“So many people in this world live in hopelessness and dark despair. Until they find golf. Then they live in addiction and dark despair.” ~Golf Trekker
Galena Ridge Golf Course is the destination for this month’s NW Golf Trekker. Roughly an hour drive from Spokane (half an hour from Coeur d’Alene, ID), Galena Ridge is located on the mountain ridges adjacent to Silver Mountain Ski Resort overlooking Kellogg, ID. Boasting one of the world’s longest gondola rides, skiing, mountain biking trails, a water park and over 200 rooms for nightly lodging, Silver Mountain Resort is becoming a family destination year round, but if you’re a golfer, visit while the course is open – typically the first weekend of May through the first weekend of October.
Designed in 2008 as a development community, Galena Ridge’s first nine was unveiled at the peak of America’s Great Recession, and it remains a nine-hole course at present awaiting future expansion as the economy and population allows. But with a variety of holes and elevation changes requiring 70 to over 200 feet of ball descent – carts are a necessity – you’ll find the nine holes exhilarating and well worth the opportunity to play twice, back-to-back!
Clubhouse attendant Bill welcomed our group, along with Silver Mountain GM, Jeff Colburn. Jeff told us that the course was named to celebrate the mining history of the Silver Valley, as Galena is a mineral from which lead and silver are extracted. He mentioned that the tee markers – which feature hieroglyphic elk – honor the herds which call these mountains home and often are seen wandering across the fairways in the early morning and evening hours. Course Superintendent, Geoff Haynes, added that “the resulting foot marks when the elk walk, run and play are tolerable on fairways but on the greens are deep and take a lot of time to repair.”
For a late summer afternoon round I came prepared with a light jacket as temperatures have been known to fluctuate by 20 degrees from start to finish, due to the weather changes in the mountain elevation. But on this day the temperature warmed to an enjoyable, overcast mid-70s.
I was matched up with two playing partners who, ironically, are both pastors from Spokane, Dayv Lounsbury and Ryan Kilgore. I pondered that possibly playing with two “men of the cloth” could mean a miracle might await on this day, an elusive hole-in-one, perhaps? As I approached the first tee, the Golfer’s Psalm wisped through my mind, my ball will lie down in green pastures and beside quiet water hazards.
The first teebox immediately gives you a taste of the theme of Galena Ridge. Playing reasonably short at 305 yards, the hole is an uphill climb requiring an expansive tee-shot carry just to reach the fairway, followed by an approach requiring at least one extra club to a small, two-tiered green. Almost immediately our group noticed the quality and undulation of the greens. In fact, we struggled most of the day getting the feel on our putts, and Superintendent Geoff concurred that the greens feature Creeping Bentgrass, unique and of high quality.
The first hints of Divine Intervention appeared as uncharacteristically I began my round with two solid pars, promising for me, but at Galena Ridge the challenge never lets up. Part of the fun of playing the 9-hole course twice is the opportunity to pick from a variety of tee box choices. After playing the whites on the front nine our group decided to tempt fate by skipping the blues and moving all the way back to the black tees with their course rating of 4.4 strokes over par! Devilish difficulty, likely only matched by the Gozzer Ranch and Black Rock courses in the region.
Asked about his favorite holes, GM Jeff picked holes four and six as his signature favorites. Hole six has a beautiful view of the Silver Valley from the elevated tees and as a par 4 plays a ridiculous 522 yards from the blacks, though with a significant elevation drop and roll. Jeff shared the tip that aiming for the “speed slot” found in the middle of the fairway can add even more distant to your drive. In fact, he shared that the first year before the grass was mature one lucky gentleman actually rolled in a hole-in-one on the par 4 featuring the 200 foot elevation drop! I just missed my personal miracle of the day when a birdie attempt on hole six rolled across the lip. But alas, the fates had turned against me and I fared no better than bogey on any other hole from the demanding black tees, not quite cracking 90 for the day. There’s a first time for everything in life, and today was my day to be taken behind the woodshed for a lickin’ …by a couple of parsons.
A couple further high-points of the Galena experience for our group were experiencing the tricky, undulating greens, as well as the awe-inspiring par 3 holes with their 70-foot drop-offs. The challenge of attempting to guess the proper club, followed by watching the steep descent of the ball falling towards the distant green far down below was a thrill. Superintendent Geoff summed up the challenge of mowing and irrigating turf on steep slopes with the trade off being “the incredible vistas” of the wilderness environment of the Silver Valley. Indeed, Galena Ridge being removed from any metro area, it can feel at times as if you have the peace and beauty of the entire mountain course completely to yourself.
Golfers at Galena Ridge can expect to pay $57 for 18 holes, and 18-hole Twilight rates (after 3pm) are just $33 with a cart, and juniors play Twilight for free. Whether you can plan your visit during the last few days of this season be sure to at least mark Galena Ridge on your checklist for next golf season.
One guest left a Google review that summed up well our own experience, “the best mountain course I ever played…very challenging and the views were great!” Agreed – we are looking forward to experiencing the mystique of Galena Ridge again next season.
Darin Patzer, NW Golf Trekker
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