When the Squaxin Island Tribe opened the Salish Cliffs Golf Club next to its Little Creek Casino Resort in 2011, there was nothing but confidence about the endeavor despite the recession.

Now, nearly two years later, that surety has been redeemed, as the par-72, 7,269-yard layout course overlooking the Kamilche Valley has only grown in popularity since then.

“Every month this year we’ve increased our rounds over last year,” said Jacob Lippold, a PGA member and instructor who has worked at Salish Cliffs since last summer.

In fact, he noted that the golf course has grown its players by roughly 15 percent overall since it opened.

“That’s due in part to a combination of tourists from Seattle and Portland, and everywhere in between and around there,” he said, “as well as activity from those staying at the resort.”

The major advantage that Salish Cliffs has over other courses in the South Sound is that it’s not only the sole course in south Mason County, but it’s also the only luxury golf club in the area. That it’s connected to the resort — with its major gaming casino, multiple live entertainment stages, 2,000-seat Skookum Creek Event Center and 190 recently renovated luxury guest rooms — is another draw for tourists from around the region, said Little Creek general manager John Setterstrom.

The landscaped sections of greens amid the rugged Mason County surroundings were designed by Gene Bates, who also designed Worley, Idaho’s acclaimed Circling Raven links. The vast, remote setting, far-removed from the housing complex-style surroundings of courses like Indian Summer in Yelm, Tacoma’s Allenmore Golf Club, and Canterwood in Gig Harbor, lends the links a “luxury escape” feel that was the Tribe’s plan.

“It’s different from other typical country club-style scenes,” said Tom Harding, a Thurston County resident out for a weekday morning golf venture with co-workers. “It’s a setting that we much prefer, yet it’s also not as formidable as something like Chambers Bay.”

In chatting with other guests, additional perks mentioned for Salish Cliffs included GPS-equipped carts, challenging landscape changes, and the swanky two-story clubhouse and restaurant where golfers can kick back with drinks and a meal. The finishing of the clubhouse, in fact, delayed the original opening of Salish Cliffs by several months due to the Tribe’s goal to have the course fully complete before going public.

That decision was the right one, said Salish Cliffs head golf pro and PGA member David Kass.

“You only get one chance to make that first impression,” he noted.

Squaxin Tribal Council Chairman David Lopeman said that the course represents the Squaxin Island Tribe’s commitment to the highest quality effort possible to complement the already successful resort.

“It’s an environmentally sensitive, beautiful course that we spent years ensuring was done in an exceptional fashion,” he said.

“It’s our favorite spot to golf in the South Sound,” Harding added