The Sun Also Rises

Published on Tuesday, July 24th, 2012 in Features

Elkhorn Golf Course No. 5

Sun Valley’s signature course, Trail Creek, has beautiful “bones” that date to the 1930s. It’s a lovely, classic-style design that has stood well the test of time, thanks in part to a deft restoration and enhancement by RTJ II.

With a full complement of stream carries and strategic bunkers well positioned to catch errant shots, Trail Creek plays across its beautiful, watery namesake seven times on the front nine alone. Coupled with views of surrounding mountains and prevailing crystal blue skies, one can become easily distracted … to the detriment of one’s score.

The sixth hole provides a good example. Only 147 yards from the back tee, this short, uphill par-3 seems relatively tame. But a precise tee shot is imperative, thanks to a left-to-right crosswind, the need to stay below the hole as the green slopes severely from back to front, and all kinds of trouble short.

The nine-hole White Clouds is the youngest of the three courses, having opened in the fall of 2008. The creation of longtime RTJ II lead architect Don Knott (who also built the Links at Spanish Bay and National Golf Club in New York), White Clouds is a course that truly lives up to its name. A 3,605-yard, 9-hole Alpine style course, it bobs and weaves along mountain ridges, and includes an array of eclectic holes, no two remotely alike.

The long, par-4 eighth hole is memorable for its view, its sinewy brawn and its 210-foot elevation drop from tee to fairway. Measuring a U.S. Open-like 523 yards from the tips, tee shots stay in the air seemingly forever — Knott estimates that the combination of the elevation change, the altitude and the ensuing run-out on the downhill slopes should allow even moderate-length hitters to blast drives of 300 yards or more.

One needs to favor the right side of the fairway due to a severe right-to-left pitch. The second shot plays downhill and should also favor the right side of a large, undulating green. It’s a beautiful beast, for sure, but one that — when successfully navigated — makes for an unforgettable golf experience.

Of course, Sun Valley was never conceived as a golf destination. When W. Averill Harriman, chairman of the Union Pacific Railroad, built the original lodge in 1936, his goal was to make it the “American Shangri-La,” a high-mountain getaway where celebrities of the day could bask in the natural beauty of the region while enjoying restaurants, activities and culture to rival those in Hollywood or Palm Springs.

Built to be one of the pre-eminent resort destinations on the continent, it has never ceased aspiring for this distinction, even as it has remade itself over the decades into an Alpine golf heaven.

The Sun Valley Pavilion, a world-class outdoor concert space, hosts the Sun Valley Symphony Series each summer, featuring sitting members of the leading philharmonic orchestras in the United States. And of course, there are hundreds of hiking and biking trails, several resort swimming pools, year-round ice rinks, and more.

The golf clubhouse restaurant is a popular eatery, with duck tacos and Kobe beef burgers – the only place on the property these succulent choices are offered. The historic Trail Creek Cabin, meanwhile, is where Hemingway and his mates spent much time, eating and drinking late into the night while sharing stories of their worldwide travels.

Sun Valley never let the lure of big dollars sway it into selling prime parcels of its ample, wondrous acreage for real estate. Hence, the elevated land remains pristine, breath-taking and for everyone’s enjoyment.

Sense of place is everything at Sun Valley. It’s why people have been coming to Sun Valley for generations, and why one of the 20th century’s most famous travelers — one who frequented the Spanish countryside, sipped coffee at Paris cafes, and felt the sea breezes of Havana and Key West — chose it above all others for his final home.

Standing in the Ketchum cemetery and staring at the marker which reads “Ernest Miller Hemingway,” the maple leaves whispering in a gentle summer breeze as the setting sun casts a deep orange glow across the valley, it’s easy to see why Hemingway came, and more poignantly, why he never wanted to leave. For more information visit

Ted Anderson is a freelance golf writer. This is his first contribution to Cascade Golfer.

Pages: 1 2

2 Responses to “The Sun Also Rises”

  1. John Swanson Says:

    If someone is a member of Elkhorn, how does Elkhorn becoming a part of Sun Valley affect that membership?

  2. John Swanson Says:

    THat is the question I have.

Leave a Reply