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Golf A-Round Spokane

By Wes Bolyard

Being a suburbanite, I never thought about staying downtown when planning a golf trip. However, after staying several days at The Historic Davenport Hotel in Spokane, Washington I discovered there are definite advantages that are explained below.  

From the moment you walk into the foyer, the grandeur of its 1914 beginnings presents itself.  A large open area of refined opulence with a surrounding balcony warmly invites you for a stay. Take a stroll around this balcony and view the paintings and historical areas. Privacy and comfort are combined into your stay and dining here is a distinct pleasure.

Located on the eastern side of the state, Spokane is surrounded by a wonderful choice of golfing venues.  It was extremely convenient to drive to these courses since most of them are just 12 to 20 minutes away. Added to this convenience is superb dining within walking distance of the hotel with the different aromas tantalizing your taste buds.  An added benefit for Arizonans is the long days and cool nights in the summer months allowing more time to play golf and enjoy being outdoors in the evening.

Mark Poirier, the City Golf Manager for all four of Spokane’s municipal golf courses, said “Esmeralda is for someone relatively new to the game, who wants to play fast without a lot of trouble, including no water hazards and very little bunkering.  It’s a fairly easy golf course to play.  Downriver is the busiest city course; it is a really good setting overall, and a great experience for all levels. The next two, Indian Canyon and The Creek at Qualchan, are championship-style courses. They have more undulating greens and elevated tee shots making it just a little more difficult from tee to green. I consider Indian Canyon the crown jewel in the city of Spokane. It is the one that gets the most recognition. The Creek at Qualchan is the newest course and is probably the toughest of the four.  It is the longest and has a few forced carries. You really get an array of elevation change from the front nine to the back nine and it presents a spectacular playing experience.”

Esmeralda, constructed in 1956, is in Northeast Spokane. It has an open space layout and flat fairways lined with over 2,000 trees.  This combination of attributes makes the superbly maintained course an easy one to score under 100 but tough to break par.

Downriver, Spokane’s oldest golf course, is nestled in tall pines along the Spokane River and Riverside State Park.  Gently rolling terrain and views of the beautiful Spokane River are all part of the golfing experience. Established in 1916, the course has hosted many major tournaments and provides a challenge to all skill levels.  This tree-lined classic golf course is short with small greens, rolling hills and elevation changes. In fact, one of the holes offers a mirror to help you see when the fairway is clear.

Indian Canyon sits just to the west of Spokane, overlooking the city. Indian Canyon requires accuracy from tee to the green. Built on a canyon wall with a vertical drop of 240 feet amid many towering pines, the layout offers a very diverse and unique playing environment. It is well bunkered and has undulating greens which require a deft touch.

The Creek at Qualchan features a creek meandering throughout the course.  It has five ponds, wooded and hilly areas, and holes with open beauty and well-protected greens. Qualchan has a very natural setting and is a sanctuary for many species of birds and wildlife.

Spokane’s other golf option is the century-old Kalispel Golf & Country Club. Originally the club was founded in 1898.  After several moves, it settled at its present location nestled up against the Little Spokane River on Spokane’s north side.  In December 2015 the Kalispel Tribe of Indians purchased the Spokane Country Club and gave it a new name. This historic course provides the ultimate Inland Northwest golf experience. Members enjoy a challenging, yet beautiful course, a world-class dining experience, and the highest levels of service and quality in a picturesque setting.  It offers natural landscaping with very few fabricated contours and the opportunity to see deer, moose and other beautiful animals wandering across the fairways.

Kalispel Golf & Country Club PGA Head Professional Nick McCaslin said “This golf course has a lot of history and has been here for over 100 years. Condition wise, it is top-notch.  The greens are so pure, resulting in a layout that is challenging but fun.  There is about 250 feet of elevation change overall on the course. When the weather does not permit golf, we have three golf simulators with full swing golf available. Being part of Northern Quest Resort & Casino, the members get discounts on rooms and the spa.  For those who interested in a stay and play package but don’t want to bother with bringing clubs, there are several excellent choices of rental clubs are available from Titleist, Callaway, Mizuno and Ping.  You can come in and actually get fitted and then try a set of them.”

