The first thing most people want to know about Coeur d’Alene, Idaho is how the heck is it pronounced. I was a good 3 years into my Top 100 quest before I stopped referring to it as “that place in Idaho” and actually learned the correct pronunciation. For those who would like to know, the correct way to pronounce Coeur d’Alene is /KORR də-LAYN/. If that still isn’t clear enough for you click HERE for an audio pronunciation courtesy of Wikipedia.
Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, lets get on with things. Two years after I started my Top 100 quest The Club at Black Rock which is located in Coeur d’Alene made its way onto the list. As I laid out a plan for my travels to play the Top 100 that year I made a conscious decision to save The Club at Black Rock until I started to get close to the end. From my location on the east coast, getting to Coeur d’Alene would be no small task so I thought it made sense to wait because The Club at Black Rock could fall off the list, or a second and more likely scenario would be that another course in Coeur d’Alene could come onto the list. While I never mind playing a course that falls off the list I do have to admit that I am not very fond of 15 hour travel days that include taking three flights and making a one hour drive. I also always take the red-eye back from the west coast so these remote locations out west make for some really long travel days. With that in mind I decided to wait and see if a second Coeur d’Alene course was going to come onto the list before I make the trip out there.
As it turns out my patience was rewarded earlier this year when the new list came out and Gozzer Ranch Golf & Lake Club made its debut on the list. Gozzer Ranch is located in Coeur d’Alene which meant that I would be able to play two Top 100 courses when I finally made the trek out there. Now I just had to make the necessary contacts and schedule a trip. Unfortunately, I didn’t really have any solid contacts for either of the courses. My friend Bill, who is a contributor on this site, lives in southern Idaho and thought that he might be able to help, and one of my buddies in Pittsburgh has some family in the area and thought that he might be able to help as well. With nothing really firm I penciled Idaho into my schedule for 2014 and hoped that something would solidify by then.
As things tend to happen with this Top 100 quest my plans were turned on their head with one little phone call. Sitting in my office one day I got a call from my friend Keith in Chicago. Keith is on a Top 100 quest as well and he has played more than 90 of the current Top 100 list. Two of the courses he had not played were the two in Idaho and he was calling to invite me to join him on a trip to Coeur d’Alene in September. Wow, I love it when that sort of thing happens. With a little rejiggering I was able to free my schedule up and the next thing I knew I was on the internet booking a flight.
The closest airport to Coeur d’Alene is Spokane, Washington. After a long day of travel I finally arrived and met up with J who was our third on the trip. In the small world department J had hosted me at Rich Harvest Farms last summer and just so happens to be friends with Keith also. These coincidences never cease to amaze me. After hanging out with J at the Spokane airport for a couple of hours, Keith arrived and we all loaded into the rental car and started making our way to Coeur d’Alene.
Once we pulled into town Keith had a business meeting scheduled so J and I went to find some food. We were referred to Hudson’s Hamburgers which is a counter only diner that serves a very basic, but excellent burger with pickle chips sliced by hand. It was a really cool old school place and I recommend checking it out if you are ever in Coeur d’Alene.
The next morning we were up bright and early for our 10:30am tee time at Gozzer Ranch. Something that I had not known in advance is that we would be taking a boat to the club which is located on the other side of the lake from the Coeur d’Alene Resort. I had no idea that was coming so it was a pretty cool surprise when I found out the night before. Here is a look out the back of the boat on our way to Gozzer Ranch.
The lake was still as glass and I don’t know that I’ve ever had a smoother boat ride. After about ten minutes in the boat the captain dropped us off at the Gozzer Ranch marina where we were met by a van that would take us to the golf course. Below is a photo of the Gozzer Ranch marina which had some really incredible boats in it.
Once we reached the club we checked in and met the assistant pro who would be playing with us. Keith’s buddy who is a member had something come up and was unable to play with us so he arranged for one of the pros to host us for our round. Below is a photo of the rustic looking pro shop.
I also loved this little starter shack outside the pro shop. Note the sign that pays homage to the infamous fight scene in the movie Caddyshack . . . “You owe me one gumball machine”. It’s also worth pointing out the push carts lined up outside the starter shack. I’m always pleased to see anything that indicates a walker friendly club culture.
After a few swings at the practice tee we headed to the 1st hole where we decided to play from the 6,808 yard tees and put a ball in the air to start our round.
Hole 1 – 404 Yards – Par 4
The course starts out with a drive from an elevated tee box on this two shot hole with bunkers in play on the left and right.
The approach shot into the 1st green plays just a little uphill.
Hole 2 – 543 Yards – Par 5
For most golfers this hole will play as a three shot hole. The fairway bends to the left so a draw off the tee will pick up a few extra yards.
A view of the shot pitch into the green.
Hole 3 – 169 Yards – Par 3
Wow, what a view. Lake Coeur d’Alene is 50 square miles and has more than 100 miles of shoreline so this will not be the last view we get of the lake.
Hole 4 – 271 Yards – Par 4
Here our caddie told us we could lay up with a 150-200 yard shot or take a rip at driving the green with driver. I had just made a double on the last hole so I thought it only made sense to hit driver. The green is located just to the right of the large rock that looks to be in the middle of the fairway in the photo below.
Here is a view of the short pitch to the green for players who laid up from the tee.
And here is a view of the green. I’m pleased to say that my ball is the one closest to the hole. Unfortunately, I missed the very makable eagle putt and had to settle for birdie. Still after my double on the last hole I felt a little better.
This little lean to after the 4th hole is used as a food station during peak season. When we were there in September it was not being used, but normally they’ll have someone out there with a grill serving some sort of fresh specialty of the day.
