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 »  Home  »  Regional Editorials  »  West Coast  »  California  »  The Inland Northwest Best Golf
The Inland Northwest Best Golf
By Tom Landers | Published  10/20/2006 | California | Unrated
Idaho Golf Trail

Idaho’s temperate climate and variety of terrain makes for an exciting, fun experience for any golf enthusiast. The Idaho Golf Trail brings together 9 unique and challenging courses across the state. Whether you’re visiting Idaho’s panhandle, the Boise area, or Sun Valley, a customized “Stay and Play” Golf Trail vacation package can be tailored for any length of visit. Discover that your ball, in addition to your dollar, can go a lot farther in Idaho!

Each of the nine Idaho Golf Trail participants are distinctly unique, offering a mix of resort, urban, and mountain golf experiences. Idaho’s climate is also a plus, with most courses experiencing mild weather during the summer months. Also, the lodging is resort quality with all the associate amenities.   For those that like the scenic route, drives between the courses are a welcome experience on their own.   With the exception of BanBury/Hilton Garden Inn in Eagle, each of these locations is in or near a resort style setting. They are also strategically placed around the state providing the best opportunity to experience a great state. Idaho Golf Trail packages can be customized, depending on how many different courses you want to experience and the length of your stay. If you chose not to take in all nine courses, we recommend the Idaho Golf Trail be played as a Northern Loop (Hidden Lakes, StoneRidge, Circling Raven, and Coeur d’Alene), or a Southern Loop (Whitetail, Osprey Meadows at Tamarack, MeadowCreek, BanBury, and Sun Valley). You can also arrange various other activities like whitewater rafting, jet boat trips, fly fishing, etc.
A bit of advice - Play the trail from South to North. This will allow you to gain one hour of daylight as you go from Mountain to Pacific Time Zone just north of Riggins.
Let’s take a tour of the courses . . .

Circling Raven
Named in honor of perhaps the most powerful, prophetic and spiritual chief of the Coeur d’Alene people.  Legend has it that Circling Raven had the power to communicate with the raven, a mystical bird who would speak to him about the future.  Talk about “at one with nature,” the feeling of being the only group on the course (for miles) at Circling Raven is fantastic.  So much so, that I had to go back out for another 18 after my first round.  It’s easy to see why Circling Raven has been listed among the “Top 10 Best New Upscale Courses” in America.  Its also true that there have been many recent sightings of wild animals, birds of prey, waterfowl, ravens, meadow larks and more in the areas surrounding the course and resort – you might even see a moose near the fifth hole.
  
The players experience is that of a links-style course. Wetlands impact play on 13 holes, natural grasses compliment the wetlands. A mix of Ponderosa Pines, Aspens, Cottonwoods and Birch blend into the scenery. The player’s greatest challenges are “Tees and Threes,” meaning accurate driving and careful management of the four par 3s, all measuring over 200 yards from the back tees. White sand, brought in from Emmet, Idaho, fills 60 bunkers on the Gene Bates designed course.  A 7,189 yard, Par 72 championship course that is sensitively placed amid 620 rambling acres of lushly forested meadows and carefully preserved wetlands of the sun-blessed Coeur d’Alene recreation area.  Conceived by famed golf course architect Gene Bates, to blend with nature not compete against it.  And, with its Coeur d’Alene Casino Resort just moments away from the golf course, you can get some new bets going after your round is over.  The 25 acre practice facility is perfectly laid out.  Target greens, a clear view of distant shots with just slight elevation downrange and a wedge area that is a perfect place to tune-in your short game prior to the first tee add to the world class environment here.  The Coeur d’Alene’s Casino Resort Hotel has over 200 rooms designed in a dramatic Western lodge style.  An ideal destination for a romantic weekend getaway, or come stay for a week!  The Coeur d’Alene Casino offers over 2,000 Vegas-style machines, high stakes bingo and off track betting from more than 50 race tracks as well as world class entertainment.
 
The course at Circling Raven was designed to ensure privacy from other golfers on the course, making you feel this is how nature intended it.  Navigate with GPS enabled carts to provide accurate mapping of each hole with hazards, traps and detailed hole information to make your round more enjoyable.  Playing a tough 74.8 Rating and 140 Slope from the back tees, you’ll need every shot in your bag for this course.

