Northern Idaho’s Epic Outdoor Paradise Offers Unforgettable Golf and Lasting Memories
When I think about it, it comes as no surprise Northern Idaho has become a highly acclaimed resort and second home destination. For starters, Lake Coeur d’Alene was dubbed one of the “Top Five Most Beautiful Lakes in The World” according to National Geographic, and perhaps this alone is reason to visit the area. But, what some may not know is the Twain-like, story-book locale is an extraordinary outdoor lovers’ paradise, especially if you love the game of golf.
Sure, there is vast unspoiled terrain, hundreds of glistening lakes, robin egg blue skies, excellent fishing and boating, snow-skiing, abundant wildlife, and to top it all off, gorgeous rolling mountain meadows titillate from every corner of the eye. On the civilization side, multi-amenity resorts and swanky private clubs offer every conceivable convenience and comfort combined with easy access to airports in close proximity – Spokane International/GEG and several regional – complete a list of special ingredients which combine to arouse the senses about this wonderfully bucolic destination.
While natural beauty, abundance, luxury amenities and striking aesthetics are necessary to attract upscale resort and private club clientele, perhaps the most riveting reason to seriously consider the Idaho panhandle is, the unique mix of five nationally ranked golf courses that rival any destination in the country, they are all that good.
Circling Raven Golf Club – Worley, ID
Since its first full season (2004), Circling Raven Golf Club has garnered more than 45 top awards, including currently being ranked on GOLF Magazine’s “Top 100 U.S. Courses You Can Play” and Golf Digest’s “America’s 100 Greatest Public Courses”, winner of PGA Northwest Section “Merchandiser of the Year” four times since 2004 and the #1 golf course in Idaho from Golfweek’s Best Courses for 2010.
Furthermore, Golf Digest re-ranked its biennial “America’s 100 Greatest Public Courses by Price” last year and Circling Raven shot to No. 17 from No. 61 on the overall list. This significant jump tells you that word is out on this course; it’s good, really good! This award was bound to happen when green fees top out in peak season at a mere $95.
Pinpointing what makes this award laden Gene Bates-design so compelling depends on whom you ask. For some it’s the intimate one-with-nature experience the course provides, with each playing corridor a secluded golf haven all to its own. The massive layout calmly wanders through 620 acres of gently rolling hills, wetlands, wooded forests and requires more than eight miles of cart paths.
Mr. Bates spoke of his initial draw to the project, which notes his respect for the land itself, “This is the Coeur d’Alene tribes’ sacred land, and we were very fortunate to have them entrust us with so much great terrain on which to build Circling Raven, it was a pleasure to create our work on this special location”, says Bates.
There is no doubt the land at Circling Raven is incredible for golf, and it provides a striking visual effect, with tee boxes perched high above the fairways, dotted by clover-like, sparkling-white sanded bunkers and horizons that seemingly go on forever with no signs of civilization.
The golf course offers a fine mix of both strategic and “grip-it-and-rip-it” holes which force you to use every club in your bag. But, to score well on this course, you will also need a clear head in determining the best route to navigate the tempting risk-reward holes throughout the layout. For those proficient enough with their game, these holes may provide a scoring opportunity with a well-struck shot.
Speaking of well-struck shots, one can hone their golf skills on the sensational “Idaho-sized”, massive 25-acre, practice facility, which features a completely separate range used exclusively for the wedges in your bag.
Rest assured you will be taken care of on and off the course when you are a guest at Circling Raven. The staff takes pride in providing exceptional care to each and every player, their award winning service combines to offer a highly memorable golf experience at Circling Raven.
Adding to the allure of the golf course is the fact that it is an amenity of the Coeur d’Alene Casino Resort Hotel, tribally owned and operated by the Coeur d’Alenes. The resort – which offers gaming, off-track betting, and entertainment – is undergoing an expansion that will enhance its opulence with the addition of a fine-dining steak house, a 15,000 square-foot spa, 97 more well-appointed hotel rooms and an outdoor amphitheater for concerts and other outdoor events. The project is slated to be completed in time for a Spring 2011 opening, meanwhile, the resort remains open and unencumbered by the expansion work.
The Coeur d’Alene Resort Golf Course – Coeur d’Alene, ID
The Coeur d’Alene Resort Golf Course – 35 minutes from Circling Raven and also rated one of “America’s 100 Greatest Public Courses” by Golf Digest – is much more than its world-famous island green. There are its immaculate course conditions, superlative fore caddie service, and overall 5-star ambiance and amenities which also sparkle (golf carts with inlaid walnut and “blinged” spokes, anyone?).
But its the par-3, 14th hole, featuring a 15,000-square-foot green complex anchored in majestic Lake Coeur d’Alene, which never fails to leave the most lasting memory. Draw all your confidence to swing with conviction into an ever-prevailing wind at a shot that plays 200 yards from the tips, 170 from one teeing area forward. Finding the green with your ball is an invigorating challenge. Not so difficult by “Putter” – a mahogany boat complete with captain – which ferries players to the green. Hit the green with your tee shot and the captain will have a fun trinket waiting – a certificate with your name on it commemorating your not-so-easy accomplishment.
The 26-mile wide lake – which gobbles up more than 30,000 miss-hits a year – is a site worth seeing all to its own from the golf course. Fortunately, several holes on this clever, testy Scott Miller design enable stunning views, many from on high. Moreover, the practice area requires hitting floating balls – which feel just like regulation balls off the clubface – into the lake. Again, a lasting memory.
