There is a new top dawg at Circling Raven Golf Course in Worley, Idaho.
Introducing, Christopher Runyan, PGA, Circling Raven’s new Director of Golf.
Runyan, a U.S. Marine Veteran and life-long Palouse native, joins the golf club with a fist full of prestigious awards himself. He believes that each season offers the opportunity to build upon the previous one. Given the awards and accolades they have both won, he and the Course are setting the bar high.
“Having lived and worked in the region for many years I have always admired Circling Raven – its vast, beautiful setting and Gene Bates’ ingenious course design,” said Christopher Runyan, PGA, Circling Raven’s new, award-winning Director of Golf. “The course has been the stage for many top competitive events – from the state amateur to the Circling Raven Championship, an Epson ‘Road to the LPGA’ Tour event – and it has never failed to garner lavish praise from the players for its routing, conditions, and beauty.”
Christoper has won some very prestigious awards to include:
2021 Golf Digest “Best in State” Golf Coach
2020 PGA of America, National Patriot Award Recipient
2019, 2018, 2013-16 Pacific NW PGA Section Patriot Award Recipient
2019 Golf Digest “Best in State” Golf Coach
Typically, northern tier golf courses slow down or shut down during the long Winter season, not so at Idaho’s Circling Raven Golf Course. They stepped it up big time with a new Director of Golf, new course awards and even a new $225,000 purse for the Epson, “Road to the LPGA Tour” event held annually on or about August 21-27. . . (Formally the Symetra Tour)
Circling Raven opened to the public in 2003 and since then they have garnered the acclaim of both the media and the golfing public with multiple top awards such as:
Best Casino Course in America
Top 100 U.S. Resort Course
#1 Public Course In Idaho – Golf Digest & Golfweek
2X PGA Merchandiser of the Year – Resort Category
And now, 20 years later, it has garnered the #1 Public Course In Idaho Award, for 2022-2023 by GolfPass’s – Golfers’ Choice Awards.
There have been lots of changes to the golf facility, hotel and casino over the years. Plus a list of awards for the original Gene Bates’ golf course design keeps growing. However, one thing that has NOT changed one bit is the course design itself. After these past 20 years, the original design has stood the test of time and the scrutiny of multiple course reviewers, critics, public and pro golfers.
Two reasons for this longevity . . . Gene’s marvelous and meticulous design over a tremendous variety of topography and #2, the amount of land the course is routed on. Typically, a par 72 course is built on 120-200 acres. In fact, the famed Old Course at St. Andrews is built on just 92 acres.
Gene’s Circling Raven design traverses a whopping 620 acres as per the specific request of the tribal leaders. The solitude of each hole, and incredible views that encompass mountains, forests, wetlands and the open grasslands of the Palouse Region are incredible. Add to this the unbelievable and diverse wildlife that includes; elk, deer, moose, bears, wild turkeys and soaring eagles, just to name a few. Without a peer, this is one of the most unique and open designs in the world of golf.
Owned and operated by the Coeur d’Alene Tribe, Circling Raven Golf Course is located in Worley, Idaho which is in the panhandle area just southeast of Spokane, WA. For flyers, Spokane’s Geiger Field is the best airport to fly into and is just under an hour’s drive away from the resort.
Visitors are also enamored by the beautiful hotel which touts a rustic vibe, multiple restaurants & bars, spa services, an exciting casino and a plethora of top quality entertainment and events. See https://www.cdacasino.com/ for more information on this incredible get-a-way golf destination.
Article & Golf Images by: John R. Johnson – J2Golf.com
Since its grand opening in September of 2011, the Gene Bates designed Salish Cliffs Golf Club has garnered the adoration and awards from every major golf ranking organization. From Golf Digest to GolfWeek and GolfAdvisor to local television’s, Evening Magazine, you will find Salish Cliffs Golf Club in print and film.
To name a few of our favorites . . .
