Get Out There

By Tony Dear

A Pacific Northwest stay-and-play golf package allows you to play exquisite courses in beautiful places. What’s not to love?

It seems the Coeur d’Alene Resort Golf Course runs on a 12-year cycle. Opened in April 1991 on the site of the old Potlatch Sawmill, a mile east of the $60m resort Duane Hagadone had built on the lake’s north shore, the Scott Miller-designed layout received its first major overhaul in 2003 when the par 3 5th was given a serious beauty treatment, and over 20 bunkers and 250 trees were added.

A dozen years later, the course came under the knife again when all 18 greens were relaid with T-1 Creeping Bentgrass (higher blade density than previous Bent) grown at Desert Green Turf in Moses Lake – a move made necessary by a disastrous 2014-2015 winter during which the ground had frozen on three separate occasions. “It was the perfect storm,” Superintendent Kevin Hicks told Spokane’s Spokesman-Review. “By the second deep-freeze, I knew we were in trouble.”

The seven greens that had fared the worst and which suffered from the highest infestation of poa annua were dealt with in April 2015, the other 11, including the famous floating green at the 14th, in October. Thankfully, ideal weather allowed the new turf to establish itself, and the surfaces rolled exceptionally well last year. “The turf just came in perfectly,” says Andy Mackimmie, about to begin his tenth year as the resort’s Head Golf Professional.

Mackimmie admits he didn’t make too big a deal of the new greens because a high-end resort course charging $220 peak rate should have good greens…all the time (mind you, thanks to the bentgrass fairways, the temporaries used while the new greens were being laid were virtually as good as many other course’s actual greens).

Coeur d'Alene Resort Image Library 2012
Coeur d’Alene Resort Image Library 2012

This winter has been excellent as far as the greens are concerned, says Mackimmie. “We’ve had more snow this season than probably the last three years combined, or so it seems,” he adds. “That’s not a bad thing, as the greens are insulated from the cold. It bodes well for the spring, so we’re excited about the prospect of the greens’ condition out of the gate this year.”

New greens weren’t the only significant change at Coeur d’Alene last year as guests, for the first time in the course’s 25-year history, were allowed to drive the resort’s distinctive carts with the touch-screen GPS unit out into the fairway for the first time. “Having to stay on the cart path throughout the round was continuously mentioned as negative for some in our feedback surveys,” says Mackimmie. “We actually began allowing it the previous summer, but 2016 was the first full year when golfers were able to drive to their ball. Having been a ‘cart-path only course since the day it opened, this was actually a bigger deal for us than the new greens, and the fairways held up beautifully.”

Hicks and his team did have to exercise caution when watering specific areas in order to maintain consistently firm conditions, but the only concern that did come up during the course of the season was controlling the traffic patterns entering and exiting the fairways, and the rough in those areas.

As with many GPS units, Coeur d’Alene’s has a geofencing application that disables carts when they enter sensitive areas. “Maps on the screens do a great job of displaying the sensitive restricted areas,” says Mackimmie. “And the travel paths, on and off the fairways, are managed and changed every so often to allow heavy travel areas to heal.”

Regular guests will be pleased to know none of the changes to the carts and cart rules has affected the Coeur d’Alene’s famous forecaddie service which remains very much intact. If you think these guys get off easy not having to lug your bag for 18 holes, just watch as they do everything in their power to make your round more enjoyable.

If budget is a major consideration when booking your golf trip, it makes sense to visit Coeur d’Alene in the Spring when the Floating Green Package, which includes:

  • Overnight accommodations
  • 18 Holes
  • Forecaddie service for each group
  • Shared golf cart with touchscreen GPS
  • Unlimited lakefront practice tee privileges on day of play
  • Pre-round warm-up sports massage
  • Secured club storage over stay dates

A personalized engraved souvenir bag tag starts at just $143 per person, based on double occupancy. And, for a limited time, the Spring package will come complete with a Bluetooth speaker ($129 retail value). “We were seeing a trend, especially in smallish groups (eight to 16 buddies) of golfers playing their favorite tunes on speakers in their carts,” says Mackimmie. “So, we thought it might make a popular value-added component to help drive a few additional package sales in the spring, when we see more value-sensitive golfers.” This package will be offered in a spring email to past golfers, and will be available at regional golf shows around the Northwest (Seattle, Portland and Spokane). The deal is one speaker per double occupancy room.

