Golf Options Galore in Lewis County

By Will Rubin

wrubin@chronline.com

Most public golf courses advertise in one way or another that they cater to golfers of all skill levels. The Newaukum Golf Club delivers on this promise with its trio of nine-hole layouts, each catering to different skill sets within the game itself.

I’m not a novice golfer, but I play like one when my clubs have been propped against the water heater in my hall closet all winter long. The West Nine is the shortest of the three courses and was the first round I played in the area after moving from southern Oregon last year. 

A golfer tees off at the Newaukum Valley Golf Course Tuesday afternoon in Chehalis.

Jared Wenzelburger / jwenzelburger@chronline.com

I recall losing at least three balls in the ample water hazards, but the course plays short enough — about 2,700 yards for a par of 33 — that I didn’t have to worry about spraying my driver around the property. This course also has a footgolf setup measuring more than 1,600 yards — it’s pretty much what it sounds like. Players use a regulation soccer ball to play shorter versions of the holes. It also features wider cups meant to entice novice golfers into posting lower scores.

The South Nine plays the longest of the three tracks, topping out at nearly 3,300 yards. Holes No. 6 and 7 play a combined 1,086 yards from the back tees. Distance is not my forte, even when I’m driving the ball well, and I failed to birdie either hole last summer. I plan to rectify that blotch on my record this year.

This portion of the course also includes views of the Newaukum River, which is scenic and what I assume to be a magnet for golf balls. That has to be the reason two of mine flared off into the watery depths. 

Though my bellyaching may make it seem otherwise, I very much enjoyed my round, because of the challenges it posed. I do not like to play on flat, resort-style courses; I want to think, “I’m supposed to hit the ball where?” at least a couple of times per round. I played Chambers Bay a couple of years before it hosted the U.S. Open — that course fried my brain.

I can’t speak to the East Nine, as I haven’t played it. It appears to be the middle ground between the other two setups, not as long or as challenging as the South, but still plenty to think about for the average golfer. The prospect of a 310-yard par 4 is intriguing; someone with a good power swing could take a crack at driving it in the right conditions. I am not that person.

The rate for nine holes on any of the three sections is $22 on weekdays, except for Tightwad Tuesdays, when $15 will do the trick. An 18-hole excursion costs $28 during the week, save for crisp $20 bill on Tuesday. Weekend rates are $26 for nine holes and $35 for a full set.

Twilight rates begin at 4 p.m. and are $16 on weekdays and $18 on weekends. Before that, from 1-3:50 p.m., golfers can play 18 holes for the price of nine.

Power carts are available at $8 for a nine-hole round or $13 for 18 holes. A small bucket of about 40 driving range balls can be had for $4; double the amount for $3 more. A pair of putting and chipping greens are also useful for practicing one’s short game. The Newaukum Grill is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday. It’s open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday. The facility is available for events and offers catering services.

The Newaukum Valley Golf Course can be found at 153 Newaukum Golf Drive, Chehalis, WA 98532, online at newaukumvalleygolf.com or by phone at 360-748-0461.

Riverside Golf Club

Topping out at 6,155 yards, this course poses a challenge for golfers of all skill levels. 

Tight fairways and slippery greens place a priority on accuracy and touch as opposed to raw power, though that can still come in handy on the three par-5s that average 521 yards in length. The fourth hole plays about 400 yards from the back tees and can be scored as a par 4 or 5. Less experienced golfers can take advantage of the white tees — 5,771 yards — or the green tees that play below 5,500 yards.

Chronicle File Photo
Logan Boone, of Adna, strikes a ball during the qualifying round of the Visiting Nurses Foundation Million Dollar Shootout at Riverside Golf Club in Chehalis. Boone finished with the closest shot to the pin at 3 feet.

Riverside introduced a new rate schedule this year, placing an emphasis on making the course more affordable for younger golfers. A new student rate of $12 for nine holes and $16 for a full round applies year-round to anyone under 23 years old. Patrons ages 23-32 can take advantage of the Young Professional price of $22 for 18 holes Monday-Thursday and $25 on Friday-Sunday.