Top 100 Public and Top 100 Resort Courses in the Nation
Top 10 Casino Courses in the Nation
Best Courses You Can Play – Washington
The #1 Ranked Course in Washington State
In addition, not only has the facility been ranked #1 in Course Amenities, it is also the #1 ranked Golf Shop in the State. One of our favorite and most unique awards, happened in 2012 when the golf course was certified as the world’s first “Salmon-Safe” golf course. A real testament to the ecological minded Tribal course’s treatment of the land and its resources.
The last eleven years have been a true climb to greatness. It reflects a total team effort by all parties involved. On the agronomy side, one of the brightest stars is the long-standing course superintendent, Robert (Bob) Pearsall. His tenure started with the course grow-in at the end of construction. His meticulous care in preparing for the opening and continued tutelage is responsible for the award-winning immaculate condition of the course today. Another advantage of having Bob on site, is that is a home-grown local, which gives him a lifetime of understanding the unique weather conditions of the Southern Puget Sound region.
However, to stay on top, you can never rest and be happy with status quo. So in 2022-2023 the course will undergo a two-year minor facelift with several new projects slated to keep Salish Cliffs Golf Club at the top of the ratings mountain.
So often in the world of Golf Architecture, a renovation goes to a low-bid new face or an industry brand name. In this case, they did go with a prominent industry brand – Gene Bates, the very same person who propelled the course to the original media awards and accolades. Why rock the boat of overwhelming success?
So trusted is Gene and his team, they are also slated for several master planning improvements for the entire facility. A show of respect of Gene’s vision for the entire facility.
Planned Golf Improvements
Bunkers – Over time all bunkers wear down, especially in a location that averages 90 inches of rainfall a year and had a one day total last year of 7.4” plus a monthly average of 9.2”. Gene will go with the Better Billy Bunker liner to help hold the sand and will stylistically change the bunker shapes and edges for a new look course wide.
Tees – The course is well used by a wide variety of players with strong fluctuations between ability, age groups and sexes. So not only will some renovations of the current tee locations be helpful, Gene will also add multiple forward tees to make the course more playable for all.
Bridges – They too can age with time, especially in a rain-heavy environment such as Salish Cliffs near Shelton, Washington. The new bridges will have a specific style to match the building architecture and look of the course.
Tree Thinning – More than most locations, eleven years in the Pacific Northwest will produce tremendous tree growth. It can quickly change the playability of a course and continued maintenance with tree growth planning must be constantly considered.
Irrigation Ponds – Even in a high rain environment, irrigation is a premier asset. The course drains well, so additional irrigation ponds not only aid in controlling drain runoff, but also utilizes that runoff to maintain daily peak course conditions.
Practice Area Improvements – The course has created a real increase in play and new players. To develop long-term players, a course needs to help them improve their game skills. Not only will Gene’s upgrades improve the practice areas and driving range, as you will see below in the site master plan improvements, the driving range renovations might provide event opportunities as well.
Site Revenue Improvements
As a Tribal Casino location, the site is loaded with amenities and potential for additional revenue streams. They are already blessed with a hotel, dining, spa, RV spaces, conference and gaming. The master plan looks to expand those amenities with the following improvements.
Bungalows & Cabins – Private cabins are about as Northwest as it comes. The creation of stay and play opportunities right on course is a perfect pairing and expands the hotel room night capability. Sighting and locating them is part of Gene’s master plan visions. Who knows, perhaps one of the new nearby irrigation ponds might be stocked with trout for an added thrill for all ages.
Driving Range Amphitheater – An additional use for the range may be a venue for weddings and special events. Close to everything and a good scheduled use of open space.
Expanded Clubhouse – To mirror the outdoor event expansion capacity, having an improved clubhouse capability will help draw event organizers to choose the Club and Casino in future years.
It appears that the near future 2022-2023 renovations are going to make as much of a visual, playability and revenue impact as the original course for this growing and vibrant Pacific Northwest location.
For more information on this project or to inquire about your next grand idea, contact Gene Bates directly at the “Quick Contact” information listed below.
The Bates Golf Group thinks Course Rankings are a big deal, some don’t, but Gene Bates does. Awards represent all the hard work so many have put in to be a shining dot on state map and bright spot in their community.
