Nathan Vickers got his first ace when he was 12. Today, as North Bellingham Golf Course’s PGA professional, it’s still one of his top three favorite shots. He was young, hanging with his buddies when it happened in his hometown of Spokane, Washington.
It was a short hole, only about 80 yards, and Vickers will tell you quicker than anybody, it was a horrible shot. The golf ball hit a pinecone and then a flag, before finding its way into the bottom of the hole.
“My buddies weren’t that congratulatory of me,” Vickers says, laughing. “They just thought I was lucky, and I kind of was.”
It’s a safe assumption that there’s a bit of luck when anybody aces on the golf course, but don’t tell that to the golf pros. Vickers has played with a slew of people boasting 5 to 10 holes-in-one.
The hole-in-one is elusive; a dream, a prize every golfer, amateur or professional wishes to obtain. There’s even more incentive behind nabbing one when there’s a cash prize involved.
A new feature was introduced this year on North Bellingham Golf Course’s 16th hole. It’s called the Swing King Hole-in-One contest, and offers up $10,000 to anyone who aces the hole. The catch? You pay a $5 entry fee to have your swing counted. But that $5 fee could pay off largely. In fact, in April, just a few months after the contest was introduced, Mark Zaslow of Blaine walked away a $10,000 winner.
Zaslow is the only golfer to have won the prize so far, but the contest is continuous and never ends, so there’s still a chance for other lucky (or skilled) golfers to win some serious cash. Unfortunately, professionals are not allowed to participate – amateurs only.
Here’s how it works: Swing King set up a camera at the hole that Vickers and his staff can monitor. This way, they have footage to make sure anyone who claims to be a winner is indeed legitimate.
“We try to improve our golf course every year,” Vickers says. “That’s why we offer new and innovative ways to attract customers. Plus we focus on keeping our golf course in the best condition all year round.”
North Bellingham Golf Course is playable deep into the off season, more so than other area golf courses. Vickers and staff focus on hosting unique events to keep customers coming back.
The last three years, they put out an event tent to attract bigger events and tournaments. Their restaurant has improved its food quality. They also offer four different levels of membership, which apply to any type of golfer, from the person that plays 10 times a year to someone who plays 100.
During the offseason, staff work really hard on drainage; because of Bellingham’s rainy weather, it’s an ongoing process. Vickers says if they didn’t do it, water would stay on the surface of the golf course and everything would get really muddy. North Bellingham Golf Course tries to stay open year-round, but sometimes weather will force a brief closure. The longest they’ve ever been closed in Vickers’ tenure is three weeks. They even host at least one big event every month throughout the rainy season.
Vickers moved to Bellingham in 1997 after playing golf at New Mexico State University and, after spending a year at Sudden Valley Golf Course, has been at North Bellingham Golf Course ever since. There are even a few regulars who have played the course his whole time there.
Coming up Friday, Sept. 7, is the 14th annual Customer Appreciation Scramble, a tournament limited to the first 100 players to sign up. It includes dinner at the on-course event tent, two kegs of beer and every participant wins a prize!
“In Bellingham, we have a high amount of golf courses per capita and a lot of good quality golf courses,” Vickers says. “It’s easy to get tee times and good deals; you just come over and check it out. If you love playing golf, Bellingham is a great place to live, and North Bellingham Golf Course is a great place to play.”