50 Words or Less
The Circling Raven Golf Course, located near Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, is a massive track that provides a solid test of ball striking. Gorgeous scenery. Loads of amenities at the Coeur d’Alene Casino next door.
Sprawled over 620 acres, Circling Raven Golf Course simultaneously pleases your eyes while giving your game an unrelenting challenge. Paired with the comforts of the Coeur d’Alene Casino, it’s an enticing stay and play destination.
Like everything at Circling Raven, the practice facilities are huge. The driving range – located a short cart ride from the clubhouse – is enormous, and has several metal targets to reward the accurate stinger. Next to the driving range, there’s a short game area and wedge range which includes a bunker. As you head back toward the first tee, you can stop at the putting green to get a feel for the speed of the greens.
Customer Service & Amenities
Circling Raven is home to a large clubhouse that delivers all the necessary amenities at a high level. The pro shop is expansive, carrying everything from clubs to apparel to gifts from a wide variety of brands. The Twisted Earth Grill rates as one of my favorite on-course restaurants, especially for breakfast.
Also worth mentioning is the GPS system in the carts. It’s the best I’ve ever seen. The touchscreen is responsive, and the yardages are measured to the pin. Not only are the screens a nice amenity, they also speed up play.
A short walk (or shuttle ride) from the course takes you to the Coeur d’Alene Casino Resort Hotel. Just like the golf course, the CDA Casino Resort Hotel is enormous and has plenty to offer. At the Casino, you’ll find six more dining options, including the excellent Chinook restaurant. Steven Walk, the resort’s executive chef, does an amazing job with all the eateries.
CDA Casino also has plenty of ways to stay busy when you aren’t golfing. That starts with 60,000 square feet of gaming and extends to venues for concerts and other live entertainment. If you want something more low key, CDA Casino also has a 15,000 square foot spa.
Beauty & Scenery
Montana may be “Big Sky Country” but the label applies just as well to Circling Raven Golf Club. I can’t overemphasize how big this place feels. On virtually every hole, it seems as if you can see forever in every direction. And, with the exception of the clubhouse and casino, you won’t see anything except natural beauty.
There is a beautiful diversity of nature within the miles of views. On any given hole, you’ll see acres of prairie grass, rolling elevation, and mountains in the distance. Most holes are only dotted with trees, but there are a few instances when you’re playing inside a miniature forest. These holes serve as a perfect disruption, and they allow you to appreciate the long views when they return.
Ball striking is the key to playing well at Circling Raven, and that starts on the tee. Your drives will need to navigate a number of hazards. First, many holes have a forced carry off the tee. These carries aren’t extreme, but they can be intimidating. Second, despite the scale of the course, the fairways are only average in width. Finally, many of the holes feature substantial doglegs, so a wayward drive can really lengthen your approach.
To the player’s benefit, most holes are wide open, allowing recovery from almost any drive. The rough is impactful but not so long that you won’t have options.
Paradoxically, I found that the few tree-lined holes were the easiest to drive. The visual definition was comforting. Circling Raven’s wide open holes often lulled me into lazy target selection and poor focus which led to big numbers.
Finally, the differences between the white tees (6100 yards) and blue tees (6578) is immense. Moving back to the blue tees brings in more and longer forced carries. Also, most of the additional 478 yards is in the par 4s, changing them from benign driver-wedge holes to ones that require solid drives to reach in regulation.
The size of the greens at Circling Raven may provide you with a false sense of confidence for your approach shots. Though they are slightly larger than average, the unusual shapes of the putting surfaces provide the challenge. In my time at Circling Raven, I found that the green keepers were more than happy to use those shapes to hide pins in tight corners and bring hazards into play.
Whether you’re playing from the fairway or the rough, you’ll need to contend with constant elevation changes on your second shots. Not only will this affect your distances, it hampers your ability to get a complete picture of your target. Take advantage of the aforementioned GPS systems and trust the yardages.
The par 3s at Circling Raven are some of the most scenic and most difficult holes. They all play to a similar pattern – mid/long irons, downhill, almost entirely forced carry. The toughest is #13, above, which tips out at 253 yards.
Greens & Surrounds
If you miss the green in regulation, you’re likely to find yourself in some thick rough. There are spots where the fairway runs up to the fringe, but they’re rare. In addition to dealing with the rough, you’re likely pitching up or downhill, too.
Once you get your ball onto the green, most of your work is done. The greens at Circling Raven run at a moderate speed, so you can be aggressive with your short game shots and putts. There aren’t many straight putts, but there are very few dramatic tiers or ridges on the greens. Putt boldly and you can pile up the birdies (or save your pars).
Hole #10 – Par 4 – 336 yards
This is a driveable par 4…if you have supreme confidence in your driver. Off the tee, you can play to the fairway left of a pair of trees and set up a fairly short approach. Alternately, you can go right of the trees, straight to the green. If you’re a little short, you’ll have a testy pitch or bunker shot. If you’re a lot short, your ball is forfeit.
Hole #15 – Par 4 – 426 yards
One of the few tree-lined holes, this par 4 plays downhill and really rewards a drive in the fairway. A good drive puts a wedge in your hand, but you can’t be long on the approach.
Whether Circling Raven Golf Club or CDA Casino is the main draw for you, you won’t leave disappointed. Circling Raven is a big, brawny track that demands you ignore the natural beauty and focus on your ball striking. CDA Casino provides all the entertainment and dining options you could want after your round.
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