There are moments on this trip that have stuck with me. Moments that are as distinctly Montana as anything I’ve ever come across that I’m sure I will never forget.
On a hot Monday afternoon, I sped up the highway past Plains, Montana and turned down a gravel road just past the large white sign showing the way to the course. With only one truck on the parking lot, I grabbed my clubs and headed toward the clubhouse to see if I could go out and get nine holes in in the 95-degree heat.
I opened an old green screen door and went into the small shop that sells golf balls, tees, and drinks but couldn’t find anyone behind the counter. I looked around at the trophies and pictures hanging on the wall for a few minutes until I finally heard something coming from the cart shed.
I rounded the corner outside of the shop to find the old guy working the course that afternoon sitting back with his feet kicked up on another chair watching M*A*S*H reruns. It was the perfect spot where he could stay out of the sun and get a slight breeze to roll through the open garage door.
I think I might have half startled him as I rounded the corner and asked to play golf.
“Shoot, you’re crazy to want to go play in this heat,” he said. “It’s just too damn hot today for me.”
We visited for a short while in the shade of the cart barn as Alan Alda’s Hawkeye Pierce made wise cracks in the background before I eventually made my way out into the heat.
The course at Plains is a beautiful track just to the east of Highway 200 that climbs a high hill and overlooks the town of Plains and the Clark Fork River. Gigantic powerlines hang above the course as they supply power westward.
The opening hole at Wild Horse Plains Golf Course is a 332-yard par 4 that tees off from the hill near the gravel road you travel into the course on. It slightly doglegs right past the row of trees that protect the clubhouse and cart barn and leads to a small turtleback green protected by a small bunker in the front left.
The most challenging hole both to walk and to play is the par 5 2nd hole that clocks in at 444-yards. An opening shot needs to be in the fairway that slightly turns left to make way for an extremely uphill second shot that must be careful to miss the trees lining the fairway on both sides before the green that sits behind a small hill.
It wasn’t until I got to the top of this hill that I realized how ungodly hot it really was. The uphill climb along the second hole had me remembering what the older guy watching the shop had said, “It’s just too damn hot today”.
With the heat on top of the hill came a spectacular view of the countryside surrounding the town of Plains and the whole valley. The best view of the valley came from the 6th tee along the northwest side of the course. From this high vantage point on the par 3 151-yard hole, you could see almost forever with the only sounds being the popping of the electricity along the power lines.
After finishing up on the ninth green, I sauntered my way down the hill to find my friend watching another rerun of M*A*S*H on the TV inside the cart shed.
“You survived the heat,” he said. “Pretty darn hot out there wasn’t it?”
“Almost too hot for golf, but you’re in the right spot to stay out of the heat,” I replied.
“Yes sir, and the best part is, I’m getting so old I can’t remember any of these episodes anymore,” he said as he muted the TV.
Not wanting to interrupt his programs, I thanked him and walked out the cart barn. I could hear him unmute the TV and rest his feet back up on the chair in front of him as the 4077th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital went back to work.