Montana's Longest Drive

“In Wonderous Awe” at Spanish Peaks

With the windows rolled down on a sunny afternoon, I followed a two-lane road past the tiny mountain sky town of Big Sky and headed deeper into the mountain forest. Rounding corners and climbing higher up the mountainside, I finally rounded a bend to see the clubhouse of Spanish Peaks.

An immaculate log building that overlooks the 18th green of the Tom Weiskopf course, it stands high and tall over everything else in the valley, much like the Spanish Peaks for which the club is named. Inside the clubhouse, I met with Spanish Peaks Head Golf Professional Tim Phelps who gave me a brief overview of the course.

A young man named Jackson gave a ride down to the putting green and handed me a can of bear spray saying, “I sure hope you don’t need this.” Jackson and I visited while I putted around on the practice green for a few moments before his Walkie-Talkie went off and he was headed back to work.

I played the tips at Spanish Peaks because I wanted to hit from the back tee on the 1st hole. One of the most unique tee boxes I have ever seen, the 1st at Spanish Peaks doesn’t tee off from a normal tee box, but from off the putting green where a black metal tee marker is planted in the putting surface that reads 433-yards. This downhill par 4 turns slightly left to right with bunkers along the left rough 300-yards from the tee. A downhill second shot into an undulating green with a large horseshoe shaped bunker on the left makes this a great opening hole.

One of my favorite holes on the course was the par 5 2nd that plays 527-yards from the tips. This downhill hole turns left in the fairway past a large pond filled with age old pine trees who have succumbed to the tough winters and now sit submerged just under the surface of the blue water, before making a right-hand turn past a line of trees towards a well-protected green. This par 5 is best played as a three-shot hole leaving players a wedge in to this bowl-shaped green.

Continuing to gaze in wonder at some of these magnificent golf holes designed by Tom Weiskopf that incorporated the mountainous terrain without losing the natural luster of this area, I realized the clouds behind me had overtaken Lone Peak and turned a nasty deep black color. Small raindrops fell from the sky sporadically before they came down in waves, then the waves turned into icy hailstones. Halfway through the par 4 5th hole, and with nowhere to I hide, I finished out the hole before finding my way into a snack shack located near the 6th tee.

Inside I found a group of guys from the Chicago area waiting out the worst of the storm. Joining them and trying to warm up after the temperature had dropped 15 degrees in the last few minutes, we visited about the rest of their friends who had decided to go on a float trip that afternoon.

“I bet they wish they had gone golfing now,” one of them joked as the hailstones pelted the windows of the snack shack.

After the hail stopped, I continued my round in the drizzling rain until it quit as I started the back nine. A gorgeous back nine that carves its way through treelined corridors, it features some of the best par 3s I have ever played. The 15th is a prime example, as this 210-yard downhill par three has a pond to the left of the green and is surrounded by four deep bunkers. Playing a club or two shorter than the listed yardage, this undulating green rewards the tee shot that finds the center of the putting surface.

With clear skies and that after rain smell and freshness blanketing the course, I found myself taking deeper breaths of the mountain air and savoring this gorgeous golf course. Walking back toward the clubhouse, a slight mist still hung in the mountain air.

Spanish Peaks was a spectacular blend of natural beauty and golf course design. This is what golf in the mountains should be like. Making you feel suddenly insignificant as you watch a storm cloud roll over the top of a peak and completely at peace once the rains have stopped.

I had went into the mountain forest today with my golf clubs and came out in wonderous awe of Spanish Peaks.

Thanks to Tim Phelps and the staff of Spanish Peaks for a wonderful day of golf and hospitality for Montana’s Longest Drive.

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