|By Steve Bergum, The Spokesman-Review, Spokane, Wash.
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News
Aug. 20, 2005 - ROSLYN -- It has been 10 years since the cast and crew of ABC's Monday night hit television show Northern Exposure packed up and left this former mining town, nestled in the shadows of the Cascade Mountains, about 80 miles east of Seattle.
But suddenly, a new sense of excitement seems to have touched the once-sleepy community of about 1,000.
The stir has been created by the Suncadia resort and golf community, which is being built along the Cle Elum River just a few minutes from the downtown area.
Construction work on the 6,000 acre resort began in 2002, with plans for a pedestrian village, luxury condominiums and cabins, custom homes and three championship golf courses -- two public and one private -- all connected by more than 40 miles of hiking, biking and cross country skiing trails.
The ambitious project has not only re-energized the region, but has also provided the Pacific Northwest with another must-stop destination for golf enthusiasts.
The Arnold Palmer-designed Prospector Golf Course, one of the two public layouts that will eventually grace the resort, opened earlier this summer. The private and ultra-exclusive Tumble Creek Golf Course, designed by Tom Doak, opened nine holes in July and plans to open the other nine by mid-September. And the Rope Rider Golf Course, a second public course designed by Peter Jacobsen, is scheduled to open in 2007.
Brady Hatfield, the head professional at Prospector Golf Course, said his course has been drawing rave reviews from customers because of its beauty and playability.
"The prevailing comments we're hearing are centered on the beauty of the property and physical geography on which the course is built and the playability of the layout," he explained. "This is a true mountain setting with great views of the Cascades and the surrounding valley.
"And as far as the playability, a lot of people are finding it to be a pretty player friendly, with generous landing areas off the tees. Even though it's set through the trees, there's a lot of room for your golf ball to land out there."
The course unwinds between stands of tall Douglas firs and ponderosa pines and features dramatic elevation changes, as well as several small lakes and white sand bunkers that offer a stunning contrast to the deep green color of the plush fairways, tee boxes and greens.
Four sets of tees cater to golfers of all skill levels. From the tips, Ponderosa plays to a formidable 7,112 yards. From the blues, it stretches to 6,641, with the whites playing to a 6, 159. And shorter hitters have the option of playing from the red tees, which measure 5,362 yards.
The most scenic hole is the 411-yard, par-4 10th, which features a drop of some 125 feet from the tee box, which faces west and offers a spectacular view of the mountains.
"No. 10 is the hole that is probably going to generate the most conversation," Hatfield said. "There's a really incredible view from that tee box. But once you get past No. 10, there isn't really another hole that sticks out.
"The nice thing about this golf course is that we have 18 good holes out there, and no weak ones."
Despite having been opened for less that a year and half, the Prospector layout has been getting its share of play this summer.
"People are still learning about us," Hatfield admitted, "but we're having a very good summer. We're seeing a lot of players coming in from various parts of the state. We really couldn't be happier with the year we're having."
The large greens on the course are already firm and hard and putt remarkably true.
"Whenever I talk about the incredibly good shape they're in, I tend to preface it with, 'for as young as they are.' But we don't have to do that any more. Even though they're only a year and a half old, they're in really, really good condition."
The private Tumble Creek course opened nine holes earlier this summer and should be fully operational by the end of September.
The course will measure 7,070 yards from the back tees and play to a par of 71. The bent grass greens, fairways and tee boxes are defined by a gnarly rough of blue grass and fescue. And the expansive clubhouse will offer fine dining, along with a wellness center.
Doak, who has a reputation of being a minimalist, didn't move a great amount of dirt in constructing the course.
"It really feels like the golf course, even though it is brand new, evolved and developed over time," Hatfield said. "The greens and tees are built right into the landscape, and the bunkers have a really rugged look."
According to Hatfield, the private course is shooting for a membership of 470.
Memberships are available only to those who purchase property within the Tumble Creek development and will include access to the Prospector and Rope Rider courses, as well.
The Rope Rider course, which is scheduled to open in 2007, will sprawl across heavily wooded terrain, open meadows and part of a former coal mining operation. It is named after the miners who balanced themselves on the coal cars as they moved along the steep and treacherous slopes of the mine shafts.
The course, designed by Portland, Ore., native Peter Jacobsen, is expected to be family friendly and feature youth tees on every hole. It will play to a par of 72 and measure 7,203 yards from the tips.
The unique driving range will include six target greens that can be played as a short course layout when the range is not in use.
"With Arnold Palmer and Tom Doak, you have two fantastic designers, but they're both different," Jacobsen explained during ground-breaking ceremonies for his course earlier this summer. "Palmer's (course) has more movement. He's got more elevated greens. Tom Doak's is very traditional, with everything right in front of you.
"We're probably going to be somewhere in the middle. We're going to have some very traditional aspects, but we're also going to have a little more movement than Tumble Creek."
"Having three golf courses from three different architects will present three distinctly different courses with different challenges and different views."
Hatfield said the Suncadia Resort has been well received by residents of the Roslyn area.
"The development is still early on in its infancy," Hatfield said, "but most of the people I've come in contact with around here are very pleased about it, and we're happy to be a part of this community.
"It's created some energy and new sense of excitement."
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Copyright (c) 2005, The Spokesman-Review, Spokane, Wash.
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