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Sahalee's Trees Create Alley-Like Conditions at KPMG Women's PGA Championship

Sahalee's Trees Create Alley-Like Conditions at KPMG Women's PGA Championship

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The best women golfers in the world face their toughest test yet this week at the KPMG Women's PGA Championship, hosted at the tree-lined layout of Sahalee Country Club in Sammamish, Washington. 


Situated on 634 acres within a dense evergreen forest just east of Seattle, the landscape at Sahalee Country Club is unlike most other golf courses. Massive Douglas firs, Western Red Cedars, and Redwood trees that are over 150 feet tall tower over the entire property, line the narrow fairways, Sahalee is creating "bowling alley" or "alleys" style conditions that has even the world's top players struggling to navigate the challenging track. 


There are estimated to be over 7,500 trees still standing on the course, despite ongoing effort to selectively thin some areas. The trees completely engulf most fairways, often just 30-40 yards wide between the imposing trunks. Deep forests of ferns and salal bushes fill in the areas underneath.


KPMG Women's PGA Championship at Sahalee


"It's kind of like hitting on a bowling alley," said club pro Stephanie Connelly-Eiswerth of the treacherous tee shots and tight fairways players must navigate. 


World No. 1 Nelly Korda echoed those thoughts, saying "it's just pretty different from anything we play. It's just a beautiful walk." However, she noted the challenge of the trees, saying "this is the type of golf course where you just got to sack up and hit your driver."


Sahalee's dense forest creates menacing sights for the players. Fairways often resemble narrow channels hemmed in by the 150-foot tall trees. Miss the narrow landing zones and navigating escapes from the thick forest rough becomes even tougher. "I think I was a bit nervous coming into this week because I knew it was narrow," said Sweden’s Madelene Sagstrom. Even solid drives sometimes find trouble, with Lexi Thompson and Thailand’s Patty Tavatanakit noting balls hit straight but blocked by trees.


The towering trees also make the course play longer than its already lengthy layout. Most players have no choice but to hammer drivers on each par 4 and par 5 to have a chance to reach the petite putting surfaces in the allotted number of strokes. “I feel like in the morning you can definitely be a little bit more aggressive with a majority of the pins being in the shade and a little softer,” said Korda, noting greens will speed up as they bake in afternoon sun.


Major champions have emerged despite the challenges through Round 1. England’s Charley Hull leads after a 2-under 70, shrugging at her late arrival and lack of prep time. Thailand’s Patty Tavatanakit and France’s Celine Boutier are one back, with Korda andLexi Thompson two off the pace after battling their way to 3- and 4-under 68s respectively.


With its dense forest framing a treacherous test, Sahalee Country Club is living up to its billing as the toughest championship venue the women's game has seen. Who can best avoid the trees' pitfalls and emerge victorious in this alley-like major championship will be determined over the next three days.



How has Sahalee hosted previous major tournaments


1998 PGA Championship: This was the first major title won by Vijay Singh. Lee Janzen said of the course, "I think the best way to prepare for this course would have been to go to a big city, like New York, and maybe play down Fifth Avenue... With the trees, it's like playing in a forest."


2002 WGC-NEC Invitational: This event was won by Craig Parry. The course was renovated by Rees Jones in 1996, 1997, and 1998 to prepare for the PGA Championship and other major events.


2010 U.S. Senior Open: Bernhard Langer won this event by three strokes over Fred Couples. The course was selected to host the event in 2007, and it was held from July 29 to August 1, 2010.


2016 KPMG Women's PGA Championship: Brooke Henderson won this event in a sudden-death playoff against Lydia Ko. The course hosted its first women's major in June 2016.


2024 KPMG Women's PGA Championship: Sahalee is currently hosting the KPMG Women's PGA Championship, which is considered one of the most prestigious events in women's golf.


What challenges do players face at Sahalee due to its narrow layout


These fairways are tight! The trees press in from both sides, so you've gotta pound it straight down the middle or you're in big trouble. No room for error at all.


And a lot of these holes turn like crazy too. To get around the bends, you've really gotta shape your drive in the right direction. Miss the target and you'll find yourselves blocked out.


Which sucks, because there's basically nowhere to go if you miss the fairway. The forest is like a solid wall of trees - one little screw up and you're whacking at it from the woods with no clear sight to the pin.


Even if you do find the fairway, the greens will test you. They've got slopes and bunkers everywhere, so landing it on the right tier is key. Three-putts are easy if you're off by just a foot.


The mental game is really important too. You gotta think your way around and not just try to overpower it. Club and shot selection becomes huge with no room for error.


By the back nine, everyone is feeling it. Just wrapping your head around each hole and not making mistakes wears you out. Staying focused the whole round is tough when one slip-up can ruin your score.


All in all, unless your game is pixel perfect from the tee box to the green, this course will eat you up. Accuracy is everything to have any chance of surviving out here.






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Michael is an avid golfer himself, having played competitively in college. After graduating, he pursued a career in golf course management and travel writing. He has played and reviewed hundreds of golf courses globally, and is considered an expert on golf course architecture, playing conditions, and the best golf destinations for travelers. His articles provide golfers with valuable insights to plan their next golf vacation.

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