In territorial Montana, Fort Benton was the region’s last trading post along the mighty Missouri River. Steamboats would power their way against the current from St. Louis to bring supplies and people to the West. It was where cowboys and cavalries would walk the same streets and where supplies heading for the mining camps in Helena and Virginia City would be loaded on stagecoaches for the rest of their journey.
Fort Benton is the birthplace of Montana.
High above this birthplace sits Signal Point Golf Club, a beautiful nine-hole golf course with an even more spectacular view of the one-time frontier town. Named for the landmark directly adjacent to the golf course where lookouts could first spot the next steamboat due for Fort Benton. Signal Point Golf Club was built in 1967, one-hundred years after the town’s post office was established.
My Sunday morning foursome at Signal Point read like a bad joke. I was playing golf with a doctor, a bar owner, and an engineer. Scott Meissner, Thad Stinson, his daughter Josie Stinson, and myself were the first to tee off at Signal Point on a sunny windless day high above Fort Benton.
With a foursome that sounded like the lead in of a bad joke there were plenty of laughs to be had that morning. I couldn’t keep track of number of times I doubled over in laughter from one of Scott or Thad’s one-liners during the round.
The first hole at Signal Point is a straightforward 400-yard par 4 with trees lining both sides of the fairway and an elevated green protected by a pair of large bunkers on the right and left.
The greens at Signal Point Golf Club are consistently some of the best in the state. Elevated, undulating, and hard to hold without a wedge in your hand the greens are always remarkable in Fort Benton.
The fourth hole is the first par 3 you run across at Signal Point, at 152-yards long with a crystal clear blue pond to your right and a pair of bunkers in front of the green. Your tee shot has to get up quickly to clear the pine tree on the edge of the pond that blocks out the front of the green from your vision.
The closing hole at Signal Point is the dogleg left par 5 ninth that offers spectacular views of the whole Missouri River valley and the Little Belt Mountains on the horizon. A tee shot too far left will leave you blocked out by trees and a tee shot too far right leaves you an impossibly long second shot. The tiered green on the ninth sits in the shade of the cottonwoods with bunkers in the front left and front right.
The historic town of Fort Benton is home to not just any nine-hole golf course, it’s home to Signal Point Golf Club. It is home to hundreds of cottonwoods, perfect greens, and views that transport you back to territorial Montana.
When a steamboat would fight the current of the mighty Missouri River to get to Fort Benton, the birthplace of Montana.
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