Looking for that same small town in each of us – Port Townsend Golf Club and Discovery Bay Golf Club, on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula
by Yvonne Pepin-Wakefield
Port Townsend Golf Club
On any given day at the Port Townsend Golf Club, tucked in the corner of the Quimper Peninsula where the Strait of Juan de Fuca meets Puget Sound in Washington, players will find members of the Tonan family – Gabriel, course director, mother Peggy and father John – collectively maintaining the course and the clubhouse.
On this day, Peggy returns after gathering a shag bag full of practice balls to register a player and then asks Gabriel, who just drove 16 hours to buy a new sprayer, to bring water to his father who is out mowing the driving range.
In 2014, Gabriel, who worked at the course as a range kid in the late 1980s, bought out the lease from the former owners. He points out 40-foot-tall trees along fairways that were planted as starts when he was a kid.
He wanted to preserve the spirit of the facility, saying he operates it like a mom-and-pop course. “We really are old school,” he says. “We don’t really do point-of-sales stuff, just a cash register.” The low-key atmosphere draws regular players into volunteering wherever help is needed.
Built in 1904 on part of an old apple orchard, the 9-hole Port Townsend course features 2,731 yards of golf from the longest tees for a par of 35. The course rating is 67.4 and it has a slope rating of 123.
The usual slick Poa annua greens have been inundated by English Daisies, which have increased the club’s sale of colored golf balls. This unwelcomed annual infusion inspired Tonan to create “The Daisy Special,” which means you can play all you want for $10, until the invasive white blooms disappear.
One water hazard serves three holes, and views of the Olympic Mountains pop up on fairways that play fast like a links course.
When he is not maintaining and managing the facility, Tonan pulls out his own hickory clubs, some of which date back to the 1920s, as well as replicas of others. “I was hooked from the first swing,” he says of the old-fashioned wood-shafted clubs that helped him twice win the Washington Hickory Open and the 2020 Gearhart Hickory Classic.
The full-service restaurant closed at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, but chilled beverages and snacks along with basic golf gear are stocked in the clubhouse, which is open seven days a week. Call 360.385.4547 for rates and reservations.
Discovery Bay Golf Club
Discovery Bay Golf Club is a place of lore, legend, and roller-coaster greens framed by panoramic views of the Olympic and Cascade Mountain ranges on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula.
Formerly called “Chevy Chase” and located five miles from the historic town of Port Townsend, the 18-hole course is one of the oldest public courses in the state.
“This course is a treasure to be discovered,” says head PGA Professional Jeff Kent. “Our greens are
as good as any around. Not a lot of people know about us.”
This undiscovered surprise also extends to another fabled treasure – $60,000 in gold English coins, dating from the 1860s, are rumored to be buried somewhere within vicinity of the golf course.
At 6,665 yards with a 124 slope rating, the course’s fairways weave between pines and pasture. The front side has been aptly named the Farm Nine, opened in 1925 as Chevy Chase Golf Course; and the back, the Forest Nine, designed by Michael Asmundson, which opened in 1997 – exactly 72 years after the first nine.
Asmundson designed numerous course in South America, as well as The Home Course in DuPont, Wash.
Nicolas Hurtado of Santiago, Chile now owns Discovery Bay, which is managed by a tight small crew, according to Superintendent Randy White. Hurtado and Asmundson met while designing and building five golf courses in Chile during the 1990s. Together, they bought the old Chevy Chase Golf Course in 2004 and renamed it Discovery Bay Golf Club. Asmundson lived upstairs in the course’s clubhouse until he passed away in 2020.
Kentucky Rye fairways cultivate passages through Madrona-laced forest slopes. Even seasoned walkers will be challenged by the long uphill pull to the 10th tee which leads to an elevated two-tiered green. “Many players walk the front nine
then take a cart on the back nine,” said Kent.
Fondly referred to as “The Beast,” the green on the fourth hole is protected by water front-right and a bunker left. On this day, two barefoot players successfully landed on regulation only to three-putt, due to “hard-to-read breaks and tough undulations.”
An added feature is the course’s dog-friendly policy. “It’s like a dog heaven out there,” says Kent. Canine companions are welcomed as long as they are leashed. “We have never had any problems. People are very respectful. Just let us know in advance if you are bringing a dog.” This policy began with Asmundson, who brought his dog with him on every round he played.
Like most courses, Discovery Bay has felt the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, having to close for six weeks. “But play actually increased once we got going again,” said Kent, adding the clubhouse has since reopened for beverages and snacks.
The course has five sets of tees and the only covered driving range on the Olympic Peninsula. Individual play and annual passes are available for this public course. “No one has to pay for a membership to play a quaint rural golf course with a championship layout,” said White.
For rates and tee times, call 360.385.0704 or visit DiscoveryBayGolfCourse.com
Published in the June 2021 issue of Pacific Northwest Golfer.