By Cameron Healey
There is nothing better than a road trip in summer, right? Bags and clubs in the trunk, your friends in tow, and the promise of a weekend ahead hitting the links, enjoying great golf, the company of like-minded golf nuts, and hopefully memories created to last a lifetime. What’s not to like about summer golf in the Pacific Northwest? One Northwest summer golf destination worthy of a road trip–and undeservedly flies under the radar–is Spokane Inland Northwest’s metropolitan center and Washington State’s second largest city. With over 250 days of sunshine, 30+ golf courses in the area, and green fees that max out a little over $30 (and that’s on a weekend), Spokane golf during the summer months is about as good as it gets. Of course, Spokanites are well aware of the treasure trove of unspeakable golfing delights that lie in their own backyard, and each spring, they wait with baited breath for winter to loosen its icy grip on the region’s 30+ golf courses so they can fill the fairways with an adolescent giddy-up in their step. Share the wealth, I say! It’s road trippin’ time to Spokane folks. Who’s joining me?
Getting to Spokane is not difficult. It will take you around 4.5 hours if you’re driving from Seattle, or 5.5 hours from Portland, or 3.5 hours from the Nelson region in British Columbia. If you’d prefer to fly, Spokane International Airport serves 12 cities non-stop including Boise, Seattle, Portland, and even Chicago. The options are plenty, although I’d recommend hitting the road for an early departure to ensure you arrive in Spokane around mid-day, check in at your chosen accommodations, and make a beeline for a quick 18 holes in the afternoon. Why wait? Speaking of accommodations, Spokane offers everything from budget digs, to quaint family friendly bed and breakfasts, luxury rooms (think Historic Davenport Hotel), and first class casino resorts. The only limitation is your wallet. For my trip east of the Cascades, I chose the Vegas-style Northern Quest Casino located just minutes off I-90 in Airway Heights as my basecamp. Northern Quest is Inland Northwest’s only AAA Four Diamond and Forbes Travel Guide Four Star-rated casino resort and offers traveling golfers 250 oversized rooms and suites, world-class gaming, and a ridiculous number of food and beverage options. Did I mention they offer an awesome golfing stay and play package? Starting at $235 (single occupancy) and valid to Oct 31, the “Ultimate Golf Getaway Package” includes a 1 night stay in a Classic room complete with a triple head shower, signature pillow top bed (I’m a believer!), and all of the ancillary niceties such as a Keurig coffee maker you’d expect from a first class resort. Also included is a cigar from Legends of Fire (Legends plays host to the 6th Annual Little Smoke Cigar Festival, a cigar and fine spirits festival that attracts a “who’s who” of the cigar industry September 12), a $10 voucher to Marketplace, a $25 Reward Play (must be a Camas member), and, last but certainly not least, is a round of golf (18 holes) at any one of City of Spokane or Spokane County’s seven golf courses. Throw in the complimentary WI-FI, airport and area wide transportation, valet and overnight parking and access to their fitness center and pool, and you’re Spokane golfing road trip is off and running. As explained in this sports betting sites for players from USA you can find that in the website for details sports betting usa sites.
While a round at any one of Spokane County’s three terrific golf courses (MeadowWood, Liberty Lake or Hangman Valley) is certainly a wise choice for your desired round of golf, a trip to Spokane wouldn’t be the same without a visit to Indian Canyon, located just a few minutes from Northern Quest Casino. Steeped in tradition, the H.Chandler Egan designed- Indian Canyon and home of the Rosauers Open Invitational July 17-19 (held last year at MeadowWood GC) is no stranger to accolades chosen by Golf Digest many times as one of the top 25 public courses in the United States topping out at #6 in 1981 and having hosted the United States Men’s Amateur Public Links Championship in 1941 and 1984; and the United States Women’s Amateur Public Links Championship in 1989. Earmarked by relatively narrow tree-lined fairways with significant elevation changes and a myriad of uphill, downhill, and side hill lies, golfers looking to score well must also navigate the Canyon’s 18 distinct undulating and contoured terraced greens. Of course, if the greens don’t get you, the incredible sightlines of the Canyon overlooking the Lilac City certainly will especially during the twilight hours with the sun setting to the west.
One local golfer who doesn’t need much convincing of the Canyon’s appeal is attorney David Saraceno. Saraceno started playing Indian Canyon after graduating from law school in 1974. “At that time, greens fees were $1.95 for a round of 18 holes, and it wasn’t uncommon to drop three balls on the first hole and play all three at 5:30 pm after work,” recalls Saraceno. For the past 20 years, he averages one round a week at the Canyon or about 40 rounds each year. “It is rare to find a course with 18 distinct and challenging holes and the course is absolutely beautiful,” says Saraceno. “And the course is rich in history. Ben Hogan aced the 162 yard 4th hole in 1946, Byron Nelson won the 1945 Esmeralda Open here, and Sam Snead held the course record (63) for nearly 50 years.” But Saraceno is not exclusively beholden to the Canyon. He and his wife also play Downriver, Qualchan, MeadowWood, Liberty Lake, and Deer Park to the North of the city. Throw in a smattering of rounds at the Spokane and Manito Country Clubs, and you’ll appreciate that Spokane golfers like Saraceno simply love to golf.
