Bear Mountain Ranch Golf Course is a jewel sitting high in the hills above Lake Chelan.
I have been playing BMR since the year it opened back in 2005, and it’s a challenging par-72 that is extremely enjoyable to play. Von Smith is the head pro and runs a first class operation.
In the interest of full disclosure, I have to say up front that Von is a friend of mine and I have known him since his days as head pro at Desert Canyon. He’s a straight-up guy who values a high level of customer service, impeccable course maintenance and a memorable golf experience. Plus, he plays a great game when he and his wife, Cindi, hit the pro-am circuit.
If you don’t know, Cindi manages the food and beverage service at BMR. My son and I had lunch there on his 30th birthday, and Brady and I can attest to the quality of food and the attentive service. (And they even gave Brady a birthday cupcake with a candle!)
The critics of Bear Mountain would say there are a few ‘funky’ holes that make play confusing, especially if it’s your first time — most notably, hole No. 1, which starts with a blind tee shot to a hidden fairway. In fairness, though, after you play it a few times, you will come to understand the nuance and the creativeness of its design. Or not.
Once on the green, however, you forget all about any confusion because the view of Lake Chelan and surrounding topography is absolutely stunning. No one will argue with the breathtaking views from every tee box and green. The tee box on No. 4 is a favorite for memorable photos and selfies. The elevated tee box is dramatic, and sweeping vistas will force you to take an extra minute to just drink it all in.
On the front side, holes eight and nine are especially challenging. Eight is the No. 1 handicap hole. It’s is a long par-5, uphill with the fairway sloping from left to right to an elevated green. Par is like a birdie and bogey like a par. On the back nine, holes 12, 13 and 14 are my three consecutive favorite holes on the course. Twelve and 13 play uphill with elevated greens, and water is in play on 12. Fourteen is a par-5 downhill where water comes back into play on the right. If you can play target golf and avoid getting wet, you can score low.
Hole No. 16 again features an elevated tee box looking down to a wide and inviting fairway. If you can get off the tee safely, it’s just a short iron into a shared green, with the 10th hole. The finishing hole is a long par-5 where it’s important to stay on the right side of the fairway if you want to hit your third shot into a green protected in front by a small creek. Eighteen is a tough hole, but three good shots will have you putting for birdie.
Last summer, I scored my low round of the year at BMR, a 77. Last week, I shot a smooth 89. Golf is an easy game that’s hard to play. As you can probably guess, I really like the golf course at Bear Mountain Ranch. The service, the challenge, the views and all the people make it a premiere track in North Central Washington. The fact that it’s just 40 minutes from Wenatchee is a bonus. If you’re going to play, plan ahead. As we all know, summer is a very busy season in the Chelan area, and tee times can be at a premium.
A day at the ‘ranch’ is not just hitting it around — it’s a golf experience for all levels of play. Play well.
See you on the first tee...
Dan Sollom can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.