Palouse Ridge Golf Club: A Wild West Golf Adventure
If you live in the U.S. and you want to play links golf, the links golf experience is alive and well in, of all places, Pullman, Washington at the Palouse Ridge Golf Club. Located a few hundred miles east of the Pacific Ocean in the heart of the Inland Northwest, Palouse Ridge is also the home course for the men’s and women’s golf teams for the Cougars of Washington State University.
And, it’s worth noting that Palouse Ridge hosted the men’s PAC 12 Conference Championships in 2015; the NCAA Men’s West Regional in 2013 and 2019; the NCAA Women’s West Regional in 2023; and the first-ever women’s PAC 12 Conference Championships in 2012 and will host the final women’s PAC 12 Conference Championship this spring (April 2024).
In 2012, Golfweek rated Palouse Ridge as the #2 ranked college golf course in the country. Without a doubt, this tract is ‘legit’ and has credibility.
While traditional links courses are constructed along the seashore or a large body of water, Palouse Ridge is the geographic exception because it’s not even close a major body of water. But Palouse Ridge has three things in common with traditional links courses: wind, sand dunes, and very few trees. Palouse Ridge is a windswept masterpiece, and the sand dunes are a legacy of the last Ice Age. In most cases, Mother Nature’s strong, steady, and persistent winds prohibit the growth of trees on links golf courses. At Palouse Ridge, trees are the exception and not the rule, as you really don’t see many trees until you hit the 9th and 18th fairways. A subtle strength oozes from her tees, fairways, and greens. You sense it and you feel it – from the opening tee shot to the walk up the 18th fairway.
“The course is a great amenity to the Pullman community for it encompasses Washington State University’s mantra of ‘Go Cougs’ Means Everything,’” says Jeremy Wexler, Director of Golf, Palouse Ridge Golf Club. “It brings all of the aspects of community, learning and recreation under one unique setting that sets itself apart from ordinary golf facilities.”
Because of the exposed terrain, breezy conditions are the norm at Palouse Ridge. As a result, several holes are played into a strong, steady breeze; some holes are played downwind, and some holes are affected by either a left-to-right or right-to-left crosswind.
Another unique element of Palouse Ridge is its configuration of par fives. There are five of them on the course. In fact, four of the final ten holes are par fives, including back-to-back par fives at the 9th and 10th holes and the 17th and 18th holes. While each par five is a potential birdie hole, a par at each hole is always an acceptable outcome.
If you play the par-four 12th hole into a breeze, it plays like a par five. But if the 12th is played into the wind, the 14th and 15th — both par fours — will be played downwind. The 15th is a real treat for big hitters who might be inclined to go green-seeking with their driver from the tee. When played downwind, the 15th green is reachable from four of the five tees.
The par threes will also create an indelible impression on your golfing memory bank, especially the 4th, 11th, and 16th holes. The tee shot on the 4th is uphill, but what makes the hole an adventure is the embankment to the right of the green which feeds the ball down to the putting surface. It is acceptable to be a little right of the 4th hole with your tee shot. The 11th hole is played over a pond to a raised green which is guarded by two sentry bunkers. When played into a steady breeze, you may have to take two extra clubs to reach the ‘dance floor’ at the 11th. The 16th is a short, uphill par three, but the two-tiered green is guarded on all four sides by sand. The prevailing breeze is often a right-to-left cross breeze. Picking the correct club is no easy task. Whatever you do, don’t miss the 16th green on the right.
If your timing is right when playing on the 14th, there’s a good chance that you might see a plane taking off from the nearby Pullman airport. It’s an attention-getting sight to see a soaring aircraft appear out of nowhere from \behind a nearby hill as you walk toward the green.
Another amazing aspect of Palouse Ridge is the sightseeing experience. While Montana is officially the Big Sky state, this part of southeastern Washington also provides jaw-dropping views of the surrounding countryside in all directions, including views of rural Washington and nearby Idaho. You are also so high that you can easily see developing inclement weather in the distance.
In addition to being a world-class destination to pursue ‘Old Man Par,’ Palouse Ridge is a Certified Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary. Raccoons and badgers take cover in the native prairie, waterfowl nest in the low-lying wetlands, and harrier hawks circle in the skies above.
All in all, a round of golf at Palouse Ridge is the complete package — fascinating, fun, scenic, and invigorating. And, if you don’t have clubs, their rental clubs are great. They were for me, and they will be for you.
It’s now time to access the Internet and check out this course online – www.palouseridge.com. There’s somebody in the pro shop (509-335-4342) ready to book your tee time. Enjoy!