Willows Run – Eagle’s Talon

6,915 yards, 122 slope from the Backs

Course:  The final stop of my Northwest tour took me just outside Seattle to Redmond, WA.  Let me just say that the drive from Seattle to Redmond is spectacular.  Although it was about 6:00 a.m. on a Saturday morning and details are a little hazy, I remember going up and down hills of bright green pine trees, over real long bridges in the middle of vast blue lakes and everything was real clean.  Anyways, it was a nice drive, albeit a short 30 minutes.

I’ll premise this review by admitting that the round at Willows Run was extremely last minute.  My Dad and I were looking to get in a very quick 18 before my sister’s wedding, so I didn’t spend a lot of time at the course facilities and we breezed through the round in a couple hours.  I had to find a tee time at a course in less than 15 minutes and my criteria was just that the course was nearby, wasn’t a dump and they could get us on as early as possible.  After a few clicks on my phone, Willows Run was accommodating with my limitations and the website was promising.

My only regret is that I couldn’t spend more time here.  Willows Run actually has a couple courses, so I wish I could have stayed for 36 holes and really soaked up the atmosphere there.  Everything was first rate and I hit the jackpot with picking this place out of a hat.

We played the Eagle’s Talon course.  Big Eagle was designed by Ted Locke and opened in 1994.  Locke has designed a lot of courses in Northwest Canada, including the Edmonton County Club and Washington State U’s golf course.  I don’t know why, but this course had a Canadian feel to it for some reason.  Real clean, real pretty and just pleasant all while smelling a little like maple syrup.  The course was flat, but mixed in trees, bunker complexes, water and dog legs to make each hole stand out.  Fairways were rather wide, but the greens made you work to access them.  There were a lot of forced carries and bottlenecks, so approaches came at a premium.  The slope tells you that this is a fun play without ripping you apart.  That’s about right.  The aesthetics and scenery add to the experience and what you get is a peaceful round.  My word for this course: pleasant.

I’ll be honest here; I didn’t take all that many photos and the round was so quick that I don’t think my hole by hole review would do the course justice.  I’ll go through the highlights of the course and do my best to give you a sense of how this place sets itself apart.

The first hole is a straight par 4, about 360 yards from the Whites.  There are trees along the right and I remember the green being a little elevated with bunkers on the sides.  All of the courses I played on this tour had great starting holes.  You hear that, J ville (I love the First at J Ville, but it’s a lot of challenge for me to start off with.  What can I say, I’m a slow starter)?  The Second kicks things up quickly though, as a 526 yard par 5.  It’s straight and wide and the green shifts right protected by bunkers.  Anything too far right or left, and I mean really to the side, ends up in brush land.

Now things get hazy.  Probably because the Third through Sixth are all par 4’s and are roughly the same distance, 350 – 410 yards.  Here’s a pic of the Third though.

The Third

This photo is pretty representative of what is out here.  The swales, dog leg and bunkers make sure you aren’t able to simply bomb it close to the green and that’s very effective the entire round.  This is more of a second shot course.  In fact, the Eighth is a great example of this, as the fairway whittles down to nothing about where your driver would end up, so you hit a mid iron off the tee so you can hit your next shot over water to the green.  If you’re laser accurate with your driver, you could end up with a shorter approach shot, so it’s a great risk reward situation.  Target golf indeed.

Here’s another example. I believe this is the Sixth.

The Sixth (probably)

This hole looks pretty straightforward, but there’s a creek that crosses the entire fairway that is hidden since it’s downhill.  So bombing it here means you’re likely in the creek.  Glad my GPS let me know about it.  Again, this course finds ways to force you to stick with target golf.

I remember the par 3’s, both of which come at the end of the front 9 (the Seventh and Ninth).  The Seventh is about 155 yards and there’s a large bunker along the front and front right of the green.  It’s pretty shallow as well, so if you hit the wrong club, you’re in the bunker or off green long.  The Ninth is a little shorter at 140 yards.  It’s a forced carry and although the green is big, it undulates and makes putting tough.

The back 9 starts you out with two monster par 5’s.  They’re long but fair.  Hit it long and straight and you’ll have no problems.