Coeur d’Alene’s popular themed Saturdays will continue in the Spring and Fall too. And, in addition to the Scotch Open and Golftoberfest in April and October respectfully (see resort’s web site), a Cinco de Mayo-themed day on Saturday, March 6th is also being planned. “We’ll have tequila tasting, complimentary Mexican fare, and drink specials,” says Mackimmie.

Courtesy Circling Raven Golf Resort
Courtesy Circling Raven Golf Resort

Staying across the state border in Idaho, and taking the 25-mile drive south on Hwy 95 brings us to the ever-popular Circling Raven and the Coeur d’Alene Resort Casino which continue to attract golfers and gamers by the busload. Every golfer within a 1000-mile radius of Circling Raven (and many outside that) knows just how good Gene Bates’s expansive design is and has enjoyed playing one of the country’s top 100 public-access courses for $100 or less (usually less as the summer peak rate actually topped three figures for the first time last summer) since it opened in 2003.

Director of Golf Tom Davidson stresses that, while still a terrific value (we agree), the price of the stay-and-play package has risen this year for the first time in nine seasons. From opening day (usually first or second week in April) to May 25th, two rounds of golf and a night’s accommodation in the Mountain Lodge will costs $219 during the week and $269 at weekends. Stay in the Spa Tower and it’s $239 during the week and $279 at weekends. An additional round is $65 per person weekdays and $75 at weekends which is actually fairly astonishing given the quality of the course you’re playing. From May 26th through September 24th, the package costs $239 during the week and $289 at weekends in the Mountain Lodge, and $269/$319 in the Spa Tower.

Davidson warns guests to book early. “I would encourage those who plan on visiting us in the summer months to make plans as far in advance as possible,” he says. “Rooms go fast and the hotel is often sold out.”

Back into Washington, another destination that frequently sells out in the summer is the impressive four-star, four-diamond Northern Quest Resort and Casino in Airway Heights. Nine miles west of Spokane, the 250-room resort opened at the end of 2009 and is owned by the Kalispel Tribe of Indians which purchased what had been Spokane Country Club in December 2015 (renaming it Kalispel Golf and Country Club), for just over $3m.

At the time of the purchase, Phil Haugen, General Manager at Northern Quest and a former member of the Spokane Country Club, assured fellow members the Tribe intended to honor the club’s past (the name change notwithstanding) while making it an amenity of the Northern Quest Resort. “We want to preserve the rich history of the club,” he said, “but also open this extraordinary place to Spokane.”

A number of updates and improvements have occurred since the Tribe took over – specifically the addition of the 1898 Public House, Kalispel Grill, and fitness room in the clubhouse, and two simulators in the pro shop – but the course is still under the watchful eye of Superintendent Jeff Gullikson who has been at the club for 17 years and who says he is focused on maintaining the course with fast greens, tight fairways, lush primary roughs and manicured bunkering. “Playing Kalispel requires accurate tee shots through the pine trees lining the fairways, similarly pin-point approach shots into the small, undulating greens, and a very soft touch with the putter,” says Gullikson who sees environmental stewardship as a very important part of his job. “We always have an eye on sustainability,” he adds. “We are reducing maintained acreage and expanding the naturalized areas on the property, resulting in a reduction in the water used for irrigation. We’re also implementing several Integrated Pest Management principles to strictly manage the amount of pesticide and other chemicals used in the maintenance of the golf course.”

Gullikson’s efforts ensure Kalispel Golf and Country Club remains a haven for wildlife – deer, coyotes, moose, over 180 different species of birds, and even the occasional bear (“We don’t have any specific bear stories,” says Bob Castle, General Manager of Kalispel Golf and Country Club. “When a bear is known to be on the course, golfers are alerted and instructed to stay away of course. Because of that, there has not been any encounters) – which makes a round on the 118-year-old course, renovated by Robert Muir Graves in 1988, all the more enjoyable.

