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The Idaho Club: Great golf course has great new clubhouse

UPDATED: Sat., June 27, 2020

Bill Haberman gives off the vibe of a proud parent as he shows The Idaho Club’s new clubhouse to a pair of out-of-town guests.

The main entrance is eye-catching with dark wooden beams, circular chandeliers and a centrally located fireplace. Haberman points out that a mounted bull moose head above the fireplace came courtesy of a member’s friend who thought it was too big for his house.

To the left is the pro shop, so new that a few boxes of merchandise and equipment were still being unpacked. The restaurant occupies much of the top floor with seating capacity of 45 in the bar and 120 in the dining area. A roomy outdoor deck can accommodate 85.

Paintings and enlarged photos of The Idaho Club and Sandpoint landmarks adorn the walls and there’s a backstory there, too.

“Our chef Richard Nakatani is also an accomplished photographer,” said Haberman, managing member of Valiant Idaho LLC, which owns The Idaho Club. “We took his photos of the area and blew them up on canvas and it turned out fantastic.”

Haberman notes that a member’s son, a commercial artist in Los Angeles, created three paintings – eventually there will be five – displayed on a nearby wall.

The two-story, mountain modern-style structure opened recently, but it already fits seamlessly into the scenic surroundings, visual confirmation that great golf courses are usually accompanied by great clubhouses.

The Idaho Club now has both – a gorgeous clubhouse to go with the picturesque but challenging Jack Nicklaus-designed golf course.

“It’s certainly a labor of love,” said Haberman, applauding Ray Schaefer’s interior design, Sandpoint architect John Hendricks’ exterior design and construction by Andy Hartley’s Sandpoint Framing and Exteriors. “The fun part of these kind of projects is having something like this, starting with a blank sheet of paper and creating something.

“The clubhouse is huge. We get compliments all the time how much nicer it is to relax after a round, come out with the family, play nine or practice and have a place to come afterward as opposed to putting your shoes on in the parking lot.

“We wanted it to feel like it has been here for a long time. We wanted it to be comfortable for a variety of folks, folks who want a great burger and a beer and folks who want a filet and a Caymus (wine).”

It’s been nearly 12 years since a fire reduced the previous clubhouse to rubble, other than some existing footings that were incorporated into the new building. The Idaho Club has experienced numerous ups and downs in the last dozen years, including economic downturns, legal proceedings and the current COVID-19 pandemic.

Haberman entered the picture in 2014 “when the project was going to a tax sale.” He’s pleased with The Idaho Club’s steady progress over the past six years.

“Certainly a lot of hurdles have been removed and we’ve overcome certain challenges,” he said. “That’s not atypical for projects like this, that had situational distress like this one did. Most of that we anticipated.

“It took a little longer than we expected, but in some ways it’s been fun. It keeps you engaged and alert and energized. We’re certainly most of the way there as far as overcoming challenges. We feel very good about where we are right now. We feel this year is a true relaunch and we’ve had great response.”

The clubhouse is a major addition and important to The Idaho Club’s future. It replaces a temporary clubhouse, which was a rented home near the first hole.

A recent function celebrating the new digs brought out more than 100 people. A bigger party is tentatively planned for the Aug. 1-2 weekend.

The Idaho Club will host the Pacific Northwest Golf Association’s Men’s Amateur July 6-11, provided the coronavirus doesn’t interfere.

The clubhouse, deck and outdoor space close to the Pack River are an ideal location for weddings and corporate events.

“We’re having a wedding on the 11th right after the guys are finishing the final round of the PNGA,” Haberman said. “We’re excited about the PNGA. They held it at Chambers Bay last year. They came out last year around August to check us out. They said, ‘You’ll have the clubhouse done, right?’ I said, ‘I think so,’ and they committed to us. That’s going to be a fun day.”

With many more to follow.

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