There was a time when it took less than $40 and four hours to play a round of golf. Those days have been a distant memory in most parts of the country ever since the golfing boom that began in the 1990s increased the cost and the crowds. But not in Southern Idaho, where the game can still be enjoyed on quality courses without blowing a hole in either your wallet or your schedule.
“We’re definitely spoiled in our area as far as the opportunity to play good courses at a great value,” says Zach Abels, the director of instruction at Canyon Springs Golf Course, where 18 holes of golf can cost as little as $20. “The price to play golf in Southern Idaho is probably as low as anywhere in the country. And these are fun courses that are easy to get around, with great scenery.”
Indeed, the vistas along the Snake River and throughout the region provide an attractive backdrop at many of the courses. At Canyon Springs, for example, the green on hole No. 13 sits in front of a waterfall flowing out of a cliff. Golfers on the par-3 sixth hole at Blue Lakes Country Club hit off an elevated tee box toward a green tucked next to the river, approximately 175 yards below. And on the final hole at Clear Lake Country Club in Buhl, the approach shot to the 18th green goes over the Snake River.
“With the Sun Valley and the Snake River Canyon involved, there are a lot of scenic courses in this area,” says Steve Meyerhoeffer, general manager and golf pro at Twin Falls Golf Club. “Each course around here has at least one or two holes that are really beautiful.”
For those who don’t mind taking a drive before they start hitting their drives, there is the Jackpot Golf Club approximately 50 miles south of Twin Falls just across the Nevada border. A true wilderness location, Jackpot is home to a variety of wandering animals (coyotes, antelope, rabbits, hawks) as well as a course that is well tended in order to entice golfers to make the trip, according to head pro Brent Fleshman.
“We have to put a little more into our course to make sure that people have a reason to travel here to play,” Fleshman says. “We have some of the best greens in the area. They’re always in good shape. We’re a mile high (above sea level), so you get a lot of distance on your golf ball because the air is kind of thin. And the scenery is great. It’s definitely not a boring place to play.”
Other courses in the region include the River’s Edge Golf Club in Burley and the Jerome Country Club, established in 1926.
The Next Generation
In addition to his duties at Canyon Springs, Abels recently formed the Magic Valley Junior Golf Foundation with his mother and stepfather, Kaylynne and Jeff Rolig, as a way to teach the game to area children.
In March 2016, the foundation opened an indoor practice facility that includes a golf simulator and other teaching equipment. More than 200 children went through the initial six-week summer training program, with some of them receiving college scholarship funds raised through an annual golf tournament held by the foundation.
“I’ve had some opportunities because of golf as far as playing in college and now making a career out of it, and I had a lot of people help me along the way,” Abels says. “We want to use this as way to help kids today and give back to the game of golf.
“It’s just a great way to provide kids with an opportunity to play golf. It’s one of the few lifelong sports. We want these kids to see that golf is affordable and enjoyable, and something that they can do.”