Occupying a spectacular site on the banks of the Snake River, Francis L James laid out Blue Lakes Country Club in 1948. It’s rare to find a par three rated the toughest on the card but that’s the case here with the 199-yard signature 6th, which drops 200 feet from tee to green.
The signature 6th hole earns most of the plaudits here but the 175-yard 15th also deserves a strong mention. Played downhill across Alpheau Creek, the tee shot must carry a series of little waterfalls on route to a shallow green that’s difficult to hit and hold.
Other holes of note include the 520-yard 2nd (where Bass Lake comes into play off the tee), the 405-yard 4th (doglegging left and slightly uphill to a long, narrow green), and the uphill 285-yard 11th, which features a rather unique, multi-tiered green.
Blue Lakes is one of the most stunning golf courses I have ever played. The adventure began as I approached the course and began to make my way down into the canyon where the course is located - driving down the switchbacks on a road that is so narrow in some parts it requires a traffic light to make sure cars traveling in opposing directions do not have to pass. During this dangerous decent to the course, I tried quickly to catch a few quick glimpses of the course that lies at the bottom of a canyon adjacent to the Snake River without driving into the road-side barricades that I assume are there to prevent those who stare too long from taking a deadly shortcut.
After safely reaching the parking lot and checking in, the true adventure began. Holes 1 and 2 are good, but from the 3rd hole on, it was like trip down the “Rabbit Hole”. Every hole offered a new adventure in “Wonderderland”, which included huge elevation changes, brilliantly framed tee shots, cliffside backdrops, riverside fairways, running streams, postage stamp par 3s, blind tee-shots, blind approach shots and uniquely designed green complexes that have to be seen to be believed.
My trip down the rabbit hole reached a crescendo when I arrived at the 13th tee. This long par 4 makes its way deep into a canyon with towering cliffs on all sides. I then played my way back out of the canyon on the par 14th and it’s all followed up at the 15th, which is not the first, but the second par 3 hole on the course with an over 150-foot drop from tee to green. I should also mention that these two par 3s with the huge drops where not nearly as intriguing as the par-3 12th, where a tee-shot from the back tee must be played directly over any patrons that may be seated on the dock-side patio, which includes protective netting to snare any low liners, at a halfway-house which juts out into the water hazard that lies between the tee and green.
Blue Lakes does not play near or around an abundance of beautiful blue water hazards, as the name might imply. Other than the water hazard to the right of the 1st hole, there is not another lake on the course. The course name actually came to be from the history of the land on which the courses was constructed. In 1884, I.B. Perrine claimed for his ranch a large area in the Snake River Canyon, including a box canyon with two crystal-clear lakes that collected spring water directly from an aquifer. He named his ranch “Blue Lakes” in honor of his cows’ new watering holes. The lake adjacent to #1 called Bass Lake and is one of those two lakes. I was unable to confirm from any of the members whether there was truly any good bass fishing in this lake. The second lake is located in the box canyon area of the property that encompasses the 13th and 14th holes that I described earlier. This lake is called Blue Lake and can be seen to the left and below the 14th fairway, but is so far left that it really does not come into play.