Montana's Longest Drive

“Behind Jerry’s Saloon” at Meadow Creek Golf Course in Fortine, MT

Meadow Creek Golf Course

A large billboard for Jerry’s Saloon greets drivers along the highway as they head north from Whitefish. Promoting golf, a restaurant, and an RV Park, one has to think, what more could you need in Fortine, Montana?

Down a dirt road in Fortine, the log cabin exterior of Jerry’s Saloon and a pair of flags both blowing in the wind, one Canadian and one American invite you into this rustic bar. For just 15 dollars, that you conveniently pay at the bar, you can head out behind the bar and begin your round on the nine hole Meadow Creek Golf Course.

Beginning with a 125-yard downhill par 3 past a tall pine tree on the right from a tee box that is just paces away from the back deck the Meadow Creek Golf Course has something for everybody. A short course that will be perfect for newcomers or the settle bets made inside the bar, Meadow Creek and Jerry’s Saloon are a hidden treasure along Highway 93.

Working my way around the par 3 course in a short amount of time, I finished my round on the 145-yard par 3 9th which heads up a hill toward the side of the bar. A turtleback green awaits your wedge shot on this closing hole where bets can be settled before heading back into Jerry’s Saloon.

Meadow Creek Golf Course behind Jerry’s Saloon is worth a stop for just the story of playing golf behind a bar in Fortine, Montana. Just watch for the billboard promising golf, a restaurant, and an RV park and you’ll be on your way to a great par 3 course.

Montana's Longest Drive

“Simply Spectacular” at Wilderness Club

Designed by Sir Nick Faldo, the Wilderness Club in Eureka, Montana, is rated as the #1 Course You Can Play in Montana by GolfWeek Magazine.

In the wild landscape of northwestern Montana, the Wilderness Club has sprawling fairways cut out of the tall pines and deep bunkers that will penalize errant shots from both off the tee and near the greens. A few years back I made the long drive north from Great Falls to play the Wilderness Club for the first time and the long day in the car was made worth it by this spectacular golf course.

Coming back to the Wilderness Club, I was with my friends Scott Meissner, Mike Spencer, and Landon Spencer who had played it a few times before I made it to Eureka to meet up with them. Their recent experience on the course had them prepped and ready to go from the first tee where Landon and I decided to play the tips that stretch the course out to 7,207 yards.

The opening hole at the Wilderness Club is a 389-yard par 4 that plays up hill from near the driving range and putting green and bends slightly right-to-left. A trio of bunkers occupy the left side of the fairway before the elevated and undulating green that has a pair of bunkers on the right and one in the back left.

As I made my way across the native grasses that stretch across the fairway everywhere the fairways and pine trees don’t occupy, I was regretting playing the tips as I slashed my ball out of a few bunkers on the 2nd hole.

The 161-yard 3rd hole is beautiful as they get. An over water par 3 with mountain peaks in the backdrop and three deep bunkers surrounding this wide turtleback green make it a challenging par if you can’t find the putting surface.

The 10th hole at Wilderness Club is a downhill 320-yard par 4 with a fairway that is shortened along the left side by a deep blue pond that protects the front of a green with steep slopes near the sides. An old dead tree along the right side 200-yards from the tee provides a great visual for this dastardly hole to open up the back nine.

The back nine at the Wilderness Club takes you back into the meadowlands of beautiful countryside outside of Eureka. The finishing hole plays at 593-yards along a lake where canoes are paddled around the calm water to the left of the fairway that slopes from right-to-left for the entirety of the hole. A par 5 that can be reached with a long drive that runs past a hill with bunkers on both sides or can be wisely played out right of lake to make it a three-shot hole. The 18th green slopes from right-to-left and from front-to-back with a ridge that divides the green and can make for long and challenging putts to complete the round.

The Wilderness Club is a fantastic track in northwest Montana. A unique and challenging course in a gorgeous area this is one of the best around and a refreshing course that anyone can make a tee time and play at.

Thanks to Anthony Sable and to the staff at the Wilderness Club for a spectacular day of golf in Eureka  

Montana's Longest Drive

“Between a Bar and an RV Park” at Buckwood Country Club

From the beginning of this trip, I was figuring I would find a golf course that perhaps I had missed during my research. That was just the case of Buckwood Country Club a par 3 course in Eureka, Montana. Located right behind the Silverado Motel & Bar and in front of an RV Park this par 3 was an easy way to spend an evening in Eureka.

With Scott Meissner and Mike and Landon Spencer, I ventured out to play Buckwood Country Club on a sunny Friday evening in Eureka.

The four of us began our round on the course that plays 1,278 yards from the back tees on the 100-yard down hill par 3 hole that plays alongside the access road to the RV park and back to a relatively flat green.

The 5th hole is a 135-yard par 3 that plays past a pumphouse on the right to an elevated green with a rock wall protecting the front of the putting surface.

