Going into my senior year of college at Montana Tech I wasn’t expecting to be labeled old, but that’s what happened when Sean Benson showed up to play golf for the Diggers. All the sudden, Sean Benson was being referred to as “Good Sean” and I was being called “Old Sean” by our teammates.
It seemed only fitting that I paired up with “Good Sean” to play his home course of Briarwood Golf Club in Billings.
In the beautiful hills outside southern Billings sits a golf course that will give you the best test of golf along with scenic views. Across rolling green hills, over the open range, and under a beautiful blue sky, Briarwood weaves its way around Montana’s southeastern wilderness.
Sean and I started in the late morning at Briarwood under some slight cloud cover on the first tee at Briarwood Golf Club. The first hole of Briarwood offers you a glimpse into the next four hours of precision and placement golf as you tee off from an elevated box down a steep hill laying up before Blue Creek that meanders its way across the course. A slight dogleg left after the initial creek promotes a layup shot before attacking the pin that is protected by a pair of black sand bunkers with a wedge in your hand.
Briarwood’s holes slowly work their ways up hillsides until dramatic elevation changes are wreaking havoc on your tee shots. The third hole at Briarwood is one such hole that features a near 100-foot drop from the tee box to a green protected by a bunker in the back left on the 145-yard hole. This is not the most dramatic of elevation changes however as the par 3 sixteenth hole features a monumental drop from an elevated tee box to a wide green protected by three black sand bunkers. The hole measures in at 190-yards but plays to only 140-yards from the high elevation.
As “Good Sean” and I made our way around Briarwood and talked a bit about the course he has grown up playing we reminisced about the good old days of playing college golf together. We talked about how things had changed since we were both teammates and all the trips and courses we had played.
On the back nine, Sean wisely got a cart as most members at Briarwood do, but I kept on huffing it up the winding trails and fairways. I scoffed as the first three holes on the front nine weren’t too difficult to walk and thought, “I’m not so sure what everyone was warning me about. This course’s hills aren’t too bad.”
Boy was I wrong. The 13th, 14th, and 15th holes at Briarwood are affectionally called the B$%#@es and for good reason. These three par 4s feel as if they are played straight up a mountain to small landing areas and brutally tough greens that slope in several different directions. Just as I would catch my breath and hit my shot I would have to do my best impression on someone summitting mount Everest and hall my clubs up another couple hundred yards of steady incline.
Greeting you by the green of one of these holes is a wooden bear carved out of an old tree that used to protect the 14th green. It stands tall and ever watching your second shot in from its post between the cart path and the undulating green.
After the round at Briarwood, “Good Sean” and I ventured inside for lunch at the Black Bunker Bar & Grill named after the black sand protects Briarwood’s greens. Inside the spacious bar that offers view of the expansive course and practice areas we visited about our round and tallied up our scores.
As I looked down at our scorecard and I came to a realization that has been some time in the works: I am never going to be “Good Sean” as long as I’m friends with Sean Benson.