Idaho Guide To Exceptional Golf Courses
North Idaho is known for
having four seasons: In the winter it snows; in the spring it rains; in the
summer it’s hot; and in the fall we’re
likely to experience an erratic combination of those three
climates in no particular order. Those of us living here year round expect to ski on snow in the winter and ski
on water in the summer. It’s a given. However, precisely
when each season will end and/ or begin is not a given,
creating quite a problem for the good folks in the seasonal
tourism industries, namely golf.
Maintaining a golf course is difficult
enough without the possibility of it being covered with ice and snow for
three months out of
the year. Add to that the likelihood that a mild April could easily lead to scraping the ice
off the windshield of your golf cart in
May, and it’s difficult to understand
why any sane superintendent or course pro
would want to work
up here. But they do. Crazy as it may seem, this region is
home to some of the most highly regarded golf courses in the
northwest. And, contrary to popular belief, the word is out.
From ultra-ritzy and exclusive
private courses, to cow-pasture municipals, if you golf,
North Idaho has the perfect course for you. The following is a
four-course sample of what the panhandle has to offer.
In choosing the courses I attempted
to represent a wide variety of golfer skill level, income, and location.
Another factor weighing
in my decision was course age. All four are relatively young
courses—either newly established or redesigned—so don’t take
it too hard if you haven’t played one or two of them yet.
These courses are all guaranteed to please amateurs and pros
alike. And no, none of these courses fit into the
“cow-pasture municipal” category. Enjoy!
Why not start with the most elite and exclusive
golf course in Idaho? Located on Coeur d’Alene Lake, Black
Rock was designed by one of the superstars in golf course
architecture, Jim Engh. So it is no surprise that in their
January 2004 issue, Golf Digest named Black Rock the “Best New
Private Course in America” in 2003.
The design features many bowl-shaped greens and recessed
fairways that bode well for the intermediate
golfer, as the ball tends to funnel towards the center of
the fairways and greens.
But don’t underestimate it. At
7,000 plus yards from the tips, it’s sure to make you
scratch your head a few times.
That is, if you have the opportunity
to play Black Rock, it being a private, member only course.
“Non-members can play the course only if accompanied by a
member at all times,” said Director of Golf, Greg Rowley.
“We have no invite tournaments or any outside events. You
must be in the presence of the member at all times including
on the range. It really is hollowed ground.”
The choice to build a private course
opposed to public was “a question of
dollars and cents,” said Greg
Rowley, Director of Golf at Black Rock.
“At that location on the lake it made
more sense to go private. We have 300 members sold, with a 375-member
cap. “That’s huge,
considering the costs involved with belonging to Black Rock.
There’s a $125,000 membership deposit per family, plus your
required monthly clubhouse purchases, and monthly fees.
Luxury isn’t cheap. One
thing we have is bent grass fairways,”
said Rowley. It’s a luxury playing surface as opposed to
Plus our scenery is unmatched. We’ve got 100 foot
rock cliffs, holes that play through and around water
features, views of Lake Coeur d’Alene... it’s amazing.”
This “amazing” course is not without
popularity. So much so that construction on a second course
starts this summer and is scheduled to open spring 2008,
putting the cap at 600 members.
The twelve-mile stretch of Idaho State Hwy. 200 between
Sandpoint and Hope is one of the most scenic drives in the
state. The views of Lake Pend Oreille, and the Selkirk and
Cabinet Mountains are epic. And don’t be too surprised to
encounter moose, bald eagles, deer, and the occasional
skunk, if you decide to make the trip.
Along with your binoculars, don’t
forget to throw your clubs in the car,
because about half way there you’ll
find one of the more enigmatic courses in the Inland
So what makes a golf course enigmatic? The name says a lot. With water
coming into play on seventeen of the current eighteen holes,
lakes seem to mysteriously come out of nowhere. Playing at
6,923 yards from the tips, things can get interesting
quickly— the par 4, dogleg right, 404-yard ninth being a
perfect example. A tall pine just to the left of the ideal
ball flight; water hugging the right side;
a pond just to the left of the 20-yardwide landing area; and
another water hazard at the dogleg
just beyond the ruff, make the tee shot a bit intimidating. Unless
you’ve got the 295-yard high-draw-driver in your
bag, getting to the green in two shots means going
over water twice.
