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.

Montana's Longest Drive

“Better Than a Swim Meet” at Meadow Lake Golf Course

Standing on the 16th tee at Meadow Lake Golf Course, there aren’t many prettier holes in Montana. This par 3 plays at 161-yards from the tips and is all carry over a beautiful pond that looks like glass early in the morning. Behind the green, the 16th is protected by a pair of bunkers that will penalize any shots that are too long on this short hole.

Overall, Meadow Lake is one of the most beautiful courses in the Flathead Valley. With half of the holes playing in the open meadow and the other half of the holes playing into the forest. The 1st hole at Meadow Lake is a 418-yard par 4 that turns slightly right-to-left with a pond running the length of the right side of the fairway.

The par 5 3rd hole is the first on the course to make its way into the forest of pine trees. Playing 579-yards this tight fairway is lined with skyscraping pine trees and bends to the right before a slightly elevated green is protected by a bunker in the front right.

My playing partner for the round at Meadow Lake was my cousin Pat. Earlier in the week before I had s set schedule for Kalispell, Pat texted me and explained he was in Columbia Falls for a swim meet but would like to sneak away to get some golf in during the long days of watching heats in the pool. Well, it was more of a “I don’t want to sit in the hot sun watching swimming all day, let’s play some golf.”

One of the best holes on the course at Meadow Lake Golf Course is the uphill 613-yard par 5. A true three shot hole, this uphill monster plays slightly left towards the hole and if played correctly can give golfers a wedge in from a relatively flat landing area on the fairway. This long sloping green is protected by a pair of bunkers in the front left.

Of all the beautiful courses I’ve played, Meadow Lake Golf Course might just be the most gorgeous. In a beautiful setting, this course contours both the meadow and the forest on every hole and leaves you immersed in the round without distractions.

Just take a moment when you get to the 16th hole and watch the reflection of the flagstick in the water. That’ll beat the hell out of a swim meet any day.

Thanks to Meadow Lake Golf Course for a wonderful day of golf in such a beautiful area.

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.