Friday, June 24, 2011

Sun Valley buying Elkhorn golf course

Course will remain semi-private, with some hotel guest and public access

Express Staff Writer

The Elkhorn Golf Course undulates over the high grounds of the Elkhorn area of Sun Valley, offering excellent views of the Boulder Mountains to the north. Photo by David N. Seelig

Sun Valley Co. has entered into an agreement with CG-Elkhorn Golf to buy the Elkhorn Golf Club.

"We believe Sun Valley Co.'s acquisition of the Elkhorn Golf Club will be beneficial for both the members and for the reputation of Sun Valley as a golf destination," said Tim Silva, general manager of Sun Valley Co., in a news release. "While this gives our guests an opportunity to play a number of great courses, the Trail Creek Course, the White Clouds and the Elkhorn Golf Course, our intention is to accommodate the member-based structure and eventual public play on the course without impact to the membership."

Terms of the deal, which currently is in escrow, were not disclosed.

The transaction is expected to be finalized by July 1.

"If it closes that day, we're taking over," said Jack Sibbach, Sun Valley Co. spokesman.

Though no major changes are planned, the company has named the resort's night manager, Rick Hickman, as manager of all golf operations for Sun Valley Co., effective immediately.

"I'm excited to get working with these members," Hickman said in an interview. "I'm looking forward to renewing past golf acquaintances and building new relationships with members out there. That's the fun part of what I do."

In addition to the acclaimed 18-hole course designed by Robert Trent Jones II, the purchase will include Elkhorn's 16,000-square-foot clubhouse with a dining room and locker facilities.

Resort officials emphasized that the course will remain semi-private, and agreements with the approximately 260 club members will not change.

"The importance of those members to the success of all the golf operations is in everything that we do," Hickman said.

The course will be available to Sun Valley Resort guests, with some public access.

"It gives Sun Valley guests an opportunity to play as well as being able to accommodate public play," Hickman said. "This opens it up a little bit."

This arrangement, he said, will be beneficial to Elkhorn members as well as the general public.

"(It) will grow the game of golf without impacting golf membership," he said. "When you look at increased rounds and being able to generate revenues, it's a healthy situation for membership and the continued condition of a first-class golf course."

With the close of the deal, Elkhorn employees would become Sun Valley Co. employees. Other personnel changes are under review.

"We're in the midst of that right now," Hickman said. "We're not anticipating any major personnel changes for the summer season."

Hickman will take over the duties of Don Shirey, Elkhorn Club general manager, who is an employee of Troon Golf.

"(Shirey) has done a terrific job," Hickman said. "I personally look forward to continuing the success and interpersonal relationships that Don has established with the Elkhorn members."

Hickman said that besides building relationships, he looks forward to sharing his love of the game.

"It's a terrific sport," he said. "It's as much about the experience on the golf course and enjoyment of the outdoors as it is about the game itself."

Hickman has plenty of experience on which to base his opinion.

He was head PGA professional at the Sun Valley Golf Course from the late 1980s to the mid-1990s. He left the area to open and manage a new course and clubhouse in Livermore, Calif.; he served as general manager for an Arnold Palmer-managed facility in Palm Springs, Calif.; he was head PGA professional at a club in LaQuinta, Calif.; and was general manager of a club in Vacaville, Calif.

During his career, he's learned the business side of the game but discovered that the people side is vital.

"I found that the guest service side of it is extremely important," he said. "That, combined with the product, the golf course and the facility, make a great experience.

"It's all about people. That's for sure."

Rebecca Meany:

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