The first hole at Circling Raven is a Par 5 of 513 from the tips.  Just drop your ball onto the fairway with a nice solid tee shot of about 250 and you’ll be safe.  Then hit a smooth lay-up as the risk of missing this green can give you a big number on the scorecard early.  Play smart, you’re on vacation!  The second hole is a Par 4 dogleg right of 395, uphill and seems to have a prevailing tail wind.  Play your drive to cut the corner and give yourself a clean look into this green.  The third hole is a Par 3 of 217 from the back tees and has a bail-out area short and right of the green.  This elevated tee box can make the hole play shorter, but again judge the wind appropriately to gauge your distance and club selection.  The number one handicap hole is the fourth hole, playing 406 from the Golds (back tees) and has a split fairway.  Aim for the fairway on the right as it gives a bit better approach shot into this green. 

The sixth hole is an uphill Par 4 of 387 from the back.  For the most part pretty straight-forward with a cluster of bunkers short and left of the green.  The seventh hole is a long Par 3.  212 yards from the back, but with a forced carry over a ravine and creek that make this an intimidating Par 3.

8 is a Par 4 with a sloping fairway from left to right that allows you to hit driver out of the tee box and even if your shot is moving left, it is a little forgivable in that it kicks your ball down and right into position for your approach.  The last hole on the front nine is a Par 4 of 474 yards – a player’s hole, no doubt about it.  Surgically drop a bomb from the tee box onto this narrow fairway, and then you’re still looking at a long approach into this well guarded green with bunkering on the left and short of the green. 

Heading over to Ten, you realize this course is playing pretty mental and you’re feeling it.  Here you have a chance to bite off a lot with your driver or play it safe with a long iron out of the tee box.  It’s a dogleg right and a stand of three mature trees otherwise blocks that smooth drive you were planning on hitting.  If you have a high fade, call on it here and try to run up a ball on the front edge of the green.  Otherwise, just go ahead and play a smooth hybrid or long iron so you have a full shot for your approach.

The back nine now plays very private and serene.  You don’t see other holes, you don’t see fences or houses and it really does feel as if you’re walking in the footsteps of proud Native Americans that have lived in these lands for generations.  Eleven is a tough hole, as the bunkering on the left hand side of this dogleg left just seems to catch all shots from the elevated tee.  Plan carefully here, it is a long hole of 418 from the Blues.  The twelfth hole is a Par 5 of 535 from the Blues.  Elevated tee shot down onto a split fairway separated by a huge tree, then fire uphill onto the fairway and green

The thirteenth hole is my favorite Par 3 on the course.  It plays long – 200 from the White tees, 218 from the Blues and a boggling distance of 253 from the Golds!  A slightly elevated tee shot sends you over some native grasses to a fair sized green with a bunker guarding the right hand side of the green.  Better to be long and left than short or right here.

The fourteenth hole is a short Par 4 of 397 from the back, but only 328 from the Blue tees.  I had a bit of a tail wind while I played and my tee shot from the Blues came to rest just off the front edge of the green here – fun hole!  Take your driver and send it right over the bunker on the left side of the fairway.  15 is a Par 4 with pine trees all along the right hand side of the fairway.  Two strategically placed bunkers on the left side of the fairway will corral errant drives.  The finishing hole is a Par 4 of 435 from the Golds, 392 from the Blues and 347 from the White tees.  Classic hole.  Straightforward tee shot into a prevailing wind that’s right in your face.  Bunkers around the green will catch balls sailing short right or well left of the putting surface, so choose your approach distance carefully and get pin high.
 
The greens at Circling Raven are exceptional.  Smooth and fast, slightly sloped with very subtle breaks and movement.  They play tough but fair, so plan on spending plenty of time warming up at the practice green and getting your pace dialed in.  This place is World Class in every respect.  Our advice – just get there and play this track!

For more info: 800-523-2464, www.circlingraven.com

BanBury Golf Course
Situated just outside Idaho’s capitol city, BanBury Golf Club provides golfers with a rare opportunity to explore one of the state’s top golf courses.  This beautifully designed Scottish-style course is situated around the south channel of the Boise River.  At 6,871 yards, the challenging Par 71 layout successfully unites golf with the river’s native wildlife habitat.  Enjoy golf at it’s finest, plus all the amenities that Boise, Idaho’s largest city, has to offer!

