Looking for that same small town in each of us on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula
by Yvonne Pepin-Wakefield
On any given day at the Port Townsend Golf Club, tucked in the corner of the Quimper Peninsula where the Strait of Juan de Fuca meets Puget Sound in Washington, players will find members of the Tonan family – Gabriel, course director, mother Peggy and father John – collectively maintaining the course and the clubhouse.
On this day, Peggy returns after gathering a shag bag full of practice balls to register a player and then asks Gabriel, who just drove 16 hours to buy a new sprayer, to bring water to his father who is out mowing the driving range.
In 2014, Gabriel, who worked at the course as a range kid in the late 1980s, bought out the lease from the former owners. He points out 40-foot-tall trees along fairways that were planted as starts when he was a kid.
He wanted to preserve the spirit of the facility, saying he operates it like a mom-and-pop course. “We really are old school,” he says. “We don’t really do point-of-sales stuff, just a cash register.” The low-key atmosphere draws regular players into volunteering wherever help is needed.
Built in 1904 on part of an old apple orchard, the 9-hole Port Townsend course features 2,731 yards of golf from the longest tees for a par of 35. The course rating is 67.4 and it has a slope rating of 123.
The usual slick Poa annua greens have been inundated by English Daisies, which have increased the club’s sale of colored golf balls. This unwelcomed annual infusion inspired Tonan to create “The Daisy Special,” which means you can play all you want for $10, until
the invasive white blooms disappear.
One water hazard serves three holes, and views of the Olympic Mountains pop up on fairways that play fast like a links course.
When he is not maintaining and managing the facility, Tonan pulls out his own hickory clubs, some of which date back to the 1920s, as well as replicas of others. “I was hooked from the first swing,” he says of the old-fashioned wood-shafted clubs that helped him twice win the Washington Hickory Open and the 2020 Gearhart Hickory Classic.
The full-service restaurant closed at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, but chilled beverages and snacks along with basic golf gear are stocked in the clubhouse, which is open seven days a week. Call 360.385.4547 for rates and reservations.
Published in the June 2021 issue of Pacific Northwest Golfer. View the full digital issue.