Gamble Sands

The oft-repeated mantra, “If you build it, they will come,” has no better symbol than Gamble Sands. Despite its off-thebeaten-track setting in the north-central Washington town of Brewster and no ocean nearby, the courseranking experts came and saw — and Gamble Sands conquered … the rankings.

In five short years, the accolades have piled up: Golfweek: Number 16—U.S. Resort Courses; Golf Digest: Number 35—America’s 100 Greatest Public Courses; Golf.com: Top 100 Resorts in North America. There are plenty more media outlets showering praise as well. At least three publications have ranked Gamble Sands first among public-access courses in Washington. So how does Gamble Sands soar even higher in this rarified air? Simple. Add more golf. And that’s what’s in store for 2020.

Not content to rest on its laurels — and rankings — Gamble Sands broke ground in early March on a new par-3 course called QuickSands. It’s the first par-3 short course designed by David McLay Kidd, who also created the championship-caliber Sands course here, and will be the first of its kind in Washington.

“A lot of ‘one-shotters’ in the world don’t allow for a ground game … you have to carry it to the target,” said Kidd. “With QuickSands, we are encouraging the ground game with giant slopes and movement to allow golfers to be creative and use the ground. If four golfers play a hole four different ways, that will be fun and differentiate the experience.”

QuickSands is set on roughly 12 acres, with some holes playing as short as 70 yards and the longest hole playing 135 yards. Wide turf areas will allow for ever-changing tee areas, creating flexibility in how the course is set up on a day-to-day basis and how golfers play it from one day to the next. With its collection of short holes, golfers will be encouraged to grab a “clutch of clubs” and go have fun.

“QuickSands will be compact so guests can interact and socialize with each other,” said general manager Brady Hatfield. “We expect lots of ‘whooping and hollering’ throughout the course, giving it a strong social vibe. Plus, QuickSands will be fun to play, with very limited forced carries, wider turf area, and lots of shot options.”

In fitting with the distinct nature of the existing course and the resort as a whole, the par-3 course will be unique. “We’ve reinvented the par-3 course,” said Director of Operations Brian Benitz. “There will be 14 greens, but we can vary the number of holes on any given day. One day there may be 12 holes set up, another day 14, and so on. It will be variable in the number of holes, the distance of holes, and the direction of holes, without being forced into one single routing.”

Expect the new course to open for preview play this fall and for full season play in 2021.



There are continued whispers about more additions to Gamble Sands, including potentially a second championship-caliber course and a sports bar. For now, in addition to breaking ground on QuickSands, the resort has enhanced the environment at the Danny Boy Bar & Grill, where large garage-style doors roll open to reveal views of the Cascades and Columbia River Valley.

New for 2020 are flat-screen TVs and new seating — the soft kind — which is designed to encourage guests to linger a bit longer and savor the ambiance, as well as a locally sourced glass of wine.

The new short course is designed to enhance, not compete with, the one-of-a-kind layout that Kidd crafted in 2014.The site where the Scotland native worked his design magic is a huge sand plateau in the north-central Washington town of Brewster that peers out at the Columbia River Gorge and the snowcapped northern Cascades. Working in pure sand took Kidd back to his Scottish roots — and the result is a firm, fast-running, generously wide, high-desert links that is massively fun.

Roomy fairways and accessible greens feature banks, ramps, mounds, and kick slopes that help propel the ball toward targets, rather than repelling them. Most memorable is the boldly bunkered 341-yard, par-4 second hole that begins with staggering panoramas of the Columbia River and then veers to the left like the third turn at Talledega Superspeedway.

Other front-nine standouts are the two par-5s, the third and the seventh, the former a rollicking 633-yarder, the latter a risk/reward beauty of 514 yards. Among the back-nine favorites are the split-fairway, 437-yard, par-4 14th and the stout 467-yard, par-4 15th, which usually plays into the prevailing breeze.

So joyful is the journey around Gamble Sands, you’ll likely want to golf your ball all day. Fortunately that’s an affordable proposition, thanks to a heavily discounted replay rate.

So joyful is the journey around Gamble Sands, you’ll likely want to golf your ball all day. Fortunately that’s an affordable proposition, thanks to a heavily discounted replay rate.

Better still, there’s both savings and convenience by staying on-site, at the Inn at Gamble Sands. The Inn’s 37 extra-large guestrooms and suites wow with fireplaces, plush bedding, fluffy towels, refrigerators and either balconies or patios. Out your window are the mountains, the Columbia River Valley, and a 100,000-square-foot, wildly rolling green called the Cascade Putting Course. Designed by Kidd, it’s endless fescue fun for all. Cocktailing around firepits, a 24- hour fitness center, a soaking pool, and the superb Danny Boy Bar & Grill are added attractions.

At three hours east of Seattle and 2.5 hours west of Spokane, Gamble Sands is not on anyone’s beaten path. But as David McLay Kidd puts it, “Anything worth doing requires a little effort.”

For a one-of-a-kind golf experience for buddies and couples of every skill level, Gamble Sands is well worth the detour.

At-A-Glance: Gamble Sands

(509) 436-8323


Check out the April 2020 Edition of TROON Magazine