NWHP, on occasion, has the great good fortune to assist in preparing the original Country Club of Seattle, on Bainbridge Island, for play, by invitation of its members. Virtually untouched since the 19th century, the CC boasts its original sand greens and views to kill for. Below are photos and a reprint of a Kitsap Sun story about the exclusive property….
THE COUNTRY CLUB AT SEATTLE: Timeless treasure tucked away on the Island
By Chuck Stark, Sun Staff — Aug 25th, 2000
Bainbridge Island’s The Country Club at Seattle course has been around since 1896.
Here’s your history lesson for the day: In 1792, Captain George Vancouver, an English explorer for King George, anchored his ship the HMS Discovery off Bainbridge Island’s south shore. He named the point “Restoration Point” in honor of the day King Charles II was restored to the English throne.
One-hundred and four years later, a golf club at The Country Club of Seattle was established at the same site. It was built along a strip of land between the beach and a bluff where some rustic yet stately homes would eventually be constructed.
Fast forward to the year 2000, and The Country Club at Seattle hasn’t changed much. Still featuring sand greens that are visible from the Bremerton-Seattle ferry run, the primitive course is among the best-kept secrets in Northwest golf.
It’s the setting, not the golf course, that makes it so special. There are 18 houses, mostly owned by fourth-generation descendants of the founders, on the development. The golf course and other amenities at the development are owned in common by the 18 families.
“For people like me, it’s the most gorgeous spot in the world,” said George C. Nickum Jr., a Bainbridge attorney who was born and raised at The Country Club and is still somewhat involved after selling his parents’ home.
Nickum played the course last week. “Just aim for Mount Rainier on the second hole; on another hole, you aim for the Space Needle,” he said.
If you were to take a wrong turn and trespass onto the property, you’d feel like you’d gone back in time.
They don’t water the course, so in the summer, the fairways are dry, brown grass. Asphalt greens are covered with sand. A rug remnant, attached to a broom handle, serves as the flagstick. One can assume that the loser of the hole is required to smooth and drag the surface after the last putt is dropped.
You’ll find a simple white bench next to the tee area at every hole. The front of the bench is stenciled with green paint, indicating the hole number and yardage. Example: “Hole 2: 268 yards.”
You almost feel like knickers and a tam-o-shanter are required to play when you step on this pastoral venue.
All of the holes run right along the water. There’s about a mile of shore land that surrounds The Country Club property, and the golf course takes up about fourth-fifths of that, estimated Nickum.
On a clear day, it seems like you can reach out and touch the Seattle skyline or Mount Rainier.
Caretaker Skip Lindblad mows the fairways once a week.
“We do not irrigate and we do not fertilize,” Lindblad said.
There are annual tournaments on July 4th and Labor Day weekends, open to The Country Club members and guests only.
Usually, the course sits empty.
“A couple of families golf occasionally,” Lindblad said, “but not everybody who lives here does. The course is just there for them to putter around on. These are mostly summer homes and there’s only 18 families, so you don’t have a lot of people out here.”
The golf course has the same look and feel to it as it did when Nickum, now 54, played on it as a youngster.
“That course, I don’t think, has changed in a hundred years,” Nickum said.
The Tacoma Country and Golf Club, which opened is 1894, is believed to be the only course in the state of Washington that is older.
According to a book written by Tom Pelley, entitled “The Story of Restoration Point and the Country Club,” the original course spanned 512 acres.
Nickum’s father, George C. Nickum Sr., republished Pelley’s book, updating some of the history about “The Country Club.”
The first tournament in the state of Washington is believed to have been played at The Country Club in 1896. Joshia Collins, after visiting Scotland, brought back “some odd shaped sticks and stuck two tin cups in the ground of what is now the second fairway,” said Nickum. According to “Golf Courses of the Pacific Northwest,” a guide written by Jeff Shelley, Henry Meserve won the inaugural tournament, shooting a 25 on the six-hole layout.
Shelley and Michael Riste of Vancouver, British Columbia, a golf historian, said the The Country Club of Seattle’s original members were a spinoff group from the original Seattle Country Club.
The current nine-hole course stretches 900 yards. Par is 27.
But it’s not the course.
“It’s the land,” Nickum said. “It’s just a beautiful chunk of land.”
And it’s not for everybody. This is an ultra-private club, open to members and guests only.
“We want to keep it that way,” said Lindblad, the longtime caretaker. “You can’t have people coming out here.”
But the next time you’re out in the water, pretending to be Captain George Vancouver, or riding the Bremerton-Seattle ferry, look north when the boat winds around the southern tip of Bainbridge Island. Look for the “brown greens.”
That’s The Country Club of Seattle, a golf course that very few people have had the privilege to see, let alone play.