Gozzer Ranch Golf and Lake Club
Idaho, United States of America

Tenth hole, 515 yards; The author has a bias toward uphill holes as hillsides invariably make for the perfect canvas upon which to carve bunkers. Fazio nicely availed himself of such an opportunity on this 1/2 par hole. A good drive crests one hill and affords the golfer the opportunity to reach the green in two.

Short grass is maintained well to the right on the high side of the green so that a running draw has a real chance of chasing up the hill and tumbling onto the putting surface. The tawny fairway speaks well of the climate and high quality green keeping.

Eleventh hole, 415 yards; Variety is an underpinning to great golf and it comes in all forms. Ten and eleven at Gozzer highlight getting the mix right. The uphill tenth green with trees behind is followed by the downhill approach to the eleventh with an uninterrupted 3 mile view to the top of Coeur D’Alene Mountain. This constant variation happens throughout the round though the golfer may be blissfully unaware of these seamless occurrences.

There isn’t a male or female golfer alive of any age who would tire of hitting this approach. The backdrop is exquisite and the golf is too!

Watching one’s approach land short of the green and slowly track across the green toward the hole is mesmerizing. A slight knob in front of the green complicates matters.

 

Twelfth hole, 315 yards; Every golfer loves an option laden hole, especially one that plays downhill so that a) all available routes to the golfer are highlighted b) he can make the best decision based on the day’s hole location c) he’s emboldened to making a big free swing along the more aggressive path and d) the dramatic results are witnessed from the tee. The key for such a hole to play well over time is that it not favor one playing style over the other. This hole succeeds admirably on that count. The golfer who plays prudently off the tee but possesses a nifty wedge game can fend off the gorilla bomber. A pronounced high left bank along the green serves as a perfect backboard for the golfer who plays safely to the right. Meanwhile, the bomber who comes up just short along the left route faces a ticklish wedge from tight turf to the raised green.

Every golfer’s eyes bulge with anticipation at the prospect of launching a far and true drive. The thinner air found at this elevation of 2450 feet elevation nurtures that greed as the downhill drive enjoys an extra 15 yards of carry. The wistful effort at pulling off (finally!) a heroic drive that can reach the putting surface produces all kinds of scores, from eagles to ‘never mind’.

A pitch from the high, right side of the fairway is not an unwelcome proposition.

A pitch from the high, right side of the fairway is not an unwelcome proposition.

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The view from behind shows the two distinct routes.

 

Fifteenth hole, 405 yards; The name Pacific Northwest conjures up images of vast, unexplored land. A golf course not to the scale of its environs is always a mistake; here, it would have been a tragedy. Happily, that never occurs though it would have been easy. On this hole, a 110 yard wide playing corridor was established in the landing area. The golfer stands on the tee and soaks in the distant mountains and lake. The 58 yard long bunker along the right of the fairway is one of the longest on the course and the 8,450 square feet green is the largest on the course. Everything is in proportion, capped off with the clean lines behind the infinity green.

As seen from two hundred yards out, everything is on a grand scale. Cue the deer on the right in this morning photograph …

… for his a.m. exercise!

Having the guts to chase after a back hole location and pulling it off creates an indelible moment. The artful infinity green adds to the suspense.

 

Sixteenth hole, 495 yards; Several members walk the course but there are a couple of abrupt descents/ascents that make the golf cart man’s friend. The descent at the third tee followed by the rise to the fifth and the drop into the sixteenth fairway followed by the steep climb to the seventeenth tee are the most prominent. You have seen the photo of the third and below is the view from the sixteenth tee. In the author’s mind, both of these one-off, dramatic holes along the lake had to be built. A prime draw for members is the chance to see and play something that they cannot find at home (or anywhere else for that matter). Holes like this deliver on that score.

What architect wouldn't elect to build such a hole?! The sixteenth is both ludicrously gorgeous and strategic with the golfer desirous of getting home in two on this dogleg right needing to slot his drive just right of the central hazard.

What architect wouldn’t elect to build such a hole?! The sixteenth is both ludicrously gorgeous and strategic with the golfer desirous of getting home in two on this dogleg right needing to slot his drive just right of the central hazard.


Seventeenth hole, 170 yards;
Played along the rim of a cliff with mind blowing vistas, this hole was easy to spot in the routing process. The key was to create high quality golf. Thanks to the bold green contours which swing balls left, many a golfer delights in watching his ball slowly but inevitably track from the right middle of the green toward the frequently used lower left hole locations (see photo).

Though it can be hard to focus on the golf, the hole enjoys some Redan like playing characteristics.

Suffice to say, the texture of the course is superb and greatly adds to the enjoyment of one’s round.

Eighteenth hole, 420 yards; The elevated barn clubhouse with its open fire pits and long views surely portends the prototypical uphill finisher. Wrong! The course gets the finish it deserves with a distinctive closer along the bluff. Once again, ground contours are present to aid the thinking golfer, both on the tee ball and approach.

For those that try to stereotype Fazio as never building uphill, blind tee shots, they haven’t played Gozzer Ranch.

Any tee ball with a whiff of draw takes the contour above and finishes the golfer in the low flat section of the fairway from where a level stance is afforded.

Any tee ball with a whiff of draw takes the contour above and finishes the golfer in the low flat section of the fairway from where a level stance is afforded.

As seen 40 yards shy of the Home green, the play is to utilize the right to left slope of the firm fairway and feed the ball onto the putting surface. The seventy foot bluff looming to the left provides impetus for the golfer to use the land wisely.

 

Central to forming an opinion on the merits of a course is to understand/gauge its worst holes. After going round the course, the author asked three regulars for their least favorite hole. No immediate response was forthcoming and no consensus was achieved. The most interesting response was the 155 yard fourteenth. When asked why, that person said ‘I feel like I have seen it before.’ Fair enough, but it speaks volumes for the other holes. The fourteenth green is a rare one on the second nine to feed balls left to right so it surely has a place in balancing the shots asked of each golfer.

Hard to believe this may be the worst hole.

Hard to believe this may be the worst hole.

Tom Fazio, the man who fabricated Shadow Creek from a barren desert, once remarked that money was the one key ingredient to great golf. The author disagrees and places the site’s natural attributes as the most important element. As seen at Gozzer Ranch, these two perspectives on great architecture merge into one. Mother Nature provided a splendid canvas complete with an ideal climate for growing grass. Sandy loam was the sole missing ingredient. Crucially, man brought it in, remedied the situation and created the optimal ground game playing characteristics. Fazio’s routing loops the player around the land, providing a variety of scenic moments. Man’s desire to experience a strong connection with nature is satiated, all while playing great golf. More examples of man employing 21st century construction and greenkeeping techniques to enhance nature will undoubtedly arise but it is hard to imagine a more magical place than here where the Northwest’s dazzling beauty is thrown so vividly into the mix.

Add in the lake house, the crystal clean air and a temperate climate from May to end of October, and you have a retreat of the highest order. John Gozzer would be proud of the rustic result and how people now travel far and wide to enjoy his land. He appreciated as well as anyone: if you are here, life is good.

The Gozzer clubhouse complete with open fire pits.

The Gozzer clubhouse complete with open fire pits.

The End