Montana's Longest Drive

“Around the Cemetery” at Jawbone Creek

A thunderstorm raced across the farmland of central Montana as I headed north toward Harlowton. Thunder cracked, and lightning lit up the early morning sky. Rain pelted down on my windshield as I pulled into the parking lot of Jawbone Creek Country Club.

As the rain continued but the horizon behind me started to show bits of promising sunlight, I was joined in the parking lot by Gregg Wasson who coaches basketball and golf at Harlowton High School. Gregg invited me inside and we waited out the worst parts of the storm before we ventured out to play Jawbone in the waning elements.

With the wind continuing to howl we teed off on the 491-yard par 5 1st hole that doglegs left and back up a steep hill. A landing area sits at the base of the hill with a ditch running down the left side that your second shout must clear. As you walk up the fairway after the first shot to your left is a deep pond you must avoid but that isn’t what catches your attention as you aim at the elevated green.

To the left of the green and a slight way down the hill is are little uniform rows of headstones that sit behind a white picket fence. Above the entrance is a sign that reads JAWBONE CEMETERY.

I’ve seen courses near cemeteries before, I’ve read signs that say, “PLEASE DON’T HUNT FOR GOLF BALLS IN THE CEMETERY”, and I’ve even sent a few golf balls bouncing around among the granite monuments at some courses. But I had never seen a golf course with a cemetery in the middle of the property.

As the holes of Jawbone Creek Country Club worked their ways across the landscape and up hills Gregg guided me around the course telling me where to hit and where not to hit it.

The par 3 4th hole plays shorter than the 146-yards on the card as you tee off from an elevated tee toward a small back-to-front sloping green with twin grass bunkers in front. The wind at Jawbone can be treacherous as it hails from the west and forces shots to be played way out over edges of the greens with a hope that they work their way back and find the putting surface.

The long par 4 5th hole at Jawbone played even longer into the prevailing wind than the 339-yards listed. Troubling long grass past the left rough and an out-of-bounds fence along the right narrow the fairway past the hilltop. A small pond also sits at the bottom of the hill and will swallow a tee shot that tries too hard to avoid the OB fence. Another elevated green from the highest vantage point on the course offers a fantastic view of Harlowton and the Crazy Mountains in the distance.

Jawbone Creek is an excellent golf course that demands good shots, a great wind ball, and the ability to place tee shots in the correct spots. As Gregg and I wrapped up our round and he showed me around the clubhouse and the splendid views it provides of the whole property I was drawn again to the cemetery in the middle of the course.

I know I wouldn’t mind my final resting place being in the middle a golf course.

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