Sun Valley Golf Course
Find yourself on what’s been called “one of the best 100 golf courses in the United States and #1 golf course in Idaho.”
The Sun Valley Resort Golf Course is a rugged and spectacular golf course that will provide a challenging round of golf for every level of player. Robert Trent Jones Jr. finished his redesign of the course in 1980 with a full compliment of stream carries and ominous bunkers well positioned to catch the errant shot. The 6,892 yard, 72 par course has 18 signature holes and crosses the beautiful Trail Creek seven times on the front nine alone!   
Coupled with fantastic views of the surrounding mountains and ever-present crystal blue skies, you will find a round of golf at the Sun Valley Resort a well-earned addition to any golf resume.

Osprey Meadows at Tamarack Resort
Osprey Meadows is a Robert Trent Jones Jr. Signature Course that lies in a sweeping meadow between the forest of Tamarack’s steep-rising Council Mountain and shimmering Lake Cascade.
The 72 par course features a challenging, 400-acre layout and natural, varied terrain. There are approximately 90 bunkers spread over 18 holes with several significant water features and wetlands, tree-lined fairways, spacious greens, and five par-5 holes. The average size of the greens is 7,000 square feet with an average green slope gradient of less than 3%. The course is at an elevation of 5,000 feet-ideal for carrying the ball and providing a longer mountain resort season.

Osprey Meadows is a public course with private memberships available. All golfers, however, have access to Tamarack’s Members’ Lodge and Spa for lodging, dining, shopping, and relaxing at the pool and spa. Additional on-site lodging is available in luxurious Tamarack cottages, chalets and custom homes.

Whitetail Club Golf Resort
Whitetail’s 18-hole Championship Golf Course is the very definition of a mountain paradise.   Masterfully designed by two-time US Open winner Andy North, the course is carved out through dense forest, towering pines and sweeping meadows and fields of beautiful flowers.    At Whitetail you’ll find lush green fairways, meticulously cut in perfect checkerboard patterns giving way to large rolling greens.   Trout ponds, white sand bunkers, large mountain boulders and occasional wildlife compose a variety of expected and sometimes unexpected obstacles that make Whitetail an exciting challenge for any golfer.

MeadowCreek Golf Resort
Nestled between the Boise and Payette National Forests, with dazzling perspectives in every direction, MeadowCreek Golf Resort is situated in one of the grandest settings in America. Perfectly located exactly halfway between the equator and the North Pole in the pine-forested Meadows Valley with the towering alpine peaks of Granite Mountain and Brundage Mountain Resort reaching skyward in the distance, four distinct seasons with an exaggerated summer are enjoyed. The course weaves in and out of the pine trees and across the verdant meadows offering changing scenery and stimulating golf at every turn. Long summer days provide light past 10 p.m. for the enthusiast who wants to take in every moment. Just 13 miles north of the lake resort town of McCall and 33 miles north of Idaho’s newest four season playground, Tamarack Resort, MeadowCreek Golf Resort offers another vision of beautiful Idaho complete with championship golf, a variety of comfortable lodging, fine and casual dining, tennis, swimming, and numerous outdoor recreation activities.

StoneRidge Golf Course
Challenging Golf, Tranquil Beauty and 19 Holes of Championship Golf!  For some golfers the peaceful natural beauty at StoneRidge, set amid northern Idaho’s thick conifer forests and blue mountain lakes, is the reason they keep coming back. For others it is the pure challenge of our par 71 championship golf course with just enough water hazards and white sand bunkers that even the biggest hitters play with care.  In addition to our Men’s and Ladies’ Leagues, we also offer a variety of tournaments, and corporate golf retreats.  Also has great Stay and Play Packages.  The StoneRidge Golf Clubhouse offers all the top brands in equipment. In addition, our clubhouse is a great facility for private parties or holiday events in the off-season.  Visit The Grill restaurant for the best home cooked breakfast, burgers, and beer in town. We offer a great menu with a full bar and wine available along with three televisions to watch your favorite game.

Hidden Lakes Golf Resort
Hidden Lakes Golf Resort is one of the Pacific Northwest’s most scenic and challenging courses — heralded as one of the top courses in Idaho by Golf Digest.

Located
amid the splendor of the Selkirk and Cabinet mountains, the course has water coming into play on 16 of the 18 holes, as the lower Pack River winds among fairways and greens. Lush stands of cedar, birch and evergreens attract wildlife, including bald eagles, osprey, elk, deer and moose.

