Driving along the two-lane road between Joliet and Columbus, I bobbed up and down the winding highway on my way across the roaring Yellowstone River to Stillwater Golf Course during a hot afternoon. Tonight, I was going to going play alongside the men’s league at Stillwater Golf Course while completing my tour of golf courses in Montana.
My connection to join the league at Columbus for one night, was Blake Haug, who is my brother-in-law’s brother-in-law. Suddenly I feel like I’m quoting Spaceballs here in this story when trying to describe how I’m not really related to Blake.
To make things simpler, Blake introduced me to everyone around the course as his brother-in-law and it was as simple as that as I hopped onto the back of his cart to get a ride out to the 8th tee where we would be starting and eventually finishing our league round. Blake’s partner was the two-time club champion at Stillwater Chris Rasmussen and the showed me around their home track.
Starting on the 8th hole that plays now as a par 4 on the back nine, we had to be wary of the ditch that runs across the fairway right where a driver would land. With a pond and trouble to your right the tee shot needs to find the fairway before you travel up a slight hill to an undulating green that is protected by water behind it and to the right.
As an honorary member of the men’s league on a beautiful night in Stillwater County, a setting sun provided picturesque views of the golf course as we stood on the number one tee. The 1st hole at Stillwater is a dogleg right par 4 that plays about 330-yards if you decide to cut the corner over the driving range that is out-of-bounds. Thick cottonwoods cast shade over the green and hang their long limbs over tee shots that don’t get past the corner pine trees on the drive. This green on the first hole is protected by a bunker on the front left and features an undulating surface that can house many difficult pins depending on the greenskeeper’s mood that day.
As the league night went on and I walked alongside Blake and Chris as they maneuvered their way around the course, we shot the breeze about everything golf and sports. Thankfully they instructed me on the safe play to take on some of the more difficult holes at Stillwater that can really chew you up if you aren’t laying up to the right spots.
One of those risk-reward holes is the dogleg right par 4 5th hole that measures 395-yards from tee to green but has a large pond running the length of the left rough. A good drive can carry this water but as I found out, the risk wasn’t worth the reward. Through the fairway a straight drive that runs too far will find water as well as the best option is to lay up with a long iron to ensure a mid-iron approach into an elevated back-to-front sloping green protected by bunkers.
After we finished our round, I was treated to what Blake called, “The best meal every week when I was a single guy.” The post round feed of pasta salads, potato salads, and the like was put on by one of the league teams as they all rotate nights and the golfers bring their own steaks, burgers, or what have you, to grill on the barbecue after their done golfing.
Blake and I and some other golfers sat outside for about an hour as the sun crept down closer to the horizon on a beautiful early summer night. Stories were swapped about everything you could think of with golf being the most popular genre and a great night was had by all.
Sitting on that patio with the cool air of a summer night, I figured I could get used to a league night like this. I’d just to have to remember to pack a couple of steaks for after the round to pay back my not quite brother-in-law Blake.