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JUNE 16, 1997

Sports

Golf-In' the Northwest: The Pearl of Kent

golf by Chuck Reidt
Opened in June of 1989, Riverbend G.C. in Kent, Washington has been busy from the first day. What's not to like? A convenient location between freeways (I-5 and SR-167), low green fees ($19 weekdays), easy to walk, and nicely conditioned.
   Outwardly, Riverbend appears open, but I "guar-roan-tee" if you spray, you'll pay. There's water on seven holes, not a cursory bird bath splash, but large ponds that run nearly the length of some fairways. The water has been thoughtfully positioned to give golfers risk/reward options.
   A great example of risk/reward is the par-five #18 finishing hole. From an elevated tee box, the fairway goes straight out several hundred yards to a sharp dog-leg right with water along the entire right side of the fairway. If you hit it long, you can cut across the water back to the fairway in perfect position for a long approach shot to the green. But if you hit it straight and long, two very large bunkers will swallow up your Ruthian blast. Position is critical here: a conservative strategy is to use a fairway wood or long iron off the tee.
   The 537-yd. par-five sixth is another intriguing hole. It's long and requires a good tee shot to set up the crucial second shot. You must aim directly at or even a little right of the two fairway bunkers to allow for you next shot to the sloping green. Very large deciduous and evergreen trees create a narrow approach made even more difficult when they tuck the flagstick on the left side of the green. It's a great No. 1 handicap hole!
   Greens are in very nice condition. They have been thoughtfully designed to provide the full spectrum of slope, undulations, and flat putting surfaces. The course is not heavily bunkered, but like the greens, they are well designed and placed to affect the careless golfer. Be sure to pack your favorite sand shovel, as you'll likely need it. Fairways are fine, though Riverbend does play soft during prolonged wet periods, and I did notice more weeds than usual on the fairways.
   There's a great driving range across the street for the course; balls are cheap at $4.50 for a bucket of 80. The putting green is excellent, but isn't accompanied by a chipping and bunker practice area. You'll like the pro shop and restaurant facility. The restaurant offers a superb burger buffet where you can create the "Mother of All Burgers."
   Riverbend G.C. is well managed and maintained, and very affordable. There are several stand-out golf holes, and the overall layout is well done.

Riverbend Golf Course