Come play at Hidden Lakes for an unforgettable golfing experience! Hidden Lakes is currently closed as it redesigns itself and becomes a Nicklaus Signature Course. This incredible golfing opportunity will be open to the public in Mid-2007.  So if you have to start planning for your travel early, now’s a great time to block off the space on your calendar.

The Coeur d’Alene Resort Golf Course
The Coeur d’Alene Resort Golf Course and its famed floating green have annually been rated among the best resort courses in America by all the top golf publications, including ours.  Designer Scott Miller’s vision was that The Coeur d’Alene Resort Golf Course be remembered not only as a great golf course, but also as an incredibly beautiful park.

Building on that tradition, the Course has undergone a transformation back in 2003 with new tees, new greens, a forest of new trees, new fairway bunkers and over 500 yards of new terrain. All designed to improve player aesthetics and enhance shot values. With a minimum of four tees on each hole, bent grass fairways and manicured greens, The Coeur d’Alene Resort Golf Course is challenging, yet forgiving, playable by golfers of all ages and skill levels. A variety of golf packages are available through the Coeur d’Alene Resort.

Again, the World Class designation fits in here well as perfect bent grass fairways make you feel as if you’re hitting off carpet, not sod or turf.  This is one luxurious place!  Getting loose is fun as you get to hit “floaters” into the lake – floating golf balls.  What a layout.  The course routing here is great.  Starting with a Par 5 of 540 from the back or Gold tees, it plays as a slight dogleg right with bunkers greenside and right to catch anything that might stray in that direction.  The third hole is a Par 3 of 155 from the back tees.  When you see this hole you can tell that accuracy is valued here and that you are being primed for the 14th – the island green – where it is do or die with regard to accuracy off the tee.  The fourth hole is a short Par 4 of only 322 from the tips or 307 from the Blue tees.  It’s very narrow from the tee on to this fairway, and because of the elevated green, the typical shot here is to just pull a club from your bag that will give you somewhere between 180 and 210 and hopefully on the fairway.  That’ll leave you with a safe shot heading into the green.  Seven is a dogleg left, so play that sweet draw out of the tee box to provide a short iron into this green.

Nine is the number one handicap hole on the course – a long Par 5 at 590 from the back tees.  It just plays long out of the box, then tightens up as you get closer to the green.  Great hole design.
I’m crazy about the next stretch of four holes.  First up is number 11.  A Par 5 measuring 508 from the Whites, the tee shot won’t kill you, it’s the approach or lay-up that could be considered dangerous.  Water runs all along the front of the green, so you have to think of your yardages and carry with your clubs before firing at this green.  Next comes 12.  A long Par 3 of 180 from the White tees, 208 from the Blues and 249 from the Tips.  Water long and left, so again accuracy is rewarded.  A bail-out short and right is offered to keep errant shots in play.  Then a short Par4, the 13th hole is only 293 from the Whites, 313 from the Blues and 336 from the tips (or Gold tees).  Play it safe and hit a mid to long iron, or try to carry the inlet of water with a strong drive.  Risk/reward at its finest and the only hole I birdied here! 

Then, the famous island green of number 14.  You may have played other so-called “island greens” on courses, but none take you over to the putting surface in a boat except for this one!  Amazing, as the green is connected underneath and moved via a computer program so that each days distance is different than the last. 

The final four holes take you back over land and are just as amazing.  My buddy Ray Ray pulls a three iron out for his tee shot on 17 and just hits the purest of shots – slight draw, turns the corner of the dogleg left, bounces and rolls up pin high about 260 yards.  I don’t think I would have believed it had I not been there and seen it with my own eyes!  He missed the eagle putt, but of course made the kick-in for birdie – fun to watch!

The closer, 18, is a long Par 4 of 482 from the back tees.  It seems to play like a Par 5 with the prevailing winds and tightness off the tee.  Then the approach – a long shot is needed to this narrow fronted green.  Speaking of greens, excellent conditioning, smooth and quick.  Not too sloped so don’t over read these or give up the cup too easily. 

The accommodations at the Coeur d’Alene Resort are spectacular as well with views of the lake from every window.  And the food – “wow” is all I can say.  Fine dining in the hotel restaurant or at one of the nearby eateries will have you thinking how much you can actually stuff yourself with – it tastes so good!

For more info: 800-935-6283, www.cdaresort.com
The Idaho Golf Trail is the perfect World Class destination to book a group of friends, corporate retreat or just go solo. It’s so easy too.  Just contact the reservation service, InIdaho, at (800) 844-3246.