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Golf On A Road Less Traveled
Gene Bates, Scott Miller, John Harbottle, III. Not names that jump out at you. Not names the average golfer is familiar with unless that average golfer happens to be knowledgeable about golf course architects. These three men may not even know each other but they will forever have their names linked together in my mind following my recent golf outing to Northern Idaho and Eastern Washington. Bates, Miller and Harbottle are the golf architects of three of the Northwest’s finest golf courses…Circling Raven in Worley, Idaho, The Coeur d’Alene Golf & Spa Resort course in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho and the Palouse Ridge Golf Club in Pullman, Washington. Bates, Miller and Harbottle have designed courses that should be on everyone’s “Must Play” list. Although they are considerably different, all three are extremely scenic and all three provide a good test of golf for golfers of all skill levels. Gene Bates, who designed Circling Raven, is no newcomer to course design. His twenty-nine year background in golf course design includes 160 projects, five years with the Jack Nicklaus Design Group, and 15 designs in partnership with PGA Pro Fred Couples. His Circling Raven course, which is owned and operated by the Coeur d’Alene Tribe, has received numerous awards since it opened in 2003. It was named to Golf Magazine’s “Top 100 Courses You Can Play” in 2008-2009, No. 1 in Golfweek’s “America’s Courses You Can Play” by state in 2009, and voted one of Golf Digest’s America’s Greatest 100 Public Courses for 2009-2010. Circling Raven’s slogan, “As Nature Intended” is right on. Natural scenic beauty abounds when playing “The Raven” as the course meanders through woodlands, natural grasses and wetlands. Rolling terrain and strategically placed fairway and greenside bunkers provide for challenging golf shots from both the tee and fairway. Depending on which of the five sets of tees is played, the length of the par 72 championship course ranges from 4708 yards to 7189 yards. One of my favorite holes was the Par 4, 8th hole, a 339-yard beauty from the whites. Looking at the view from the tee, it was easy to forget the stresses of our fast paced society. The powder blue sky, the stately green pines on both sides of the sloping fairway, and the long line of manicured bunkers, which flowed gracefully toward the green, took my thoughts away from my golf game. I hooked my left-handed tee shot into the environmentally sensitive forest area that runs from tee to green but managed a “second ball par” and thought…“Wow, what a great hole”. Another of my favorite holes was the 17th, a par 5 that offers challenges from tee to green. The course’s only lake lies between the tee and the fairway. Trees guard the ample fairway on both sides of the lengthy 559-yard hole. A well hidden creek flows the length of the hole on the right side of the fairway. Multiple fairway and greenside bunkers beckon to errant shots as you approach the small sloping green. All these obstacles make 17 a very challenging hole. My unexpected par made me a happy camper. The Coeur d’Alene Tribe has done a wonderful job of bringing golf to their reservation and the tiny town of Worley, 45 minutes from downtown Spokane, Washington. In building Circling Raven and the nearby 202-room Western style Coeur d’Alene Casino Resort Hotel; the tribe has made Worley a destination location. Expansion plans are underway to add two additional hotel wings, a 15,000 square foot spa, and an upscale steak house. According to tribal member David Lasarte-Meeks, who is the Resort CEO, “the amenities we’re going to offer will match or surpass any we currently know of in the Pacific Northwest. The Spa will be worldclass, and the new hotel wings will provide every comfort and luxury of a five-star property”. When completed, the steak house will add another dimension to the already popular Twisted Earth Grill, High Mountain Buffet and Sweetwater Café restaurants which offer an abundant assortment of breakfast, lunch and dinner dining options for golfers and non-golfers alike. Fifty short minutes from Worley, Circling Raven, and the Coeur d’Alene Casino Resort Hotel you’ll find the picturesque town of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, home of the Coeur d’Alene Golf & Spa Resort and world’s only moveable floating island green. Resort founder Duane Hagadone turned an old sawmill site into one of the world’s finest resorts, hired Scott Miller to design a course to be remembered… and as the saying goes…“The rest is history”. The famed island green at the Coeur d’Alene Golf & Spa Resort course has been pictured in golf magazines all over the world. It is unique in every sense of the word. It’s 15,000,000 pounds, covers 15,000 square feet, and is moved daily through Lake Coeur d’Alene’s sky blue water via a one-inch cabled connected to electric winches in the substructure of the