Tee shots in golf are tough, tee shots from a weathered golf mat that must carry over a 1998 Buick Century and dodge a dilapidated old barn are even tougher.
This is the tale of a little par 3 course called Norwegian Wood near Canyon Ferry.
Riding out from Helena with my friend Jerek Wolcott on our way to Norwegian Wood we drove over the damn at Canyon Ferry and a few miles deeper into the valley. Along this two-lane highway sits the entrance to Norwegian Wood, and a small road that leads back toward the bar.
There is no real clubhouse at Norwegian Wood, just a simple bar and restaurant that serves tremendous burgers during the day and steaks at night. Walking in and paying our greens fees at the bar as a musician played Billie Joel’s Piano Man and folks ate delicious looking dinners, Jerek and I were directed toward the first tee not more than six paces from the front door.
This first tee is a golf mat with green carpeting in the hitting area and hard-rubber on the area where you take your stance. Looking around the property, Jerek and I finally spotted the first flag that was seated on a small green directly past the tan 1998 Buick Century that must have been driven by one of the bar patrons and to the left of a small red barn that creaked in the wind. Behind the hole is a vegetable garden that is strictly out of bounds as noted on the scorecard.
Making our way around this golf course that’s longest hole is 105 yards, Jerek and I laughed about the fun and tricky little golf holes we were playing. We hit from nondescript tee boxes and had to make our best guesses as to where some of the small greens began and where the roughs ended.
Jerek was quick to joke, “This might be the shortest golf course you’ll ever play and but hopefully I’m not the worst player you tee it up with.”
He wasn’t, but he might have been one of the most fun. Dry humor abounded as we hit our tee shots and traded off sitting in the wicker furniture conveniently placed around this golf course.
Continuing up the valley wall and playing an uphill tee shot into the 7th hole that measures in at an even 100-yards. We stood atop the green and looked around the valley that leads to Canyon Ferry as the weather finally broke and the sky lightened up. It wasn’t hard to understand why you’d want to build a golf course on this property.
Part of playing Norwegian Wood is the experience of paying for nine holes and getting more than you bargained for. It’s about the laughs and the memories that you make while you spend an hour chasing a little white ball around a small golf course and then heading into a small bar and listening to live music.
Norwegian wasn’t pristine, or immaculate, or anything you would find on a championship golf course. And that’s why I liked it. Sometimes golf is about more than trying to put the ball in the hole.
Sometimes it’s about praying to the golf gods that you don’t hook one into the back windshield of that 1998 Buick Century.