Gozzer Ranch Golf and Lake Club: One of the Toughest Tee Times in America
A few years ago, Golf Magazine even put together a list: the 50 toughest tee times in 50 States.
But often it all comes down to who you know. If you have a friend at Augusta National, then even that may seem easy to you.
However, one instance where I think the magazine got it right is for Idaho: Gozzer Ranch Golf and Lake Club.
Being the Founder of a golf society for travelers, I talk to people all the time about where to play, and how to get on some of the more difficult-to-access courses out there.
And one of the most routinely difficult to access, also happens to be one of the most unexpected: Gozzer Ranch.
I mean how could such a casual feeling place tucked away in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho be so difficult to get a tee time at?
There are a few reasons for this.
I personally think it’s a combination of the high fees to join, a limited season, the fact it’s a second club for many, and also that most golf travelers from places like New York or Pennsylvania, just don’t know as many people who live in Idaho.
That said, if you are able to secure a tee time at Gozzer Ranch – it’s a trip worth taking.
Ok, that’s an understatement.
Playing at Gozzer Ranch is one of the great joys in golf, and there aren’t many better settings I’ve seen for a course anywhere on Earth.
Golf in Coeur d’Alene
Before we look at the course specifically, I’d be remiss not to talk about the wonderful, and unique destination that is Coeur d’Alene, Idaho.
Coeur d’Alene is a spectacular lake community located about a half-hour from the Spokane airport.
The town is probably most famous for the “island green” par 3 at the Coeur d’Alene Resort, but that’s just one of many wonderful features about the place.
The community is unique in that many of the residents do much of their travel by boat.
Take the boat to the club. Take the boat to breakfast. Take the boat into town.
It’s a really unique lifestyle, and if you’re fortunate enough to have the money to live it – I can absolutely see the appeal.
There’s some fantastic golf in the area, both public and private.
The Golf Club at Black Rock is one of the most fun golf courses in the world.
And then there’s Gozzer Ranch which is some of the finest work Tom Fazio has ever done.
But what can you expect on the course?
The Experience at Gozzer Ranch
When you think of the typical ultra-high-end golf club, you probably envision a formal place with a stuffy attitude, and an old school clubhouse.
So when you show up at Gozzer, it’s both jarring and refreshing to see just how casual the place is.
When its members are there, they are there to relax, hang with family, and have a good time. This is what the club was built for.
Before you even get to the quality of the golf, there are a handful of intangibles that already give Gozzer a leg up.
We mentioned being in Coeur d’Alene, which is a beautiful place, but the course is perfectly situated above the lake and provides some phenomenal views.
You obviously can have world-class golf without scenic vistas, but despite what anyone says, good views never hurt.
One of the other unique features, which is rare to see in the States is the inclusion of comfort stations every few holes.
This is common at some of the high-end Mexican resorts like Diamante, but you rarely see it as much in the US. Home-made ice cream, jerky, drinks, snacks – it’s all there for the taking.
Honestly? It’s wonderful, and certainly adds to the experience.
The Front 9 at Gozzer Ranch
But all of that doesn’t mean much if the golf isn’t any good.
Fortunately, the golf at Gozzer Ranch is very worthy of all of the high accolades it’s received since the course opened in 2008.
Unpopular opinion alert: I love Fazio courses.
These days it’s all about Doak, Hanse, Coore and Crenshaw – the minimalist golf movement.
That’s fantastic, they are all wonderful designers.
But it’s almost become cool to hate on Fazio, Dye, Trent Jones or other architects of an earlier era.
I have a tough time separating a course from the playing experience.
And at all of the top-tier Fazio courses, there’s an incredible experience. Places like Hudson National, Estancia, and yes, Gozzer Ranch give you views, manicured courses, and really interesting holes.
So I had a feeling I was going to enjoy the course before I even arrived at the course.
And guess what? I did.
Gozzer Ranch has some of the most memorable holes I’ve ever played.
Between lake views, infinity greens, and fun designs – there’s a lot to like.
The first hole that will really make you say “wow” is the par 3, 3rd.