Kalispel Golf & Country Club (courtesy Northern Quest Casino Resort)
Kalispel Golf & Country Club (courtesy Northern Quest Casino Resort)

Packages at Kalispel GCC/Northern Quest start at $195 per person based on double occupancy and include:

  • Overnight accommodation
  • 18 holes at Kalispel Golf and Country Club with GPS enabled cart
  • Unlimited access to the practice facility
  • $25 dining credit at 1898 Public House
  • Complimentary shuttle service to and from Kalispel Golf and Country Club
  • 10% off at the Golf Shop

Head south from Spokane on Hwy 195 to find another of Washington’s must-stay-and-plays – Palouse Ridge, the WSU campus course in Pullman that was designed by John Harbottle and opened in 2008. The town’s Residence Inn by Marriott and Holiday Inn Express, and Moscow, ID’s Best Western Plus University Inn all offer packages made up of one round for two golfers and overnight accommodations, and ranging in price from $229 (Holiday Inn Express) to $259 (Residence Inn).

From Pullman, it’s a two-hour drive west on Highways 195, 26, 127 and 12 to Walla Walla where you can enjoy two of the Northwest’s greatest commodities – sweet onions, and wine so good (red especially) it rivals anything the French, Californians, and Australians can make – and play what many regard as Washington’s finest golf course. Wine Valley, designed by Dan Hixson, opened in 2009 and would undoubtedly be even more acclaimed than it already is were it not located so far off the beaten path.

Three hotels in town offer stay-and-play packages – Courtyard Marriott (ring hotel for prices), Hampton Inn & Suites (starting at $249) and the historic Marcus Whitman Hotel on West Rose St which opened in 1928 and where packages begin at $309.

It’s just 40 miles south on OR-11 to Pendleton where another of the region’s casino resorts includes golf among its amenities. The John Steidel-designed course at Wildhorse Resort and Casino opened 20 years ago this year, and possesses a number of interesting design features and several really good holes. You can go all the way back to 7,112 yards if you wish, but most of the 30,000 or so rounds on this very popular course are played from four sets of forward tees.

The resort, owned by the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, opened two years before the golf course with 100 slot machines in a temporary trailer, and has expanded somewhat over the last two decades. It currently consists of a 202-room hotel tower, a 775-seat Cineplex, events center, and over 60,000 sq.ft. of gaming space with 1,200 slots. And, if the Tribe’s General Council and Board of Trustees can agree, it’s about to get bigger still. Wildhorse CEO Gary George laid out plans recently for another expansion, this one including a second hotel tower with 228 rooms, a 32-lane bowling alley, 2,500-seat horse arena capable of staging rodeos, new concert venue, and new powwow grounds. The East Oregonian reported the expansion would cost between $90m and $100m and take two years to complete. There’s no talk of another golf course sadly, but you never know…

The Tribes just updated the stay-and-play rates for 2017. Golfers can choose between the Birdie-Maker’s Special (one round, one night’s stay for two), Eagle Package (unlimited golf for two days, one night’s accommodation, a dozen balls, and a lunch voucher for two), or Double Eagle Package (unlimited golf for three days, two nights, dozen balls, lunch voucher for two) with prices ranging from $169.95 (midweek Birdie-Maker staying in a Courtyard Standard Room) to $680.90 (weekend Double Eagle staying in a Tower Vista Suite).

One hundred and thirty miles north of Wildhorse is Moses Lake and the often underrated Links at Moses Pointe, which is invariably in great condition and has a reputation for excellent service. Five hotels in town (Holiday Inn Express, Inn at Moses Lake, AmeriStay, Comfort Suites, and the Ramada) offer stay-and-play packages, though your best option might be a townhome rental at Moses Pointe Escape near the 2nd tee.

It may not have grown and evolved at quite the same pace as Wildhorse, but Semiahmoo Resort in Blaine, WA has certainly seen its share of investment since June 2013 when it was purchased by a consortium of investors collectively known as Resort Semiahmoo LLC whose managing member is Seattle’s Wright Hotels Inc.

sr-signature-semiahmoo-exterior-1.jpg.1024x0
Courtesy Semiahmoo Resort and Spa Hotel

“To date our ownership has invested $15 million in capital and operational improvements,” says Brett Eaton, Director of Golf at Semiahmoo where Arnold Palmers (half iced tea, half lemonade, of course) were offered free for a week following the King’s death last September. Among the improvements are new carpets in the guestrooms and hallways (hallway carpet was made from recycled fishing nets); 42” plasma-screen TVs, new bedding, and charging stations in each guestroom; major enhancements to the resort’s dining options (Packers Oyster Bar and Pierside Kitchen); and renovations to the lobby.

