This sprawling, 36-hole complex sits just outside Boise in Kuna, but it’s only a 15-20 minute drive from downtown. The 18-hole track is Falcon Crest, a diverse layout with one of the toughest closing stretches anywhere.
There’s also Robin Hood, a nine-hole executive course with five par 3s and four par 4s, and the Freedom Course, a nine-holer that travels 3,914 yards from the professional tees. Freedom’s par 5s are 714 and 640 yards. Three par 4s check in at 462, 467 and 473 yards.
“It’s probably one of the toughest nines in the state,” pro Rick O’Neill said. “It used to be tougher, but we filled in a couple ponds and that made it easier. There’s a good variety with five sets of tees and you can play it from 2,700 to 3,900.”
Falcon Crest didn’t get short- changed on yardage either. From the back tees, it measures nearly 7,100 yards.
The par 3s are probably the most memorable holes on the front side. From the tee box on No. 5, there’s an 80-foot elevation drop to the green, which makes club selection your first priority. There’s a pond to the left, bunkers and a sizable green. No. 8 is similar, but probably plays 10 yards shorter and the drop-off is closer to 60 feet. With the pin tucked into the back left corner on a 25-foot-wide shelf and a steady crosswind, keeping the ball on the right level was nearly impossible.
No. 9 is the classic risk-reward short par 4. It’s downhill and only 285 yards, but to get home you’ll have to fly or get a lucky bounce over a creek that guards the front of the green. There’s a 100-yard long trap along the left side. For fun, I hit two balls, an iron layup to 80 yards and a driver that gave a weathered ball a much needed bath.
“We actually had a hole-in-one there last year,” general manager and superintendent Mike Rapp said. “The guy hit a hybrid off the back tee.”
The back nine has a nice mix of holes. The par-5 11th has a fairly small landing area and a sunken bunker awaiting second shots that don’t travel far enough to reach the green.
The side turns downright difficult on 15. During my round, the 15th played 422 yards into a healthy wind. I hit a nice drive and still had 7-iron left, taking plenty of club to avoid the water in front of the green.
The 16th is a 511-yard par 5 that becomes negotiable with a well- placed drive over a pond. The hazard continues up the left side and comes into play if the second shot isn’t struck solidly. One of the players in our foursome sent his approach to the back of the green and had to deal with 20 feet of fringe on his putt.
No. 17 is a tough, 430-yard par 4 that demands two quality shots. More work awaits on the two-tiered green with the back shelf, where the pin was located, maybe 25 feet deep.
And then there’s 18. It’s 479 yards from the back tees, 445 from the championship tees. One member of our foursome was probably a 14 handicap and he told me early in the round that he’d never made better than bogey on No. 18. His playing partners started reminding him of that fact early on the back side. He was pleased when he drained a 5-footer for bogey.
The view from the tee box is unsettling: A massive pond that forces some players to put their driver in the bag and hit something in the 240-260 range. One can cut off more distance trying to hit a sliver of land that borders the left side of the pond but it’s a low-percentage shot. An ideal drive leaves a 180-yard approach over water. A bailout drive to the right leaves a 215-yard shot, often from a downhill lie.
The pond was drained last year and crews removed 20,000 balls.
Believe it or not, the hole used to be tougher than the current version. At one time, the huge pond that gobbles up drives and approaches sidled up closer to the spacious green. Roughly 10 yards were filled in, giving golfers a bit more margin for error on a hole with very little to begin with.
“It’s definitely the most talked about hole,” O’Neill said. “I know the majority of people don’t like it, but it’s probably one of my favorite holes. There’s not going to be a lot of ties after that (closing) stretch.”