green. It plays from 95 to 218 yards depending upon where it is positioned and the tee that is played. Whether you have a successful shot across the water to the green, or send your ball into Lake Coeur d’Alene, you are motored to and from the green via an electric powered boat and given a certificate designating your score on this unique and magnificent hole. Scott Miller’s fame as the course architect is usually centered around the island green. However, the other 17 holes are worthy of praise also. Each and every hole has a view of the lake. Each and every hole is manicured to perfection and each and every hole is its own scenic beauty. Before you play the course don’t be fooled by its 6309-yard length. It plays tough if you try to overpower it. Think strategically placed shots to wide open fairways so you will keep clear of the trees that line almost every fairway. Stay out of the bunkers, the lake, the streams and listen to your caddy. Each foursome has a uniformed caddy who is well trained, will run like a deer to find your ball, knows distances and breaks, and is a godsend to have as a mentor. When you play the course, you will drive luxury golf carts with tilt steering wheels, tee dispensers, club and ball washers, heated seats, and beverage coolers filled with ice and water. Combine these features with the beauty of the course, its thousands of brightly colored flowers, its manicured fairways with no rough in sight, its lake views from every hole, and the truly spectacular moveable floating island green, and you’ll be sound like Arnold Schwarzenegger, Hollywood movie star turned California Governor, when you say…“I’ll be back”. John Harbottle, III is the third architect I will always remember following my golf trip to Northern Idaho and Eastern Washington. He is the architect of the newly opened Palouse Ridge Golf Club on the campus of Washington State University in Pullman, Washington. The Palouse Region, full of rolling hills full of acres and acres of wheat, provided a wonderful setting for the new golf course home of the WSU Cougar golf team. Because of the many sloping fairways, the environmentally sensitive areas, and the abundance of bunkers on each hole, knowing correct distances is of utmost importance when playing Palouse Ridge. If you want to score well on Harbottle’s beautifully designed course, make sure to get a yardage book when checking in at the pro shop before your round. In addition to correct distances and suggested landing areas, it will also provide you with interesting background information about the course, the area, and Washington State’s role in developing and maintaining the course. Played from the tips at 7308 yards, Palouse Ridge may prove to be a difficult course for mid and high handicap amateurs as length and accuracy are of prime importance. As someone who sprays the ball a great deal, particularly off the tees, I decided to play from the Grey Tees, the middle of the five sets of tees. From the Greys, I found the 6172-yard par 72 course challenging but fair. Palouse Ridge’s five Par 3’s range from 119 to 184 yards but don’t let the short distances fool you. All take skilled shots to sloping greens to make birdies a possibility. At 307 to 414 yards, the Par 4’s also offer challenges. The drivable 307-yard 15th hole sets up a classic risk/reward opportunity. The three bunkers in middle of the fairway are to be avoided at all costs if a birdie or par is your goal. The longest Par 4, the 414-yard third hole is handicapped No. 3 and for good reason. Accuracy off the tee is key as right side fairway bunkers narrow the landing area and the greenside bunkers to the left of the green dictate a long and accurate approach shot to the right side of the green. To my way of thinking, a par on this hole is an achievement. The Par 5’s average an even 500 yards with the shortest being 475 yards and the longest 527 yards. An unusual but enjoyable aspect of Palouse Ridge’s design is that the final two holes are both Par 5’s. When playing Palouse Ridge, you will experience closeness with the natural terrain and panoramic views of the beautiful countryside. To me, the following quote from the yardage book sums it up, “throughout your round, you will be aware of the course’s natural setting.Native areas will influence your strategy of play. Great care has been taken to incorporate features that will give the course a true Palouse feel”. Gene Bates, Scott Miller and John Harbottle, III worked diligently to capture the Northern Idaho, Eastern Washington region’s natural scenic beauty when they designed Circling Raven, The Coeur d’Alene Golf & Spa Resort course and Palouse Ridge Golf Club. Bates’ Circling Raven, Miller’s Coeur d’Alene course and Harbottle’s Palouse Ridge are three courses that should be included in your golfing itinerary when visiting Northern Idaho and Eastern Washington. They are challenging, fun, extremely scenic and well designed by three very talented golf course architects.