I may have had the most perfect day in Deer Lodge, Montana on Wednesday and it all started at the Deer Park Golf Course.
A modest nine-hole public course just west of town, Deer Park is down a winding little road where you pass under some tall cottonwood trees to find a white clubhouse with a small putting green nearby. Inside hang trophies from past high school state championship teams from the mid-2000s who called this course home and a small bar where a couple of old-timers were grabbing a quick drink before continuing their round.
I BS-ed with the two men at the bar and grabbed a scorecard to play Deer Park in the mid-morning sun. As I was walking out the door I was warned to stay out of the ponds that were on the course that weren’t on the scorecard because of all the flooding trouble Deer Park had had over the beginning of the season. Apparently, the course was under quite a bit of water until just a few days before I rolled into town.
This nine-hole course plays 3,184-yards from the white tees and features a number of fun holes throughout the track. The 1st hole is a fun par 4 measuring 392-yards that tees of from right by the clubhouse. A small channel runs the right rough while bushes cover the left side of the rough. Anything right of the fairway is a dangerous play leading up to the crowned green that slopes back-to-front.
As I made my way through my round at Deer Park, I was astonished at the number of people out playing it in the middle of the day. There were elderly couples out with their push carts and young guys out with their golf carts having a ball at the course.
After crossing back in front of the clubhouse, I hit the 476-yard 5th hole that runs east toward the town. A relatively straightforward par 5, left brings the small creek into play on all three shots while right can leave you in the long grass or near some bushes that can block out your path to the green. The initial tee shot has to cover a small pond just a short distance in front of the tee. This undulating green slopes off in a variety of directions and can leave difficult pin positions if you aren’t on the right area of the putting surface.
My favorite hole for the course was the par 3 7th that plays 131-yards. A small black sand bunker protects the left side of this green that slopes back-to-front. With the wind coming right at the player and the pin being tucked in the back corner of the green, this short par 3 was far more challenging than the scorecard would indicate.
Visiting with the folks at the golf course after I had completed my round, I found out that Deer Park Golf Course is maintained by volunteers. All the mowing and groundskeeping duties are done by members of the community and one prison trustee who comes out and helps. This news only made me enjoy Deer Park even more, because it’s a golf course made by the people and for the people of Deer Lodge to enjoy.
After my round, I was about to head out of town when I decided to peak my head in and tour the Old Montana State Prison and cross it off my bucket list. I had driven by the old prison countless times and seen signs along the highway but had never had the time to go and tour the museum.
The tour and the history of that old building was something else. I took my time and read the stories that were listed at every stop along the way through the old building as families from across the country walked through as well. From the guard towers to the prison yard, the tour was exceptional and something I was so happy I took the time to enjoy.
After playing Deer Park Golf Course that morning, taking a little self-guided tour through this historic Montana landmark was the perfect way to spend the afternoon in Deer Lodge.
Golf and an old prison tour, that sounds like a pretty perfect day in Deer Lodge to me.