A good chunk of change was also spent on the resort’s two courses – the Palmer-design Semiahmoo and Graham Cooke’s Loomis Trail. Upgrades included:

  • New turf equipment (both courses)
  • New golf cart fleet (60, 65 at Loomis Trail)
  • Major cart path repair (Semiahmoo)
  • Nine teak patio tables and chairs (four at Loomis Trail)
  • Kirby Yardage markers (Semiahmoo)
  • Cart Path yardage signs (Semiahmoo)
  • 22 Titleist Rental Sets (shared between two courses)
  • Four GolfBoards (Semiahmoo)
  • New Phone System and Wi-Fi (both)
  • Two on-course restrooms (Loomis Trail)
  • PEM surface matting for bridges (Loomis Trail)

The old racquetball court near the resort’s spa has also been transformed into a golf simulator area.

This year’s Unlimited Golf Package at Semiahmoo, which will be hosting the 53rd Annual PNGA Senior Amateur Championship on June 6th, 7th & 8th, will be valid through Sunday, June 4th and cost from $99 per person per night, based on double occupancy. A two-night minimum stay is required and you get unlimited golf at Semiahmoo and Loomis Trail for however many nights you stay at the hotel. Cart and practice balls are included.

At Suncadia, 80 miles east of Seattle outside the town of Cle Elum, there are two fine public courses – the Arnold Palmer-designed Prospector, and three-loop Rope Rider, a Jim Hardy/Peter Jacobsen collaboration. Golf packages begin at $355, and include two rounds of golf and overnight accommodations in the 254-room resort.

gearhart golf links 8
Courtesy Gearhart Golf Links

Heading down into Oregon, your first port of call may well be Gearhart Golf Links, on the coast 90 minutes or so west of Portland. This beautiful course, recently restored to its fast-running, linksy best with the removal of over 400 trees, has a long and fascinating history dating all the way back to the 1880s when a handful of displaced Scotsmen started whacking balls on the dunes. It’s unclear when the full 18 holes were completed (1911 was cited in a 1922 edition of the Oregon Daily Journal), though we do know the designer was George Turnbull, professional at Waverley CC in Portland. Chandler Egan lengthened the course in the early 1930s, and the trees were planted in the 1960s and 70s.

Current owner Tim Boyle, CEO of Columbia Sportswear, sought Mike Keiser, Jim Urbina, David Kidd, and John Strawn’s advice before taking the trees down, and also partnered with brewery owner and hotelier McMenamins (Mike McMenamin was an old High School friend of Boyle’s) to restore and upgrade the old Kelly House, the fourth incarnation of the Gearhart Hotel that today houses the pro shop, the wonderful Sand Trap Bar, and 18 distinctive guest rooms.

Stay-and-play packages in the Gearhart Hotel start at $135 a night and include golf (advance tee times and free replay), lodging, a welcome gift on arrival, and free Adams loaner clubs (charge for Titleist or Callaway). If the Gearhart Hotel is full, you have two other options close by – Gearhart by the Sea where packages start at $148, and Gearhart Ocean Inn where thy start at $150.

in the stay-and-play package at Black Butte Ranch, a longtime favorite for PNW golfers, are accommodations and golf (obviously), and also a logoed hat, a 20% merchandise discount, and a bottle of Three Creeks’s Knotty Blonde Ale (a bottle for every guest). The rate for unlimited golf and accommodations in the lodge during spring or fall is $99 pp/pn. During summer the rate increases to $139.

BBR-Glaze-Meadow2green_Black-Butte12D3313-MikeHouska
Black Butte Ranch, Glaze Meadow Golf Course, credit Mike Houska

If you have a larger group and stay in a vacation rental, you book the rental then receive a two-round punch card for $125 per person. The card is good for both the Gene Mason-designed (1982)/John Fought-renovated (2012) Glaze Meadow, and Robert Muir Graves-designed (1972)/Damian Pascuzzo-renovated (2007) Big Meadow, which you can now cover on a GolfBoard ($27 for 18 holes).
BBR’s 2017 calendar includes three signature events – the Father’s Day Classic in June, the Black Butte Ranch Invitational in August, and the Grapes & Golf Premier Couples Golf Event in September. Check the web site for details.

