When I visited the Coeur d’Alene Resort, on the shores of the lake of the same name in the Idaho panhandle, I admit I was quite skeptical. When it comes to golf, I don’t go for modern gimmicks, be they geometric greens and hazards or the typically poorly executed “replicas” of famous holes. The claim to fame here is potentially this kind of gimmick, the first and only “moveable” island green on earth. Basically, the putting surface on a par three is built on enormous raft, which in turn is mounted on two sets of cables, allowing it to be moved both left to right and closer or further from shore. This means that from one day to the next, it can play dramatically differently. Since there is no way to connect a bridge to such a concept, golfers are shuttled back and forth to the green in a little boat, more like a moveable hut, complete with a bona fide Coast Guard licensed captain.
I was sure the hole would be memorable if nothing else (they station a full time photographer there) and who does not like a little one minute boat ride to break up a round of golf? But since this hole is generally all you hear about the resort, I expected to find a one hit wonder in the middle of rural Idaho and then go home.
I was wrong.
The resort has entered my pantheon of favorites for many reasons, not the least of which is the golf course. Yes it is distinctly resort golf, on the shorter side with no heinous Bethpage Black style challenges to thwart the visitor. On the other hand, it is resort golf executed perfectly: the course is kept in pristine shape, excellent forecaddies meet golfers at the boat (we’ll come back to that), there are even massages offered alongside the driving range. The eccentric owner of the resort is a leisure perfectionist, and in his quest to build a golf course with five star service, even came up with the idea of concealing rakes in hidden underground compartments alongside the bunkers so they don’t interfere with either play or aesthetics. That, in a nutshell, explains why the golf experience here is so good. Also, the par-3s are excellent from start to finish, and not just the famous one: there is a long tough one tucked into the back corner of the property that requires a perfect shot and is protected by a creek, and there is an utterly dramatic lakefront one whose green is almost completely hidden by exposed rock ledge with ominous designs on errant shots.
The resort is equally compelling, a perfect mix between a luxury resort and family friendly affordability. I understand it is probably expensive for Idaho, but compared to its peers around the country it is a bargain considering it also offers a world class spa and wide selection of first rate cuisine. It occupies the most prime lakefront spot in a charming town on a beautiful lake, and the resort revolves around the water with a large marina, sightseeing cruises, cocktail cruises and much more. The golf courses sits across a bay form the hotel, and greens fees include round trip transport in one of the resort’s beautiful mahogany boats, as fine a way to start and end a rounds as there is in golf – it certainly beats the crap out of a shuttle bus.
To complete the golf experience, just up the road is Circling Raven, one of the best – and best priced – casino courses in the nation, and the two often team up for packages, though you are making a big mistake if you trade the posh digs of Coeur d’Alene for the hokey Indian casino hotel at Circling Raven. If you can wrangle an invite, one of the very best private golf community courses in the entire nation, Jim Engh’s dramatic work at Black Rock, is also on the lake.
At the end of the day, the resort passed my ultimate travel litmus test: it was one of the rare golf resorts I would look forward to returning to even if I was not going to play golf.