“Happy birthday, honey! I’m whisking you away to someplace warm and on the water.”
“Really?” she says. “Where are we going?”
I replied, “Wait for it ... keep waiting ... yup, you guessed it, we’re going to the Tri-Cities for spring break. Cool, huh?”
Her response was something like, “Wow, I can hardy wait.” (That may not be the exact quote.)
Weeks earlier, we talked about taking a spring break road trip to celebrate an important birthday and enjoy a few days in the sun. But my wife stated that she did not want to spend hours in the car getting there. So out comes the map. North, west and east ... too cold and wet. So a short 125 miles south to Richland seemed like a good idea to me. After all, they play golf in the Tri-Cities and on some pretty sweet golf courses.
Something to know about my wife, Denese: she actually wants me to play golf. Really. While I’m gone for those four hours, she has that time to hike, bike, walk, read, shop and do the stuff she wants to do without me getting in the way. Works for her and works for me.
Selecting three golf courses was the easy part. First up, Columbia Point Golf Course. I spent about 20 minutes visiting with head pro and general manager Joe Creager prior to my tee time. He was the original head pro when the course opened 17 years ago and has seen this muni develop into a very nice 18-hole track over the years.
I had the impression I was playing golf at a high end resort course — challenging but forgiving, as many holes are surrounded by sloping hills and mounds bringing errant shots back to the fairway.
I scored pretty well and was paired with some very nice people. Cliff was a former member of the U.S. Army’s Golden Knights parachute team. This guy had stories. I could have played another 18 with this him.
The next day I was off to Canyon Lakes in Kennewick to have coffee and a nice visit with general manager and part owner Mike Lundgren. Mike is an impressive guy. He has helped to develop Canyon Lakes into the Tri-Cities’ highest rated and most popular golf course. They see 60,000 rounds a year. Do the math — that is a lot of cuss words.
The course is fair and the greens are fast and very tricky. Best to have a local in your group to help read the breaks. And boy, do they break! Mike paired me with Harvey Martin and his group called the ‘Ball Bangers’ — thirty or so senior golfers who play every Tuesday all year long. Harvey started this group, so you can see why the name is what it is — ‘Harvey Ball Bangers.’ Cute, eh? Great guys, great fun. I played well here too, and the weather was warm with no wind! I love Canyon Lakes. I will play there again for sure.
Sun Willows was the third in the trifecta. Located in Pasco next to the airport, Sun Willows might be described as a working man’s golf course. General manager Jackie Stevens has done a great job ‘bringing back’ this 18-hole layout. I was told that a few years ago it was in disrepair and in need of attention.
Sun Willows was fun and very playable. I met some comical local guys and really enjoyed the round. The wind was blowing, but the temps were warm. I shot a higher round here but birdied 18. That’s the way to finish a trifecta, by golly. (I’ve always wanted to see that in print.)
I was back at the hotel each day in time for happy hour. A nice red wine is our libation of choice, and we all know that Tri-Cities is in the very heart of wine country so we didn’t have to look too far for the good stuff. We had a great room at the Courtyard by Marriot right on the Columbia, so it was nice to sit on the veranda sipping red and watching the watercraft come and go. When the weather is warm and winds are under 15 miles per hour, Tri-Cities makes for a nice change of scenery, with some great golf and good restaurants, and it’s right down the road.
On the way home I asked Denese if she enjoyed our mini-vacation, and she said she did. I said, “Next year, let’s do something really fun. How do you feel about Yakima?”
See you on the first tee...
Dan Sollom can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.