Among regional hosts, Tumble Creek stands out

Casey Martin hits a tee shot during sectional qualifying at Tumble Creek in Cle Elum, Wash., for the 2013 U.S. Open at Merion.

Casey Martin hits a tee shot during sectional qualifying at Tumble Creek in Cle Elum, Wash., for the 2013 U.S. Open at Merion.

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There are few courses hosting U.S. Open qualifying events that would be capable of hosting the U.S. Open itself. Some of these courses are not long enough or challenging enough. Others do not possess enough land for the required U.S. Open infrastructure.

The Tumble Creek Club in Cle Elum, Wash., hosted one of Monday’s sectional qualifiers. It contains all the ingredients for a U.S. Open.

How tough is the Tom Doak design? In the sectional qualifier, the 7,200-yard course played to a par of 70. In addition, the greens are diabolical. Picture Augusta National in the mountains.

“I’ll tell you what,” said Derek Barron, who shot 77 in the first round. “I don’t live that far away (Tacoma, Wash.), and I will never enter another sectional qualifier at this course. It’s brutal. It may be unfair in places.”

Barron was referring to the greens, which are so speedy and so undulating that it’s difficult to find level spots for Stimpmeter measurements.

How big is this golf course, which is located about 85 miles east of Seattle? Oh, about 2,000 acres if you count all the surrounding woods and foothills.

Being conservative, it seems reasonable that 10 to 15 Merions (111 acres) could easily be squeezed into this expansive location.

The Tumble Creek Club is surrounded by heavily forested mountains, including Mount Baldy. The golf course elevation is 2,100 feet, and the wind almost always blows like crazy. “Well, it doesn’t blow much in September,” said one local resident.

This course, along with two others, belong to the impressive Suncadia development, which comprises 6,400 acres.

U.S. Open? Of course not -- the site is too isolated, and Washington already has landed the first U.S. Open in the golf history of the Pacific Northwest (2015 at Chambers Bay near Tacoma).

Still, the beauty of this place is startling, and the character of the golf course is extraordinary (as in very, very difficult).

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