Since 1988, Sun Valley Golf Course has been a big fixture for the Elsberry community. It has served as a place for both young and old to come and escape the hustle and stress of life.
Sun Valley started with just nine holes, what many know as the front nine today. Five years later, they introduced the back nine.
“The architect was Gary Kern,” explained Golf Pro and General Manager Kirk Porter. “He also designed Bear Creek and several other courses.”
According to Porter, the original owner was Carrie Davis, who lived on the land when it was just a farm. Davis being a big fan of golf, decided to have the font nine holes built and quickly realized the success he was having.
“The front nine is more flat and easier of a course, where as the back nine
is more of a challenge and goes around the front nine,” explained Porter. “Two different sets of tracks, but both designed to challenge every players ability.”
Although most anyone could walk the front nine, Porter suggested using a cart for the back nine. However, the real challenge of the course is what is solely known as “The Beast,” a par six, 720-yard animal, which makes it one of the longest holes in the country.
Porter said the idea for “The Beast” came about three-years ago, when he was looking for a gimmick to bring in more players.
“Part of my job is marketing and I was looking for a way to bring in more players for Sun Valley from St. Louis, Hannibal, Quincy, different parts of Kansas City and basically all around,” said Porter. “Well I was out here
playing golf one day, on hole number five, which is a long hole to begin with. It was a 591 par 5, but I saw some extra ground behind the tee box.”
Curious how much was actually available; Porter said he found approximately five acres not being used. With the idea in thought, he had the area cleared and “The Beast” was born.
“The idea was I wanted to get a novelty item here that would draw the younger players and some of the older players,” explained Porter. “We wanted to attract those seeking a challenge, something they weren’t getting at courses near their homes, and with there being no other par 6’s in Missouri, at least to what I was aware of, it seemed like a good way to draw them in.”
From the back tees, the par 6 measures 720-yards, although many of the older players, according to Porter, play from the 600-yard tee.
“At a par 6, you get four strokes to get on the green and a two putt to get par,” explained Porter. “The idea was to bring people to Sun Valley and thus far it has worked. We have seen a lot of new faces here and obviously the regulars enjoy it as well, because it gives them one extra stroke to get a par or a birdie.”
In an effort to keep the attraction appealing, Porter said they have what is called the par 6 challenge, where if a person hits a six or better on the hole, they can receive a free round of golf. According to him, only 10 percent of the people that attempt it can get six or better.
It’s not just “The Beast” that keeps the players coming out. Sun Valley has been called one of the most beautiful courses in the state. With a wide array of wildlife, and silence it has become an escape for many of the players, who wish to get away from city life or community noise.
“Unlike several other courses, we are set back from the worry of hitting someone’s house or the noise of travel,” said Porter. “When people play here they are able to 100 percent enjoy the game.”
Based on the design of the course, it is in fact a champion style course. However, the lack of amenities and accommodations are what prevents it from being used as host site for the PGA. According to Porter, in order for it to be used as a hosting site for the PGA, they would have to build a much bigger clubhouse and wider borders to fit the crowd that would turn out for such an event.
“Sun Valley wasn’t designed with just a small portion of property in mind,” said Porter. “This course is spread over 188 acres and by doing that, Kern was able to layout the course properly, which eliminates the dangers of having to hit over other golfers or parallel fairways where golfers are having balls hit at them.”
It is this design that also makes it a true test of the younger players abilities, which is why Sun Valley is home to some of the biggest tournaments amongst high school golf teams. It is the home course to the Elsberry R-II golf team and the Winfield R-IV golf team.
The Sun Valley has nine bunkers, three lakes and several elevation changes that give the course an extra challenge. But what is possibly the biggest appeal of the course is their on going commitment to families. One of the perks of Sun Valley is that children 16-years-old and younger can play for free with the accompaniment of a parent.
“When people leave here, they all seem to say how much they enjoyed the play but more so the views of the course,” explained Porter. “From hole 12, you get a clear shot looking into Illinois and from almost any of the greens you can look back and see some of the wildlife areas we have created, the farmers fields and really it’s just one of the most relaxing places to be.”
For more information on Sun Valley or to book a tee time either call 573-898-2613 or visit http://sunvalleygc.com.
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