From the very beginning, Sahalee's landscape plan was an ambitious one. Back in 1969, the Course and Grounds Beautification Committee set a goal to make Sahalee even more beautiful than Augusta National using native Northwest plantings.
That work fell largely on the shoulders of committee chair Kay Wright and her husband Jack, Harry and Dorothy Wilson, and numerous work parties made up of many of the original Club members.
The road to realizing the plan involved a 12-foot trailer dubbed Green's Cafe that offered golfers alfresco dining with profits going to the beautification budget and the establishment of an on-site nursery. Member donations of plants and careful propagation built up the landscape materials for the course and grounds.
Today, Sahalee has well over a thousand rhododendrons, hundreds of azaleas and other iconic NW plants that grace its property. In spring, when they burst into bloom, it brings a punch of floral magnificence that does indeed rival Augusta.
Sahalee was first envisioned in 1965, when two separate groups of golf club members—one from Inglewood Country Club, the other from Broadmoor Golf Club—decided concurrently that the greater Seattle area was in need of another championship golf course.
The endeavor began to take shape in the summer of 1966 as the two groups merged to form Par Golf, Inc. The development of a superlative golf course depends upon the acquisition of property ideally suited for its layout. Par Golf, Inc.'s search ended in early 1967 when the land that was to become Sahalee was found on the Sammamish Plateau east of Redmond, WA.
Following the land acquisition, several pivotal decisions were made that began to establish the character of Sahalee that exists today.
First, nationally-recognized golf course architect Ted Robinson was selected as the course designer. His creation would have to be capable of sponsoring any of the USGA or PGA national events, for the goal was to develop a course of truly national caliber.
Next, Louie Schmidt was hired as Golf Course Superintendent and was placed in charge of the construction and maintenance of the course.
The third step was the selection of a name that would convey the unique character of the project. The same eight men who had led the project from the beginning—Carl Jonson, Dixon Ervin, Harry Wilson, Hal Logan, Maury Proctor, Richard Strand, Gene Lynn and Jack Wright—took their first official action as the Club's Board of Trustees. They chose the name Sahalee, or "High Heavenly Ground" in the language of the native Chinook. The name was chosen to reflect the Northwest's heritage and tradition.
In late 1968, Sahalee began a search for its first golf professional.
The club landed a golf professional from La Jolla, CA who was a two-time
PGA Champion, four-time Ryder Cup Team Member, and two-time PGA Senior
Champion. In Paul Runyan, Sahalee had made their first club professional
an outstanding one.
Sahalee's members have been well served by seven different head professionals, each with impressive credentials. Following Runyan has been Ron Rhoades ('72-'73), Tag Merritt ('73-'78), Bill Reid ('79-'83), Mark Rhodes ('83-'84), Rick Acton ('84-'96) and Jim Pike ('97-present).
Equally, the golf course at Sahalee has been overseen by talented individuals serving as Golf Course Superintendent. Those who have patrolled the greens and fairways at Sahalee include Louis Schmidt (1968-1977), Phil Wycoff (1977-1979), Bill Campbell (1979-1988), Tom Wolff (1988-1999), and currently Rich Taylor, who started at Sahalee in 1985 and became Superintendent in April 1999.
In 1996 noted golf course architect Rees Jones oversaw the redesign and renovations of the bunkers and many key features of the North and South courses. Similar work was completed on the East course after the 1998 PGA Championship. In 2000, the driving range was significantly improved with the addition of target greens and bunkers, a new drainage system and a flatter hitting area.
In 2001, the old clubhouse was torn down and replaced with a new 43,000 square foot facility boasting expanded dining and locker room facilities, but most importantly, a design and décor that vividly showcases the natural beauty of Sahalee.
With the success of the '98 PGA Championship, support from the community and the state, and the tremendous praise from the players and the PGA, Sahalee has begun a new chapter in an increasingly rich golf tradition. Sahalee has hosted the NEC World Golf Championship in 2002 and the USGA Senior Open in 2010.
The intention of its founders to create a championship-caliber course and reputation has been realized. Sahalee has been elevated to greatness as the high heavenly ground of Northwest golf.
Learn more about the championship tournaments hosted at Sahalee.