by Susan Hamilton
Golf getaways offer not only the opportunity to experience different golf courses but also diverse locales. Of course, there are some great places to play right here in the Spokane and Coeur d'Alene area, but late summer and early fall are perfect times to discover the varied personalities that golf courses in the Inland Northwest's outlying areas afford.
"Every golf course is a unique playing ground," says international golf star and nine-time Major-winner Gary Player in The Complete Golfer's Handbook. "What makes golf such an exciting game is that it is virtually impossible to repeat any one course."
With so many choices of places to visit and play golf, we offer three Pacific Northwest areas where you can take advantage of some excellent golf getaway packages. All have great settings, a variety of courses, quality accommodations, good value and other area attractions. And they don't require a week-long vacation or a million frequent-flyer miles.
Nestled on the northern shore of tranquil Lake Pend Oreille, Sandpoint offers great golf, boating and fishing, shopping at unique art galleries, boutiques and fine dining. Five different golf courses beckon you to north Idaho -- Hidden Lakes, Garfield Bay, the Ranch Club, Mirror Lake and Priest Lake.
Recognized as one of the most scenic golf courses in the Northwest, Hidden Lakes Golf Resort is truly a gem in the north woods of Lake Pend Oreille. With the peaks of the Selkirk Mountains rising above it and the Pack River winding through it, this challenging course has water hazards on 17 of its 18 holes. Rated by Golf Digest as one of Idaho's top courses, Hidden Lakes has 10 resident moose, as well as elk, deer, hawks and bald eagles.
A new clubhouse was recently unveiled at Hidden Lakes. The 17,000-square-foot log, basalt rock and glass structure has soaring, vaulted ceilings and a wide deck overlooking the river and mountains. Moose-antler chandeliers, exposed log walls and a center support log made from a 32-foot native cedar with an Alaskan moose head carved into it create a unique back country ambiance.
The Lodge on Hidden Lakes is the resort's premier restaurant. Executive Chef Paul Donaghue has created an upscale dining experience featuring superior quality and service. His award-winning creativity is evident in the luscious food -- all made from scratch using fresh meats and local produce as well as freshly baked breads and desserts.
North of Sandpoint is Garfield Bay, a nine-hole course laid out on a hillside. The Ranch Club, just west of Priest River on Highway 2, has nine well-groomed holes and a new driving range.
Mirror Lake's nine holes just south of Bonners Ferry on Highway 95 can play as 18 with different tees. The sloping fairways and water hazards add challenges. Priest Lake Golf Course, just west of Priest Lake on Highway 57, features nine scenic holes.
A number of fine lodging properties offer "stay-and-play" golf packages in Sandpoint. The Hawthorn Inn and Suites feature beautiful rooms -- some with large, jetted tubs and high ceilings -- and golf packages for two at Hidden Lakes Golf Course, beginning at $60 per person.
The Best Western Edgewater Resort with views of Lake Pend Oreille and the mountains, the Selkirk Lodge at Schweitzer Mountain with closer mountain views, or the Lakeside Inn with waterfront rooms in a park setting are but a few of the hotels that also offer special golf packages in the Sandpoint area. For more information, call (800) 800-2106.
Cuisine in Sandpoint is varied and features settings from atop Schweitzer to the Floating Restaurant at Hope. Choose from the elegance and gourmet touches of the Sand Creek Grill, the local flavor of Eichardt's Pub & amp; Grill or savoring the sunset over the lake at Swan's Landing patio, among the many dining choices.
If you like to mix your golf with the grape, the Tri-Cities (Kennewick, Pasco and Richland) have premier golf courses and award-winning wineries. "Great Golf in Wine Country" offers 12 different "stay-and-play" packages at four of the top public golf courses in southeastern Washington. And the longer golfing season to the south will extend the time you can take your getaway.
Canyon Lakes is known as "one of the best versions of desert golf in the Northwest," says Jeff Shelley in Golf Courses of the Pacific Northwest. The championship-style course winds through the desert arroyos northeast of Horse Heaven Hills and sports undulating greens that are long and challenging. Rated as one of the top 10 public golf courses in the Pacific Northwest, Canyon Lakes offers five sets of tees and strategically placed water and sand bunkers that keep the game exciting.