Arguably the signature hole on a course full of signature holes, the downhill par 3 with Coeur d’Alene as a backdrop feels impossible to play without taking your camera out.
Fazio then followed up that scenic hole with a really fun drivable par 4.
After 5 you reach your first comfort station which has kind of a general store-type theme. As I mentioned above, these fully stocked breaks are a pretty cool amenity for members and isn’t something you see done to this level very often.
The par 3, 7th looks like they literally went to a giant rock, put a couple tons of dynamite in the center and lit the fuse.
I mean this in a great way. The green is very generous, so you’d have to hit a pretty poor shot for the rocks to come into play in most cases.
That said, hit it a little long, or get a pin tucked to the edge of the green and you could find yourself flirting with the rock more than you’d like.
8 is a long par 5, that kind of gives off Bethpage Black #4 vibes with the way the bunkers cut across the fairway.
Back 9 at Gozzer Ranch
Once you get to the back, things really start to heat up.
I personally think the back is even better than the front, and part of it comes down to the fact I feel like there are more memorable moments.
The first big one for me is on the approach at the long par 4, 11th.
It features a gorgeous infinity green, that is set against a backdrop of towering pine trees.
I feel like most infinity greens like this, look out over water or a cliff, and seeing this is really stunning.
This is followed up by 12, which might be my favorite hole on the course.
At 355 yards from the #2 tees, it likely won’t be drivable for you – but there are options galore off the tee. The best place to hit it, could largely depend on the day’s pin placement.
It’s also one most unique-looking holes I’ve played, and I’m not sure I’ve really seen anything else like it elsewhere.
There’s a nice variety to the par 3s on the course, and the mid-length 14th is unique in that it’s the only one playing over water.
The par 4, 15th I believe is considered the actual signature hole, on a course full of them.
Where 11 at the infinity green with green backdrop, 15 heads back down towards the lake and gives you a spectacular view on the approach.
The Gretzky family are one of the most notable members, and I’ve heard stories that on 16 when DJ is on property he hits his drive over the house to the right of 16, and then has next to nothing into the hole.
And the final par 3, 17, feels like it takes elements from the other 3 and merges them into one that is just as impressive as any of the others.
There’s the sprawling view from 3, the rock formations from 7, and then a scraggly bunker guarding part of the green from 14.
It rounds out one of the best quartets of par 3s I’ve played to date.
How does Gozzer Compare to Black Rock?
One of the most common questions you’ll get when talking about Gozzer Ranch is how does it compare to The Golf Club at Black Rock, which is the other Coeur d’Alene course to have been counted among Golf Digest’s top 100.
They’re very similar, yet totally different.
Both have super casual vibes, and represent the kind of place you’d want to be a member just for the sheer fun of it.
Both have jawdropping holes that you’ll tell stories about for years to come.
But the courses themselves? They’re actually quite a bit different.
Black Rock is more dramatic. It winds through the cliffs more, and has more substantial elevation change. Black Rock is also mostly going to limit you to riding in a cart, whereas Gozzer is walkable.
I think it’s fair to say Gozzer Ranch is the better golf course, but Black Rock is the more fun golf course.
You’ll hit shots and see holes you won’t see anywhere else at Black Rock, but to some, a few of those holes can come across as gimmicky.
There isn’t much gimmick at Gozzer. It’s just a really good, beautiful course, with a ton of memorable holes.
Short version, they’re both excellent, and if you have friends in high places and are able to swing a visit to both on your Coeur d’Alene trip, you absolutely should.
Final Thoughts on Gozzer Ranch
If you find yourself playing Gozzer, you can count yourself among the luckiest golfers out there.
I know people who have played the majority of the world’s best golf courses, and still struggled to find an invite to Gozzer Ranch.
That said, when you’re fortunate enough to play it, you’re treated to a wonderful amalgomation of casual vibes, spectacular views, and memorable and fun golf holes – that make Gozzer Ranch one of my favorite places I’ve ever played.
To be perfectly honest, I have no idea if I’ll ever get the chance to play here again.
But I can promise you that if I do? I’ll be on the first flight out to Coeur d’Alene to do it.
Ok that’s a lie. I’d drive.