Circling Raven Golf Club: A Wonderful NW Stay and Play
I’ve been to Coeur d’Alene, a handful of times and every time I’d leave with one big regret: I never played Circling Raven Golf Club.
I’ve known about the course for years, and have heard nothing but good things – but I was never able to work it into the schedule.
Well, now I know how much of a mistake that was.
This past weekend my buddy Jeff and I drove over to Idaho for a handful of rounds including 2 at Circling Raven, and 3 nights at the Coeur d’Alene Casino Resort – and it was the perfect getaway after months of being stuck at home in Portland.
Curious as to what to expect if you play the course or stay at the hotel? Read on for a full recap of the experience.
Circling Raven: Just the Facts
- Designer: Gene Bates
- Built in: 2003
- Rank: Formerly Golf Digest Top 100 Public
- Length: 7,189 yards from the tips
- Location: Worley, Idaho (Outside of Coeur d’Alene)
- Greens fees: $89-99
- Website: https://www.cdacasino.com/golf/
First Impressions of Circling Raven Golf Course
One of the first things you’ll notice when you pull up to the clubhouse at Circling Raven is just how convenient it is to the hotel and resort. It’s literally about 300 yards from the front door, so a 30 second drive or quick walk will have you from your room to the course very quickly.
My first look at the course actually gave me flashbacks to a few other places I’ve played.
It has the same sprawling meadow look as Erin Hiells, and the opening hole felt like the par 5 version of the first at Prairie Dunes in Kansas.
In both cases, these comparisons? They’re a good thing.
But you don’t really get a sense for what the course is truly going to give you until after you duck in a tunnel off the first green and head to the second hole.
This is where you truly see what Circling Raven is all about.
My favorite rounds are often ones that traverse multiple landscapes. I often tell people the reason I like Bandon Trails so much is because it’s land is more unique than the other Bandon Courses. Instead of just ocean links-land you start in the dunes, work your way through meadows, and up into coastal forests before coming back again.
Circling Raven gives you a similar experience. You start out in sprawling meadow farmland, while weaving in and out of forests, and finishing with some wetlands on the back 9.
These different types of terrain lend itself well to unique and memorable holes – which Circling Raven is full of.
Circling Raven is the antithesis of the more well known Coeur d’Alene Resort with the floating green.
While that course feels very tight at times, and sits on a relatively small piece of lakefront property, Circling Raven is big.
It resides on over 600 acres, and it feels like it. Some golf courses just have a presence, and from the moment you stand on the first tee Circling Raven gives you that feeling of a big, bold course.
But it doesn’t do that at the expense of intimacy. Holes 2-5 have a great routing, which allows you to see each of the other holes out in the meadow, while the back features more holes that sit alone within the forest.
Our first round was a twilight round where we had the course to ourselves, and on the 3rd teebox I turned to my buddy Jeff and said that being out here feels like a high end private club. It had some Ballyneal vibes, where you’re out there and the only thing that matters is golf.
It was a pretty cool experience.
Memorable Moments at Circling Raven
As I mentioned before, when you go under the tunnel and end up on the 2nd hole, you feel like you’re in a totally different place.
I really enjoyed the second hole, where you had to have a well struck tee shot directly over a bunker to give yourself a wedge into an uphill approach.
I also thought the par 4, 4th with a wonderful split fairway gave you a few options to play the hole, both with their risks and rewards.
The 6th hole was an interesting turning point in the round. I didn’t really know what to expect from the course and at that point kind of assumed it was all out in the meadows.
But six was an uphill par 4 that then introduced a beautiful par 3 and a fun par 4 up in the forest – giving you a hint of what was to come later in the round.
11 begs you to hit it straight over the bunker at the corner, and rewarding you with a short iron into the green if you’re successful.
And 12 is a solid par 5 that gives you a lot of different options from aggressive to conservative with how you want to play the hole.
The Par 3s at Circling Raven
Something worth noting is that Circling Raven has one of the toughest sets of par 3s I’ve ever played. The shortest of them, the 16th, plays about 175 from the Blue tees. The 13th, the longest, is one of the most difficult I’ve ever played at 230+ yards of nearly all carry.
My favorite however is probably the 7th. It’s tucked away in a little section of forest, and was unexpected after 6 holes in a different landscape.
If I had any knock on the course it would probably be that I would have liked a little more variety here. Each of the short holes played downhill, at fairly similar distances. I would have liked to see maybe an uphill par 3, or something with water. They all felt like long difficult par 3s, so challenging the golfer with something other than length would have been nice.
The Par 4s at Circling Raven
I think Circling Raven is at it’s best with it’s selection of par 4s.
You have just about everything you could want here. Downhill tee shots, uphill tee shots, forced carries, long holes, short holes – it never feels like you’re playing the same hole twice. This is a testament to Bate’s routing. As I heard it, the other course architects were looking to build the course up closer to the main highway in the area – but his vision was to build on the other side of the train tracks that run through the property.
And it feels like it was a very wise choice.
The Par 5s at Circling Raven
There’s a solid set of par 5s at Circling Raven. The opener first hole is a nice introduction to the round and lets you decide how aggressive you want to be at the corner.
I particularly like 12 with a tree that forces you to choose which side of the fairway you’re going to tackle – it also has a great visual look.
