An Ode to West Seattle Golf Course

By: David Wood

As a traveling golfer who has invested steadily in green fees rather than a healthy Roth IRA, I've played about half of the world's 100 top-rated courses and usually eight or so of the top 10 - depending on the yearly rankings.

Despite my good fortune (at least golfwise), it has continually perplexed me how little joy or laughter I often find with exclusive clubs - which tend to dominate those lofty lists. My beef is not with the courses themselves, which invariably are wonderful, but rather with the grumpy atmosphere created in and around the clubhouses. They make libraries seem like frat houses.

Rarely will you find the goodwill or cheerfulness that a golfer will encounter at most any $30 municipal course in the world. Why not create a more joyous atmosphere to match these amazing playgrounds? After all, golf is nothing more than a game played for enjoyment. The more exclusive the club, the more likely it is to have a myriad of rules and an atmosphere where everyone walks on eggshells. This rant leads me to my unrequited love of the West Seattle Golf Course - my favorite course to play in Seattle - my hometown.

With its cozy white-clapboard clubhouse holding the high ground, there isn't a pretentious bone in its 67-year-old body. No bag drop, no mahogany-walled locker room, no snooty members making sure you have on the proper length socks (which has happened to me!). It's merely about playing the jolly game of golf-all with a splendid view of downtown Seattle's skyscrapers looming silently behind the gigantic orange waterfront cranes (which look menacingly like robotic steroidal praying mantises ready to take over the world in my over-active imagination).

The course was designed in 1935 by the gifted golfer and Harvard grad, H. Chandler Egan, who had a glittering resume of first-rate courses on the West Coast to his credit. His works include Spokane's wonderful muni, Indian Canyon, as well as the Eugene Country Club in Oregon �- which is often spoken about in hushed tones of reverence saved for places like Augusta National. Egan, an excellent golfer himself, was an apprentice to the Michelangelo of golf course design - Alistair Mackenzie - with whom he helped renovate Pebble Beach to its current design. That's like having a reference from Bill Gates on your resume. Egan certainly knew his way around a nice plot of land. And that he had in West Seattle.

With Longfellow Creek meandering throughout the rolling terrain, groves of trees border most every fairway - abundance of nature isn't usually an inner-city golf course trait but West Seattle nonetheless has the feel of being away from the urban jungle. There is even a family of fox that have the run of the place and serve as the club's logo. Though the course can be enjoyed by golfers of all abilities - the mark of a well thought-out design - you'd better have your golf shoes laced up tight if you plan on playing from the back tees. You find very few golfers bragging about taming West Seattle at the 19th hole.

The front nine allows you a chance to get within shouting distance of your handicap. If you correctly navigate the mine field of the evil par-5 fourth and play the brutish par-4 eighth to a draw, you're in the game at the turn. However, playing the backside can be as difficult as being Britney Spears' publicist. From the 13th hole until you're back in the unassuming clubhouse, it's a death by a thousand cuts (or shots). Every hole begs for well-struck drives and irons and a deft putting touch for any hope of par. If this goal remains elusive, as it often does for me, enjoy the grand views of downtown Seattle from the hillside tees on the 12th, 15th, and the 17th. It's just golf anyway.

There is a school of thought in the local golf world disparaging the final five holes because they lay side-by-side like sardines in a tin. This is poppycock. Egan juiced every bit of golf possible out of that hillside and the holes are excellent. The "Death March," as my golfing pal Larry calls them, are indeed difficult to both play and walk - which I think accounts for the sour grapes. But, if you par any of those final five coming in, you've earned it. Well done.

Oh, I love it so! West Seattle only has three requirements in order to tee-it-up: you have to pay the reasonable green fee, be breathing, and wear clothes. Other than that, anything goes. For me, there's nothing better than a great muni-and that we have in Seattle thanks to the West Seattle Golf Course.

David Wood - writer, corporate speaker, and humorist - is the author of the soon-to-be published book "Around the World in Eighty Rounds." With several appearances on "Late Night with David Letterman," Wood combines humor with his love for golf and adventurous travel. For comments or inquiries on having him speak to your group, contact David at His website address is