Industry News

Circling Raven mirrors golf industry record business numbers with substantial gains and creative programming

Coeur d’Alene casino resort hotel amenity parlaying demand, high quality, favorable weather to post stellar financial performance

(Worley, Idaho; October 14, 2020) – The 2019-20 Fiscal Year concluded on Sept. 30 at Circling Raven Golf Club, home of the renowned course that finished its 16th full season with perhaps the strongest business performance in the past 12 years.  

Circling Raven Golf Club in Worley, Idaho
Circling Raven Golf Club in Worley, Idaho

The numbers:

  • Total revenue was up 19% over last year’s Fiscal Year performance
  • Golf rounds played were up 14%
  • Retail sales were up 12%

The golf club, an amenity of the Coeur d’Alene Tribe’s casino resort, started the year early thanks to favorable weather, and it finished strong. In fact, total revenue in September 2020 was up 22% compared to September 2019, with retail sales finishing up an enormous 45% over September 2019.

Several factors coalesced that drove the banner season, not the least of which was the pandemic. The golf club never closed, and Coeur d’Alene Casino Resort Hotel was one of the first to open nationally. This, a result of the aggressive best practices that were implemented to safeguard guests, visitors, and staff.

But it was more than just the savvy and successful coronavirus response that catapulted Circling Raven in 2020. The origins go back a couple years, once again proving that the “5 P’s” business axiom – “Prior planning prevents poor performance” – is a foundational pillar ubiquitously found at successful organizations.

When now Coeur d’Alene Casino Resort Hotel CEO Laura Stensgar, MBA, reviewed business opportunities in 2018 with other Coeur d’Alene Tribe and resort leaders, she was certain that the award-winning entertainment venue’s acclaimed golf amenity was an asset that could be further harnessed to host more golfers and increase the number of guests and visitors to the North Idaho resort.

Two years later, Circling Raven, fittingly named for a seminal Coeur d’Alene Tribe Chief who helped guide his people through difficult times, is burgeoning, the result of key strategic decisions. These include:

  • Prioritizing and providing first-class conditions and customer service.

  • Freezing green fees below normal year peak season rates in deference to the economic challenges COVID-19 created.

  • Giving back through goodwill events, including two “High School Championships” created to supply area student-athletes with title events to complete in after their official scholastic championships were canceled by the coronavirus.

  • Designing and implementing programs catering to a spectrum of golfers – from couples and those who seek tournament-like competition, to families and those interested in social events (Concert on the Green, for example).

  • Re-hiring Director of Golf, David Christenson, PGA, who held that role when Circling Raven opened in 2003, guiding it to elite status and a plethora of best-in-kind honors.

  • Forging high-profile partnerships that appeal to local and regional residents, yet simultaneously put national and international spotlights on the course and resort.

Regarding the last item, these include:

  • Agreeing to host the Symetra “Road to the LPGA” Tour, beginning in August 2021 (postponed from August 2020 by the pandemic), with the inaugural Circling Raven Championship. Symetra is the feeder tour to the LPGA, and some of the greatest women professional golfers have come through it. This aligns with the Tribe’s and resort’s mission to inspire women, young people, and Native Americans through golf.

  • Partnering with the Notah Begay III Junior Golf Championship, by providing a sponsor exemption into the 2021 Circling Raven Championship, to the winner of the NB3 Girls 14-18 titlist in November 2020. Begay, the erstwhile PGA TOUR member and now a television broadcaster with NBC Sports/Golf Channel, is a Native American who similarly believes that golf is a superb empowerment springboard for youth and Native Americans.

“We wanted to help people while being fiscally responsible and successful,” said Stensgar, a Coeur d’Alene Tribe member and an avid golfer. “Combining talented team members with smart strategies drove the beneficial outcomes that were achieved in 2020.”

In addition to the “pure golf” that Circling Raven is known for thanks to its 620 pristine acres – more than four times the average number of acres allocated to golf course layouts worldwide – Head Golf Professional David Vonbrethorst conjured the array of programs that resonated with people.

“David was creative, thorough, and accurate in understanding what were the events that golfers would support, and he meshed them well with our significant core of players who frequent Circling Raven annually,” said Christenson, who earned PGA of America Merchandiser of the Year in the Resort Category during his first stint at the property. “It’s crucial that golf clubs don’t rest on their laurels and assume that if you build a course, golfers will come. It’s like any other business; those that constantly innovate through strategies based on research and insights, then deliver with attention to detail and dedicated customer service, will virtually always flourish.”

Contributing to Circling Raven’s record season was the Advantage Card, which was launched in 2019. It maximizes perks for regular patrons. Purchasing the card for $149 for the 2020 season rewarded cardholders with complimentary rounds, free entry into an Advantage Cardholder tournaments, discounts off the lowest greens fee for each round, supervised practice on the range or clinics with Circling Raven pros, and exclusive benefits throughout the year.

“We are gratified by our performance in 2020, and much credit goes to the Coeur d’Alene Tribal leadership which supported our proactive ideas,” said Christenson, a Washington State University graduate who grew up in Spokane, Wash. “We’re excited for 2021, the Circling Raven Championship, and building on our momentum and successful programs.”

Visit for more information on golf and other resort options.

Circling Raven logo

About Circling Raven Golf Club and Coeur d’Alene Casino Resort Hotel
Owned and operated by the Coeur d’Alene Tribe, Circling Raven is in the scenic Idaho panhandle approximately 55 minutes from Spokane International Airport (GEG). Measuring 7,189 yards from the rear tees, the 18-hole layout sprawls magnificently through 620 acres of woodlands, wetlands, and Palouse grasses. Its gleaming white sand bunkers are large and strategically placed and its hole variety ingenious. The course will host the Circling Raven Championship in August, a Symetra “Road to the LPGA” Tour event.

Other Coeur d’Alene Casino Resort Hotel amenities and activities include the full-service Spa Ssakwa’q’n (pronounced Sock-wock-en); 300 hotel rooms; bars, restaurants, lounges, and eateries; cultural immersion options; and more. The casino completed a $15 million renovation of its gaming floor and Events Center in 2019.  Circling Raven has garnered numerous best-in-kind honors since opening, including being rated a Top 100 Resort Course, Best in State, and a Top U.S. Casino Course. Its golf shop has won national and regional awards for its excellence and its variety of products, displays, and performance.

Dan Shepherd,, 703-403-5317
Yvette Matt,, 208-500-9989