Every year the rankers go out and evaluate courses on a 10 point criteria that encompasses many different aspects from layout, conditions, aesthetics, service and many more including, believe it or not . . . fun! Multiple rankers give it a score and then those scores are averaged to a final list per state.
While we are personally proud of the awards, as you can see it is truly a team effort. Without excellence in the construction, agronomy and maintenance, excellence in design does not look so excellent.
In addition, courses are also judged on service, staffing, clubhouse and how a person ‘feels’ or is treated while playing a course. Again, more team members and outstanding leadership is what determines overall awards.
To add to the award mix, there are many award bodies and types of awards. Take for example the awards at just one of our projects in the state of Washington. A Tribal Course that has really made the spot light . . .
Salish Cliffs Golf Club Awards
Golfweek – National Awards
Best New Course #8 2011
Top 50 Casino Courses #6 to #10 2012 – 2020
Top 100 Resort Courses #39 to #66 2013 – 2020
Best in Washington State # 3 & #4 2012 – 2021
Golf Digest Awards
Best in Washington State #8 & #10 2019 – 2020
Cascade Golf Magazine
Pacific Northwest #4 & #5 2013 – 2019
Top Ten Public Course
Golf Advisor Washington
People’s Choice Award #1 2020
Washington PGA Chapter
Resort Merchandiser #1 2012 & 2020
of the Year
As you can see – Awards are really a team effort from every aspect of a golf course facility.
The Golfweek 2021 state by State Rankings
Below is a list of the recently released Public Course Rankings for 2021. The Bates Golf Group designed SEVEN of their award winners. Four in the Top Ten in Utah alone . . . and that is a big deal.
Golfweek’s Best Public Courses – 2021 – Designed by Gene Bates
With this list of Golfweek’s Best Courses You Can Play, they present the best public-access courses in each state, as judged by their nationwide network of raters.
Ranking KEY: (m) modern, built in 1960 or after; (c) classic, built before 1960. For courses with a number preceding the (m) or (c), that is where the course ranks on Golfweek’s Best lists for top 200 modern and classic courses in the U.S.. * Indicates new or returning to the rankings.
It is not a coincidence that course architect Gene Bates is the master-mind of this outstanding Par 72, 6,807 yard championship tract. Year after year, the players themselves vote the Broken Sound’s greens as the #1 Greens found on the Senior Tour. The award is both a compliment to the green’s design and the outstanding agronomy by Shannon Easter, the Director of Golf Maintenance for Broken Sound.
You will find that the Gene Bates Golf Group designs are well represented at every major tour: PGA, LPGA, Senior, plus PGA of America, the USGA Championships and major tour events worldwide. Gene is also the designer for the lesser but very important tours such as the Korn Ferry tour and Symetra tour for up and coming men’s and women’s players in the world of golf.
It’s November in Boca Raton Florida, temperatures are in the upper 70’s, humidity is around 50 with a slight breeze.
It’s no wonder that the PGA Senior Tour has selected this time and this place, to start their season and host their TimberTech Boca Raton Championship. The tournament has been hosted here at The Old Course at Broken Sound for 15 consecutive years and is part of the Charles Schwab Cup playoff series.
The start of the Senior Tour season, plus the importance of the Charles Schwab points bring an annual star-studded line-up to the TimberTech tournament. World players, legends and greats such as Bernhard Langer, Mark Calcavecchia, Nick Price, Jim Furyk, Angel Jimenez, Ernie Els, K.J. Choi, Lee Janzen, Tim Lehman, Colin Montgomerie, Vijay Singh and Hale Irwin are in the field for this premier event.
“He doesn’t really seem to have any weaknesses. It’s bitter-sweet to lose this one, but I told him on the 18th green, I was really happy for him.”
