Many people have claimed to have been to Heaven on Earth. They’ll say, “This place is like Heaven on Earth” or “It was Heaven on Earth” when describing any location with a bit of beauty.
But I’ve been to the real Heaven on Earth and I know it because it has a golf course.
As expected, getting to Heaven on Earth isn’t as easy as you’d think. It took me nearly an hour-and-a-half on rutted and washboard dirt roads through gorgeous northern Meagher County I will reflectively call Purgatory Trail.
As I made my way up Purgatory Trail in my small Ford Focus, I bounced around on the washboard roads and dogged large boulders that would have undoubtedly stranded me in the middle of nowhere with only cattle as company. The cows on this road were another obstacle as black heifers stood in the middle of the dirt road and stared down my car as I approached. Knowing my place in the hierarchy of the farmland I had to maneuver around these soon to be hunks of hamburger or wait for them to get bored with staring down the Montana’s Longest Drive Mobile and cross the road. The next obstacle for me was the number of gates I had to wrestle with and open-up every half mile on my way down into the Smith River valley.
Continuing to rattle my way down the rutted dirt road and through a thick blanket of timber I finally came over a high rising hill and saw a yellow golf flag flapping in the wind down by the river. It was a relief to know I had made it to Heaven on Earth.
The property owner Vic Anderson cut off his mower and walked up a steep hill to greet me. Then he looked a little bewilderedly at my vehicle and laughed, “You made it here in that?! I’m impressed.”
Normally, the way to access Heaven on Earth is to float down the Smith River for two-and-a-half days. The Heaven on Earth Ranch is at the halfway mark of the remarkable float trips down the Smith. Vic Anderson’s place is the last chance for floaters to buy ice, ice cream, beer, and other essentials. It’s also the last chance to get a quick nine holes in while you’re on your float.
As you float the Smith, you can’t help but spot the sign at a bend in the river that reads:
LAST CHANCE SUPPLIES
GOLF – SHOWERS
ICE CREAM – ICE
I must have been quite the sight for some of those floaters as I stood on the tee box on the 6th hole and readied to hit my wedge shot into a small hand mown green 128-yards just a few paces from the riverbank.
After hitting my shot, I heard a rafter who was tangling with his fishing line call out, “How many holes have they got?!”
I yelled back up the canyon, “Nine holes, I’m on number 6!”
The rest of the party in the raft laughed as they maneuvered in and landed at the riverbank in front of the supply cabin and tied up their raft. Stretching their legs and supplying up for the last few days of their float they admired this par 3 course cut out of the mountainside with giant cups and yellow flagsticks dotting the hillside.
Admittedly the course at Heaven on Earth is a little short, with the longest tee shot being the one from the top of a little cliff that overlooks the whole property. This 145-yard shot plays much shorter because there’s a hundred-foot drop from tee box to green. From this vantage point, you can see the high rock faces that tower over the bends in the Smith River and the cabins and teepees that dot the beautiful patch of green grass all over the property. It’s as picturesque as it gets.
It was from this high hilltop that I figured out why you’d name this little spot along the Smith River Heaven on Earth. As I bounced my way back up Purgatory Trail, I thought for quite a bit about Heaven on Earth.
A lot of people might say they’ve been to Heaven on Earth, but if they don’t mention the golf course, I’ll know they can’t be talking about the real place. Because I’ve been there.
And Heaven on Earth has a golf course.
Thanks to Vic Anderson and his family for having me out to play Heaven on Earth Golf Course and giving me the directions to get there. Next time I must just have to float in.