SANDPOINT — Between the only Jack Nicklaus golf course in Idaho, scenic Lake Pend Oreille and Schweitzer in the backyard, and being a short drive from Sandpoint, there are plenty of good reasons to like The Idaho Club.
Here’s another: Jeff Gove, who played on the PGA Tour for eight years and the Web.com Tour for 16, is the new director of instruction and head golf pro at the Idaho Club.
And oh by the way, there’s also a brand new 9,200- square-foot clubhouse currently under construction that will offer a restaurant and bar with seating for up to 100, a pro shop, a fitness area for members, an outdoor spa and a fire pit. The old clubhouse burned down 10 years ago, and the new one was designed by local architect John Hendricks and is bieng built by local Ivan Rimar and Mountain Construction Management.
Add it all up, and things are finally turning around for the stellar golf course, which has been operating in limbo for years as ownership changed hands. Bill Haberman, managing member of Valliant Idaho, LLC, feels the new clubhouse it the start of better things to come.
“Once it gets done it will enhance our ability to serve members,” he said, noting they hope to have it finished by next summer. “That’s a milestone for us replacing the clubhouse, another important step for the future.”
So is the hiring of Gove, who grew up in the Seattle area before playing collegiately at Pepperdine. He turned pro in 1994, and spent 24 years alternating between U.S. golf’s two premier pro tours.
Gove, 47, has played with and against the best players in the world, with top line résumé items including two sixth-place finished on the PGA Tour, and three wins on the Web.com Tour, where he is currently fourth on the all-time money list.
He also played in the U.S. Open in 2004 at Shinnecock Hills and missed the cut. His biggest highlight was carding a sizzling career low 61 alongside playing partner Tom Lehman in 1995 at a competition at Overlake Country Club in Seattle.
The memorable round was a springboard for a respectable pro career.
“He said it was the best round of golf he’d ever seen,” recalled Gove of Lehman. “That was a big moment in my career. I said ‘I think I can play this game.’”
Gove decided in May to stop pursuing tour golf and focus on his family, with kids ages 14, 11 and 10 to enjoy. In three more years, he may try and give the Senior Tour a go, but for now he’s happy to be moving to Sandpoint.
Gove was asked which pro he enjoyed playing with most on the tour, and listed South African Ernie Els, nicknamed the Big Easy for his honey stroke.
“Els is my favorite guy to play with in a tournament. Watching him swing, it’s so rhythmical,” described Gove. “He was super nice to a young player, and definitely made an impression on me.”
Gove has been coming to play the Idaho Club for 11 summers now, and carried the club’s logo on his bag for the past 11 years, telling anyone who would listen how great Jack’s handiwork was to play.
“I love the variety of the holes. The valley holes up the water, the mountain holes, the scenic beauty. It’s very relaxing to come out here and play golf, and it’s challenging,” claimed Gove. “Sit here and putt on the Pack River and look at this mountain. It’s ridiculous it’s so nice.”
The semi-private course is open to the public after 11 a.m. each day. It costs $95 on the weekends, $75 on weekdays and $55 after 2 p.m. Membership is a $7,500 initiation, and $600 per month after that.
For any local golfer looking to improve their game, Gove gives lessons for $125/hour for non-members, and $60 for juniors. Pro tutelage comes with a price.
“I think I can provide swing techniques and info on how to play. That’s what will set me apart,” said Gove, who was asked to give one key tip to Joe Golfer. “Be sure your grip is fundamentally sound, and always complete your follow through.”
Gove is expecting an upcoming visit from friend Stewart Cink, fresh of a stellar showing at the PGA championships. Gove has made a ton of great friendships in the sport, and is hoping to make more in his new gig. He calls golf a lifestyle.
“I love the individual challenge of trying to improve at whatever level you’re at. It’s never ending. Golf is a passion, once you get bit by it, it can stick pretty strong,” he said, noting he’s picked one of the best spots possible to ply his new trade. “The lake, the mountain and the golf. There’s only a few places in the world with those three.”
Lots in the master plan community are currently for sale from $90,000 for the basic lot to $700,000, should you want to build a home atop Moose Mountain with panoramic views of Schweitzer and Lake Pend Oreille.
“It’s pretty spectacular, kind of jarring when you see it. Lake Pend Oreille, Sandpoint, the general area is the primary draw,” admitted Haberman. “Kudos to the folks before me, Chuck Reeves, who got caught in the recession. A lot of what makes this place great, they built. We’re trying to finish where they left off.”
The club hosted a high school match this spring, and was slated to host the 4A state championships before heavy flooding moved the venue. They’ve also played host to numerous fundraising tournaments this summer, and the upcoming Bulldog Bench Fall Scramble will be played out there.
“We want to be good members of the community and give back,” said Haberman of the tourneys. “We’re more than willing to do it and excited to do it if it’s a worthy cause.”
After a lot of questions and mystery surrounding the club’s future in the past few years, Haberman feels better things are finally coming on the horizon.
“The dark cloud is lifting. Things are on the upswing,” he said, noting it doesn’t hurt to have Gove on board. “It’s pretty unique to have a PGA touring pro working with us, that is a huge asset for us.”
Eric Plummer can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @EricDailyBee.