A New Englander's Take on Golf
May 31, 2023
With vibrant green grass and a background of brilliant red geraniums, the 14th at Couer d'Alene Golf Resort is an unforgettable vision. Your tee shot to the island green will be even more so.

COEUR D’ALENE, Idaho – The opportunity to gather with great friends is forever a recipe to be savored, but sometimes it pays even greater dividends in a most unexpected manner. Like when you travel widely and cross paths with one of the most intriguing visions in the world of golf.

And the 14th hole at the Coeur d’Alene Golf & Spa Resort certainly qualifies as a most intriguing vision, floating as it is out in Lake Coeur d’Alene.

If you were to call it an engineering marvel, you would be speaking a great understatement, and while this was not a trip that involved even one round of golf, much pleasure was derived from just studying this par 3 that is truly an island green, not a “peninsula” green that can be walked to like some par 3 holes.

No, sir, when you want to putt that ball that you (hopefully) just hit onto the 14th green at Coeur d’Alene, you need help from a U.S. Coast Guard-certified sea captain such as Stacey Lashay. In possession of a warm smile and a love of the great outdoors that was fostered by growing up in Arizona and living for years in Montana, Lashay on this past Memorial Day Monday was commandeering “Putter.” It is the electric boat that shuttles golfers, caddies (and the frequent friends along for the ride because who doesn’t want to be part of this 14th hole experience?) to and from the island green.

Does she have to temper her enthusiasm for her job, given that sometimes golfers might board her vessel after having hit a tee shot into the lake? “No,” she laughed. “The golfers are always happy, even when they hit it into the water.”

Doubt Lashay, if you will, but we can report that after watching a dozen or so groups play the 14th over two days, her statement was validated. While about half of the golfers in this time frame landed short or wide of the floating green with their tee shots, laughter and smiles were in the huge majority as they boarded “Putter” for the ride to the island and disembarked 10 minutes later to continue on toward No. 15 tee.

No one, though, seemed as enthusiastic as the Captain of “Putter.”

“Honestly,” smiled Lashay, who is also the caddie master at the resort, “who wouldn’t love this view every day?”

Indeed, Lake Coeur d’Alene in itself is a spectacular setting, a dam-controlled lake that is about 25 miles in length and includes about 109 miles of shoreline. The resort and golf course are owed to the vision of billionaire publisher – and Coeur d’Alene native son – Duane Hagadone. He died two years ago at the age of 88, but not until he achieved so much in life, including this wild idea of building the world’s only moveable golf hole in the middle of a lake.

If you’re thinking it was a massive undertaking, put a circle on your scorecard. Hagadone, who stood his ground when his hand-picked course architect, Scott Miller, opined that the floating island green was not a sound option, once told reporters that it took all the available technology and brain power of marine engineers.

“It was like building a ship,” said Hagadone, who bought this land that was a former mill site in 1988 and watched it come to reality for a 1991 opening. Proud as he was – for good reason – of the other 17 holes, it is No. 14 that steals the show.

The 2,200-ton par-3 island is a 15,000 square foot floating platform, approximately 55 yards wide and 35 yards deep. It sits in water that is about 25 feet deep, kept afloat by a base of concrete cells and Styrofoam, but the marvel does not stop there. It continues down to the key element – an intricate underwater cable system that can change the island’s position daily.

Your shots can play anywhere from 90 yards to 220, depending upon which set of tees you play. But as much as the shot poses a daunting challenge, the anticipation might be softened by the fact that what sits in front of you is a most beautiful sight: The green is a vibrant green, guarded by two bunkers in front and one at the rear, and the back is framed by three pine trees and two massive beds of bright red geraniums that help give the island definition against the backdrop of Lake Coeur d’Alene and some mountain peaks.

Breathtaking, yes. You might also use awe-inspiring to describe it. But what truly quenches your curiosity are the sidebars to this iconic golf hole.

For instance, golfers are asked to keep their attempts to a minimum. Should you hit your first tee shot in the water, you can play one more, but if you miss again, you are directed to a drop zone somewhere around the green. On achieving a successful mission of making par or better, certificates are handed out by the Captain of the “Putter.”

Now, it is estimated that 20,000 to 30,000 golf balls a year find the lake waters surrounding the 14th green, but fear not. Professional divers go into the water to do some house-cleaning.

As for how the superintendent’s staff keeps the green and surrounding strip of rough looking so neatly trimmed, mowers are stored in a shed at the dock where your board “Putter,” and a pontoon ferries staff members and the equipment out on a daily basis.

And just how does the floating green change position? Owed to the wonders of our technological development, the superintendent or a member of the staff will descend a ladder at the rear of the green and go into an office built into the floating structure. There, they can dial in to where they want the green moved, the engines are engaged, and the cables go to work.

Should you be thinking, hey, they didn’t have this when Donald Ross was building golf courses, you are quite correct. But thank goodness visionaries such as the late Duane Hagadone had the courage (and excessive funds) to push the envelope because the 14th hole at Coeur d’Alene Golf & Spa Resort puts an exclamation point on a trip that is well worth exploring.

I have a passion for playing golf that is surpassed only by my passion for writing about people who have a passion for playing golf, for working in golf, for living their lives around golf. Chasing the best professional golfers around the world for The Boston Globe, Golfweek Magazine, and the PGA Tour for more than 20 years was a blessing for which I’ll be eternally grateful. I’ve been left with precious memories of golf at its very best, but here is a takeaway that rates even more valuable – the game belongs to everyone who loves it. “Power Fades” will be a weekly tribute with that in mind, a digital production to celebrate a game that many of us love. If you share a passion for golf, sign up down below for a free subscription and join the ride. And should you have suggestions, thoughts, critiques, or general comments, feel free to pass them along.


Jim McCabe


1 – What’s wrong with this picture?

When you have a very walkable golf course and four young and healthy teenagers are spotted riding in a cart, do you: A) chastise parents for allowing it; B) scream at the pro shop for okaying it; or C) sneak over and flatten some tires?

2 – Sort of shutting the door

No-cut tournaments have no soul.

3 – Pretty clear-cut answer

Asked how far the nearest coffee shop was to the hotel, I responded with a pretty definitive answer: “About a driver, 6-iron if it’s downwind, more like a driver, 4-wood if it’s into.” Man, the stare that was tossed my way.

4 – No birdies, just tweets

Phil Mickelson’s Twitter game beats his golf game 6 and 5 these days.

5 – We should follow you?

It’s that time of year again – scramble time. I always enjoy the playing partner who suggests he or she go first to “show us the line.” Hmmm. You haven’t been within a foot of the line all day and suddenly you’re going to find it?

6 – Star power illuminated

Rose Zhang has my attention. Ditto Ludvig Aberg.

7 – But college field was volatile

That being said, the NCAA golf championships were not gentle on the elite teams and star players this year.

8 – We’re going way too far here

Stop trying to sell me this silliness about the need to have a chemistry between player and caddie. Just stop.

9 – Put that in your data bank

Would you rather lead the Strokes Gained: Approach the Green or be top name on the money list?


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