Sun Valley’s Signature Golf Holes

When it comes to swinging the sticks, Sun Valley has become a dream-come-true destination. The place is literally surrounded by three world-class courses.

It also offers a wide variety of activities off the greens, everything from great dining and shopping to hiking, fishing and mountain biking, to entertain golfers before or after rounds, or for those poor souls who don’t golf.

Each of the three courses in Sun Valley has magic and beauty of its own. So I asked the pros at each track to break down their signature holes—those holes that sum up everything that makes these courses so special.

Trail Creek #10
Par: 3
Middle Tee Yardage: 165

Designed by Robert Trent Jones, Jr, Trail Creek is Sun Valley’s signature course. Its classic design crosses the creek it’s named for numerous times and is awash in gorgeous mountain vistas. No hole sums up Trail Creek’s unique beauty or challenges better than the 10th.

“It’s a classic, challenging par three,” said Jeff Petersen, the director of golf at Sun Valley. “There’s not much room for error. You’ve got to pick the right club for your skill and aim for the center.”

A small pond and two bunkers surround the kidney bean-shaped green, while Baldy lurks in the background. “The views are great.” Kevin said.

White Clouds #8
Par: 4
Middle Tee Yardage: 442

The nine breathtaking holes at White Clouds were designed by legendary golf course architect Don Knott, who still returns to play the track from time to time.

Don’s design credits include Spanish Bay at Pebble Beach, The National Golf Club of Australia, The Prince Course in Kauai, Hawaii, and Jug Mountain Ranch in McCall. When I had the chance to interview him a couple of years ago Don talked about the most important elements necessary for creating a great course like White Clouds.

“Golf is still golf. People still hit the ball the same way as they always have. The key to all great courses isn’t how much money they cost to build, it’s that they fit into the natural landscape. A good golf course design makes it look like you haven’t moved any dirt to make it, at least that’s the goal,” he said.

It’s a goal the White Clouds certainly met, and the 8th hole is proof of that. Offering stunning views of the Wood River Valley, Boulder and Smokey mountains it’s awfully tough to find a better view from a tee box anywhere on God’s greens covered earth.

“It’s a super long, downhill par four and the views are certainly something you don’t see anywhere but here,” Jeff Peterson explained. He advises golfers to drive to the right side of the fairway as it slopes severely left. The second shot should stay right as well as there are a couple of fairly mean bunkers to the left.

Elkhorn #5
Par: 5
Middle Tee Yardage: 606

One of the fun things about playing golf at 6,000-feet is enjoying that little bit of extra hang time and distance the thin air allows on shots. And when we can hit `em a little bit farther, we love holes that dare us to.

Elkhorn was the last course father and son team Robert Trent Jones, Sr. and Jr. teamed up on. The 5th hole runs downhill across the distance of more than six football fields. It’s about as fun a “grip it and rip it hole” as you’ll ever find.

Mike Bryce is the assistant golf pro at Elkhorn, which is private course but does open to the general public after 2 pm daily and allows one tee time per hour for guests at Sun Valley Resort. “It’s a great hole,” Mike said of Elkhorn’s signature 5th. “It’s probably the best hole in the valley.”
He advises golfers keep their drives in the middle of the rolling fairway. The right side can be bad news. The conditions at all three of Sun Valley’s courses, however, have been nothing but good news all season.

“It’s been a really great season so far,” Mike said. “This is actually the best shape the course has been in ever.”

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