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Shuksan Golf Club – Bellingham Washington

Shuksan Golf Club - Bellingham Washington

After such an enjoyable mini break down to Semiahmoo golf resort about five weeks ago, Myra and I headed off again to that same spot. We opted to play Loomis Trail again and instead of playing Semiahmoo golf course again ventured the short drive through Ferndale north of Bellingham to play the magnificent Shuksan Golf Club.

It could be argued that the level of customer service and friendliness at Shuksan Golf Club is too good to be true, but then you would lose that argument. From the moment we walked into the pro shop to some six hours later when we left Shuksan, it was as if every staff member, including the owner President/CEO Rick Dvorak, was trying to outdo each other in the kindness department.  Although busy on the phone when we first walked into the Pro Shop, the bubbly Chelsea still acknowledged us with a smile and eye contact. Once off the phone both her and Skip Hoglund, Pro Shop GM, both seemed very excited that we were there to review the golf course. The charismatic starter Steve, a transplant from Kansas and California, with 35 years of Northwest living under his belt got us set up on our cart and before we knew it Aaron Dvorak from the Accounting and Administration department came out to greet us. I thought for a moment with our sunglasses and hats on someone had said Mr. and Mrs. Fred Couples were on site, but no it was indeed us that they were excited to have reviewing their fine facility and spectacular golf course.

Shuksan Golf Club - Bellingham

Ignore those bad legs, check out that view on number 1.

The course itself is a tale of 2 9’s. Aaron called it a modified links layout and it does offer some subtle features of links golf.  The front nine once you come down from the precipitous first tee box would be more like what I would refer to as a marshland course as it is quite flat situated down on the valley floor, but with an abundance of water hazards with beautiful long bullrushes and native grasses growing in them.

Myra with great legs posing on the 2nd hole, her tee shot pin high right.

The back nine was far more harrowing with some very undulating terrain throughout and quite a few elevated shots to raised greens.

No two holes look the least bit alike so you had 18 unique holes all possessing fantastic greens some up to 10,000 ft.²

It is to be honest a course not to be taken lightly, it’s no cakewalk, but that does not take away in the least how rewarding a golf course it is to play.

One of our goals and favorite aspects of a game of golf that Myra and I love to share is when we both par the same hole. Shuksan will be forever etched in our minds as we did that four times this round and Myra attained a new personal best by making four excellent pars in 1 18-hole round.

It was déjà vu again as I was certain although I had played golf in Washington State many, many years ago I hadn’t played Shuksan.  The dramatic opening hole, a short par 4 from an elevated tee to a landing area some 120 to 130 feet below didn’t tweak my memory bank.

The 4th hole did. As I stood on the tee box it all came flooding back to me. Like Hannibal Lecter looking through the bars of his jail cell at Clarice the green sitting high upon the distant hill taunted me.

Yes, horribly beautiful Par 5 I am back. The first 450 yards of this hole is like silk, soft and delicate, then the fairway takes an upward climb at a 50-degree angle for the last 60 yards guarded by a lone bunker which ate up my 3 wood approach. What a great hole! I will always remember you, not so fondly.

From there on my recollection of the course started filtering back into my mind. The unique downhill fairway funneling downward to the green on the short Par 4 5th, the well-guarded 9th green and the temptation of should I or shouldn’t I on the tight but drivable Par 4 15th.

Looking back from the path leading up to the clubhouse, the Par 4 9th.

As I prepared to chip up to the flag on the 16th green, I cast my eyes over to the pathway at a man seated upon a power cart. During our warm conversation with Aaron Dvorak, prior to teeing off, Aaron asked us to please make a point of asking for his dad at the end of our round. I sensed that the man on the adjacent cart was indeed owner Rick Dvorak.

You couldn’t meet a more affable and welcoming person in the lofty position of golf course owner. With more than a few minutes to spare before the 4 some behind caught up he took us over to see the redesign of the Par 3 11th and the Par 4 12th.

His goal is to make the Par 3 11th the best Par 3 in Washington State, no small order for sure, and it might be that this hole actually becomes the toughest Par 3 in the state from early indications.

A look at the 10th green from the 150 yard mark.

A tricky uphill Par 3 hole 14

We finished our round playing the Par 4 17th possessing another elevated green and then the daunting finishing hole the Par 5 18th.

The Par 5 18th , par here is a great score.

At the behest of Rick to have the staff let him know when we finished, we asked for him after sharing our thank you’s with Aaron and Skip in the Pro Shop. He met us out on the expansive outdoor deck overlooking 10 Mile Valley and we graciously accepted his offer of a cool drink. He shared aspects of his life, how he came to build an amazing golf course inspired by a personal conversation he had many years ago at the opening of the Palmer designed Semiahmoo Golf Course with The King himself, Arnold Palmer.

Rick Dvorak took very little credit for the building of the course although he was often seen out on a Cat bulldozer pushing earth. He did mention clearly the dedication and importance of one man in particular, Superintendent Reg Riddle who has been with Rick back to the days when they built Loomis Trail GC. On this day Rick pointed out that it was Reg out on the tractor working on the Par 4 12th fairway.

When Myra and I play and review golf courses we look at the big picture. Shuksan covers all aspects of that picture. It has a good practice area, a very tidy and well stocked, but not cluttered pro shop. It has well maintained Club Car power carts which happily we were allowed to take to our vehicle to load up and unload later.

It has very good food services, the lunch we ordered from the 9th tee phone box was ready when we got to The Grille next to number 10 tee box, delicious and very fairly priced. It was pointed out to us by Darcie Givens, Food and Beverage Manager, that the ingredients were fresh, the turkey in our very tasty wraps and sandwich, was roasted in their kitchen and not that package processed crap you get at too many places.

The half hour we spent going over our experiences with Rick on the deck was informative and rewarding as well as very pleasurable. It’s easy to see why the staff and crew are so upbeat with him at the helm of the good ship Shuksan.

So there you have it, our experience will be your experience and come 2018 it will be with the introduction of the new 11th and 12th holes. Hope to see you there.

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Bill Flower

Bill Flower is a passionate golfer and lover of the game who lives on Vancouver Island in Parksville, BC. He has played the game since the age of 10 and has spent many years in the golf business ranging from full time teaching pro to part time professional caddy, golf tour operator and golf writer. He loves to travel with his wife Myra up and down the west coast of the US playing and reviewing golf courses of all styles.

2 CommentsLeave a comment

  • I agree with all this article says. BUT, if you are to appeal to local Canadian golfers, the cost must be competetive with our local golf and you must included the drive down and for those not possesing a Nexus card that means about an hour, maybe more each way. with the exchange rate getting a little better now I am thinking of returning to Shuksan which I played weekely up until two years ago. The 8 game pass works out to about $53 Canadian per round at today’s exchange rate, the same as golfing 5 minutes from home. Not as nice a course but a lo less hassle.

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