Montana's Longest Drive

“I’m Framing That $15” at Eagle Bend Golf Club

Eagle Bend Golf Club

I’ve never framed money before, but the $15 I won at Eagle Bend might just have to hang on my wall for some time. Golfers always seem to have a game going. A skins game, a best ball, a Nassau, or what have you. Contrary to what Judge Smails said in Caddyshack, there is gambling at Bushwood Country Club and everywhere else for that matter.

The game at Eagle Bend was a 2-man best ball $5-dollar Nassau, with $5 going to the winning team on the front nine, on the back nine, and for the 18 hole round.

The partners for the match at the magnificent Eagle Bend Golf Club were my host Greg Barkus and his partner Lon Hinkle. Hinkle, 68, played professionally on the PGA Tour and the Champions Tour where he accumulated six professional wins. Taking on the Eagle Bend members with me was my friend Jim Hann.

The first hole at Eagle Bend is a dogleg right with trees lining the right side that can block out second shots if the tee shot doesn’t carry far enough to the corner of the fairway. A pond sits through the fairway past the corner of the dogleg leading up to a kidney bean shaped green with a deep bunker in the front left on this 413-yard par 4.

The finishing hole on the Eagle nine is a is a 461-yard downhill par 4. A blind tee shot that will chase down the hill if hit far enough, the hole bends slightly right-to-left with a wide fairway. The large green is protected by a bunker left, right, and behind.

One of the best holes on the course is the par 4 14th that plays 416-yards uphill and past a bevy of bunkers along the left side of the fairway. After the first trio of bunkers, a pond sits in front of the deep greenside bunker below the elevated green that has a number of swales running through it.

After playing the Eagle and Bear nines at Eagle Bend with Lon, Greg, Jim, and myself, we settled up our bet. Luck was on our side as Jim and I made a number of birdies and ham-and-egged our way around the course to finish ahead in the match on both the front and back nines and win the total match.

After a quick lunch with Greg, Jim and I finished the day playing the Osprey nine at Eagle Bend. Making its way around the lake and the meadows near Flathead Lake, the Osprey nine is one of my favorites. It begins with a 347-yard par 4 with water all along the right side of a fairway that bends to the left and is lined by trees on the left. A deep bunker on the right side protects this opening hole on the lakeside nine at Eagle Bend.

Perhaps my favorite hole on the Osprey is the 412-yard par 4 7th hole that plays along an inlet of the lake. To the left of the fairway that doglegs from right-to-left sits a marina filled with boats and yachts in the crystal blue water. The best tee shot is just to the right of the tree along the lake on the left of the fairway and will set up a wedge or mid-iron into this large green that slopes back-to-front and is protected by three greenside bunkers.

After finishing the 27 holes at Eagle Bend, I was asked by someone what my favorite course in Montana might be. I think out of all the courses I have played Eagle Bend might hold that distinction. With three different nines to choose from and perhaps the best greens in the state, Eagle Bend is a course I would play every day if I had the chance.

Some years from now, I think someone might ask me why I have $15 framed on my wall and I’ll have to tell them the story of playing my favorite course in Montana and taking some money off a retired 3-time PGA tour winner.

Thanks to Greg Barkus, Head Golf Professional Michael Wynne, Lon Hinkle, and the rest of the great people at Eagle Bend for a wonderful day of golf on this fantastic course.

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