For great golf — and more — check out Sun Valley, Idaho

The Sawtooth Putting Course in Sun Valley, Idaho.
Courtesy of Sawtooth Putting Course

SUN VALLEY, Idaho — I was talking to James Driscoll, the Tour pro, about his rigorous workout regimen recently when he made an obvious yet profound statement: “There are so many things in golf that you can’t control.”

I couldn’t agree more. So when it comes to planning a golf trip, it makes sense to hedge your bets in Sun Valley.

Here’s what I mean: Sun Valley is gorgeous, and loaded with things to do including and beyond chasing the little white ball. Don’t get me wrong. The golf is very good. The resort’s 45 holes on three courses range from the breathtaking (the nine-hole White Clouds, with its panoramic views of the Wood River Valley) to imminently well-designed (pretty much the whole Trail Creek course, an underrated 1980 gem by Robert Trent Jones, Jr.). Then there’s Elkhorn, which has been around a while but which the resort added to its stable just last summer.

But here’s the thing: If the golf goes wrong, and with my game it often does, then at least you’re still in Sun Valley. I’ve never had a bad meal at the Ketchum Grill, and eating at the rustic-cozy Trail Creek Cabin is a culinary trip back to the old West your grandparents knew. I’ve fished for trout after having a Trout Slayer beer for luck on the Boxcars stretch of the Wood River (Silver Creek Outfitters). The golf is memorable, particularly crazy White Clouds, but so are the miles of trails, the gondola up Bald Mountain (or Baldy, as the locals call it), and the famous figure skaters at the resort’s historic outdoor rink.

Why Sun Valley? Two plaques sum it up nicely.

A stone marker by the fifth tee at White Clouds, where the lack of trees afford long views of Ketchum and the Idaho wilderness, features a quote from resort owner R. Earl Holding, of Sinclair Oil fame: “This is not all about the golf.”

And a plaque at the Ernest Hemingway memorial, just off the much flatter Trail Creek course, which crosses over the eponymous creek seven times on the front nine: “Best of all he loved the fall; The leaves yellow on the cottonwoods; leaves floating on the trout streams and above the hills; the high blue windless skies; now he will be a part of them forever.”

Fall comes early in Sun Valley, where the Premier package offers unlimited golf on all three courses, plus the Sawtooth putting course, for $360 per person per night. The Triple Play package includes three rounds and two nights at the lodge for $350 per person. The Aspen Glow is $140 per person/night for a round and a one-night stay, and can be booked for multiple nights. Note to leaf-peepers: The last day you can ride up the gondola for the summer season is Sept. 9.