After your round enjoy a drink or bite to eat at The Floating Green Restaurant that overlooks the famous 14th, or by having dinner at Beverly’s, the resort’s signature 5-star restaurant. Several other dining options await at The Resort, as does The Spa at The Coeur d’Alene Resort, which was named as the “World’s Most Romantic Spa” by MSNBC. I suggest you complete the entire experience with overnight accommodations at the hotel, which offers a selection of beautiful rooms, featuring incredible views, luxurious linens, and complete relaxing comfort.
1-800-688-5253 – www.cdaresort.com.
Palouse Ridge Golf Club – Pullman, WA
The superb golfing options don’t end in the sliver of land that is the Idaho panhandle. Located a relaxing, scenic drive from Circling Raven is one of the country’s best college golf courses, Palouse Ridge Golf Club, the home of the Washington State University that can be included in stay-and-play packages with both Circling Raven and The Coeur d’Alene Resort Golf Course
Like the other two courses, Palouse Ridge will overwhelm you with its artistic charm as well as the distinctive test of golf it provides. Unlike the other courses, however, this track will remind you more of how the game is played across the pond rather than true resort golf or private club opulence. There are very few trees or water included in the layout and architect John Harbottle III took advantage of the landscape to create a unique, Americanized links-golf experience.
This is a course that plays firm and fast, and so well that it was named one of “America’s Best New Courses” by national golf magazines in 2008. There are a host of elevated tees and it’s advisable to take note of the rolling terrain before each shot and use it to your advantage. You should also tune up the “bump and run” portion of your game before teeing off as there are numerous opportunities to strategically roll your ball to the green, rather than trying to fly and land it there.
Palouse Ridge’s practice facilities and driving range are first-rate and Banyan’s on the Ridge, a British Colonial-themed steak house that boasts seating with panoramic views of the Palouse, allows you to really sink into the area’s culture by offering a wide selection of Washington state wines and microbrew beers.
509-335-4343 – palouseridge.wsu.edu
On the private club side of the golf options in the area, there are two remarkable real estate developments, both with unbelievable golf courses, incredible pieces of property and outstanding amenities.
The Club at Black Rock – Coeur d’Alene, Idaho
The Club at Black Rock opened in 2003 to rave reviews on the shores of Lake Coeur d’Alene, featuring a distinctive golf course crafted by the noted and innovative golf architect Jim Engh. The holes are crafted with a signature style specific to Mr. Engh, which provides an atypical look to the golf. The shapes and contours of the fairways, bunkers and greens are at times whimsical, and the design of the holes from the tee alone can overwhelm your senses and you may find yourself in awe of the landscape they created. Individually, the golf holes are nothing short of spectacular, a bit peculiar, provocative and very inviting to test your skills. It’s downright enjoyable to see a new golf course which pushes the envelope of traditional golf design. At Black Rock they succeeded in creating something a little different, fun and memorable to play over and over again.
The awards and accolades for this club are among the top honors in golf, as Golf Digest awarded the Best New Private course of 2003 title after its debut. Recently in 2009, the Club at Black Rock was listed as Number 27 on the “Top 100 Courses in America” by Golf Digest finally giving Idaho the only Top 100 course it has ever had, topping some very respectable competition, and says a ton for how good the layout actually is.
The community and golf course comfortably rest on 1,800 pristine acres overlooking Lake Coeur d’Alene, and are seamlessly integrated into the rustic natural environment among gently rolling hills, wispy grassy meadows and the black basalt rock cliffs for which the course is aptly named and pepper the property.
866.239.6750 – www.blackrockdevelopment.com
Gozzer Ranch Golf and Lake Club – Coeur d’Alene, Idaho
As if Tom Fazio – one of the games most respected and revered golf course architects – needed yet another incredible piece of property to create one of his masterwork golf designs, and chalk up one more top golf course to his resume. Well, I guess he did, because he happily took a chunk of land on the south side of Lake Coeur d’Alene, and what do you think happened?
The creation at Gozzer Ranch is astonishing, very natural looking, and completely enjoyable from every angle. “Our goal was to move the least amount land, and disturb the least amount existing environment, indicated Fazio, “The natural land here is so perfect for a great golf course, all we had to do was decide how to fit golf into the existing natural beauty of the property”. Is it really any surprise Golf Digest awarded the course the “Best New Private Course in 2008”? Not a chance, the place deserves it. Fazio was able to gently place scruffy, natural looking bunkers among the black-basalt bluffs and mold stunning golf holes into the natural terrain.
Life at Gozzer Ranch seems a little different than typical real estate and membership driven developments, a simple, carefree and fun approach is instilled upon the staff and entire development to create a sense of memorable, story-book summer vacations. Small details like a 1940’s styled, mercantile store complete with a soda fountain, old fashioned ice cream, and candy counter reminded me of growing up in a rural farm town. Then there was my personal favorites, classic rock n’ roll playing on the driving range, and unbelievably, treat-stocked comfort stations throughout the golf course, wow what a club!
Families can expect to have plenty of daylight hours to either maximize fun with an unlimited selection of activities and amenities available on property, or simply relax and enjoy a good book in the cherry tree orchard. “Many projects bring the family together, but Gozzer Ranch does it in an unforgettable way.” indicates developer Michael Meldman. “Coeur d’Alene in the summer is as good as it gets, you have great golf, mountains, a warm lake, a host of fun activities, and long summer days primed to evoke unforgettable memories!”
Phone: (208) 665-6600 – www.gozzerranchclub.com
No matter how you intend to visit the Coeur d’Alene area, either as a guest of one of the world-class public resorts above, or as a member or potential one of the private clubs, there is no doubt you will experience a lasting, and memorable trip you will talking about for years to come. In fact, I guarantee you will be planning your next trip to the area before you even leave.
*Orignally written and published in STRATOS Magazine – 2008