Montana's Longest Drive

“Iron Wills and Ironman Pins” at Valley View Golf Club

Some people are fair weather golfers.  They only play when the sun is shining, and the temperatures are high enough that you won’t need a jacket. Then there are those like Mark Houser and myself.

“Sometimes, I wonder if I’m crazy going out to play on days like these, but then I get here and see just one other car in the parking lot and it invigorates me” Mark said as we played in below 40-degree temperatures.

The weather on Sunday at Valley View Golf Club scared away a number of people from playing golf, but not the group Mark had on the putting green when I showed up. Seeing a couple of other guys putting on the practice green gave me confidence that these were some of my people, these guys were die-hards.

The die-hards Mark had assembled were his friends Bruce and Fred. We paired up in teams and played a little high-low game throughout our round that added a little competitive fire to a cold round to keep us warm.

The first thing to stand out to me at Valley View were the greens at this golf course. The bent grass putting surfaces rolled so pure and provided many challenges as we trekked our way across this par 70 course. Steep hillsides and undulations throughout these greens made for a day of challenging and breaking putts made even more difficult by the pin positions.

Valley View was fresh off of hosting an Ironman style tournament on their back nine holes the day before and the pins were kept the same for Sunday. These pin placements had the four of us scratching our heads and laughing throughout our round.

We were faced with downhill putts that we had no chance of stopping and breaking putts that would almost do an about face near the hole before speeding past the cup. There wasn’t a 4-footer that any of us took for granted throughout the round.

As I played Valley View for the first time I found a few holes that really caught my eye. The first such hole was the par 5 5th hole that plays 508 yards. With a pond to the left of the tee and a bank of trees in the left rough the most dangerous play is to get too far right off the tee and end up having to hit your second shot over the pond that sits in front of the green. A slow meandering turn of the fairway to the right past this pond brings you to the green that is protected by three bunkers.

As we approached the 5th green the pond nearby was a place of excitement as an osprey circled high above the water. As rain drops began to fall and we read our putts in hopes of making a birdie, the osprey had found its prey. Swooping down and dropping its claws into the water, the predator plucked a 10-inch trout from the pond and carried it away to its nest.

“You don’t see that every day” Mark said. “How amazing was that?”

Turning our attention to the treacherous pins on the back nine at Valley View, I suddenly felt like the fish in the talons of the osprey. These difficult pins made for a great time for our foursome. We laughed at our misfortune as we’d lip out short downhill putts and end up with a near 10-footer coming back up the hill.

The 18th at Valley View is a challenging par 5 to finish the round. From the back tees, the tee shot has to carry a small creek that runs across the fairway 250 yards from the tee. Walls of trees on the right and left of the fairway near the 150-yard marker tightens the fairway before a large bunker on the right near the 100-yard plate. The green on the 18th is an undulating small green with bunkers on each side of it narrowing the landing area for your third shot.

As we concluded our round in the cold weather at Valley View, Mark, Bruce, Fred and myself wandered inside the clubhouse to warm up with lunch. Digging in to our meals, we kept talking about the terrifically challenging pins we got to play on the back nine and where we should have attacked them from. Then we talked about the awesome sight the osprey fishing in the pond was to see.

Look at all the fun the fair weather golfers missed out on at Valley View in the below 40-degree temperatures.

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