Coeur d'Alene Is Idaho For Beautiful Golf
This piece was originally published on June 12, 2012 in the Globe and Mail
When golf travellers think of Idaho, tucked in the U.S. northwest, they typically mention courses in Boise and Sun Valley in the south of the state. But there is much to recommend closer to Canada in the northern portion of the state centred on the beautiful lake city of Coeur d'Alene. With its rolling hills and rocky shoreline it resembles Canadian cottage regions such as the Laurentians or Muskoka.
Golfers finding their way to the region of Coeur d'Alene will discover a range of distinctive courses designed by renowned architects such as Jack Nicklaus along with very attractive stay-and-play packages that make it a true bargain in today's market.
The best layout in the area is the expansive Circling Raven Golf Club at the eponymous resort owned by the Coeur d'Alene tribe. Located just half an hour west in Worley, Id., on the border with Washington State, this Gene Bates design wanders through 620 acres of rolling hillside and timber frequented by moose, deer, hawks and eagles. A favourite of golf connoisseurs and everyday players, Circling Raven (named for a legendary native chief) has been honoured by Golf Digest, Golf Magazine, Golfweek and other prestigious publications for its combination of challenging golf and a natural setting in the northern Idaho hills.
Playing 7,189 yards from the tips and rated 74.8 from the golds and a worthy 71.7 from the blues, Circling Raven has shot up the lists of must-play public courses in the United States since it opened in 2003. And it now boasts a resort to match.
Bates believes that a memorable course is known for its great par threes and options off the tee box. By that qualification, Circling Raven is a roaring success with a handful of par threes to challenge visitors. Among the highlights is No. 13, a daunting downhill carry across wetlands that can play as long as 275 yards from the gold tees to the back flag positions, and No. 7, which plays 212 yards across a gully to a green set in an amphitheatre of trees.
If you like options on your tee shot, Circling Raven’s 406-yard No. 4 offers a challenging split fairway that can change by several clubs depending on the breeze. Again on No. 6 there is a high road and a low road to choose for your approach. And on No. 11, it takes a precise, thumped drive to reach the doglegged fairway on the 446-yard par four.
Circling Raven’s course has always been mint, but since our last visit in 2008, the resort has poured $100 million into the property, creating two new wings of luxurious suites with comfortable amenities that are entirely smoke-free. A sparkling spa Ssakwa'q'n, business facilities and gymnasium complete the makeover. New parking facilities with valet service are also currently being completed.
As well, the food and beverage options have been upgraded by the creation of a gourmet steakhouse restaurant Tse’lusum, featuring local produce and game. Chef Adam Hegsted recently was invited to present in New York City at the famed James Beard House. His charcuteries selection is a standout, as is the Columbia River steelhead trout. The elegant Bar Welukws is worth a stop after dinner. The clubhouse also features a full service restaurant and bar.
The course is open April to mid-October, and stay-and-play rates range from $99 a day (low season) in the older part of the facility to $ 199 a day (low season)/ $249 (high season) in the new wing. The packages include one-night accommodation, green fee, cart, GPS and unlimited use of the 25-acre practice facility. For more info check here .
The open hills and sky of Circling Raven form a contrast with the luxurious Coeur d’Alene Golf Course at the Coeur d’Alene Resort on the shores of Lake Coeur d’Alene, famous for its famous floating green on the 14th hole. From the mahogany inlay of the golf carts, the vintage boat that takes you to the 14th green or the whiteclad caddies, the Resort course is perfectly designed for the well-heeled golf crowd. Don’t forget the heated seats in the cart as well on this course that plays 6,803 from the tips.
Opened in 1991, the immaculately manicured and groomed club attracts movie stars to businessmen on private trips and couples seeking a getaway at the 300-room resort just down the shore. As expansive as Circling Raven is, the resort course in Coeur D’Alene is ordered and precise as it winds along the shore of the lake and back into tree-lined fairways. The front nine features No. 2 , a daunting par four playing 479 yards into the prevailing breezes off the lake, and the ultra-precise No. 5, a 148-yard chip to a diabolical multi-level, trillium-shaped green.
The back nine skirts the lakeside with holes 11-14 at the mercy of forced carries and capricious breezes. The Island Green, which can be moved, typically plays in the 175 yard range for blue, 218 for gold. Successful players who hit the green get a certificate during a short boat ride to the green.
The elegant resort rising high above the lake has accommodation/ golf packages available to play the resort golf course (guests are transported by boat to the club) that start at $ 189 a night, but it can be also used as a base for golfers playing Circling Raven 20 minutes west of the city. It also features fine dining and an extensive collection of Northwest wines in Beverly’s and the other eateries on site. Check out the websi