And 5 is a big dogleg left that provides wonderful views of the previous holes.
There’s not a bad one in the bunch.
Final Thoughts on Circling Raven
Circling Raven, quite simply, is a delight to play.
It has big fairways, and even the forest holes give you plenty of elbow room to work with on your drives.
Bunkering around the course is often the main defense, and not only adds to the strategy of the course, but it compliments the aesthetics nicely as well.
This year we were supposed to host an Eighty Club event in Coeur d’Alene to play the Resort, Black Rock, Rock Creek, and Circling Raven.
The only thing this most recent trip has done is make me more excited to get it rescheduled for next year.
Coeur d’Alene Casino Resort Review
Circling Raven is only one half of the story at Coeur d’Alene Casino Resort.
First off, we should make something clear. The Casino Resort is not the same as The Coeur d’Alene Resort – which is on the lake and features the golf course with the floating green.
The Casino Resort is located in Worley about half an hour away.
When you pull up to the hotel, it looks like many other Indian Casinos I’ve been to, and definitely has vibes of Little Creek Casino in Washington which has another sleeper of a golf course in Salish Cliffs.
We spent three nights at the Resort so got a pretty good idea of what it was all about.
The Rooms at CDA Casino Resort
We stayed in the newer Spa Tower at CDA Casino, and the rooms where among, if not the best I’ve ever stayed in at an Indian Casino.
They were a good size, the bathroom was nice featuring both a shower and a tub, and there were two nice club chairs for watching TV at the foot of the bed.
However, my favorite feature of the Spa Tower rooms is that they’re all on the same side of the building. You’ll only find rooms on one side of the hallway, and as such every view looks out into the same wooded courtyard.
The view is far better than what you often get (a parking lot), and it was extremely private.
It truly gave the room a feeling of being in a private getaway in the middle of the bustle of the casino.
The room prices vary, but during the time we were there they were hovering in the $175 a night range, and the Mountain Lodge rooms closer to $100.
This puts it in a much more affordable price range than The Coeur d’Alene Resort, and can be a great option for buddies trips or groups.
Not to mention, there are some killer stay and play golf deals.
Coeur d’Alene Casino Dining
As for dining at the Resort, you’ve got no shortage of options.
During the time we visited in October 2020, the Buffet was closed due to COVID reasons, so I can’t speak to that, however we did try out all of the other options on property.
One of the nice things from a layout perspective, is when you enter the Resort there is a big, long space that houses things like the check in desks, Huckleberry Deli, Jackpot Java coffee shop, and the Red Tail Bar & Grill.
This space makes it easy to get around without having to walk directly through the Casino if you aren’t into it.
A couple mornings we had breakfast burritos and sandwiches from Huckleberry which were delicious and surprisingly affordable at around 6 bucks.
I’ve been to a lot of resorts that would charge $15+ for this, so it was nice to see the prices be so far across the board.
We also did breakfast at the Twisted Earth Grill which is located at Circling Raven, and my ham and cheese omelette was very good, and big. There was also a nice deck overlooking the course for lunch and dinner.
The Red Tail is your best casual sit down option at the Resort. There are TVs playing whatever game is on, and a solid pub menu with good food.
Finally, the Chinook Steakhouse was our restaurant of choice. Two guys, lots of golf, and a few good bottles of wine – this felt like the right place to visit most nights.
The steaks were cooked perfectly, and the service was great also. Our server even remembered our drink orders from previous nights.
There are also a handful of bars inside the casino, with the Nighthawk often featuring live music.
While all of the options were good, I couldn’t help but miss a couple of the more specialized options I’d seen at Little Creek such as the seafood raw bar, or the cigar and whiskey lounge.
The Couer d’Alene Casino
The casino itself was a decent size for an Indian casino and all of the machines and decor felt modern and up to date.
The biggest surprise, and frankly disappointment, was the lack of table games. Apparently it’s illegal to have table games in Idaho, so there were none to be found.
That said, we made the most of our experience.
We actually only gambled on one of the three nights we were there, and found the virtual versions of Craps, Roulette, and Blackjack.
Despite being virtual, they actually provided some pretty memorable moments.
I was down to my last dollar in Craps and put it on 12 – which rolled, netting me 30 bucks. Another one dollar bet on 11 on the very next roll also hit. This happened about 5 times, and I ended up leaving the “table” a bit better than break even.
To close out the night I put $5 on 13 on our virtual roulette table, which also hit to the tune of around $180.
By the time we finished I was up about $300 on the trip – which probably wouldn’t be the case if it were on your standard table game.
So as long as you know what to expect, the casino is great.
Final Thoughts on the Coeur d’Alene Casino
To have a convenient and affordable place to eat, drink, and stay when visiting Circling Raven is awesome. It’s worth a visit to get around the course a couple times, and you’ll have plenty of options for food and a nice room to stay in.
I do wish that there were a few extra things to do at the Resort.
While they have a spa, there was no day spa available for guest with sauna, steam room, hot tubs and the like.
They have an indoor pool and jacuzzi – but even if it were at an extra cost, to have some of those spa like amenities would have made a rainy day inside a little bit easier.
That said, our trip was fantastic.
It was convenient to get to all of the courses we were playing, and a painless drive to get into the town of Coeur d’Alene.
In the end, I’d happily visit again and I hope to do so sometime in 2021!
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