What do golfers want most after a brisk 18 holes? A low score, of course, but also something to munch.
“They’re out on the course for four or five hours and can get pretty hungry,” said Joe Gordon, general manager and head professional of East Wenatchee’s Highlander Golf Course, which includes the Highlander Grill. “I’d say that food service is one of the top amenities a golf course can offer.”
Across North Central Washington, golf course snack bars and restaurants are serving up everything from corn dogs to prime rib in efforts to please players and introduce non-golfers to clubhouse dining. Grab-and-go snacks, gourmet entrees, full bars, patio seating, breathtaking vistas and catering services have become standard fare.
“I’d say the golf course dining scene has evolved quite a bit in the last 10 years,” said Gordon. “Better food and a more upscale dining experience.”
Food sales remain a small part of most golf facilities’ annual revenues, said local course managers. But a strong menu and a comfortable dining area can encourage players, members and visitors to linger, socialize and begin to think of the clubhouse as a community gathering spot.
“It’s just good business,” said Gordon, to encourage more people to visit the clubhouse more often.
The Highlander Grill offers breakfast (egg platters, pancakes, breakfast burritos) and lunch (salads, sandwiches, burgers, wraps). Lunch items are offered at dinner time, along with some specials that include afternoon barbecues and Friday night prime rib and seafood dishes.
Recently, the Highlander has begun smoking meats for its most popular menu items — brisket sandwich, babyback ribs and grilled chicken.
The restaurant can seat 60 diners inside, with another 60 on a patio that offers expansive views of the Columbia River and Stemilt Basin.
In Quincy, the Colockum Ridge Golf Course offers an extensive menu of “snack bar food,” said pro shop manager Scott Calkins. “But we have quality items,” he said. “A full breakfast, lots of sandwiches and burgers, fries and onion rings. We’re not fooling around.”
The golf course is owned and operated by the Port of Quincy. The restaurant seats around 30 diners inside and 26 on an outside deck.
“We’re seeing more and more non-golfing customers give our restaurant a try,” said Calkins. “Lots of locals, lots of people interested in what kind of meal they can get at their local golf course.”
Growth has been strong enough, he said, to encourage the Port to consider a major expansion of the clubhouse that would include a full-service restaurant and 250-seat conference center. The proposed project has gotten a thumbs-up from community groups, said Calkins, and could be underway within the next two years.
The Wild Huckleberry, the year-round restaurant at the Leavenworth Golf Club, features full menus for breakfast, lunch and dinner from a location overlooking the second hole and offering broad vistas of the North Cascades.
“Sit down on our deck and you’ll find the scenery just magnificent,” said server Linda Francis, who’s worked at Wild Huckleberry since it opened seven years ago. “You’d think you were at Yellowstone.”
That scenery — along with a kitchen that whips up cinnamon bread French toast, Eggs Benedict, sirloin dip sandwiches, beer batter prawns and Santa Fe Maple Salmon — brings back crowds of local residents and of tourists who only want to dine, not golf, Francis said.
“I tell people that we’re like the ocean,” she said. “People come in waves.”
The restaurant is owned by Eric and Angie Decker, who also run The Wild Huckleberry restaurant in Wenatchee. The Leavenworth eatery seats around 120 people inside and another 50 on the outside veranda. The facility, available for banquet rental, hosts a variety of special events each year. “Tournaments, car gatherings, weddings, lots of other stuff,” said Francis.
“I just love this place,” she said. “Not only is it a great golf course, but I can’t think of a better place to eat in the upper valley.”