CLARKSTON, Wa. — It was a late Sunday afternoon and the sound of golf balls being hit drew attention to an area between the Quality Inn Conference Center and the Snake River, which separates Washington and Idaho.
At first glance, the 20-stall driving range appears out of place. But for visitors and residents alike, Dave’s Valley Golf Center is a cool place to work on your golf game, socialize with others, or shop to your heart’s content in the pro shop.
The driving range is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Anyone can purchase a bucket — or more — of balls and swing away, even in the dark, although there are no lights beaming down on the hitting stalls. Hey, what’s wrong with NOT being able to see some really bad shots?
On this day, two of those stalls are occupied by a father-and-son tandem, Steve and 6-year-old Maxton Elliott.
“It’s a great place and we come down here about every other week,” said Steve, a life-time resident of the area who played on his high school golf team and, in his prime, had a one-plus handicap. The electrician now carries a 7-handicap, plays Lewiston Country Club whenever possible, and is developing quite a swing for his son.
“We like to come down and dink around,” he added. “Dave (driving range owner Dave Scharnhorst) has really done a great job fixing this place up. He has improved the maintenance, upkeep and general aesthetics.
“A lot of times I will stop by here about 6 in the morning on my way to work and hit some balls.”
Scharnhorst, who already had a golf/gun facility in his hometown of Colton and a golf center in Spokane, entered into a multi-year lease agreement with the Quality Inn Conference Center to basically build Dave’s Valley Golf Center from scratch.
“When we got this place (in 2014), it was a real mess,” he said. “We had to gut it and basically start over. It was in bad shape. The ceiling was falling down, among other things. it was very dilapidated.”
A nine-hole miniature golf course was replaced by attractive landscaping, tons of tumbleweeds that had blown into the protective netting on three sides of the driving range were gathered up and hauled away.
It was a yeoman task, bankrolled mostly by the Quality Inn, and the grand opening was held on April 25, 2015.
Almost two years later, a group of golf writers and broadcasters from the Seattle area visited the Lewis-Clark Valley, spent two nights at the conference center, played the Clarkston Country Club one day and Lewiston Country Club the next. An ample supply of local wines also was provided by six of the wineries.
Club demos (except for Titleist) are available for testing. The golf shop itself is roomy and well-stocked with golf goods, a PGA teaching pro is available for lessons and Marlon Eng is the manager and go-to guy.
A small bucket of balls from an outdoor machine is $5, a medium size bucket is $8 and a large bucket costs $10.
“So far so good,” Scharnhorst said of his new business. “Fridays and Saturdays usually are our busiest days.”
The facility has a covered, open-air beverage-dining area located on the river side, not far from where the American Empress paddlewheel was preparing to embark on a nine-day journey to Portland, Or. on the Snake and Columbia Rivers — for a mere $3,300 per person.
Most of the folks on the river cruise are elderly and could care less about going to a driving range. Even so, Eng said there are occasional visitors from the vessels.
The bulk of the cliental comes from the ever-growing Valley and visitors from all around, many of them staying at the Quality Inn, providing a unique experience.
“We are the only hotel in the valley that has a driving range basically connected to it,” said Danielle Conklin, the hotel’s General Manager. “So this (arrangement) benefits us because it is a different type of amenity that you can’t get anywhere else. We work hard together to make it work.”
Indeed, the solid working relationship definitely is a win-win for both.
“We get a lot of golf groups that stay with us and those who stay here get to go down and hit balls at the range either before or after they play golf at any of the three courses we have in the area — Clarkston Country Club, Lewiston Country Club and Quail Ridge,” she added.
The stay-and-play golf packages available are just one sample of their collaboration. Golfers staying at the Quality Inn also can order from the hotel menu and have it delivered to the dining area — morning. noon or evening.
“As long as the restaurant is open we will serve food down there,” Danielle said.
Breakfast, lunch or dinner.
One of the most popular packages offered is the “Stay and Play” for two adults. For $235, plus tax, each golfer receives a complimentary breakfast, bucket of balls at Dave’s driving range, and green fees for two at one of the three golf courses in the Clarkston-Lewiston area.