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September 2020

The Idaho Club Has Risen From the Ashes

By Scott Kauffman

Twelve years after opening with high-profile fanfare from its Jack Nicklaus-designed signature course and quickly falling into financial disarray, the club’s luxurious new clubhouse means The Idaho Club has finally risen from the ashes of its tarnished past - both literally and figuratively speaking.

The two-story, mountain modern-style opened nearly twelve years after the original clubhouse was leveled by a fire. But just as important to the membership and community’s delight of finally having a new place to enjoy is the symbolism behind it.

This striking 9,500-square-foot facility means this once shining star of the Northwest is officially back in business, stronger financially and poised for growth. At least that is one way the Idaho Club’s new ownership group sees its latest multi-million investment that started serving members, residents and guests in mid-May.

“This was absolutely critical for everyone associated with the club, community and surrounding area (of Sandpoint),” says principal William Haberman of Valiant Idaho LLC, whose investment group acquired the golf course and surrounding real estate assets around 2014 after the property was mired in years of messy legal affairs and almost auctioned off in a tax sale. “Having the history being as unfortunate as it was, there was always a little bit of a cloud over the project. Maybe the clubhouse is as much symbolic as anything else.”

“But certainly, the reopening of the clubhouse was sort of the official rebirth of the Idaho Club. It’s huge. And it’s been very well received.”

Built by Andy Hartley’s local Sandpoint Framing and Exteriors, and designed by Sandpoint architect John Hendrix with interior design assistance from Ray Schaefer’s Orlando-based Maverick Architecture and Design group, the signature building fits seamlessly into the stunning scenery here in the northernmost part of Idaho’s panhandle. Inside, the clubhouse features wall-to-wall glass vistas of the surrounding beauty and accommodates 120 people in the main dining room and another 45 comfortably at the bar.

When it comes to the real-life beauty of Sandpoint’s surrounding area, nothing beats the outdoor dining and lounge areas.  Perched high up on the property with seating for 85 people, the wraparound deck overlooks the putting green, 18th hole and sweeping views of the Bitterroot Range and Lake Pend Oreille, one of the largest and deepest lakes in America. Downstairs is approximately 1,800 square feet comprising the new fitness area, men’s and women’s locker rooms and office space.

When the club was opening in 2008, a national ad in the Wall Street Journal positioned the Idaho Club as a new private club community that would be “as impressive as the landscape.” With the state’s only Nicklaus signature course, a famous recreational lake, and acclaimed Schweitzer Mountain ski resort just a short drive away, the development offered a rare combination of world-class golf, lake and mountain pursuits.

Not to mention the quaint nearby town of Sandpoint, which is being discovered as one of the “best small towns in America” by numerous publications. It had all the ingredients to be one of the top private clubs in the Northwest at a fraction of the real estate cost one might find 45 minutes to the south in the well-known Coeur d’Alene Resort area, for example.
But soon after its opening, the community’s original developer fell victim to the 2008-09 financial crisis, and the Idaho Club spiraled into years of messy legal wrangling, foreclosure/bankruptcy proceedings and other financial distress. That’s when Haberman’s investment group stepped in, acquired all of the property entitlements for some 300 future homes, recapitalized the course and recently brought in a new management team, Scottsdale-based Mentor Hospitality Management, to help Haberman run the restaurant, bar and golf course.

Six years later, Haberman’s never felt better about the investment and it is slowly paying dividends with membership gains of 50%t since the clubhouse opened (approximately 65 to 70 total golf members with initiation fee of $12,500 and monthly dues of $600). Meanwhile, besides the 45 existing homes, Haberman estimates close to a dozen new homes are in design or construction, ranging from $650,000 to $2 million.

Haberman, who also is a real estate partner in Thistle Golf Club, in Sunset Beach, Noth Carolina, says everything about the Idaho Club took a little longer than expected, but many of the hurdles and challenges typical of taking over and repositioning distressed properties are in the past.

“We are very excited about the ongoing progress we’ve made to restore the Idaho Club and positively impact the greater Sandpoint community,” says Haberman, whose group might resurrect the lake club and marina plans one day “We want to keep getting the word out about the revival of The Idaho Club, and the club and community is back and stronger than ever. We feel very good about where we are right now.”

Haberman is reminded of that every time he walks inside his gorgeous new clubhouse.

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