Montana's Longest Drive

“Some of My Favorites” at Laurel Golf Club

Do you ever wonder how long it took you so long to meet someone when you’ve been going to all the same events and know quite a few of the same people? That’s what Jeff Noble, his son Tayler Noble, and I were wondering during our round at Laurel Golf Club on Monday.

On one of the best courses of Montana and one of my personal favorites, I got to play with some of my favorite people.

I first met Jeff and Tayler Noble during the twilight of my college career while playing my last round of the Lewis-Clark State Invitational in Lewiston, Idaho. Tayler and I both started playing golf at the same time, Tayler playing for Rocky Mountain College, and I playing for Montana Tech. Through all of the events and tournaments our two teams were at, Tayler and I never met. Of course, we knew of each other as Tayler was a standout for the Battlin’ Bears, but we never knew each other.

That is until we met on the first tee of the Lewiston Country Club as seniors for our respective schools. Following along with Tayler was his mom Kyme and his dad Jeff. Jeff and I immediately hit it off, walking and talking as we hiked the hills of the Lewiston Country Club, Jeff and I swapped jokes as Tayler and I played our first round together. One-liners flew about, and many laughs were had.

I left Lewiston thinking, “How did I not meet the Nobles before today?”

Well it wasn’t more than a week later that Jeff and Kyme were staying at the same hotel as my team during the Frontier Conference Championships down in Phoenix. All ready to enjoy the nearly one hundred degree heat of the Arizona desert, I walked down to the outdoor hotel pool to take a dip. Minutes after jumping into the water, Jeff Noble comes out the door of the hotel with a cooler of beer to sit by the pool. Jeff and I must’ve sat by that pool for two hours BS-ing under the sun.

With that backstory, you’ll understand why I was so eager to play a round at Laurel with Jeff and Tayler Noble when they invited me out to play. We met for breakfast in the lounge at Laurel Golf Club about an hour before the round and eventually found our way laughing and swapping stories on one of the most gorgeous and challenging layouts in the Treasure State.

Laurel Golf Club opens with a 392-yard dogleg right par 4. Walls of cottonwoods overhand the right side of the fairway and your tee shot must scoot past a pine tree that sits on the corner of the fairway. Through the fairway are more trees and a pond that will swallow up any shot that carries too far off the tee. An elevated green with a back-to-front slope is protected by a deep bunker on the left and a mound on the right.

The motto to playing golf at Laurel is “stay below the hole” and for good reason. The lightning quick and firm greens at Laurel Golf Club can make a birdie putt from above the hole quickly turn into a 20-foot par putt from almost off the green.

The 380-yard dogleg right 5th hole at Laurel is another risk-reward golf hole. The opportunity to layup to the top of the hill will give you a mid-iron into another severely sloping green with a bunker in the front left, but cottonwoods require a very high fading ball flight with a driver or wood to cut the corner.

Making our way around this course, it was a fantastic opportunity to catch up with Tayler. The same age and with the same passion for people and golf as myself, Tayler recently took the Pro Shop Manager position at Headwaters Golf Course in Three Forks, Montana. We talked about the days of playing 36 holes straight for college tournaments, the awful weather days we had to play through, and all the people we had met along the way playing college golf. We especially talked about how strange it was we didn’t meet each other until it was almost over.

The 13th hole at Laurel is a difficult par 3 that plays almost 200-yards uphill. Protected by a pair of bunkers in the front right and front left this hole demands the right club selection and for the golfer to keep an eye on the wind. It’s a spectacular looking view as the shadows of the cottonwoods are cast all the way from tee to green protecting the golfer from the hot sun.

The finishing hole at Laurel is a long par 5 that plays just over 500-yards back towards the clubhouse. A bunker sits about 280-yards off the tee on the left of the fairway and cottonwoods jut out on the right of the fairway inside of 200 yards of the green. From an elevated fairway landing area even with the fairway bunker a long second shot is possible to find the elevated green as long as it clears the three bunkers that surround the putting surface. This long deep green features a number of undulations and tiers that can make birdies difficult if you find the wrong location with your third shot.

After our round, Jeff, Tayler, and I sat in the clubhouse and had a round. We laughed about the shots we wished we had back and bragged about how great a golf course Laurel is to play.

It might have taken me a long time to meet the Nobles, but the wait was definitely worth it.

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