The Sun Also Rises
The addition of Elkhorn Golf Club at Idaho’s Sun Valley Resort has golfers following in the footsteps of Hemingway.
By Ted Anderson
One feels it immediately upon entering the property — Sun Valley Resort has a sense of place.
It comes from many sources, starting with the A-listers who have frolicked here since the Sun Valley Lodge became America’s first destination winter resort in 1936, including U.S. presidents, business titans and Hollywood superstars.
It emanates from the ice rinks and mountain slopes where Olympic stars regularly entertain, compete and recreate. It resounds through the village walkways, shops and restaurants, which are immaculate, yet without pretense.
It is perhaps most palpable, though, through Ernest Hemingway.
The legendary “Papa” hunted, fished, and wrote at Sun Valley, penning much of his 1939 novel on the Spanish Civil War, For Whom the Bell Tolls, from the balcony of Room 206 in the Sun Valley Lodge. Guests frequently request the “Hemingway room” — writers seeking inspiration, or fans and history lovers curious to make a connection to one of the 20th century’s most talented and enigmatic authors, and the small Idaho community where he chose to rest his soul.
One can see Hemingway’s final home, where he spent the last two years of his life, from the elevated and spectacular fifth tee at Sun Valley’s White Clouds course. His words — engraved on a memorial bust overlooking the namesake stream that borders a fairway on the Trail Creek course — capture the essence of Sun Valley:
“Best of all he loved the fall. The leaves yellow on the cottonwoods. Leaves floating on the trout streams and above the hills. The light blue windless skies. Now, he will be a part of them forever.”
And, of course, Hemingway is, having ended his life in Ketchum — just outside Sun Valley — in 1961.
But Sun Valley is not about the past, or resting on its considerable laurels. It is very much a place of the present, particularly as a golf destination. And with 45 holes — all designed through the Robert Trent Jones, Sr., architecture pedigree — it is constantly evolving.
Last summer, Sun Valley purchased Elkhorn Golf Club, an 18-hole joint design from RTJ Sr. and his son, RTJ II. Shortly before that, Sun Valley added a new, elegant clubhouse, a 25-acre practice facility, and an 18-hole putting course called Sawtooth (inspired by the surrounding Sawtooth Mountains), all amenities that earned the resort recognition from Golf Digest as one of the top-75 golf resorts in North America.
Noted golf course photographer Brian Oar has traveled the world to play some of the most iconic tracks on the globe. But he considers Sun Valley one of the best.
“Even when it was just the Trail Creek and White Clouds courses, it was still one my favorite places to go spend a long weekend and just completely unwind,” he says. “But now that they’ve added Elkhorn? In my mind, that makes it truly a world-class golf destination.”
Elkhorn was the last collaboration between the legendary father-son golf course design team. “Senior” designed the hilly front nine, while “Junior” designed the back, which follows a creek and has a water hazard on every hole but one.
Over 7,000 yards from the tips, and with large greens and over 100 bunkers, Elkhorn insists that players be “on” to score well. The seventh is a particular treat — a straightforward par-5 that can easily be reached in two shots. Aim slightly right on your tee shot and add an extra club or two for your approach, as the green is elevated dramatically.
The clubhouse, practice facility, attention to detail, décor and landscaping whisper “country club,” while the hospitality of the staff makes every player feel like a member.
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