I really liked the Twelfth.  First off, the halfway house actually sits between the Eleventh and Twelfth.  I recommend stopping, as they have a ton of good stuff.  After that, the Twelfth awaits, which is a short par 4 that uses cross bunkers very effectively.  Again, the bunkers make you think twice about your driver, but there’s enough room to get your drive out there without going in.  Your second shot then deals with another set of cross bunkers to get to the green.  A very rewarding hole that demands two great shots to get to the green.  I took a few photos of this one.

The Twelfth.  You can see those large cross bunkers from the tee

Second shot at the first cross bunkers.  A little standing water, but I won’t hold it against them.  My ball sits right in front of the bunker.

Second set of cross bunkers, with the green beyond.

I remember the Thirteenth being rather narrow, and no space on the right.  In fact, both my Dad and I hit our tee shots right and had to take a drop.  We both got up and down from 185 for a bogey.  The green was long but narrow as well and we both made pretty long putts.

The Fourteenth is the first par 3 of the back 9.  It’s slightly downhill and of course there are bunkers, especially on the right.  It was about 175 yards.  The Fifteenth and Sixteenth are parallel to one another, are both par 4’s and about the same distance.  It rarely works when holes start going back and forth like that.  They all feel the same, mainly because you’re using the same piece of land and topography.  The approach on the Sixteenth was memorable, as it’s well guarded and the green has a nice shape to it, favoring the right side.

The fairway of the Sixteenth

A closer look at the Sixteenth green

The final two holes are great closers.  The Seventeenth is the final par 3 at about 160 yards.  You must carry an entire lake with no bail out room short.  There are bunkers left and right of the green that look harmless and out of play, but of course I found one when I listened to my Dad and over clubbed.  Just trust your distances and you should be fine here.  We had to wait for the group ahead of us on this hole and I’m glad we did.  It gave us a moment to take in the scenery and appreciate the surroundings before tackling the day’s festivities, then scrambling to our early morning flights the next day.  As I was waiting in the hour long line at the security checkpoint the next morning, I sure kept going back to that moment over and over.

The Seventeenth

The Eighteenth is a great par 5.  Two things stuck out for me on this hole.  First, the tee shot.  The tee markers set you up to hit into right side OB, so you try to adjust to the middle of the fairway, yet the hole is set up at an 11:00 diagonal, which visually makes it seem like you’re hitting into left side OB.  It was effective.  The second thing about this hole is the green.  It’s slightly elevated and water runs along the right side of the fairway up to the green.  Get it up there and deal with a green that slopes severely back to front.

Generally, this was an enjoyable course with beautiful surroundings.  No houses or traffic, which was nice.  The course made you hit precise shots and made you put on your course management hat a few times.  If you know how far you hit each of your clubs and execute, you can score here.  Yeah I know you can score on a lot of courses with that combo, but my point is that this is fair target golf that positively rewards good shots.  I don’t think there was a cart girl, but we also teed off at 6:15 in the morning.  The facilities and everything else seemed rather up to date, so I’ll predict the cart girl is on the spot here.  Everyone we spoke to, including golfers and staff, were real friendly, including the pleasant and nice rangers.  

The clubhouse/starting area

If I lived here, I would hit this place up quite often.  You have a few courses to choose from, great course conditions, interesting lay outs, a beautiful area and what I can only imagine is a first rate clubhouse/bar/grill.  And the kicker is green fees are very reasonable.  This gets a lot of stars from me.  I can’t think of a place with multiple courses, that’s public, fairly new, with great courses and conditions all for a reasonable green fee back East in Philly, can you?  (Paging Cobbs Creek to get its act together!)  If you’re going to the Seattle area or live there, you should be going to Chambers Bay repeatedly.  But to shake things up, I would recommend here.

Gripes:  I don’t have any because I don’t think I was there long enough to start thinking of things to complain about.  Maybe some of the par 4’s got a little repetitive, but that’s it.  And my score.

Clubhouse:  Well stocked.

Bar/grill:  I didn’t have time to check it out, but 98% chance I’d love it.

Nearby:  Didn’t look like much except housing complexes.  And a real nice drive back to Seattle.