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A golf executive hosted at a bowling alley? Why the Sahalee has an unbridled beauty

At Sahalee Country Club, trees can grow.

Ezra Shaw / Getty Images

SAMMAMISH, Wash. — There’s something meditative about the course at Sahalee Country Club, which hosts this week’s KPMG Women’s PGA Championship. There is something spiritual about the setting. It’s trees, it’s shade, it’s calm.

“It’s very different from anything we play,” said the World No. 1 Nelly Korda. “It’s just a beautiful trip.”

“It’s almost like a private lounge here,” added Lydia Ko. “I enjoyed it. It was really peaceful.”

“It’s beautiful. The trees are so impressive. It’s like magic,” said team expert Stephanie Connelly-Eiswerth, similarly.

During her practice round, Brooke Henderson didn’t feel like she was on the golf course.

“You feel like you’re in the middle of nature. It’s just a great feeling,” he said. “I just like to look around and breathe deeply and feel the fresh air. It’s an unbelievable feeling.”

Research has shown the benefits of being in nature. Reduced stress. Blood pressure drops. Improving physical and mental well-being. Based on their descriptions, that checks out.

That is, until the golf starts.

“I heard it was called ‘Sa-Hallway’ down here,” said Ko.

“It’s like hitting a bowling alley,” added Connelly-Eiswerth.

Like bowling, baseball or organized sport, golf is a game of strikes. But when golf fans think of Seattle-area golf they sometimes think of Chambers Bay, the major links an hour south of the city that hosted the 2015 US Open and the 2022 US Amateur, among others. You can see the entire open area of ​​the course from the clubhouse. You can see many holes in many other holes. There is only one tree in the area – and we’re not kidding.

This week’s test is a little different.

Sahalee is no stranger to big-time championship golf; the course has hosted the 1998 PGA Championship and the 2010 US Senior Open and the 2016 KPMG Women’s PGA Championship as well as top junior events in between. But to get there you leave Seattle and drive 15 miles east through the forest. Sasquatch is literally sewn into Korda’s golf bag this week. They have been cutting down trees in recent years, reducing the estimated number of trees in the area to … 7500. They are working on all the main roads and all the greenery. This is where the definitions come in. We’re in the hallway. Sa Alley. Much is said about the chutes and aisles and aisles of the grocery store.

“I think I was nervous going into this week because I didn’t know it was small,” said Madelene Sagstrom.

Several of the game’s top stars played their way to the top of Thursday’s first-round leaderboard. Celine Boutier, Charley Hull and Leona Maguire shot 2-under 70. Nelly Korda and Patty Tavatanakit shot 3-under 69. And Lexi Thompson shot 4-under 68. Other stars also showed up. : Cedar, fir, hemlock, maple. It is not just the number of trees but their size; they are 150 feet tall or more and fall over the streets. You can catch a good lie in a difficult place but be stymied. Hell, you can hit the fairway and lose.

Hence the bowling metaphors.

“This course definitely has teeth,” Tavatanakit said. “I hit a couple of drives really well today and I ended up getting blocked by some trees.”

In the modern world of golf where tree-cutting is popular and all the rage is open, there is something wonderful about a major tournament heading to an apparently opposite schedule. Sahalee is the Pacific Northwest. It’s set in the same kind of forest that’s home to Bigfoot, to werewolves from Twilight, to DB Cooper’s escape. The mystery hangs in the air, broken only by the tone of the ball in the tree.

What is the strongest tee in Sahalee?

“I think they’re all big, very tough,” Korda said. “You know, No. 1, the tee game, it’s going to be your first game of the day and that’s a really tough hole.”

He started tapping some more challenging shots and finally gave up; there were too many.

“Most of the round I’ll be hitting the driver because you don’t want a long club on these greens,” he said. “This is the type of golf course where you just hit your driver.”

That’s the hard thing about this big tournament setup; you can’t just sleep and play safe. Yuka Saso, who won the US Women’s Open a few weeks ago, presented the challenge.

“I’m probably going to hit a lot of holes in the drivers, unless they’re taking it to the top or the wind is changing or something like that,” he said. “Hitting the driver obviously means the target is getting smaller. But I think I should hit the driver; KPMG is one of the longest standing competitors. I don’t want to have a 5 iron or a hybrid [for my] second shot.”

He summed it up like this:

“This golf course is very small, so you have to be aggressive but also be in awe. You have to hit it straight but also long.”

Ah, that everything.

There are interesting wrinkles that trees provide. In the morning the course is always shaded, the ground always dewy, the temperatures always cool, the vegetation always more welcoming.

“I feel like in the morning you can be a little more aggressive with a lot of pins in the shade and a little softer,” Korda said. “But when the greens start seeing more sunlight they start to harden a little and you have to play a little more defense.”

In a world where Sahalee is a bowling alley, sometimes trees act as bumpers. Thompson was among those who fired a tee shot into a tree near the fairway to see it back into play.

“I finally found some decent shots and gave myself birdie opportunities,” he said.

Sometimes trees can act as gutters, swallowing a stray gun. Thompson called it “the first golf course”. Statistician Justin Ray reported that the first wave shot 74.65 shots while the latest wave shot 75.71. Every par-3 and par-4 is over par.

“Overall I think the golf course is needed,” Korda said. “By the end of the week we will be really tired. You have to put a lot of thought into every shot you make.”

From talking to players and caddies it’s clear that trees can grow so big that they can get into your imagination…

…unless you’re Charley Hull. The British star temporarily lost his golf clubs en route to the Sahalee, delaying pre-tournament preparations – but he checked the course on Wednesday and went up to 70 on Thursday, shaking hands with the challenge.

“No, I’m not focused on what I aim to target, usually every week. “This golf course feels like home to me,” he said. “The Duchess of Woburn [her home course in England] it’s exactly like this one. It’s even stronger. So it doesn’t bother me too much.

“I feel free. I love the tree lined golf course. The stronger it is, the better I usually play.”

That’s the spirit. Fortune favors the brave, golf and bowling. Identify the pin. Then see what is left of your second ball.

Dylan Dethier welcomes your comments at

Dylan Dethier

Dylan Dethier Editor

Dylan Dethier is a senior writer for GOLF Magazine/ The young man originally from Williamstown, Mass. joined GOLF in 2017 after two years struggling on the small tour. Dethier is a graduate of Williams College, where he majored in English, and is the author of 18 in Americadescribing the year he spent at age 18 living in his car and golfing in every state.

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