Give Me 5: Sheriff of the Range

As a student, Niles Appleby hit balls at the UW Golf Driving Range in between classes. Now he’s the man in charge of the 43 tees on N.E. 45th Street.

Niles Appleby, UW Golf Driving Range

1. What’s the history of the range?

It opened in 1965 with 20 tees. In the first quarter, it was just open to students enrolled in the P.E. golf class. There used to be a golf course where the hospital is now, on the other side of the Montlake Cut. It was nine holes with par-4s and par-5s. In the late ’70s, they opened up the range to everyone.

2. U Village is right across the street. Do balls ever go over there?

The range is about 250 yards long. We have signs warning the big hitters. A lot of younger guys try to hit over the fence on purpose. I tell them, “You can’t do that,” then I walk inside and they try to do it again. A car window gets busted every once in a while. Last year we had two insurance claims. Somebody told me they saw a ball over by QFC.

3. What’s the easiest club to hit? And the most difficult?

The 7-iron is probably the easiest. It’s a little shorter and it has more loft on it, but it still travels far. The driver is probably the hardest, and it’s also the club that people want to use the most.

4. Can you tell if a shot is good based on what it sounds like?

A good shot sounds really crisp—not a thunk or a clank. It’s more like a … thump. At first when I hear that, it’s a panic: “Oh my gosh, they’re not hitting it over the fence, are they?”

5. Any tips for the amateur golfer?

Just have fun. I see people come down and practice every day, and they take it so seriously and get frustrated. I was never a super great golfer, but I was decent, and when I got frustrated, my game got worse. And, tempo: Swing smooth, swing easy, and the ball will go.