Just fifteen miles from the area where Lieutenant Colonel George Armstrong Custer drew his last breaths is a golf course named for the commander of the ill-fated 7th Cavalry called Fort Custer Golf Club.
The Fort Custer Golf Club sits just a mile north of Hardin on the Crow Indian Reservation which is the largest Indian reservation in Montana. The ranchland and prairie that sits in the wide valley gives way to a bevy of trees as you make your way down a dirt road to the golf course.
Out front of the clubhouse I watched a steady stream of parents, grandparents, and kids carry all the essentials for a graduation party in the front door. Orange and black balloons were tied to the picnic tables outside and little kids chased the bigger kids around the lilac bushes and collected grass stains on their clothes. Older folks sat in the shade and visited about all the usual stuff and laughed as the children dove in and ate the overly frosted cake with wide eyes and smiles on their faces.
It was a beautiful night for a graduation party and great weather to play golf as I met my playing partner Chris Seder. Chris is a Hardin native, the reigning Club Champion at Fort Custer, and serves on the golf board at the course. He was the perfect tour guide and playing partner for a nine-hole round at Fort Custer because of a couple things. He was extremely knowledgeable about the golf course and community and had tremendous eyes for helping me find my wayward tee shots in the deep rough at Fort Custer.
Fort Custer Golf Club begins with a straightforward 477-yard par 5 from a tee box that smells of the fresh lilac bushes immediately to your left. Small trees dot the left rough and can make second shots difficult into the sloping back-to-front green.
The narrow fairways of Fort Custer got the best of a poor day off the tee for myself and forced a number of difficult second shots from the rough into extremely small greens. This course is quite the challenge if you’re game isn’t sharp.
Making your way back near the clubhouse you find the seventh tee home to a 149-yard par 3 protected by a large front right bunker and bushes on the left. A large green provides for a great chance to get on the putting surface and putt for a deuce in the setting sun out of the West.
The ninth hole at Fort Custer is a slight dogleg left par 4 complicated by a row of trees that sit in front of the left-hand side of the crowned green. At only 360-yards the hole should make for a short wedge in, but the long dangerous rough can leave you grabbing for more club just to clear these ball-eating trees.
After our trip around the links at Fort Custer, Chris and I went inside for a beer and met a large crowd of parents and relatives of graduates enjoying themselves at the old bar. The stools were mostly full as folks visited with each other and chased after the kids running through the confined quarters.
It was in this moment that I truly realized why Fort Custer Golf Club is such an important place for the community of Hardin. It’s a place where people of all ages can come together and have a great time in great company.
Now if only I could have convinced some of those young kids to help me look for my wayward tee shots in between their games of tag, then we’d be in business.