SEATTLE — Few golf courses in the Puget Sound area are as visible or as popular as North Seattle’s Jackson Park Golf Course.
Located along I-5 just south and east of the NE. 145th St. interchange, Jackson Park has long been a regular golf destination for King and Snohomish county residents and serves as the home course for local high school golf teams.
Over the last year, though, many of those folks went elsewhere to play as Jackson Park was undergoing a renovation, requiring a temporary par-66 layout.
Today the work is complete and venerable Jackson Park — the course opened in the 1920s — is again back in full swing.
Unlike drainage and irrigation projects that closed Everett’s Legion Memorial Golf Course and Marysville’s Cedarcrest Golf Course in recent years, the effort at Jackson Park was undertaken primarily for environmental reasons, according to Seattle Golf Director Andy Soden.
The approximately $10 million project was funded by Seattle Public Utilities and not the city’s parks and recreation department, and addressed storm water retention in addition to modifications of Thornton Creek as it flows through the golf course. Among other changes, three new ponds have been added to help absorb creek overflow.
“This was not done to enhance the golf course as much as it was done to enhance the physical characteristics of that stream and how it handles fish and storm water runoff in the winter months,” Soden said.
The restored course opened on July 1, or about one year ahead of schedule due to cooperative winter weather.
“It just turned out to be a fantastic project,” Soden said, “and it should be a fantastic boon to the golf course and a much-needed improvement to the creek and habitat area for the fish.”
Most of the changes, including the three ponds, are on the first nine holes. The entire first fairway has been redone, there is a new green on the third hole, a new tee on the fourth hole, a new championship tee on No. 5, a new fairway on No. 7, a new tee on No. 8, and extensive changes to the ninth fairway.
The new ponds, meanwhile, will come into play on the approaches to the first and third greens, and the tee shots on the fourth, seventh, eighth and ninth holes.
“Obviously, the hazards that the water adds is going to be a glaring change,” Soden said. “Everybody I’ve spoken to says it adds an elevated level to the challenge of the golf course, even though it’s still pretty friendly to the higher handicapper.”
Another change, he went on, is that the landing areas on the first and third fairways are now visible from the tees, which they were not before.
Though Soden has not been tracking customer comments about the improvements, “we haven’t had an open tee time since we opened it back up, and that’s the best feedback you can get,” he said. “But the people in the pro shop are saying that (guests) are raving about it.”
Many well-used golf courses do around 50,000 or maybe 60,000 rounds a year, but thriving Jackson Park will do 70,000-75,000 rounds in a typical year, “and that’s as busy a golf course as you get in the Pacific Northwest,” Soden said. Add in the play at an adjacent par-3 course and the total is over 100,000 rounds, with around 20-30 percent of that play coming from Snohomish County, he added.
Jackson Park’s popularity is probably due to several factors. One, it is a good and challenging municipal golf course for players of all abilities. Two, it is in a dense population area. And three, its location alongside I-5 gives it plenty of advertising to freeway commuters.
“Let’s be honest,” Soden said, “Jackson is never going to be on the top 100 list of golf courses in Golf Digest magazine. But it’s still a pretty friendly golf course to play.
“And if you take a look at the dynamics of where it fits in relation to population and the kinds of competition it has (from other public golf courses), it’s in a real favorable spot.” Rich Myhre writes for The Herald in Everett.