Columbia Point's links-style course with mounded, rolling fairways and undulating greens plays along the Columbia River. Assorted water and sand hazards provide challenges, as do the westerly winds.
Sun Willow's challenging Northwest-style course has rolling fairways with large greens and gentle slopes that create an enjoyable golf experience for any skill level. Shelley calls this course "one of Washington's best public courses" with its five lakes and more than 40 bunkers.
Located amid the sand and sagebrush, Horn Rapids is an 18-hole championship course. It combines native terrain with lush greens and fairways that offer plenty of challenges. The 18-hole putting course has several creeks, two waterfalls and ponds.
These golf courses all have driving ranges, pro shops and restaurants.
The Tri-Cities are known as the heart of Washington wine country. The lower Columbia River Gorge is one of the finest wine-grape growing regions in the world. Fifty-three top-notch wineries are within a 50-mile radius. Visitors can sample award-winning wines and enjoy scenic views of the vineyards.
You can explore the countryside and wineries yourself or even take a limousine tour of them. Among the many wineries are Columbia Crest, the largest winery and wine producer in the state; the Eaton Hill Winery, in the historic cannery building; Hogue Cellars, one of American's most respected wine producers; newcomer Maryhill Winery's handcrafted wines; and Terra Blanca with its wine caves.
The 12 different fine hotels presenting getaway packages offer reasonable rates for deluxe rooms adjacent to or nearby the golf courses plus two greens fees and a golf cart. Of the many choices, there is the Days Inn Richland, located close to all golf courses; the Doubletree Hotel Pasco, with custom-ordered breakfasts for two; the Red Lion Richland, located on the Columbia River; and the Hawthorn Inn & amp; Suites, offering transportation to and from the course. Rates start at $100 a night.
Call (800) 254-5824 for information on golf-and-wine getaways in the Tri-Cities.
In the Canadian Rockies, 20 top-ranked golf courses and resorts await you. The B.C. Rockies offer splendid mountain regions with numerous lakes and rivers winding amid the valleys. Outdoor adventurers can enjoy whitewater rafting, hang gliding, mountain biking and fishing. The many hot springs afford a natural way to relax.
But we're here for golf, right? So let's explore some of what the region offers, all within 150-250 miles of Spokane.
North of the border, above Bonners Ferry at Creston, is the Creston Golf Club. This championship course features shimmering lakes and golden silica sand bunkers, with osprey and blue heron that cross from the nearby Creston Valley Wildlife Management Area. Fine dining and a well-stocked golf shop can be found at Creston G.C. as well as CPGA professionals.
From Creston, head north to Cranbrook, where you'll find the new St. Eugene Mission Golf Resort. Nestled in the St. Mary Valley, the golf resort's 18 holes lie among open links land, forests and spectacular views of the St. Mary River. Fisher Peak to the east and the Purcell Mountains on the west rim the course. The original St. Eugene Mission building stands as an impressive backdrop to the 18th hole.
Just a bit farther north is Trickle Creek Resort at Kimberley. Golf Digest gave this course a high 4.5 rating and placed it in North America's top 10 for value and quality. Elevated tees, such as the 50-foot 11th tee, make for an exciting game. After your round, relax on the deck and patio area for drinks or dining.
Continuing north, you find the well-known Fairmont Hot Springs Resort. Here, two championship courses -- Mountainside and Riverside -- are in the top 25 Canadian golf resorts. Magnificent mountain and valley views highlight these challenging courses. Luxury accommodations, gourmet dining and soothing soaks in the natural hot pools will pamper you.
At Panorama near Invermere lies Greywolf Golf Course, awarded the Best New Canadian Course of 1999 by Golf Digest. From the knockout scenery to challenging hazards, like a rushing mountain stream and a deep gorge, Greywolf will both stimulate and soothe golfers. Take advantage of the many hotel accommodations in Panorama Village as well as the restaurants, shopping, river rafting, tennis and swimming.
To the west and south is Kokanee Springs Golf Resort on the shores of Kootenay Lake. Elevated tees and generous fairways are rimmed by giant cedar trees, colorful wildflowers and views of Kokanee Glacier.
From Kokanee Springs, it's just a ferry ride across the lake to Granite Pointe Golf Course at Nelson. This picturesque course will have you using every club in your bag.
For more information about B.C. golf getaways, call (800) 661-6603.