There are some states in the U.S. who upon hearing their name I immediately think fondly of their golf scene. Michigan and Oregon come to mind first, but right up there with them is Idaho. I've been fortunate to visit a few times and am entirely smitten with everything about it. It's like a less-populated version of Colorado.
My golf media career has often felt like a decade-plus research project to determine where I'll retire, and Idaho is certainly a lead candidate in that regard to date.
There certainly aren't as many courses to choose from in Idaho compared to say, South Carolina or Michigan. But fortunately for the planner, it helps narrow down the options. While I've yet to visit Boise, it is high on my list. I've also heard wonderful things about Spokane's munis (the airport just across the state line you'll probably fly into to visit Coeur D'Alene).
Here are the five courses I've played in the land of sweet huckleberry, bountiful potatoes and fish-stocked rivers, all of which possess memorable elements.
When you bump into Wayne Gretzky at the 19th hole, you know you're in the right place. My visit was years before Dustin Johnson was a son-in-law and began tagging along with The Great One to Gozzer. The course is a seriously stunning design by Tom Fazio - probably the best of his I've seen - and the Discovery Land Company operation accentuates the vibe with relaxed, but incredibly on point service and amenities. Members and their guests are jettisoned from Coeur D'Alene via speedboat across the lake to the club's shores. The course couldn't be more scenic. The par 3s are especially gorgeous, and the par 5s wholly thrilling.
I've had the chance to get a taste of a few new, big money clubs in my career. I'm not sure I've seen a better total package than Gozzer. (Is it too late to get rich in Bitcoin?) If you've got a hookup here, jump at the chance to experience this place.
One of the more unique rounds of golf you'll ever play is at Coeur D'Alene Golf Resort, and that goes beyond the famous island green. Carts (decked out with slick trimmings) are on paths every day of the year and include a mandatory forecaddie. Golfers are shuttled from the resort across the lake in a mahogany shuttle. Tee times are 15 minutes apart and holes are shaped to make each group think they're the only ones at the joint. The result is an immaculately conditioned and visually remarkable course with flawless conditions - even if the overall experience might feel over-choreographed for those who like their golf more relaxed.
My visit to the hotel included paddleboard yoga on the lake, which blended morning lake tranquility with the terror of performing foreign yoga moves on a wobbly surface. In the heart of the town, a stay and play here feels a little more mellow compared to the bustling, casino-heavy south shore of Lake Tahoe, but is nearly as pretty to look at.
I really enjoyed a trip to Sun Valley, ye old haunt of the rich and famous. I didn't comprehend how much money was up here until an evening spent at the amphitheater, when casino mogul Steve Wynn introduced his good buddy Garth Brooks for a fundraising concert. I was in town for the opening of the new, nine-hole White Clouds Course, one of the better standalone nine-holers I've seen that tip-toes high above the valley floor. It's actually more visually spectacular than the original, flatter RTJ Jr.-designed 18-hole Trail course, though that course showed off the valley nicely as well. Sun Valley might be overlooked as a summer golf destination, but its two courses nicely complement one another and there are tons of other outdoor activities to enjoy.
A nice diversion from Coeur D'Alene, Circling Raven is certainly one of the best Native American golf courses you'll play in the west, and it's also a fine value. The unspoiled views on this expansive, 420-acre course go on for miles, the conditions are excellent, and it's one of the better bang-for-bucks in the mountain west resort scene.
I had the chance to visit this brand new hotel and residential development, accessible via Jackson Hole, right when the small lodge opened in 2008 and at the height of the economic downturn. So I left wondering if this ambitious project near the little town of Victor would make it. It has, and they've since added a par-3 course. The course, designed by the unlikely trio of Gary Stephenson, Byron Nelson and Steve Jones, was pleasant enough, but I most remember the incredible fishing trip where even this noob was reeling them like I should be sponsored by Johnny Morris. Our group was on a two-a-day regimen of huckleberry milkshakes and cobbler for the duration.