Valley Club golfer and board member Dr. Jim Poppy, who has been active at the club for four years, sported a construction helmet and a yellow beach shovel tucked into the belt on his khakis for the ground breaking Friday of nine new holes of golf designed by Tom Fazio.
"Fazio's name adds value," said Poppy, a retired physician from Los Altos, Calif. "He is considered today the pre-eminent golf course designer in the U.S."
Golf is part of the afternoon ritual of being "old and unemployed," said Poppy, who also was excited for a coming reunion with his four children and nine grandchildren who planned to stay at Sun Valley.
The ground breaking for the new nine-hole golf course was held in conjunction with an approved housing development marshaled in by developer Henry Dean and his wife, real estate broker Linda Badell.
Fazio, who was scheduled to speak at the event, was delayed by airplane trouble, but board members promised that at least he would be available for lunch on Saturday.
At the celebration of what for now is being dubbed the West Nine, Dean said he was flattered by the commitment of the Valley Club board and thankful for the county's effort to see the project through the public review process in about a year and a half.
"It is really quite remarkable to get through that quickly," he said.
For The Valley Green development, Dean purchased 26 acres of the 117 acres for the new golf course for $110 million to develop 43 homes, said Valley Club General Manager Barry Bevers.
The funds from the sale will go to paying off the original loan for the land and $8 million for the golf course construction, which involves moving 400,000 yards of dirt, said West Nine Committee Chairman Doug Rhymes.
"Each hole will have a minimum 20-foot change in elevation," Rhymes said. "Two thousand trees will more than double what we have on the existing 18."
Some funds are to be held in reserve for improvements to the existing recreation center and swimming pool and development of an additional fitness center.
Professional golfer Hale Irwin designed the existing course. Rhymes told the audience that the club has also submitted a proposal to the state of Idaho for purchase of land that the state proposes to sell just south of the golf course.
Full golf memberships to the Valley Club for new members who signed up before the ground breaking were $60,000. After the ground breaking, memberships jumped to $70,000. Golf social memberships are $50,000 and social memberships, which include tennis and swimming, are $7,500.
Monthly dues, which are set by the board each year, are currently $420, Bevers said, adding that the club has between a 3 and 5 percent turnover rate.
The housing development includes 12 affordable housing units, said Blaine-Ketchum Housing Authority Executive Director Michael David, who is the former Valley Club general manager. He more than once lived in the club's four existing community housing units.
"I lived in them three different times," David said, adding that he joined the Housing Authority board when he was facing difficulties hiring people to fill the club's 135-member staff.