East of Missoula, there is a golf course just barely visible from the Interstate. At 80 miles per hour, if you blink you might miss the wide fairways or tall fescue rough that combine to create an amazing golf experience at Canyon River Golf Club.
The fairways at Canyon River are the first part of the course to catch your eye, as these sprawling stretches of green grass seem to meander on endlessly as you stand on the opening tee. There is of course the deep fescue rough at Canyon River that lines every hole and can quickly steal a ball away from you after any wayward shots find their way into it. What Canyon River also has are gigantic undulating greens, the kind of greens that can leave you with putts of over 50-feet if you find yourself in the wrong quadrant.
It is on this gorgeous golf course that is nestled along the Blackfoot River among the mountains that encapsulate this immaculate valley that I met my playing partners just off the 1st tee Gary Chumrau and Bill Hill. Gary and Bill were gracious enough to join me on a windy day that made Canyon River an even tougher track rather than go fishing as they had originally planned.
“I’m not sure I would want to be on a boat right now with this wind,” Gary said as we began our walk down the first fairway. “The fishing is probably terrible today anyhow.”
The opening hole at Canyon River slightly turns right-to-left past a bunker on the left side of the fairway. A slow rolling hill will catch longer tee shots and bring the ball past the cart path leaving less than 80-yards into a pin that can be tucked behind the deep front right bunker. This 398-yard hole is an early opportunity to make birdie if your game is strong off the tee to begin the round.
One of the most exciting holes at Canyon River is the drivable 338-yard 8th hole that turns slowly right-to-left past a deep fairway bunker. This risk/reward hole is best played by flying the bunker on the left to leave a short approach up the hill to a sloping green. Staying to the left side of this fairway will also help players avoid the dangerous and deep greenside bunker to the right of the putting surface that will leave you short-sided for this green that slopes away.
As Gary, Bill, and I battled the wind that was sweeping through the canyon east of Missoula we came to one of Canyon River’s signature holes, the par 3 12th hole that catches of the eye of people traveling along the Interstate. This downhill 190-yard par 3 plays a club or two shorter than listed to a green protected by a handful of bunkers left of the subtly front-to-back sloping green.
After battling the wind and the fescue at Canyon River Golf Club, Gary, Bill, and I went inside to grab a beer as a reward for finishing our long walk across this great course. The three of us clinked our glasses together as Gary joked, “There is no way the fishing would have been better than this.”
Canyon River is one of the best golf courses in Montana and one of my favorite tracks to play. If you’re driving on the Interstate heading north into Missoula, don’t forget to look for Canyon River Golf Club.
Thanks to Canyon River, PGA Professional Edward Bezanson, and the rest of the staff for a wonderful day at such a fantastic golf course.