Half a day's drive east from Seattle over the Cascade mountains, Washington's high desert is home to wineries, fruit orchards and plenty of open space. Tourism is still somewhat in its infancy, which can make a visit here an adventure. Spokane, which lies close to the Idaho border (and forty-five minutes from Idaho's Coeur d'Alene resort), is Washington's second largest city and a delightful surprise in a quiet, historic, outdoorsy way. It's also the best place to fly into to explore this inland part of the Pacific Northwest. Spokane International Airport is serviced by Delta, Northwest, United Express, Alaska and other airlines from most major western cities.
Coeur d'Alene Resort Golf Course
900 Floating Green Drive, Coeur d'Alene, ID; 800-935-6283, cdaresort.com. Yardage: 6,757. Par: 71. Slope: 121. Architect: Scott Miller, 1991. Greens Fees: $135–$185. T+L GOLF Rating: ****
Even before a recent renovation extended the length of this golf course to a still-moderate 6,757 yards, it was impossible not to love Coeur d'Alene for its crisp service, postcard setting and golf conditions more perfectly manicured than a massage therapist's hands. The course is designed around a foursome of distinct topographical features: the winding shore of the huge mountain lake of the same name, a forested ridge offering distant water views, gently rolling woodlands and the rollicking waters of Fernan Creek. But one can't legally discuss this golf course without mentioning the overfamous floating green at the fourteenth hole. Regardless of how cynical one is about gimmicks, hitting to the moveable, five-million-pound, 15,000-square-foot island of sand and grass putting surface, then riding a mahogany boat out to either take a drop or putt for birdie, is one of golf's unique experiences. The remainder of the track is like a giant carpeted playroom where dangerous items such as trees have been thinned to mere decorations, and it is nearly impossible to hit a shot that doesn't land on mowed grass. Still, Coeur d'Alene is a required check box on any Pacific Northwest golfer's to-do list.
Desert Canyon Golf Resort
1201 Desert Canyon Boulevard, Orondo, WA; 800-258-4173, desertcanyon.com. Yardage: 7,285. Par: 72. Slope: 138. Architect: Jack Frei, 1993. Greens Fees: $45–$89. T+L GOLF Rating:
Perched atop and along the sides of a plateau overlooking miles of orchards rolling down to the Columbia River, Desert Canyon offers rare Southwestern-style desert golf in a place where one might only expect to find dusty munis. It's almost a three-hour drive from Tacoma, but worth every minute. The holes here are as muscular and sweeping as a flood roaring down out of the mountains; they run through crossing waste bunkers, present a few canyon carries and feature deep, scooped swales and other big-fisted design elements. Number six is the hole everyone talks about—a 690-yarder that seems to play to another county via a fairway tobogganing downhill toward a lone pine way off in the distance. Directional bunkers provide a couple of landmarks so players don't wander accidentally onto a hole in another state. The conditioning at Desert Canyon is also widely admired and a major attraction for golfers, who will enjoy this long, strong round of golf in the desert sunshine.
Also Play: The new Circling Raven Golf Club (Worley, ID; $55–$75, 800-523-2464), part of the Coeur d'Alene Casino, finally offers a suitable dancing partner for the nearby Coeur d'Alene Resort course. This Gene Bates design routes through forested meadows and wetlands. In Spokane, Indian Canyon Golf Course ($25, 509-747-5353) presents a Chandler Egan layout from the 1930s that's as well-built as a Craftsman-style house. Ben Hogan reportedly once called its 224-yard eighth the toughest single-shot hole he'd ever seen. North of Coeur d'Alene, Hidden Lakes Golf Resort (Sandpoint, ID; $59, 888-806-6673) ranks as one of the state's toughest, with the Pack River and other water in play on sixteen holes.
The Coeur d'Alene Resort
115 South Second Street, Coeur d'Alene, ID; 800-688-5253, cdaresort.com. Rooms: $89–$399. Suites: $269–$1,500.
More than just one unforgettable golf hole and one good course, Coeur d'Alene is an anomaly in this land of chain motels and small rustic lodges. Its signature restaurant has won awards for its wine list, its spa offers ample treatments, and guests can raft, fish, bike, ride horseback or relax in spacious rooms with decks that feel like high-dive boards above the royal-blue lake.
The Davenport Hotel
10 South Post Street, Spokane, WA; 800-899-1482, thedavenporthotel.com. Rooms: $169–$199. Suites: $249–$1,950.
In Spokane, recent investment has resulted in such distinctive, historic and opulent renovations as the $38 million rebirth of this 1914 classic, whose 284 rooms and suites offer hand-carved mahogany furniture, imported Irish linens and twenty-seven-inch flat-screen TVs.
Steam Plant Grill
(American) 159 South Lincoln Street, Spokane, WA; 509-777-3900. $$
Recent renovations converted this 1916 steam plant into a historic gem where visitors can now enjoy the curiosity of dining in the former boilers of the Kirtland Cutter architectural classic. Be sure to work up enough steam to down a Centennial Pale Ale or Polar Bear Stout from the on-site Coeur d'Alene Brewery.
The unspoiled metropolitan outpost of Spokane radiates out from a downtown clustered along the Spokane River, whose massive falls crash beside the hundred-acre Riverfront Park (spokaneriverfrontpark.com), site of the 1974 World's Fair. You—or better yet, your kids—can ride the handmade wooden ponies on the Looff Carrousel, restored to its 1909 grandeur. On the subject of restorations, the newly expanded Northwest Museum of Arts & Culture (northwestmuseum.org) has just received an extreme $28 million makeover that justifies a visit for the architecture alone.