– Jim Furyk
This year, against all odds . . . First year player, and New Zealander, Steven Alker outdueled Jim Furyk down the stretch to win his first ever Senior Tour event by two strokes with a -17 finish over both Furyk and past Masters Champion, Angel Jimenez, both at -15 under. Ernie Els was fourth with a -12 under score. For his efforts, Alker tied last year’s winner Darren Clark with a total score of 199 and he pocketed $305,000 of the 2 million dollar purse for his final round of 68. Not bad for a rookie on tour, but it was his EIGHTH top-10 finish in the last NINE starts. The victory was his first tournament win at any level for the past seven years. It seems that this may not be the last we hear of Mr. Alker and congrats to his hard fought and well played victory.
Gene Bates, led the phenomenal redesign of Joe Lee’s original layout. Gene completely remodeled the Old Course from the ground up, everything was new, including rerouting the entire course and adding over 10 acres of ponds, wetlands and drainage.
Gene Bates’ vision for the Old Course encompasses much more water, drainage and retention than before. He reworked a significant number of golf holes to make them more playable and added a unique “look” which will be found at no other South Florida venue. More of a “Sandhills” feel, similar to the Pinehurst area of North Carolina.
Gene’s forethought to overall drainage, ponds and retention came to the forefront some 15 years later as 5.3” of rain fell on the course on Friday of this year’s TimberTech tournament. This prompted the cancellation of Friday’s play and 36 holes of golf to be played on the saturated course on Saturday.
Once again, it was Shannon Easter and his 52 man crew to the rescue! Starting at 2:30 in the morning with lights, pumps and rakes they removed standing water, reconditioned the bunkers, squeegeed and double-rolled greens to have the course in amazing playing shape at 7:45 am for a double tee 1 and 10 tee time for the field to play 36 holes. The players were amazed at both the course being able to withstand such a deluge and the incredible job of the greens crew to allow the course to be playable the next morning.
Phenomenal, is not unusual for this outstanding facility, both on course and in the clubhouse. The Broken Sound Club was developed by the Arvida Corporation in the 70s. Mr. John Crean, CCM, General Manager & COO, leads a team effort to improve the environmental effects and reducing the Club’s carbon-footprint, while at the same time continuing to meet the mission statement of promoting the club’s excellence and top-notch services.
Broken Sound was only the second golf facility in the U.S. and 14th in the world to be GEO certified. They are the sustainability assurance of the international non-profit Golf Environment Organization. Broken Sound has also received Audubon Sanctuary Certification for both of their courses by using reclaimed water for the irrigation of the course and common areas, creating wildlife sanctuary areas around all the water features, they also established the first industrial golf course composting project in Florida, oversaw installation of 22 beehives for pollination, and the introduction of fifteen bat houses as a natural method of insect control. They are accredited by the Florida Environmental Protection Agency and were was selected as the Overall and National Private recipient of the Environmental Leaders in Golf Awards (ELGA). Broken Sound Club ranked as the only Florida or Southeastern U.S. based ELGA winner at the national or international leader level.
In addition to the TimberTech Senior Tour tournament and outstanding Gene Bates designed golf course, they have a lot to be proud of at the Broken Sound Golf Club.
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WORLEY, IDAHO – Golf Architect Gene Bates seems to have a thing with building championship calibre golf courses that all the major and minor tours just can’t seem to resist . . . This past August he added yet another tour tournament to his impressive list of tour events hosted at one of his designs.
The Symetra Tour – The LPGA qualifying tour which is the same as the Korn Ferry tour for the PGA – was hosted at the Native American owned and managed, Circling Raven Golf Club in Worley, Idaho.
This added to his impressive list of tour events held at Gene Bates designed courses such as the; PGA Tour, Senior PGA Tour, LPGA Legends Tour, Buy.Com Tour, Nationwide Tour, PGA of America’s National Championship and the USGA Public Links Championship. Outstanding.
More Than Just The USA . . .
The Gene Bates designed the Serapong Golf Course at the Sentosa Golf Club in Singapore. It hosts the SMBC Singapore Open, an Asian Tour event since 2005. In 2020, the event was won by the USA’s PGA tour player Matt Kuchar, edging out European Tour’s Justin Rose by 3 strokes. The tournament was canceled in 2021 because of COVID but is scheduled to return to Sentosa Golf Club in 2022. In addition, the course was voted “Best Golf Course On Tour” by the Asian Tour members.
