The mark of an excellent golf course is its ability to challenge both championship golfers and weekend players on their shot-making ability with every club in the bag. The mark of an excellent golf destination is to offer such courses in abundance. Spokane and the surrounding county’s public courses do just that, and they do it amidst stunning scenery and every amenity the modern golfer could ask for.
 
If you’re staying is Spokane proper, just a long-drive champion’s tee shot from downtown are Downriver Golf Course and Esmeralda. Both courses draw locals and visitors alike and are known for conditions that are unintimidating to the novice golfer—wide, flat fairways and short tee-to-green distances—but with enough trees, dog-legs, and hazards to test the best to see if they can truly “go low.” 
 
Great places to fit in a quick round between trips to Spokane’s other attractions, Downriver and Esmeralda are both courses whose roots are inseparable from the history of Spokane and of golf.  Downriver, established in 1916 and opened in 1920 just in time for the Roaring 1920’s golf boom, sits along the Spokane River and Riverside State Park. Later in 1956, Esmeralda was built in northwest Spokane  and soon became the home of the Spokane Women’s Open on the LPGA Tour from 1959-63.  Both courses continue to draw both locals and visitors alike for friendly rounds and tournament play. 
 Indian Canyon Golf Course green view
Indian Canyon, ranked by Golf Digest as a Top 25 Public Course, has the most impressive pedigree of any public golf course in Washington. U.S. Amateur Champion, Olympic golf gold medalist, and renowned course architect H. Chandler Egan designed Indian Canyon in 1930 and it has played host to numerous USGA championship events since. Many of Egan’s other courses in the Pacific Northwest—in Seattle, Everett, Portland, and Eugene—remain in the hands of private clubs, so a round at Indian Canyon offers the chance to experience a championship Egan layout easily and affordably.
 
Both low- and high-handicappers will be pleased with the course. The grand old man of golf journalism, Herbert Warren Wind—who coined the phrase “Amen Corner”—noted in 1948 that Egan, as a player, had been “extremely long but extremely erratic off the tees.” Perhaps with this in mind, Egan’s fairways at Indian Canyon are occasionally generous, but with smaller-than-average greens to compensate. Bombers still need to bring their sharp iron play to make birdies.
 The Creek at Qualchan wide of golfer
While all the courses above are within a short drive of downtown and each other, golfers looking to double their fun would do well to consider The Creek at Qualchan and Hangman Valley for a thirty-six hole weekend—or, for the truly committed, a pair of morning and afternoon rounds. Located less than twenty minutes drive from each other and both situated on winding Latah Creek, the courses are kissing cousins that take advantage of their proximity to wilderness and water to offer stunning views and an unrivaled golf experience.  
 
The first hole at The Creek at Qualchan is a good case in point: with a tee box that stands tall over the surrounding valley (and well-bunkered fairway) below, this is a course whose beauty (and challenges) announce themselves before the first ball-strike. While both courses prominently feature water, Hangman Valley is especially well-suited for players looking for wide, forgiving fairways and an opportunity to practice shots around—but hopefully not in!—the water on a practice range that abuts the creek, while the combination of wildlife and well-manicured greens at The Creek at Qualchan is unparalleled.
 
Out near Liberty Lake, an easy 18 mile jaunt east of downtown Spokane, play a round or two at MeadowWood. This course opened in 1988, and Golf Digest heralded it as “One of the Top Ten Best Public Golf Courses” in Washington in 1996. MeadowWood features the links-style layout that course architect Robert Muir Graves was best known for. That design, including fairways pinched around water features and smaller bunkers dotting the fairway and low-lying areas, emphasizes the natural beauty of the course’s setting and offers vistas that other area courses can’t match.
 
While you’re there, also consider Liberty Lake Golf Course, whose greens are deceptively large, but well-protected by white sand bunkers. The long-hitter who tries to reach the green in two on a par-5 or the golfer who gets too aggressive with an approach shot to a difficult pin location might find themselves taking a trip to the beach. At just over 6,600 yards from the tips, Liberty Lake offers challenging play that rewards patience and well-placed shots.
 
Luckily, the newly-renovated facility offers a stunning practice area to hone the right skills, and an expansive clubhouse and restaurant where players can share a drink, a bite, and maybe a few tall tales if those skills (and putts) come up short.
 Esmeralda Golf Course with golfer
By any measure, the golfer looking for exciting courses and competitive greens fees can do no better than Spokane as a destination. Spokane’s public courses are superbly maintained, well-paced, and meet the great Ben Crenshaw’s mark of an outstanding course: that it “makes you want to play so badly that you hardly have time to change your shoes.” The most difficult thing will be deciding which courses to save for the next trip.