Family farmers are, as a rule, famously prudent people. They have to be because they’re constantly reinvesting their own money. Every dollar spent – whether it be for more land, more workers, new equipment – has to be rationalized. Will it benefit the bottom line?
So when the Gebbers family, now well into their second century operating family-owned Gebbers Farms in Brewster, Wash., decided more than a decade ago to enter an entirely new business – golf – they did so cautiously.
They hired architect David McLay Kidd and gave him a couple of hundred sandy acres on a lovely bluff high above the Columbia River. Kidd produced a remarkably entertaining golf course, which the Gebbers family opened in 2014 and dubbed Gamble Sands. They complemented it, appropriately enough, with a small, unpretentious clubhouse. These are farmers, people proud to work their land; they don’t do ostentatious 50,000-square-foot clubhouses with valet parking and an Olympic-size swimming pool out back.
In a wonderful video tribute to the late Danny Gebbers, perhaps the most important figure in the family’s history, Gebbers is shown gesturing toward the surrounding land, saying, “It all starts here. This anchors you here. … No salesman, no advertisement, no guy on a cellphone, no tweets. Right here is what decides it all.”
He was talking about how the region’s fertile land produced the delicious apples, cherries and pears that turned Gebbers Farms into a global business. But as it turns out, that same rich land also produced a roaring golf adventure. (Danny Gebbers died a few months after Gamble Sands opened.)
From the moment it opened, Gamble Sands became one of the “it” courses, a must-play that drew golfers from across the Pacific Northwest and much further away. It currently sits at No. 18 on Golfweek’s Resort Courses list and No. 22 on the public-access list.
Florida-based Golfweek course rater Rob Jordan said Gamble Sands reminded him of Pennard in Wales, the so-called “links in the sky.”
“It’s just a very impressive setting up there high on the bluff,” said Jordan, who played it three times in 2021 at the Golfweek Rater Cup. “The course got more intriguing the more you played it. You could bounce it up and run it up, there were different options around the greens, different avenues from tee to green, a great variety of holes.
“It’s a great match-play course because of all the options it provides.”
That appreciation for the…