Seniors pay $22 for nine holes Monday-Thursday and $24 on Friday-Sunday, with the full 18 holes priced at $27 during the first stretch and $35 for the latter. Adults playing nine holes will pay $22 during the first four days of the week and $24 on the last three. A full-price, 18 hole round tops out at $40 on the weekend.

Twilight rates begin after 4 p.m. and are $22 for 18 holes Monday-Thursday and $24 the rest of the week.

“In discussions at the club, we decided to first expand the length of time someone is eligible for a ‘junior rate’ and also acknowledge that once you graduate from college, money is still tight,” said Austin Abbot, head golf professional and player development director, in a release posted on the course website. “…It is likely that golfers just out of college through their early 30’s have very little disposable income with student loans and the expenses of starting a family. We want to keep them in touch with the game by lowering their cost of play.”

Riverside Golf Club also plans to introduce new rates for the driving range. Small buckets of balls will cost $6, medium buckets will go for $8 and large buckets will run $12. A practice putting green and chipping area are also part of the facility.

Renting a power cart for nine holes costs $10, or $15 for a full round. Those who wish to walk, but not subject their shoulders to the weight of a golf bag, can rent a pull cart for $5.

The course hosts a variety of tournaments during the summer ranging from three main public events to charity fundraisers. The first public event is the Spring Classic on June 1-2, where teams of two will play a combination of scramble and best-ball formats. The Fall Classic follows the same format and is tentatively set for Oct. 5-6. Sandwiched in between will be the Lewis County Amateur on Aug. 3-4. The Riverside Bistro on-site opens daily at 10 a.m. and features a happy hour menu from 4-6 p.m. Hookups for RVs are available starting at $65 per day, $300 per week and $650 per month.

Riverside Golf Club is located at 1451 Airport Rd, Chehalis, WA 98532. It can be found online at playriversidegolf.com or reached by phone at 360-748-8182.

Gate Ranch Golf Course

This nine-hole golf course came about in 2001 as a labor of love by brothers Bill and Jim Dunson, who carved the landscape in the back of their property in Rochester. Jim passed away in 2017, but Bill has carried on maintenance and operations at the short track.

As always, this course does not carry a greens fee; patrons are encouraged to donate what they feel is fair to help cover expenses. Mike Rowe of “Dirty Jobs” fame featured Bill Dunson and the course last year on an episode of his Facebook series “Returning The Favor” and placed $5,000 in the donations box.

Rowe also surprised Dunson with a deal for a local crew to help him maintain the grounds for the next few years and a custom statue honoring his brother. The episode has been seen by millions and can be found at facebook.com/returningthefavor.

The course is open from 8 a.m. until 7 p.m. and has dozens of rental sets of clubs available for no charge. An annual Fourth of July tournament carries a suggested donation of $15; less-experienced golfers are encouraged to enter.

The Gate Ranch Golf Course is located at 11900 Hunter Rd SW, Rochester, WA 98512. 

It can be found online at facebook.com/gateranchgolfcourse and reached by phone at 360-273-7074.

Ironwood Green Golf Course

This executive, par-30 course is located just off U.S. Highway 12 in Glenoma. It features a rough-cut layout in sync with the hardscrabble climate of East Lewis County. Mountain views and tree-lined fairways are not in short supply.

The Ironwood Green Golf Course can be found at 8138 U.S. Highway 12, Glenoma, WA 98336 and by phone at 360-498-5425.

Maple Grove Resort

This nine-hole course is part of the RV Resort by the same name in Randle. The course is open to the public, plays about 1,500 yards, but par scores are fungible depending on player skill.

Greens fees run $16 for nine holes, $22 for 18 holes and $36 for an all-day pass. Golf clubs are rented out for $3 per day; pull carts are $2 per day.

The course can be found at 175 Highway 131, Randle, WA 98577, online at kmresorts.com/maple-grove or by phone at 360-497-2741.