Playing this course isn’t all that’s
mysterious. The course was recently
purchased by Charles Reeves and will officially
change hands this coming May. With the change in
ownership, there will be drastic physical and
administrative changes to the course. “There will be
substantial upgrades,” said previous owner Dick
“The clubhouse will remain, but the
whole course will be remodeled and
reconfigured. There are seven new
holes going on the south side of the
highway, and we’re
expanding up into Moose Mountain. The areas of expansion will open the course up
to new terrain. We’ll have winding
holes through cedar groves, granite
rock, holes in meadows, and island
holes. So it will feel like you’re playing on four
Nicklaus Signature Design is in
charge of the remodel, making Sandpoint the smallest
town in the world with a Nicklaus Signature golf
course. Developer Chuck Reeves presented his plan
for the redesign at a public hearing in Sandpoint on
“The goal is to create a family friendly resort that will be open to both
residents and non-residents,” Reeves said.
“You visit a lot of golf resorts and the
problem a lot of them have is
that they just aren’t any fun because there’ll be two people
having lunch in the clubhouse on a Saturday.”
An increase in rates is expected, but
to what extent has yet to be determined. “I remember when we
increased rates in ‘97 and a lot of members were initially
upset. But I think if you were to talk to those same members
now they would say they understand why that had to happen.
They’ve seen how much the course has improved, and will
continue to improve.”
The remodel won’t be complete until the summer of 2007. But don’t fret.
The current course will be open until August, giving you
almost five months to play the Hidden Lakes you know and
love, not to mention a good excuse for some killer bird
Celebrating its 35th Anniversary this year,
Stoneridge Golf and Recreational Community wins the “bang
for-your-buck” award when compared to other North Idaho courses
of similar quality. It’s hard to beat $38 shoulder season
weekend rates, with a season weekend rate of just $43 that
includes a cart and range balls. You can also get a
ten-round punch card for just over three hundred bucks. (15%
less if you are fifty-five or older.)
“Along with a quality golf course,
we have an amazing outside service staff that caters to all of our customers’
needs,” said head
pro Aaron Lynn. “We are a mix of everything. We have public
play, but we also cater really well to higher end golfers.
It’s five star golf for a three star price.”
The course also has nineteen holes,
making it an even better value. “The nineteenth hole is the old eighteenth
hole,” said Lynn. “When the developers bought the property,
they remodeled the golf course and added another hole—what
is now the sixteenth. In adding this hole we
still had the old one, so we thought, ‘what should we
do?’ And we decided to keep it.” The nineteenth hole
has become a popular draw. “It’s a great
differentiator between us and the competition,” said
“The locals call it the gambler. It’s a great
way to see who buys the drinks in the club house.”
A 236-yard par 4, “the
gambler” isn’t all this course has going for it.
After undergoing a three million dollar upgrade, the
course was honored this year when it became part of
the elite Idaho Golf Trail, which also includes
Banbury, Coeur d’Alene, Circling Raven, Hidden
Lakes, Sun Valley, Whitetail, and Tamarack golf
courses (see idahogolftrail.com for
more information). The remodel included several redesigned
holes, new white sand bunkers, clubhouse
well as an enlarged practice facility.
Stoneridge is located in Blanchard,
Idaho, about 35 miles from Coeur
d’Alene, making it an accessible, yet
private golf-get-away spot.
Located in the heart of the Coeur
d’Alene Indian Reservation, and part
of the Coeur d’Alene Resort and Casino, Circling Raven Golf
Club has gained immense popularity in its short history.
After opening in August of 2003,
it was named one of the top ten new
courses by Golf Digest in 2004, and ranked the “7th Best Golf Experience
in the West” by Fairways & Greens magazine.
Designed by Jean Bates, who just
won Boardroom Magazine’s architect of the year award
in 2005, the course has impressed more than just the
critics, averaging 200 plus golfers per day in the
That’s especially impressive
considering they don’t offer a season pass. And with
peak rates at $79 per round, the course’s popularity
isn’t because it’s affordable. Not to say that it’s
overpriced… just above average. “What
makes the course unique is its varying distance
ranges,” said Director of Golf, David
Christenson. “It’s playable for all abilities.”
Each hole has five
tees to choose from,
with course yardage ranging from 7,189 from the championship tees, to 4,708 from the
“Phones are ringing off the hook,”
said Christenson. “You just can’t beat summer in
North Idaho. It’s considered the third best in the
world, which is obviously very conducive to golf…
and Circling Raven is the perfect place.”
Courtesy of Black Rock