Aug. 7, 2017, Circling Raven Golf Course, Worley, Idaho
The Creek at Qualchan looks like no other golf course you’ll see, and it’s not Circling Raven. Esmeralda is a golf course with 18 decent holes, and doesn’t aspire to be Circling Raven.
When this Gene Bates design opened in 2003 at the Coeur d’Alene Casino Resort, it quickly rose to co-equal status with the Coeur d’Alene Resort’s course, with its famous floating green, among western Idaho’s premium courses. Since then, Circling Raven has surpassed its older neighbor in regional esteem based on the overall quality of its golf and its relentless, infinite views.
What you get at Circling Raven is resort golf that doesn’t necessarily look it or play like it. There are broad landing areas off the tee on most holes, just like a resort course ought to have, but first you need to sight-read the right direction, and even then, more often than not, you have to defeat a forced carry that can stretch to 200 yards.
Pace-of-play note for beginning golfers (and others): Playing from the forward (green) tees eliminates the forced carries, said Tom Davidson, Circling Raven’s director of golf.
Golf economics note, from Roadie Steve Mildenberger: “I don’t think a beginning golfer should ever play here … (If they do), just play from the drop areas. They’ll save a lot of balls.”
“It’s more challenging than people assume a resort course will be,” Davidson said today.
But, man, there are rewards.
If you’re like me, you get to playing and forget to look around, but here — when you do raise your head and open your eyes — you can look around and around and around.
“The expanse of it resonates with people,” Davidson said, noting the playing grounds use only 110 of the property’s 650 acres.
And that’s it, right there. It might take more than one visit to pick single standout holes at Circling Raven … they’re all kind of amazing. You will remember the big picture, the long view.
Quit fiddling with your scorecard on the cart path between Nos. 11 and 12 and lift your eyes to the desert vista on all sides. It pretty much never ends.