Hole 5 – 423 Yards – Par 4
Here we have a lengthy par 4 that plays relatively flat. The right side of the fairway seems to offer a better angle into the green.
The approach into the 5th green.
After the 5th hole (and one hole after the lean to food stop) we came to the comfort station. These are nifty little pitstops that can be found at all Discovery Land Company properties.
Inside they are loaded with just about any kind of snack that a person could want. The theme for Gozzer Ranch’s comfort stations is a general store. There was ice cream, home made jerky and other meats, cheese, cookies, candy and all the beverages you could drink. I’m not usually one for frills, but I have to say that this was pretty cool. The home made jerky got me pretty excited.
Hole 6 – 396 Yards – Par 4
This hole is a lengthy two shotter than bends to the right. The bunkers on the left side in the distance are in play off the tee. A nice little fade here will put the ball in the perfect position.
The approach shot into the 6th green.
Hole 7 – 200 Yards – Par 3
Here we have a lengthy one shot hole. There is plenty of room to miss up front so there is nothing wrong with being a little short here.
Hole 8 – 575 Yards – Par 5
Wow, another beautiful looking hole from the tee. Although the tee shot does play downhill I can’t imagine many players reaching this green in two. The ideal drive here avoids the bunker on the right and leaves an easy layup to the second level above the bunkers on the left.
Here is a view from the end of the first section of fairway. It’s not visible, but the green is right in the middle of the photo.
The approach shot into the green.
Hole 9 – 425 Yards – Par 4
Here we have a long par 4 that doglegs pretty good to the right. Players can challenge the bunker by aiming as far to the right as they wish to attempt to shorten the approach shot.
A look into the green with a collection of bunkers protecting it. Note the golf cart sitting on the hill. This was left for someone who is out walking the course to get from the 9th green to the 10th tee which is a little bit of a walk. This course is no easy walk so I think it’s great that people are out there doing it.
At the turn they have a nifty little halfway house they call the Burger Barn. If you have any room for food after the lean to and the comfort station you can continue to fill up here. I understand that in the peak of summer the bar around the Burger Barn becomes quite the nighttime scene for the members.
Hole 10 – 516 Yards – Par 5
The 10th hole is an uphill par 5 that doglegs a little bit to the left. There is some tall grass on the right side that can swallow a ball up so the best play to to favor the left side.
The approach straight up the hill into the green. This green can be had in two with a couple of good strokes.
Hole 11 – 447 Yards – Par 4
Here we have a very long two shot hole that plays to a blind landing area. Better to favor the left side over the right here.
Wow, what an approach shot. That green is just hanging on the edge of the cliff.
Hole 12 – 355 Yards – Par 4
Here we have a fairly short par 4 that may be drivable for some players. 355 yards sounds like a huge poke, but the elevated tee box and the thin mountain air will add a little distance to the drive. My drive hit on the front of the green and rolled off the false front. The ultra safe play is to bunt a ball out to the right side and come into the green from that angle.
Hole 13 – 438 Yards – Par 4
The 13th hole is another long two shot hole that bends slightly to the left. The bunkers on the right side of the fairway are in play off the tee.
The hole may be long, but the shot into the green is wide open. Coming up a little short will not be so bad.
Hole 14 – 156 Yards – Par 3
What a great looking par 3 hole. This is a short to mid-iron for most players and should be a fairly straight forward hole. Note the second comfort station in the background.
I had to mention the vintage 1940s Maytag wringer/washer that was on the porch of this comfort station. I love old stuff like this.
Hole 15 – 407 Yards – Par 4
The 15th hole leads up back down towards Lake Coeur d’Alene. This hole bends to the right and the lake is just barely visible in the distance.
A view of the approach into the 15th green.
What an incredible setting.
Hole 16 – 495 Yards – Par 5
Her we have a shortish and reachable par 5 that bends uphill and to the right. The bunker on the right can be reached from the tee.
Here is a view of the approach into the green.
Hole 17 – 167 Yards – Par 3
Another gorgeous one shot hole. This one will be a long to mid iron for most players. Long is absolute death here so there is no shame in aiming for the center of the green which is to the right of the flag in the photo below.
And here is a look a the green.
Hole 18 – 421 Yards – Par 4
The course closes with another long par 4 and a tough drive over a waste area. The bunker on the right is in play from the tee.
Here is a view of the approach into the 18th green.
And one last final look a Lake Coeur d’Alene.
I rarely mention my scores on this site, but in this case I’m going to. I couldn’t wait to look at the scorecard once we finished as I’d never had a round quite like this one. When we holed out on the 18th hole my card consisted of 4 double bogeys, 6 bogeys, 2 pars and 6 birdies . . . SIX BIRDIES and I still shot 80. As a 9 handicap on this course 80 is a perfectly acceptable score, but geez, what a wasted opportunity to have a really great round. I NEVER have six birdies in a round. I am a firm believer that we all get exactly what we deserve in this great game of golf and a round of 80 with 6 birdies is proof of that.
After picking up a few things in the pro shop we headed down to the marina and hopped in the boat to take us back across the lake. As the boat zipped across the water we discussed the course and the general consensus was that all three of us really liked it. First of all, the setting along the lake is simply incredible. I don’t care what anyone else says, being in a beautiful place always adds to a golf experience in my book. That said, Gozzer Ranch is not all looks and no substance. The golf course contained an interesting variety of holes, many of which give the player options for different ways to find par. Throughout the round the player must hit an assortment of different types of shots which keeps it interesting from start to finish. In short the course is fun and really enjoyable which, at the end of the day, is exactly what I’m looking for. I loved the course and think it is deserving of the praise it has received from the various golf media outlets.