No one else has ever carried my clubs. Not a soul, other than myself, has ever slung my bag over their shoulder, until I played the Yellowstone Club in Big Sky, Montana.
Driving through the gated entrance into the exclusive resort property and up the paved mountain road toward the clubhouse, I wasn’t sure what to expect at the Yellowstone Club. It was a course I had heard of, I had read about, and one I had even Google Earthed a time or two, but what I played was so much more than you could imagine.
In the Pro Shop of the Yellowstone Club I met the Director of Golf William Ciccotti and the Head Golf Professional Drew Glover. It was Drew who promised me that I my experience at the Yellowstone Club would be unlike any other, and he was right as he introduced me to Les, my caddie.
A semi-retired former Yellowstone National Park Ranger, Les wore full length white bibs with YELLOWSTONE CLUB emblazoned across his shoulders in green letters. As we stood on the first tee, I explained to Les that I’d never had a caddie before, let alone someone to carry my bag and he just laughed and said, “Well, I’m glad I’m your guy then.”
I was glad Les was my guy as well. Instead of fore-caddying like he usually does for golfers at the Yellowstone Club, he and I were able to walk and talk about the game of golf, life, and so much more. I told him about my journey and how he wasn’t just carrying my golf bag but also the obituary of one of my best friends who was tagging along in spirit. We connected, Les and I, on a level I doubt most people do with someone lugging around their golf clubs.
As Les guided me along the Tom Weiskopf designed course that blended the mountains and trees with the scenic backdrop that Big Sky provides, we started on the back nine on the dogleg right 10th hole that plays 443-yards from the tips. An uphill tee shot must negotiate a fairway bunker on the right-hand side and leaves you a severely downhill shot into a tricky green protected by a pair of bunkers to the right.
Concluding the back nine with the par 5 18th that plays 576-yards up a large hill before twin bunkers at the crest of the hill make you choose between trying for this well protected green by hitting a drawing shot past the bunkers that catches the slope and rolls to the front of the green, or to hit to the top of the hill to the right of the bunkers and give yourself a downhill wedge into this sloping green.
It was on the front nine where the most memories were made for me however. The signature hole at the Yellowstone Club is the 434-yard par 4 4th hole. From a tee that overlooks the whole Yellowstone Club a fairway opens to the player with a bunker on the left and large icy blue pond on the right. A tight fairway between these two hazards leads to an elevated and crowned green protected by twin bunkers on the sides.
After playing the par 5 5th hole at Yellowstone, two employees of the club made their way towards Les and I. Before any conversations were had, they tossed Les a can of bear spray and said, “You might want that. Apparently, there’s a bear on the next hole.”
The four of us rushed to the par 3 6th hole that has five bunkers surrounding the green and a small pond in front that is fed by a gorgeous cascading waterfall to the left of the green to see if we could spot the bear. Sure enough, moseying its way across the cart path and taking a little swim in the pond was a cinnamon colored black bear.
As the bear swam, Les looked at me and said, “I think it’s about a 7-iron to the green from here, Sean, but you might want to wait.”
“Les, why would I wait? This is the only chance in my life to hit a tee shot over a bear!” I laughed. “But I think I’ll hit the 6 just to be safe.”
Les and the others laughed and took photos as I teed my ball up and hit my iron shot over the top of the bear who had begun climbing out of the water and headed up the hill toward the next hole.
As my ball fell from the sky and found one of the greenside bunkers I laughed, “Well, I would’ve hit the damn green, but I was a little concerned about hitting a high cut over a carnivore.”
After the bear had scampered up the hillside and out of eyesight and I settled for a bogey Les looked at me and said, “You can blame that one on the bear.”
When our round had ended and Les and I were regaling the shop staff with our stories of the bear and the tee shot that was hit over it, we both looked at each other and smiled as people laughed at our doozy of a golf tale. As we exited the shop I shook Les’ hand and thanked him repeatedly for being my first caddy. With a twinkle in his eye he said, “Anytime Sean. It was my pleasure.”
What Les doesn’t know is the pleasure was all mine. It was a fantastic experience playing the world-renowned Yellowstone Club made even better by having Les on my bag.
I’d never had anyone ever carry my clubs before. And I’d never hit a tee shot over a bear.
That is until I played the Yellowstone Club.
Thanks to William Ciccotti, Drew Glover, and the rest of the staff at the Yellowstone Club for such a wonderful day at their amazing golf course. And a special thank you to my friend Les for being my first caddy.