The Elkhorn Golf Club is starting over from scratch—with an emphasis on its members and some public play.
Closed since fall 2003, the high-caliber 18-hole course has gone through a series of comprehensive upgrades as it prepares for its "grand re-opening," as general manager Don Shirey described it.
On July 2 the golf course opens for play. With recent rains and an improved irrigation system, it promises to be an emerald expanse for months to come. A sparkling new, 16,000 square-foot clubhouse is also set to open on July 2.
The club is basically on schedule, though some newly planted grass has been slow to take hold. With June's cold weather, it took longer than expected for recently sowed Kentucky Bluegrass to fill in the fairways.
"You are at the mercy of Mother Nature when you are growing grass and completely reseeding a course," Shirey said.
"The greens," he added, "are absolutely perfect." Total reconstruction of all 18 Elkhorn greens to U.S. Golf Association specifications was one of Troon Golf's goals when the reputable golf course management company announced the renovation nearly two years ago.
The golf course should be able to keep conditions at a premium this summer with the help of an advanced new irrigation system.
Along with individually remote controlled sprinkler heads, the efficient system is tied into a weather station so that "if it rains, it turns off automatically to save water," said head pro Shane Galles.
Once play begins for Elkhorn members, specific tee-time windows will be available for public play as well.
These public play periods will be limited to tee times starting after 2 p.m. until Labor Day, Sept. 5, after which, the public may play after 12 noon. The $140 rate includes a golf cart, range balls, and 18 holes. There is no nine-hole rate available and members of the public may play a maximum of twice a month at Elkhorn.
Golfers who have been kept awake at night wondering what drastic changes Troon Golf would enact on Elkhorn will be glad to know that, architecturally, only two holes have changed.
Preserving the configuration of the Robert Trent Jones Sr. and Jr.-designed course that first opened as an 18-hole championship layout in 1976 was the intention of Troon Golf, one of the world's leaders in luxury golf management, development and marketing.
The true difference at the course will be in the caliber of equipment and natural features.
"Everything that you touch and utilize will be brand new," said Shirey.
"Every blade of grass, every grain of sand you step on, every golf cart, every flag, cup and tee marker," will be new, he said.
July 2 will be Elkhorn's "first new day of operation in 30 years since the first opening," Shirey said.
In addition to the detail oriented changes, 18 new tee boxes and greens have been built, changing the course's length, rating and slope.
Troon's "main focus was to make the forward tees more player-friendly and the back tees more challenging," Shirey said. The $6 million renovation project, unveiled two years ago, was directed by golf course architect Dick Phelps.
The difference from the forward to back tees is sizable: the forward tees play at 5,149 yards while the back, or "championship," tees bring the total length to an intimidating 7,214 yards.
The course rating—the higher above par 72, the harder the course—is set at 74.2. For comparison, Sun Valley Golf Course has a 71.4 rating.
"Anyone of any level can enjoy the course, but a more advanced player can come out and be challenged," Shirey said.
On the food and beverage front, Elkhorn was pleased to recently learn that Paul Dean, formerly of Ketchum's Dean's Restaurant, will be the executive chef at the Elkhorn clubhouse.
The dining room will function as a restaurant for members of the club and of the Sun Valley Elkhorn Homeowners Association. The space is also available for private, catered functions.
Situated in one of the valley's most picturesque settings, Elkhorn is hoping that the sizable, "state-of-the-art" clubhouse will become a popular choice for wedding receptions in the valley.
Troon Golf, headquartered in Scottsdale, Az., manages operations at more than 140 golf courses located in 26 states and 11 countries, according to a Sept. 2003 press release announcing the Elkhorn facelift.