Who Knew You Could Play Good Golf Out Here On The Farm?
Today was Valentine’s Day. My Valentine and I decided to take a day drive that covered a distance of over 200 miles. When you live in central Washington there are several distinct types of terrain one can seek out. Alpine to the west and northwest, metropolitan to the north, the Canadian wilderness if you’ve got the time, and the desert to the east. Woul you believe it? Today we chose the desert, as if we’d thrown darts at a map of Washington state, and that’s where it told us to go. More specifically, we went to Moses Lake, and its nearby communities of Othello, Warden, and Royal City. In a small area of about 22 miles in any direction, we found eight golf courses in the middle of the middle of nowhere.
Start off in Yakima toward Ellensburg, take a right on Interstate 90 and there you are, in farm country, far as the eye can see. They claim to have around 300 days of sunshine per year, but in the winter months, they can get snow just as well as anyone can. That’s what it’s lilke now, all covered with snow. Driving by these courses, I thought that when I was a kid, seeing a snow-covered golf couse meant that I had to wait two more months to play. Now I see it differently. These courses had a poetry all their own. I thought I was driving in flat country, but the courses all had gentle, subtle undulations that made them appear inviting, as if I could see their beauty under the snow. I was right, as it turned out. When I got home, I found the summer pictures of each course, and some of them are eye-catchers, all of them authentic.
East of the Columbia, you’re in arid farm land. We generally think of golf courses as being alpine, coastal, outright desert, or tropical, but we seldom think of good old-fashioned farm land. This is land that could just as easily have been corn stubble, a wheat field, or closer to the river, an orchard. Some write of the waning of golf, but these communities don’t seem to have heard of it. The courses play an important part in the social life of the farmers, farm machine mechanics, hay-bailers, and all the other related industries of the area. If you are a golfing elitist, you probably won’t get it, but farm land golf has a smell all its own, and a crisp feel and sound to impacting the ground with a club,. It’s on the dry side, but still with a little give.
These towns are not large population bases, either. Moses Lake has 20,000 perhaps. It’s the big town. Othello has a few thousand, Warden is smaller than that, and don’t look for green palaces and wizards in Royal City. And yet, there they are – the Links at Morses Pointe, the Highlanders Green Golf Course. There is the Moses Lake Golf Club beside a lake that really grows on you over time. There is the Potholes Golf Course. That may seem like a funny name, but this small patch of country sports hundreds of small lakes surrounded by sage. The fishing is terrific, the smell of sage is alluring and the golf is the same. There’s the Sage Hills , 18 of par 71, opened in the 60s as a club. It’s been public for two decades. Besides the Royal city course, Othello sports a nifty 9-holer. It’s ok, the scenery is so good, there’s no problem with seeing it twice. It was designed by John Reimer, and opened in ’65. Then, of course, there is Oasis Park over in Ephrata, and probably many more I haven’t seen yet.
The farm is famous for bringing us good things. I just never stopped to think that golf might be one of the them.Being in the middle of nowhere, it turns out, is really being somewhere.