Course Review: Indian Canyon Golf Course

Contributed by Garland Bayley
August 2009

Indian Canyon Golf Course (Spokane, WA)
Par 72 (6,255 yards)

Green Fees: $27 to $29 for 18 holes

Indian Canyon is a municipal golf course in Spokane, Washington. The course was designed by H. Chandler Egan, who was the 1904 and 1905 U.S. Amateur champion. His better known courses are Eastmoreland in Portland, OR, which hosted a Public Links championship, the first 9 at Pacific Grove Golf Links (the poor mans Pebble Beach) in CA, and a significant remodel of Pebble Beach Golf Links in CA.

The strength of Indian Canyon is the layout of interesting and varied holes using the features of the land on a fairly steep site. Without the availability of golf carts, the holes were laid out in a connected fashion that allows easy green to tee transfers for the most part. A modern architect probably would have used the golf cart to enable climbs to tees for dramatic, but not necessarily more interesting golf holes, thereby ruining the site for golf.

Hole #1 – Par 5 (479/410 yards)
The first hole at Indian Canyon gives you a look at the canyon that the course is built on the edge of with a sharply descending tee shot.

1st Tee at Indian Canyon.

The slope of the land will take the ball to the right. However, the lower trajectories of a downhill lie will have better access to the green from hugging the left as carrying the bunker may cause the ball to bound off the back.

Approach to 1st at Indian Canyon.

Hole #2 – Par 3 (121/98 yards)
The second is a short par 3 with bunkering to defend par.

Hole #3 – Par 5 (536/495 yards)
The second hole is a par 5 making a long sweep to the left. The trees separating it from the other holes would suggest not going all out to get home in two, as keeping the ball in play will probably reap greater rewards.

The tee shot is a little blind and there is a swale running through the fairway near the end of the driving area that bombers may wish to avoid reaching. Unfortunately, since the course lies on the western slope of the canyon, the opening holes tend to play into the rising sun in the morning.

3rd Tee at Indian Canyon.

The green is guarded on the left by a steep bunker to perhaps catch those players taking the shortest route of the dogleg along the left side.

3rd Fairway at Indian Canyon.

Hole #4 – Par 3 (178/142 yards)

4th Tee at Indian Canyon.

The fourth hole uses visual deception with a rise in front of the green to make the golfer unsure of his depth perception on the tee shot.

Hole #5 – Par 4 (438/343 yards)
The fifth hole provides an interesting setup and challenge. Since it plays along the bottom of a swale, accurate shots are rewarded. If you get a little off line the ball may come back to the bottom and give you a good stance in the fairway. A little more off line and you have a challenging stance to deal with. When hit further off line the ball bounds away into deep trouble. The landing area for the tee shot is blind, so a mirror on a pole is provided to allow you to ensure the group in front of you is out of range.

5th Fairway at Indian Canyon.

The green is nicely set in a bowl, thereby rewarding the player that has kept his ball in play.

5th Green at Indian Canyon.

Hole #6 – Par 4 (331/300 yards)
As most of the play so far has been down into the canyon, the course now begins to ascend back towards the clubhouse on this hole. The tee ball played close to the inside of the dogleg will give the best angle to the green which has a bunker on the right.

6th Tee at Indian Canyon

Unfortunately, photographs do not display slope and steepness very well, so they cannot show the contours in the greens as well as would be desired. The greens at Indian Canyon have some significant contours for a course as old as it is. Here is a view of the sixth green giving some indication of the contour.

6th Green at Indian Canyon.

Hole #7 – Par 4 (441/338 yards)
The seventh hole turns back downhill for the last time on the front 9. It is laid out so that the long tee ball will catch a significant slope and get a turbo boost towards the green. If the player is not capable of reaching that slope on the fly, he should consider laying up short of it so as to not endanger himself of having a lie on a steep down slope.

Hole #8 – Par 4 (267/228 yards)
The 8th is perhaps a bit too much like 6th, as it also is an uphill dogleg left, with a greenside bunker on the left this time. The contouring of the green is different, with the slopes feeding towards the bunker.

8th Tee at Indian Canyon

Approach to 8th Green at Indian Canyon

Hole #9 – Par 5 (449/380 yards)
From the yardage, this would seem to be a very short par 5. However, with returning nines, you must climb back up the canyon “wall” to get back to the club house. Therefore, it must play at least 100 yards longer than the yardage given.

9th Tee at Indian Canyon.

9th Approach at Indian Canyon.

Hole #10 – Par 4 (479/410 yards)
To start the back nine, once again we get to play straight down into the canyon, but this time with a long par 4. For those who enjoy seeing their ball run and run, it is great to hit this fairway with a good drive and have the ball run out.

10th Tee at Indian Canyon.

One feature of this hole that I did not like was that the fairway cut ends before reaching the green, and there is a section of rough that prevents the natural tendency to use the slope to run the ball onto the green.

Approach to 10th Green at Indian Canyon.

Hole #11 – Par 5 (469/402 yards)
The eleventh is a short par 5 that tempts you to go for it in two. Drive to the right side of the fairway as it will open up the view of the green.

11th Tee at Indian Canyon.

On the approach, a right side miss is to be avoided.

Approach to 11th Green at Indian Canyon.