Julie Holland, Director of Marketing for Northern Quest Resort and Casino, part of the Kalispel Tribal Economic Authority stated, “In the year 2000, the Kalispel Tribe of Indians first opened Northern Quest Casino.  In the last 22 years, there have been six major expansions resulting in what we see today achieving a Four Diamond, Four Star rating with 250 rooms and suites. There is a Four Diamond Steak House, Masselow’s along with a wide variety of other bars and restaurants, an award-winning spa, a new movie and dinner theater called B & B offering a movie and dinner, an indoor concert area that seats 1,250 people and an outdoor entertainment area for summer concerts that can seat 5,000. There is a new Topgolf Swing Suite in the Epic Sports Restaurant. The casino offers a wide variety of gaming, including a non-smoking area. There is also a new luxury RV Resort across from the hotel. The resort offers a variety of stay and play packages including one for the Kalispel Golf and Country Club, as well as shuttle rides to and from the resort to the Country Club, airport and downtown Spokane”.    

A twenty-minute scenic drive just south of Spokane is another setting for an exciting golf course, Latah Creek Golf Course. This 18-hole par-72 championship public golf course located along beautiful meandering Latah Creek is a challenging yet enjoyable test for golfers of all skill levels. The Course features wide fairways and well-bunkered greens in a very quiet and peaceful setting.  Feel free to launch your tee shots but watch out for Latah Creek which comes into play on seven holes. According to Steve Nelke, head golf professional “what you see is what you’ll get for your golf shots. With a balance of four par-3s and four par-5s, you should be able to use every club in your bag for an enjoyable round of golf”. The course also offers a unique aquatic practice driving range. 

Your visit to Spokane would not be complete without taking a drive to Worley, Idaho where another great golf course is located. Circling Raven Golf Club was voted North Idaho’s Best Course and received Golf Digest’s Top 100 Courses distinction. Chris Runyan, PGA Director of Golf says “Circling Raven is pretty unique. The course is laid out over 620 acres, with only 140 acres maintained leaving a lot of the acreage in its natural state. It goes through three different types of terrain as you play it:  grasslands, wetlands, and the woodlands. There are several bridges that cross the wetlands and it is a very peaceful experience playing here.  I think the fairways are generous in most cases and I see it as more of a second shot golf course. 

There are five sets of tees, so play the ones where you will have the most fun.  As you play the course, what stands out in my mind is that par 3’s seem pretty challenging and really unique. They have a nice visual look to them all and the tees are elevated. There is some elevation change throughout the course, making it very interesting.  Some of the fairways are tree lined but still have a generous landing area.  The view from the 15th tee makes for a beautiful picture with the mountains in the background and the trees on the sides of the fairway.  Along with a gorgeous golf course, there is a 25-acre practice area to hone your shots in preparation for the course.” 

A very relaxing and serene walk along Riverfront Park offers views of several sets of waterfalls on the Spokane River. This one-hundred-acre park was created 48years ago for Expo ‘74, a World’s Fair event. There are numerous experiences to be enjoyed here including the Numerica Skyride, the historic Looff Carrousel and the Radio Flyer Big Red Wagon.  Spokane is also home to over 87 beautiful parks. Be sure to visit Manito Park. Established in 1904, it comprises five major garden areas:  Nishinomiya Tsutakawa Japanese Garden, Duncan Garden, Rose Hill, Lilac Garden and Ferris Perennial Garden. 

While in Spokane, take advantage of the variety of dining options. Clinkerdagger at the Old Flour Mill, where tradition has continued for over 40 years at this Spokane landmark, overlooks the majestic Spokane River and city skyline. Spencer’s For Steaks & Chops at Double Tree by Hilton Hotel is where you will have the best filet mignon ever.  With a fun, upbeat, family atmosphere, Tomato Street North Division is a locally owned and operated, and award-winning Italian restaurant.  One of the best House Fresh Mojitos is served at Bistango Martini Lounge where they offer fresh quality ingredients, premium liquor, fair pours, great selection, upscale bar food, and top-notch service.

The golf courses around Spokane offer a variety of both beauty and challenge with towering pines, lush meadows and rolling terrain.  Add the proximity to all of what downtown presents, and a visit here becomes exceptional.