The small course at Buckwood Country Club is an entertaining place for quick nine. The longest hole at Buckwood is the 260-yard par 4 9th hole that plays over the top of some small trees and back alongside the Silverado Motel & Bar to a slightly elevated green.

Playing the nine holes in about a hour, Scott, Mike, Landon, and I had more laughs than I could count. The short course proved challenging and exciting for the wager we had put on this round after we picked our partners.

If you’re looking for a fun little nine hole experience that won’t take you too long to play, Buckwood might just be the place for you.

 

Montana's Longest Drive

“A Shot-Maker’s Course” at Cabinet View Golf Club

Cabinet View Golf Club in Libby can be described as a shot-maker’s course. Carved out of the pines of northwest Montana, Cabinet View has a reputation for being a challenging track and I put that reputation to test when I played it on Friday.

On Friday, I hopped in the car and headed toward Libby to meet up with Libby golfers Gary Peck and Wayne Haines. In the pro shop I visited with the course pro Jeff Dooley who said, “If you want the real scoop on this course, you picked the right group to play with. These guys play here every day.”

Gary Peck is a bit of a Libby legend and played basketball and golf at the University of Montana in the 1960s. As we played our round, Gary told the story of his Griz team winning the school’s first Big Sky Conference Championship in golf.

Wayne Haines is a tremendous golfer himself having shot his age nearly 130 times and still playing to a low handicap. Wayne was instrumental in building the expansion of Cabinet View Golf Club from a 9-hole course to a championship quality 18-hole course. When the back nine was built, Gary worked six days a week and even has a pond on the new nine named for him.

The front nine at Cabinet View starts with a 513-yard par 5 that is tree lined on both sides of the fairway. The fairway turns up the hill and to the left past some tall pines before a bunker protects the large sloping green.

The course at Cabinet View is as fantastic as the reputation it has. The greens at this course are as nice as I have putted on during this trip, they are quick and roll true, the kind of greens that inspire confidence that often isn’t there with the putter in your hand.

The best view of the Cabinet View Mountains that sit high above Libby and the Kootenai River comes from the 5th hole. Slightly turning right from the tee box with the pine trees perfectly framing the green and greenside bunker in the foreground with the mountains in the back, this is a gorgeous 417-yard par 4.

The back at Cabinet View is a shot-maker’s course. Carved out of the mountain hillside by Wayne and others, this course cannot be overpowered but instead must be played. It is a nine that reminds you of the precision that golf requires.

One of the most beautiful holes on the course is the par 3 11th that plays 150-yards from the tips. A With a small pond to the right of the hole and bunkers on each side of this undulating green that slopes from back-to-front and from left-to-right it is a fantastic short par 3.

Throughout the round at Cabinet View, Gary and Wayne told me about the history of the course. Gary spoke mostly about the front nine while Wayne talked about the back nine he helped construct.

In fact, Libby has a tremendous history of golf in Montana. At one point, Libby has been the home course of one of the best professionals in Montana Jim Mee, the best amateur, Arizona State commit Ryggs Johnston, and Joe Cielak who is the reigning Montana State Mid-Amateur Champion. It isn’t a wonder why this course has produced so many fine golfers.

Libby’s Cabinet View Golf Club is an amazing course in northwest Montana that lives up to its reputation for being a great but challenging track.

Thanks to Cabinet View Golf Club and their PGA Professional Jeff Dooley for a fantastic day of golf in Libby.

 

Montana's Longest Drive

“Scared to Death by a Snake” at Indian Springs Ranch

After a long drive up the western side of the state, I pulled into the parking lot at Indian Springs Ranch in Eureka, Montana. Five hours in the car left me eager to get out on this links style course in the late afternoon.

Tall fescue rough and green fairways abound on this links style golf course in northwest corner of the state. At 6,677 yards, this tight golf course offers up a great challenge to anyone who ventures out to play it.

Opening with a 410-yard par 4, Indian Springs Ranch has a narrow fairway with mounds along the right of the rough and fescue lining the second cut on this hole that slightly turns to the left and plays uphill to a green that is two tiered and slopes back-to-front.

Making my way around this challenging course, one of the best views was from the par 3 6th hole that sits high on the hillside and requires a long tee shot to cover the gully that runs between the tees and the green. A deep sand trap sits in front of this undulating green and anything short of the bunker will be lost to the gully.

The scariest moment of my trip was walking to the par 3 8th hole from the 7th green. Walking down the cart path I took a slight shortcut through a small patch of fescue and onto the 8th tee when I felt something under my foot. The “Fight or Flight” response kicked in as I high-stepped my way out of the tall grass and onto the tee. I tried to scream but like in a nightmare when you try to cry out and can’t muster a sound, I was even too frightened to make a noise when I looked down and saw the snake at my feet.