That leaves two very special destinations that not only attract Pacific Northwesterners, but also world-traveling golf fanatics for whom crossing an ocean or a continent is but a mere trifle. The world has grown wise to the joys of Gamble Sands, perched high above a curve in the Columbia River on wild and weathered land owned by the Gebbers Family. One of the jewels in David McLay Kidd’s growing treasure trove of designs, ‘Gamble’ has been open for almost two and a half years during which time it has piled up the five-star reviews, and put little Brewster, WA on the map for something other than the vast fruit-growing operation the Gebbers own.

Inn at Gamble Sands
Courtesy Inn at Gamble Sands

Last September, the delightful, 37-room Inn at Gamble Sands opened giving golfers who wanted to play more than one round (and who didn’t?) the chance to stay overnight and go out again in the morning without having to look for digs in Brewster, neighboring Pateros, or even Chelan, 25 miles away.

Reviews of the Inn aren’t dissimilar to those of the golf course – 71% of people that commented on TripAdvisor giving it a five-star ‘Excellent’ rating.

The 2017 Stay-and-Play package rates are unchanged from last year and start at $299 for two (or $149.50pp), midweek in March and April. It’s $339/$169.50 at weekends. The price rises on May 1st, and rises again on May 15th. The summer/early fall rate (June 1st – October 22nd) is $419 (or $209.50pp) during the week, and $499/$249.50 at weekends. “The package is based on double occupancy, and includes one round of golf for two and a breakfast buffet voucher for each,” says Director of Golf Dave Christenson. “Guests can add golf carts and or golf boards as they see fit, and use the practice facility anytime.”
One event you might like to sign up and start saving for is the Travis Mathew Event on Memorial Day Weekend (May 27-28) when the Travis Mathew Tour Bus will be at Gamble Sands for a two-day, two-player best ball tournament with over $3,000 worth of prizes. The Tour Bus features a rooftop party deck, HDTVs, a fold-out patio, an outside entertainment center, and full-length awnings. And the event flyer describes the weekend as ‘World-class golf, plus an unforgettable shopping and lounging experience overlooking the Columbia River and North Cascades’. Cost is $600 per person which includes green fees and cart both days, lodging for two nights (double occupancy), $100 Travis Mathew Tour Bus merchandise credit, an a Gebbers Beer BBQ dinner on Saturday night. Contact the pro shop (509-436-8323) soon to reserve a spot.

 

The Northwest’s other genuinely world-class destination is, of course, Bandon Dunes where Kidd’s eponymous Bandon Dunes set the ball rolling in 1999. Mike Keiser, the brains, soul, and capital behind the Bandon Dunes Golf Resort, built a place where golf is everything, eschewing an opulent hotel with a fancy spa (the Massage Center has been open a few years, but Keiser categorically states “We don’t use the word ‘spa’ at Bandon Dunes”) and ball rooms in favor of unassuming but functional and very comfortable lodgings with every type of traveling group catered for. The dining (Gallery, Tufted Puffin, Pacific Grill) is excellent without being showy or extravagant, the after-hours options (McKee’s, Bunker Bar) providing just the sort of the simple entertainment full and exhausted golfers need to cap a thrilling day on the links.

Another term that Bandon Dunes doesn’t use, besides ‘spa’, is ‘package’. Here you simply add the green fee to the room rate. It can be pricey certainly, but this, for our money anyway, is the greatest golf resort in the world and not in the business of discounting to eke out another sale. A weekend in April, for instance, with two nights’ accommodation and three rounds of golf, breakfast, and dinner, will typically cost you $1,000 and that’s without caddies ($100 a round plus tip), whisky at McKee’s, and bags full of souvenir and memorabilia from the Lodge Gift Shop.

We are not short of excellent golf break possibilities in the Pacific Northwest, be it high-end or affordable. And this time next year we’ll have another destination to add to the list – Silvies Valley Ranch near Burns, OR, where Wine Valley designer Dan Hixson has completed a reversible 18-hole course set to open this summer. Silvies Valley Ranch is pretty remote, as are most of the courses and resorts mentioned here. But we’re talking PNW golf breaks here. Remote is good.

Useful Web Sites:
cdaresort.com
cdacasino.com
circlingraven.com
kalispelgolf.com
northernquest.com
palouseridge.com
winevalleygolfclub.com
wildhorseresort.com
semiahmoo.com
blackbutteranch.com
gamblesands.com
bandondunesgolf.com
mosespointe.com
gearhartgolflinks.com
suncadia.com

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