The Holy Trinity of Northern Idaho Golf
As the expression goes, good things come in threes. During a recent trip to Northern Idaho, I found a trio of courses that added up to more than the sum of their parts. Those three courses were: Circling Raven Golf Course, Coeur d’Alene Resort Golf Course, and Kalispel Golf and Country Club. Each one is a unique track and challenge in its own right, but like a well-balanced soup, I think they’re best enjoyed together. From sprawling wide stretches to tight tree-lined target golf to one of the most iconic holes I’ve ever seen, these three courses offer a supreme range of experiences.
Circling Raven Golf Course
Located at the Couer d’Alene Casino Resort Hotel, Circling Raven Golf Course is tricky! Like a raven, you have to be smart and analytical to be successful here. Ultimately it rewards those who don’t let the beautiful surroundings distract them. However, it’s incredibly easy to be distracted by the surroundings of this place that include a tiny forest, wide open prairies, endless skyscapes, and mountain ranges in the distance.
I found myself getting lost, taking in the wide open expanses… almost forgetting I was golfing at times. As our Editor-In-Chief Matt said in a review of the course, “Montana may be ‘Big Sky Country’ but the label applies just as well to Circling Raven … I can’t overemphasize how big this place feels.” I can attest to that same feeling.
It’s a serene place that lets you explore all kinds of environments and perform even more kinds of golf shots. Even the bunkers are beautiful (and I should know, having found myself in more than my fair share). They were pristine and fluffy, almost like giant Japanese Zen Garden sands. It felt like a spiritual place, and that surely was because the design of the course worked with the land itself.
Find a full review of Circling Raven HERE
Coeur d’Alene Resort Golf Course
Coeur d’Alene is positively breathtaking. Words and photos don’t do this course justice. It’s a place that had my neck craning back and forth like a manic bird. I couldn’t contain myself. I was laughing, grinning ear to ear, looking all around at the hilltops, trees, vistas, the lake… and of course, the iconic signature island green on it. At every tee, I would excitedly jog up wondering what the next hole would behold.
This course can sneak up on you, especially with how distractingly beautiful the surroundings are. The ebbs and flows of the hills on the course mirror the waves rolling in on the lake. Those rolling hills of the course can sometimes make for a tricky sidehill, downhill, or uphill lie. With that said, this is course is not particularly difficult. In fact, the course designers went out of their way to make the course easier for amateurs. For example, many of the fairways bank inward to keep golf balls from rolling into the rough.
The challenges of this course are made even more manageable by the extremely talented forecaddies. From accurate reads on greens to precise yardage to an optimistic attitude, I’ve never had a better experience with a caddy, which is something that Matt agreed with when he played a few years ago.
While every hole was enjoyable, it was the par threes that took the cake. Whether it’s the world-class 14th or any of the trio of par threes on the front, it felt like you were in an exclusive, special, and secret place. One that you can’t help thinking about long after you’ve left.
Find a full review of Coeur d’Alene HERE
Kalispel Golf and Country Club
The Kalispel Golf and Country Club has been around since 1898, and while playing, you feel like you’re a part of some long-running story. From the massive mountainsides to the old-school car present by the putting green, it’s impossible not to think about the nearly 125 years of history at this club. In fact, in its history, the club has hosted some of the greatest to ever play including Nicklaus, Trevino, and Couples. It was also the site of the first U.S. Women’s Open.
The course is short, maxing out shy of 6700 yards. You’d think you’d be able to overpower it with long drives, however, it’s got tons of beautiful natural defenses like the Little Spokane River. It’s certainly no ordinary country club. Some of the pines tower tens of feet tall and obscure both drives and approach shots depending on the hole. It also features 54 bunkers, making precise shots vital.
While Kalispel may not technically be located in Northern Idaho, it merits inclusion on this list, for two main reasons: 1.) Because it’s a fantastic golf course with an equally excellent restaurant, and 2.) the fascinating history! Besides, to get to Northern Idaho by air, you’ll need to fly into Spokane, Washington anyway. Kalispel is located in Spokane, and as a result, it would be a fantastic course to close out the trip with.
Find a full review of Kalispel HERE
Other Things To Do
Apart from the golf, the gamers of the world will be thrilled they decided to stay at the Coeur d’Alene Resort and Casino. That’s because of the immense amount of gaming the casino has to offer. The property has 1,200 gaming machines in a 60,000-square-foot space. Those games include hundreds of different styles from traditional electronic slots to virtual Blackjack.
Even if you’re not a gamer, the Spa Ssakwa’q’n is quite the experience – or rather, array of experiences. Whether it’s a manicure, pedicure, facial, or one of eight different types of massages, there is certainly something for everyone. After playing several rounds of golf, it’s a great way to get the body to recover quickly to play even more.
First-class golf is fantastic, but first-class dining to go along with it was a surprise. When staying at the Couer d’Alene Resort and Casino, there are several different restaurants on the property, but the crown jewel is the Chinook Restaurant. Authored by chef Adam Hegsted, the restaurant uses its wood-fired oven and grill to impart a wonderful smokey flavor throughout the menu. Smoke is the show-stopper in the signature dessert too, as your waiter utilizes liquid nitrogen to create ice cream (pictured above) with all kinds of toppings and flavors in seconds.
If you wanted to stay close to the gaming and eat casually, the Jackpot Java, Huckleberry Deli, and The Red Tail Bar and Grill are all solid options, as well. At those locations, there are a few Native American specials that are worth trying, like bison chili (pictured above) and warm frybread with local honey and huckleberry jam.
Of course, there are options off property, too. The Kalispel Golf and Country Club is home to a phenomenal restaurant called the 1898 Public House. The 1898 features an extensive and unique drink menu with a Coconut Margarita I couldn’t recommend enough. Their internationally-inspired food menu is equally eye-catching. While dinner after a round will cost a pretty penny, especially if you’re having a steak or pan-seared duck breast (pictured above), their lunch is just as worthwhile. I’d be hard-pressed to find a better Fish & Chips meal at any golf course.
This trip, to and around the Couer d’Alene Resort and Casino, is a feast – truly a smörgåsbord of experiences. Serene views on the outside with towering trees, looming hills, mountainsides, rivers, lakes, and wildlife contrasted with the flashing lights and electronics on the inside of the resort. Those extremes made it a feast for the eyes. The delicious food at and around these courses made for a literal feast as well. Finally, the serenity, peace, and calmness while out in nature or in the spa made the trip a feast for the soul. It was a rejuvenating blast that I can’t recommend enough.