Standing on the 8th tee after my encounter with the snake, I had to take a moment to catch my breath. Panting and winded, I quickly took an inventory and reassured myself that I was in fact, okay. Amazingly I hadn’t messed my shorts when I was almost scared s@#$-less by the snake.

Calming my nerves, it must have been the adrenaline coursing through my veins that helped me stick an iron close to the downhill 182-yard 8th hole that has a pond to the left and a green that slopes from front-to-back and from right-to-left and make a very memorable birdie.

My favorite hole at Indian Springs Ranch Golf Course was the par 4 14th hole that plays uphill for the duration. Playing 355-yards from the tips, a cross bunker sits in the middle of the fairway at 235-yards and another fairway bunker anchors the right side. A small creek runs the length of the right of the hole and the elevated green sits protected with a bunker in the front left.

After my round I visited with Indian Springs Ranch’s Head Golf Professional Mark Fenech. We talked about our favorite holes, some of the challenges around this track, and how tight of a links style course this one can play like.

If you want to be tested by gorgeous links course in northwest Montana, make your way up to Eureka and play Indian Springs Ranch. Just watch out for the snakes.

Thanks to Mark Fenech and the staff at Indian Springs Ranch for a wonderful afternoon of golf in Eureka.

Montana's Longest Drive

“Aiming for the Middle” at Linda Vista Golf Course

It was a strange feeling playing a hole without a flagstick, but it might have helped my game. Instead of taking aim at a pin, I had to hit toward the center of the green.

This was the case on the 8th and 9th holes at Linda Vista Golf Course. With high waters earlier in the year, Linda Vista is recovered from the flooding that affected Missoula quite well. Talking with Linda Vista’s Pro Charles G. Miller in the clubhouse before I went out to play, he gave me permission to go play the 8th and 9th holes even though they weren’t open to the public yet.

I set out on to play the par 29 Linda Vista Golf Course on a beautiful morning. Weaving its way back through the low meadow off of Lower Miller Creek Road near the Bitterroot River, Linda Vista plays to 1,815-yards with two par 4s and seven par 3s.

The opening hole at Linda Vista is a 350-yard par 4 that doglegs slightly right past a fairway bunker on the right corner of the hole. Trees and bushes line the left side of the rough along the hole before a turtleback green that sits protected by a pair of bunkers completes the whole.

One of the most beautiful holes at Linda Vista is the par 3 4th hole that plays 137-yards from the back tees. An over water tee shot awaits the player from the back tee where you must walk down a small corridor through the bushes to find an isolated tee box. The green on the 4th is a large surface with a deep bunker in front of the undulating green.

After making my way through the next few holes at Linda Vista, I crossed under the caution tape and went to the 8th and 9th holes that hadn’t been opened to the public yet. It was an interesting feeling on the 9th tee hitting back toward the clubhouse on the 145-yard hole protected by three bunkers and having to just take a guess at where the hole might be.

After finding the middle of the green with my tee shot, I found the hole located in the back-left corner of the green. Not being able to see the pin on the hole really changes the way you play golf. It might be an improvement for my game to just hit for the middle of the green and like I had to playing Linda Vista’s 8th and 9th holes.

Linda Vista Golf Course in Missoula is a great executive course that is a nice fit for people who don’t hit the ball too far off the tee, younger people learning the game, and for someone who wants to work on their irons and wedge game.

Thanks to Charles Miller and the staff at Linda Vista Golf Course for having me out to play this great course and letting me get the 8th and 9th holes in.

 

Montana's Longest Drive

“Along the Clark Fork” at River’s Bend Golf Course

Along the beautiful Clark Fork River is a great nine-hole golf course that weaves its way along the river and through the trees and offers tremendous views of the scenic mountain valley that Thompson Falls sits in.

Arriving at River’s Bend on Tuesday afternoon, I started my round on the dogleg right par 4 that plays right along the bend in the Clark Fork River. From an elevated tee this hole plays 338-yards and is lined down the right side by pine trees and on the left by the driving range which gives way to the river. After hitting down the hill to the landing area, the second shot at River’s Bend is into a turtleback green along the tree line.

Throughout this course, every tee shot requires something different. The 2nd hole for example is a par 5 begins along the river and then works back up a hill and toward the trees. On this 500-yard par 5, the safest play is to hit to the base of the hill with an iron and then layup to a wedge to attack this back-to-front sloping green.

The course at River’s Bend then begins to get tighter as the holes delve deeper into the rows of pine trees. One of the toughest holes on the course is the 410-yard slight dogleg right par 4 4th hole. Trees line the left and right of this fairway that bends slowly to a small slightly elevated green.

Sitting in the clubhouse after the round and looking out the window at the Clark Fork River and the high mountain face that watches over the river and the course I visited with the lady working the bar at the clubhouse. We visited for a short while about River’s Bend and then about this beautiful little northwest stretch of Montana.

River’s Bend is a beautiful and wonderful little nine-hole golf course that truly does bend along the scenic Clark Fork River.