seem to have any weaknesses. It’s bitter-sweet to lose this one, but I told him on the 18th green, I was really happy for him.”
– Jim Furyk
This year, against all odds . . . First year player, and New Zealander, Steven Alker outdueled Jim Furyk down the stretch to win his first ever Senior Tour event by two strokes with a -17 finish over both Furyk and past Masters Champion, Angel Jimenez, both at -15 under. Ernie Els was fourth with a -12 under score. For his efforts, Alker tied last year’s winner Darren Clark with a total score of 199 and he pocketed $305,000 of the 2 million dollar purse for his final round of 68. Not bad for a rookie on tour, but it was his EIGHTH top-10 finish in the last NINE starts. The victory was his first tournament win at any level for the past seven years. It seems that this may not be the last we hear of Mr. Alker and congrats to his hard fought and well played victory.
Gene Bates, led the phenomenal redesign of Joe Lee’s original layout. Gene completely remodeled the Old Course from the ground up, everything was new, including rerouting the entire course and adding over 10 acres of ponds, wetlands and drainage.
Gene Bates’ vision for the Old Course encompasses much more water, drainage and retention than before. He reworked a significant number of golf holes to make them more playable and added a unique “look” which will be found at no other South Florida venue. More of a “Sandhills” feel, similar to the Pinehurst area of North Carolina.
Gene’s forethought to overall drainage, ponds and retention came to the forefront some 15 years later as 5.3” of rain fell on the course on Friday of this year’s TimberTech tournament. This prompted the cancellation of Friday’s play and 36 holes of golf to be played on the saturated course on Saturday.
Once again, it was Shannon Easter and his 52 man crew to the rescue! Starting at 2:30 in the morning with lights, pumps and rakes they removed standing water, reconditioned the bunkers, squeegeed and double-rolled greens to have the course in amazing playing shape at 7:45 am for a double tee 1 and 10 tee time for the field to play 36 holes. The players were amazed at both the course being able to withstand such a deluge and the incredible job of the greens crew to allow the course to be playable the next morning.
Phenomenal, is not unusual for this outstanding facility, both on course and in the clubhouse. The Broken Sound Club was developed by the Arvida Corporation in the 70s. Mr. John Crean, CCM, General Manager & COO, leads a team effort to improve the environmental effects and reducing the Club’s carbon-footprint, while at the same time continuing to meet the mission statement of promoting the club’s excellence and top-notch services.
Broken Sound was only the second golf facility in the U.S. and 14th in the world to be GEO certified. They are the sustainability assurance of the international non-profit Golf Environment Organization. Broken Sound has also received Audubon Sanctuary Certification for both of their courses by using reclaimed water for the irrigation of the course and common areas, creating wildlife sanctuary areas around all the water features, they also established the first industrial golf course composting project in Florida, oversaw installation of 22 beehives for pollination, and the introduction of fifteen bat houses as a natural method of insect control. They are accredited by the Florida Environmental Protection Agency and were was selected as the Overall and National Private recipient of the Environmental Leaders in Golf Awards (ELGA). Broken Sound Club ranked as the only Florida or Southeastern U.S. based ELGA winner at the national or international leader level.
In addition to the TimberTech Senior Tour tournament and outstanding Gene Bates designed golf course, they have a lot to be proud of at the Broken Sound Golf Club.