Beating fierce competition from a number of other famous golf clubs around the world, the Sentosa Golf Club and Serapong Golf course was crowned the “World’s Best Golf Club” in 2019-2020 in worldwide competition.
The club has had an unprecedented amount of success recently, hosting no fewer than six globally televised golf events in past two years – two SMBC Singapore Open’s, two HSBC Women’s World Championships, along with the Men’s Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship and Women’s Amateur Asia Pacific Championship. This is an achievement unmatched by any other golf club in the world.
The ‘World’s Best Golf Club’ award, presented in Dubai, was judged by an internal panel of worldwide golf and club experts who considered a broad spectrum of factors that combine to create a club of outstanding excellence.
The Circling Raven Course
In 2003, the Gene Bates designed Circling Raven Golf Club in Worley Idaho, stormed onto the golf scene as one of the top Tribal courses in the USA as well as receiving high accolades as one of the best overall golf courses in the entire Pacific Northwest . . . an honor they still maintain nearly 20 years later here in 2021.
Circling Raven was again voted as the #1 Golf Course in Idaho by Golfweek Magazine, The course is nestled among 620 acres of wetlands, woodlands and Palouse grass lands. This is typically THREE times the amount of land usually allocated to a course design. In this case, the Tribe wanted to honor and protect their ancestral lands and directed Gene to use the entire acreage and encompass the entire parcel.
The 18 hole, 7,189 yard course will have you admiring the aesthetics almost as much as the play itself, as the course is set against the nearby mountains, foothills and rolling terrain. It is spectacular.
About the Event . . .
The Symetra Tour event was a real community undertaking with hundreds of volunteers, local sponsors and fans all helping to cheer on and support the 132 players from 40 different states and 14 countries to compete in this unique women’s tour event.
The community opened their arms and hearts to these wonderful players giving them a glimpse of the Northwest Indian culture with several Native events that included ceremonial dancing and traditional food.
Some of the host sponsor comments are below . . .
Laura Penney – Resort and Club CEO – The Coeur d’Alene Tribe chose to host the championship because it helps empower women, girls, and Native Americans through the game, which was a mandate that our Tribe set when we decided to build Circling Raven Golf Club. We’re honored to host you, our guests and spectators, and to partner with our sponsors through the Symetra Tour. We are certain that Circling Raven will live up to its reputation as one of the finest golf courses in the United States, and we are thrilled to see these incredibly talented young women take it on.
Chief James Allan – Chairman, Coeur d’Alene Tribe – When the Tribe determined to build Circling Raven, it mandated that our enterprises and activities empower our people and those with whom we partner. The Circling Raven Championship perfectly encapsulates this mission. It aligns with our constant efforts to provide meaningful opportunities for women, minorities, youth and Native Americans. That we can do so through the great game of golf and simultaneously illuminate all that is great about the region, the people, our sponsors, and the players, is an ideal confluence of positivity and proactiveness.
The 2021 Circling Raven Championship is proud to be a Symetra “Road to the LPGA” Tour event. Together we are showcasing a plethora of wonderful things. These include the rising-star professional women players, the selfless volunteers, the supportive sponsors, and of course the spectators.
Winner’s Circle – Chien Wins Her Third Symetra Tour Title
Peiyun Chien (Pingtung, Chinese Taipei) came into the Circling Raven Championship on the heels of three consecutive missed cuts. With a last-minute putter change, she carded 19 birdies and three bogeys over three days to finish -16, good enough for a one-shot victory over Demi Runas. It was Chien’s third career win on the Symetra Tour.
“I think the course conditions were really good and everyone played very well. You need to putt very well here and make more birdies to win a tournament,” said Chien. “I wasn’t playing very well this year so this win gives me a lot of confidence to fight until the end.”
On a more local note, Native American golfer and Idaho’s own Gabby Lemieux of nearby Caldwell, Idaho finished tied for third – just two strokes off the tournament champion. This was her career best finish bettering her T8 finish at the 2021 Garden City Charity Classic. Way to go Gabby – You made us all proud!