O’Shanter: small course, big challenge

All good runs eventually come to an end. Look no further than Muhammad Ali, the Chicago Bulls of the ’90s, or the Pittsburgh Steelers of the ’70s.

All good runs eventually come to an end. Look no further than Muhammad Ali, the Chicago Bulls of the ’90s, or the Pittsburgh Steelers of the ’70s.

Thus, another (significantly smaller) reign of dominance ended Tuesday afternoon when Bellevue Reporter sports writer Joel Willits claimed his first victory in the third round of our summer golf course reviews.

More on the upset later, but now for a look at this week’s obstacle: Tam O’Shanter Golf and Country Club — a hidden gem located in Bellevue, just off the shores of Lake Sammamish.

Available only to residents and guests of the community’s 498 single-family residential properties, O’Shanter could easily be one of the lesser-known courses on the Eastside. The third stop on our tour, I will vouch that the level of difficulty is right up there with that of previously reviewed Newcastle and Willows Run. A nine-hole, par-71 course, O’Shanter plays at 6,168 yards from the pro tees, or 5,845 yards from the regular tees. The course is evenly divided with six par-5s, six par-4s and six par-3s.

Golfers set up at the white boxes on the front nine and the red boxes on the back nine — each green contains corresponding white and red flags.

The first hole, a 461-yard par 5, provides an immediate test. The fairway dips into a valley, creating a blind, uphill second shot. The largest challenge, however, lies in the abundance of trees and homes lining the fairway — a sight on six of the nine holes (and a scary one for a couple of amateurs — and especially Joel, with his big slice).

While the longer holes require pin-point accuracy into the fairways, there is not much relief on the par-3s. Hole No. 3/12 sits only 124 yards away, but the front side is nearly completely surrounded by a bunker — a hazard I fell victim to twice. Hole No. 5/14 is a 182-yard par-3 protected by a large body of water off to the left side and very little room on the backside of the green. Hole No.6/15 might be the most challenging par-3, however. It is listed as a short par-4 (226 yards) on the front nine, but is a long 207-yard par-3 on the back nine.

Hole No. 9, a 426-yard par-4, provides one of more unique views on the course, with a six-story drop into the fairway and a climb back up to the green.

While the course has some great scenery, it also has several other amenities, including a full service pro shop, a nine-hole putting green and a netted chipping area. Not to be forgotten is Mulligan’s restaurant, which is credited with one of the best hot dogs I’ve had in a long time.

All in all, Tam O’Shanter might appear small, but it makes up for it in level of difficulty. The combination of water, sand and abundance of Douglas firs and weeping willows resulted in a ton of punch shots and my worst score in close to a decade. I would particularly like to thank the water on Hole No. 5/14 for swallowing three of my balls. Regardless of how much it pains me to admit, my 129 will not soon be forgotten. But watch out Joel, that 120 won’t hold up long. Until next time, my friend.

For more information on the Tam O’Shanter Golf and Country Club and the community, visit www.tamoshanter.net.

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