Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Valley Club moves deftly into the future

A new nine and safety changes being implemented


By MICHAEL AMES
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With the addition of a new nine-hole golf course on the horizon, it's a busy, transitional time at The Valley Club north of Hailey.

The existing 18-hole course plays anywhere from 5,350 to 7,131 yards from its six different sets of tees. The club boasts 550 golfing family memberships and is bursting at the seams to accommodate so many golfers.

Summer is "vacation time for many of our members and they often play every day," said club manager Barry Bevers. "We are building another nine to alleviate some of that pressure."

Towards that end, the club is tweaking some of its public play times, a policy that has been in effect, unchanged, since the club's 1996 opening.

Early/late season at The Valley Club is before June 15 and after Sept. 15. Pay-to-play windows for tee times have been expanded from two to three hours for full-time residents of Blaine County. These early/late season rates are $80 for 18 holes ($40 for 9) with a mandatory cart.

During the peak summer season, however, the public window for tee times is shortened to one hour per day at $120 for 18 ($60 for 9) with cart. A seven-round summer maximum has also been enacted for non-members, decreased from 12 rounds.

Other changes at the club include the planting of 113 trees, with 30 added to the 15th hole alone.

From 18 to 27 holes

The nine-hole addition neared actualization as the county recently granted a verbal agreement for developing 117 acres for homes and golf.

Local developer Henry Dean is only weeks away from his June 28 closing date. Dean plans on purchasing approximately 26 acres from the Valley Club to build 43 single-family homes, to be designed by Ketchum architect Jim Ruscitto. Contractors are currently bidding on the project, according to Bevers.

Bevers expects initial infrastructure construction to begin in July.

More exciting even than new homes, however, are the nine new golf holes, designed by famed golf architect Tom Fazio, generally considered America's greatest living golf architect.

Fazio has designed recent alterations at Augusta National in Georgia, site of the annual Masters golf tournament. He's also designed courses in Pinehurst, N.C. and several other top 100 courses throughout the country. The third nine at the Valley Club will join the list of signature Fazio courses.

Construction on the 91-acre course should begin in September, said Bevers.

As these additions have been announced, so have higher dues for members, effective Aug. 1. Full golf memberships are increasing $10,000, from $60,000 to $70,000.

Safety improvements

When assessing this year's changes, The Valley Club took the old adage "safety first," to heart by purchasing a state-of-the-art "Thor Guard" lightning prediction and warning system.

After a particularly electric summer in 2004, the club fielded many requests by members for such a system.

Produced in south Florida since 1976, Thor Guard is a system of sensors and alarms that has been implemented at hundreds of golf courses nationwide. By detecting ambient electricity in the atmosphere, the prediction system safeguards golfers at PGA and USGA events on public and private courses alike.

"It doesn't prevent lightning," said head pro Stoney Brown, "but it detects."

With adjustable sensitivity capable of reading 25 square miles, Brown said The Valley Club will "err on the side of conservative...you don't want people in danger," he said.

A new lightning shelter is also being built on the 14th hole.

Early/late season rates won't return for three months, but mid-June is still an excellent, and now safer time to play The Valley Club.

(This article is Part 1 in a series focusing on changes and offerings at local golf courses)




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