Beau Welling and Love Golf Design have completed a collaborative renovation of the North and South nines at The Valley Club in Sun Valley, Idaho.
The club’s 27 holes comprise the West, North, and South nines. The master plan, which was approved in 2016 after an extensive member process, has assisted the club in guiding capital improvements, addressing sustainability concerns, and led to course renovations for the original 18 holes (North and South), built in 1996.
The renovation was initiated due to water usage concerns and an ageing irrigation system, as well as issues of golf course features reaching the end of their lifecycle. Other goals included improving course aesthetics, memorability, as well as ensuring the course is playable for all abilities.
Construction on the South nine started in October 2017 and finished in September 2018, while work on the North followed in April 2018 and was completed in September 2019. The club wanted to have 18 holes open at all times, so work was undertaken nine holes at a time.
“The changes that our team and Love Golf Design were able to make at Valley Club have created a more enjoyable and strategic course for the membership,” said Welling. “The renovation included all new bunkering, the addition of new forward tees, and the reshaping of the green complexes to provide more strategy while enhancing playability for all skill levels. In that vein, we are excited to see the reaction of the membership when both of the renovated nines open back up this season following a two-year construction period.”
Welling hopes that by reshaping the green complexes the course’s ‘fun factor’ will be enhanced and will generate a variety of approach shots into greens and recovery shots around greens.
Mark Love, co-founder and president of Love Golf Design, said: “Along with club leadership, we went through a very thorough member input process identifying the characteristics of the North and South nines that the membership both liked and felt could be improved. The result of that process led us very much in the direction of strategy, primarily based on interesting green complexes with a little more contour and pin placement variety than existed on the current course and a re-thinking of bunker placement.”
A number of bunkers that were mostly in play for shorter hitters have been eliminated. The renovation also introduced new bunkering to better guard against longer hitters gaining too much distance off the tee. Better Billy Bunker liners have been employed.
“Holes that particularly stand out to me are the third and eighth on the South – both par fours, one long and one short, but both are substantially more playable and more strategic post-renovation,” said Welling. “We added tee locations, relocated bunkers, and reshaped greens to create width where needed, while at the same time creating preferred angles of play.
“On the North’s par-five sixth, we regraded some of the fairway to open views down the hole, allowing us to place some centreline bunkering to create a multitude of shot options depending on pin location on the newly shaped green.
“And on the North’s par-three seventh hole, we actually made it shorter, but we located the green on a now visible stream feature. The green itself is shaped to require a lot of precision to get close to the flag. All players will feel like they have a chance to score but they will have to execute.”
Love added: “In addition to some of the standouts mentioned by Beau, a few of our favourite greens are the fourth and ninth on the South, and the second and ninth on the North, but we really have an affinity for all of them. I think the thing we are most excited about is hearing from the members that the variety and interest created by the new greens complexes and bunker placement has exceeded their expectations, and increased the enjoyment as they get out on their golf course on a daily basis.”
“Overall, I get most excited when we are able to design a course that helps bring people together for an enjoyable experience on the golf course,” said Welling. “What that really boils down to is a memorable and playable course that allows golfers of all skill levels to be able to play together – and everyone has fun.”
Managing water has been an important part of the project. Several water features have been adjusted to enhance how the water relates to the adjacent golf hole, with the project team also improving the aesthetics of water features.
A state-of-the-art Rain Bird IC irrigation system has been installed to enhance efficiency by over 20 per cent. The irrigation pond enhancements also provide more efficiency and allow for more collection of water reserves.
There has been a 15 per cent reduction in irrigated turf to assist water conservation efforts. Native areas have been introduced or expanded for a large net increase, with fairway and low-cut areas also increased to ensure playability.
Increasing fairway areas has created more width and subsequent value on angle of approach for the next shot, while at greens (along with newly shaped green surrounds) this has created more options for recovery shots.
“Working with Davis Love III and Mark Love at the Valley Club has been wonderful,” said Welling. “Our philosophies and approach to golf course design are similar where strategy, playability and memorability are all emphasised. Davis has been a long-time member of the Valley Club and had unique insights and design ideas for the North and South nines.
“We had a great team on the project overall with assistance of Joe Titzer of Titzer Golf Course Shaping as well as Heritage Links as the contractor for the renovation.”
“The collaboration couldn’t have gone better,” said Love. “Davis and I have known Beau and Shane Robichaud [Beau Welling Design’s vice president of golf design] for a long time. We knew when we started this process that our philosophies and goals were compatible and that together we could produce a product that the all the constituents at the Valley Club would love. I think we pulled that off… and we had a great time doing it. The staff and leadership at the club were fantastic to work with and so far, the feedback from members has been very positive, so we feel pretty encouraged about what we collectively have produced.”