Hole #12 – Par 4 (329/248 yards)
Twelve is a short downhill par 4 that the very skilled golfers could probably shape a shot to drive the green on. However, even hitting the fairway is blind so once again a large mirror is provided at the tee box to help you see the landing area.

12th Tee at Indian Canyon.

Given the shape of the fairway, approach shots will tend to turn right while the dogleg is turning left. Also, any long shot landing short will be kicked towards the bunker on the right.

Approach to 12th at Indian Canyon.

Hole #13 – Par 3 (161/124 yards)

13th Tee Shot at Indian Canyon.

The thirteenth is a slightly up hill par 3 with a large bunker guarding the right side. Shots from this bunker will be quite difficult to get up and down because the green slopes away from the sand shot.

Hole #14 – Par 4 (403/306 yards)
This is a fairly straight hole with the tee shot traveling over flat ground but then landing into an up slope. From there the hole continues more sharply up hill to the green.

Approach to 14th Green at Indian Canyon.

Hole #15 – Par 4 (358/344 yards)
Fifteen is a fun short par four with a sharp berm in front of the green. It is short because the drive plays downhill before leveling out before the berm.

15th Tee Shot at Indian Canyon.

I hit driver followed by lob wedge hoping to get the ball to land and stay close to the front of the green where the pin was cut close behind the berm.

Approach to 15th at Indian Canyon.

Hole #16 – Par 4 (287/278 yards)
We are now brought to a hole with a double fairway, the sixteenth.

16th Tee at Indian Canyon.

As you can see, they are not mowing the left fairway as the choice between the two routes if fairly obvious. It could be made into a more interesting choice if the right branch were narrowed, and the left branch widened. If you were to play to the outside limit of the dog leg on the left branch, you would still only have a 100 yard approach to the green. So a constricted right branch would be less attractive.

Approach to 16th Green at Indian Canyon.

Hole #17 – Par 3 (224/164 yards)
The longest par three on the course gives you the option of playing your shot up against the canyon wall on the right and letting it bounce in to the green. Such a play would be fairly risky as much of the right side is OB, and there is a lot of trees and brush that obscure the view of the area that allows the bounce in

17th Tee at Indian Canyon.

The second problem with this hole and the next one is that there is a fairly long, up hill walk from green to tee.

Hole #18 – Par 4 (341/280 yards)

18th Tee at Indian Canyon.

Eighteen plays beautifully up hill to a green benched against the canyon wall below the club house.

Indian Canyon is an interesting and fun golf course, with a good variety of holes. Only the 6th and 8th holes made me feel like I was faced with a redundant challenge to play.

I perhaps will have a little different definition of walkability than others may have. My philosophy is that if you can play reasonable golf on it, you can walk it. Therefore, a totally flat golf course is no more walkable than one with hills on it. When holes get to ridiculous extremes, such as up hill par threes that will have the ball return to the tee when it misses the green, or tees that may give you vertigo when hitting to a target below, then the golf suffers in walkability (but holes like these usually existed where you are expected to facilitate your round by riding in a cart). Otherwise, it is the golfer’s responsibility to maintain his physical condition to play the game on appropriate fields of play. Therefore, subtracting a bit for the two long uphill green to tee walks between 16 and 17, and again between 17 and 18, I give Indian Canyon a 3.5 for walkability.

For architecture and aesthetics, I give Indian Canyon a small architecture deduction for the similarity of 6 and 8. But the course is in a very beautiful park like setting, so the course gets 3.5 in this category too.

Finally, the course lacks in strategic options, as it is played through fairly narrow corridors between the trees. So I give it 1 out of 2 for playability and strategy.

That gives the course a total rating of 8 out of 10.

Review by Garland Bayley (August, 2009)

Photos by Garland Bayley (August, 2009)

The Walking Golfer Course Rating System

Total is out of 10 Points

0 – 4 points – Walkability

0 – 4 points – Architecture and Aesthetics

0 – 2 points – Playability and Strategy


3 Comments

Troy Alderson
May 15, 2011 3:53 pm — Reply to this comment

Good review about my hometown golf gem. When I grew up playing the course, conditions were not great compared to what the country clubs were doing. But it is a municipal course. Indian Canyon used to be one of the top golf courses in the USA and I would like to see the city put some serious money into the course for a restoration project to put it back into the top courses in the USA again. When I tell people I was born and raised in Spokane, they always ask about Indian Canyon. Everyone remembers that golf course. Indian Canyon is the Spokane golf course.

The Walking Golfer – Washington State
January 25, 2010 7:40 pm — Reply to this comment

[…] – Click for TWG Review […]

John B. Holdstock
January 18, 2010 8:57 pm — Reply to this comment

Indian Canyon is a great course and if you are in the Spokane area and only have the time to play one course – this is it. The course is very walkable, with two exceptions. No. 9 is a steady grind back up to the club house and No. 18 is a very steep hike up to the green. I think someone told me that at one time they had a pulley system to assist you up the hill, but that might just be local legend. Or fanciful thinking on someone’s part. (The good part is that No. 1 and No. 10 are downhill).

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The Walking Golfer Course Rating System

Total is out of 10 Points
0 - 4 points - Walkability
0 - 4 points - Architecture and Aesthetics
0 - 2 points - Playability and Strategy