2010 West Waikiki Road,
Washington (WA) 99218,
- +1 509 466 9813
7 miles N of downtown Spokane
Contact in advance
Robert Johnstone, Jim Barnes, Robert Muir Graves
Spokane Country Club was formed in 1898 in the South Hill district of Spokane where golfers played over a rudimentary 9-hole course. The club moved to its current location along the banks of Little Spokane River in 1910 to enjoy an 18-hole course designed by an emigrant Scotsman from North Berwick, Robert Johnstone, who was the professional at Seattle Golf Club.
Cornishman and four-time major champion, “Long” Jim Barnes, assisted Johnstone with Spokane’s original design and thirty-six years later, the club was chosen to host the first U.S. Women’s Open championship, won by Patty Berg, the only event ever contested as match play.
Robert Muir Graves conducted a course remodel in 1988, but the par 72 layout that’s in play today at the foothills of Rattlesnake Ridge is largely the one that was laid out by an Englishman and a Scotsman more than one hundred years ago.
In late 2015, the Kalispel Tribe of Indians purchased Spokane Country Club and changed the club’s name to Kalispel Golf and Country Club – a poignant commemoration to the people of the Northwest Plateau.
On a recent golf and fly fishing vacation to Montana and Idaho finding welcoming golf courses in the age of corona virus proved difficult. Most of my desired golf courses have a 'no outside play' policy in place until the pandemic is over. In my search, I came across Kalispel Golf & Country Club. A reading of its history brought me back to my childhood.
In 1946 Kalispel Golf & Country was called Spokane Country Club, the course where Patti Berg won the first Woman's US Open Championship. Patti Berg's teacher and coach was Les Bolstad. Both Berg and Bolstad are legends in Minnesota golf where coincidentally I learned golf as a caddie at Hazeltine National and where Mr. Bolstad was an honorary member. As a good junior golfer I was lucky enough to play with Mr. Bolstad a few times.
Because of that connection I contacted the club and my spouse and I were granted permission to play.
The most refreshing thing about playing Kalispel is that the course is much the same as it has always been. Too often I have seen older golf courses remodeled with the addition of artificial mounding and over bunkered, over undulated greens.
Kalispel gets high marks for shot value. Maybe too short for the young modern golfer, my 250-260 yard driver fit the course just right. Three long par threes tested my longest irons and five wood. I needed every club in my bag to play Kalispel and that is always a sign of a good course.
The course is laid out on the side of Rattlesnake Ridge and the par fours and fives use the slope to great affect. There's enough elevation change to make club selection a test and a good balance of side hill left to right, right to left, up hill, and down hill.
Putting is a wonderful challenge at Kalispel. Knowing where the Spokane River is must be factored into every putt. Every downhill putt can get away and leave you with a tester coming back.
The traditional straight forward nature to Kalispel Golf takes a different and interesting twist when you get to the sixteenth tee. Almost like a different course, the drive on this par five is a massive down hill shot. From the back two tees the shot is blind which was a disappointment for me because the view from the forward tees is something to see. The hole then doglegs to the right for another blind shot that falls downhill and to the left. The third shot wedge into the green requires all your golfing skill.
Seventeen is also a hole out of character with the rest of the course. The par three of 193 yards is down hill with water guarding the left side of the green. The correct club and carry to the green are a must.
Tee shots of special note and challenge are plentiful on what was Spokane Country Club. The drive on the dogleg left second must almost kiss the trees that bank the Spokane River to set up the best short iron shot into the green. A fade off the twelfth tee is needed to hold the right to left sloping fairway. Threading a needle is the only way to describe finding the landing area on the par four fourteenth. Any temptation to bomb away on the short eighteenth should be held in check. Choosing the club that gets you to the 100 yard marker should result in a good chance to birdie the last.
Eastern Washington State has few great golfing options. With that said, Kalispel Golf and Country Club is worth a visit. If for no other reason than to walk in the footsteps of Patti Berg.