Another Indian Canyon fixture who loves the game of golf and was recently recognized by the PGA of America for her passion for teaching the game is Kathy G-Jensen, the recipient of the 2014 PGA National Teacher of the Year Award, the first woman in PGA History and the first from the PNWPGA Section (1 out of 28,000 PGA members nationally). When she isn’t crisscrossing the state and country as an in-demand Teacher of the Year, Gildersleeve-Jensen is right at home in her role as Indian Canyon’s Director of Teaching & Coaching working closely with Inland Northwest Hall of Famer and highly respected Head Golf Professional Gary Lindeblad to ensure Indian Canyon remains one of the best golf courses in the city. In fact, the course troubles relating to winter ice damage to most of Canyon’s greens from two years ago are thankfully in the rear-view mirror and the course is on track to have a bumper season. Thankful for a mild winter Lindeblad also credits the maintenance crew for helping get Indian Canyon back in tip-top shape. “Indian Canyon Golf Course is in such good shape right now, I wouldn’t be surprised if we did twice as many rounds as last year, hopefully 40,000 rounds,” says Lindeblad.
This is good news, not only for Indian Canyon, but for the city as a whole. Combined rounds for including the city’s other three courses, Creek at Qualchan (newest) Esmeralda (most popular) or Downriver (opened 1916) generated 127,000 rounds in 2014. Expect that number to increase this year, and combined with Spokane County’s three courses on target to hit 97,000 rounds this year, should serve as a reminder to book your Spokane rounds and stay and play packages early!
With your golf round in the books and an appetite needing satiating, it might be a good time to turn your attention to Northern Quest Casino’s food and beverage options—seemingly as numerous as the dimples on your golf ball, right? Whether you want to grab a sandwich at EPIC sports restaurant while taking in a baseball game shown on their massive 30’ by 10’ HDTV, test your elastic waist band with a meal at Rivers Edge Buffet, or sample a wide variety of Vietnamese and Chinese entrees at Fai’s Noodle House, it’s a sure bet you’ll find your gastronomical sweet spot at any one of Northern Quest’s 14 dining options. If a good steak is on your radar, you’ll have to make a reservation at Masselow’s Steakhouse, open for the past five years offering diners a host of seafood, poultry and other dishes, Masselow recently re-opened with a new emphasis on steak offerings. Offering 28 day aged corn-fed USDA Prime Grade beef, executive chef Bob Rogers is hoping the make the restaurant feel a little more approachable and comfortable to diners not just for special occasions but also as a frequent and welcoming dining
experience. Post-dinner if you’re looking to hit the dance floor until the wee hours, head to Impulse, NQC’s popular nightclub or relax at Legends of Fire, the region’s only premium cigar lounge where you can enjoy a stogie while contemplating life sipping a wee dram. If live bands are your thing, you might also time your Spokane excursion to take in one of the major headliners that Northern Quest has stacked up for the long dog days of summer as part of their Pepsi Outdoor Summer Concert Series. Melissa Etheridge, Blondie, Joan Jett and The Blackhearts hit the stage on July 20th or maybe “its hip to be square” and hold out for when Huey Lewis and the News with Eddie Money come to town on August 30. Alternatively, if it’s a little Zen you’re looking for, spending a little downtime at Northern Quest’s 14,000 sq. ft. La Rive Spa is a must. In fact, the idea of having warmed local Pend Oreille river stones placed on your body to promote deep muscle relaxation after a long day on the links might just be the ticket.
Of course, with golf or a rejuvenating spa session in the books, why not head into town and visit RiverFront Park, a short 5 minute walk from downtown. You can purchase the 2015 Season Pass, a steal at only $45 incl. tax and enjoy one free aquatics day pass, mini golf, Tour Train, Carrousel, IMAX (movies shown in 70mm 2D format) and various amusement rides. Or, simply take in the views of the spectacular Spokane Falls by taking a scenic 15 minute SkyRide, named “One of the Top 12 Scenic Cable Rides in the World” in 2013 by Conde Nast, Traveler Daily Traveller and MSN.” Fancy a little shopping? After your Skyride walk over the street and enjoy the River Park Square shopping mall, a collection of big name retailers and quirky boutique stores filled with designer apparel, shoes, and accessories.
For those of you who enjoy wine tasting, why not visit The Cork District while in town and sample the very best of 15 award-winning wineries all located within walking distance of one another and ready for you to experience the epicenter of wine in Eastern Washington. If you’re more of an IPA kind of a guy or gal, look no further than the Inland NW Beer Trail, a collection of nearly 30 breweries scattered in and around the Inland Northwest with eclectic names such as Top Frog Brewery, and Iron Goat to Post Falls’ Selkirk Abbey brewing beer each with their own special character. I’ll have another!
Summer in Spokane is just plain fun and features such major events as Hoopfest (June 27-28, 2015), the world’s largest three-on-three basketball tournament, transforming downtown Spokane into a basketball fan’s idea of nirvana for two days, or maybe channel your inner William Wallace and take in the Scottish Highland Games scheduled for August 01 at the Spokane County Fair & Expo Center.
Whatever turns your crank, the Lilac City seldom disappoints where the choice, quality, and value for your golfing dollar is simply too good to pass up. In fact, ask local golfer David Saraceno to sum up what makes Spokane golf special and he is quick to shoot from the hip, “Great courses, reasonable prices, so many challenging well maintained venues, and a knowledgeable golfing population make the Spokane region unique as a golf town.” Well put, David! I think it’s time for a road trip?