A recent spring afternoon found Jay Klemp playing disc golf with golf pros Michael Henson and Steve Pierce on the beautiful course Jay designed in Elma. Typically, he spends more time grooming the course than actually playing golf, and his hard work has paid off. Reviewers call Elma Disc Golf a “jewel of a course,” and a “must play.”
“This is one of the most gorgeous courses in Washington,” says Professional Disc Golf Association (PDGA) player Michael Henson. Henson, a tour player for the past four years, lives in the area and uses Elma Disc Golf as a welcome practice course close to home.
The 8.5-acre spot looked entirely different 22 years ago when Jay and Linda Klemp purchased the property as a hostel. Jay describes blackberry stickers that climbed over the fences. He spent 10 years clearing the brush and digging ditches by hand, a true labor of love.
The result is a well-groomed, 18-hole course that opened in 2006. The first three holes cover the upper pasture and provide a deceptively simple warmup. The lower pasture offers a variety of shots and elevation. A stream meanders through the course, filled with coho salmon and beckoning stray golf discs. Large trees line the way, the perfect backdrop for the occasional bridal photo.
In wet months, the back nine holes can get a bit soggy, but seasoned players find creative ways to golf. Recently, heavy rains left part of the course under water. Players from Shelton brought their kayaks and played the flooded holes using floating discs. “That’s not something one does every day,” says Linda.
The course is open year round. Players pay $3 each or $5 for two, and payment runs on an honor system. The experience is well worth the minimal fee. Most players bring their own discs, but the Klemps do have loaner sets for those who need them, and Jay will outline the course.
“If you call us and tell us your situation, Jay will spend some time showing you the different shots and discs,” explains Linda. She laughs and adds, “He will sometimes spend an inordinate amount of time chatting when I have something he needs to do. He’s the gregarious one.”
From mid-April through September first, the course hosts a Tuesday evening doubles league. As one of only a couple of disc golf courses in Grays Harbor, the course attracts regular players from Shelton, Olympia and the Harbor. Guests at the hostel have full access to the golf course, and the two businesses co-exist quite well.
After owning hostels in Eastern Washington and Kalispell, Montana for over a decade, the Klemps moved to Grays Harbor when Linda took a position as librarian at Montesano High School. Both Linda and Jay taught school for years, but hosteling gets in the blood, and it offers a great companion business for an active lifestyle.
Consequently, the couple purchased a large house on acreage just off Highway 8 and turned it into a guest house with eleven beds and a communal kitchen and living space. Most of the hostel guests are travelers passing through to the rain forests, Seattle or the mountains. Some come to the area for Grays Harbor Fairground events or business. And the Klemps are popular hosts to bicyclists exploring the Northwest.
“We love the variety of people that we meet,” says Linda. Those people include guests from all over the world. Some stay for extended periods of time, and some have become lifelong friends. Prices are very reasonable, and travelers could hardly ask for more intriguing hosts.
While the Klemps retired from teaching several years ago, they have yet to slow down. In the winter, Jay works as a ski instructor at White Pass two or three days a week. Linda is a consummate gardener. Both ride bicycles and kayak, and they met through a shared love of dancing over 40 years ago.
In the summertime, the pair spend many of their days riding motorcycles along scenic byways. Over the years, they have put thousands of miles on the bikes, including multiple trips to Alaska. Jay has ridden the Cassiar and the Dalton. Linda rode up to Alaska with a friend and chuckles a bit at the memory. “I’m just a little old lady librarian, you know?”
What does the future hold for the Klemps? “We’d like to retire soon, while we still have the energy to play with our toys,” says Jay. And who knows? If the right buyer comes along, you might see this amazing pair ride off into the sunset on their motorcycles.