Montana's Longest Drive

“Beers in the Tunnel” at the Butte Country Club

Walking side-by-side with my older brother Bill into the tunnel that runs under Elizabeth Warren Avenue in Butte, we found a pair of presents that had been waiting for us in this dark tunnel. As our eyes adjusted to the sudden darkness of the tunnel and we walked closer and closer, we finally figured out what they were.

“Beer!” I yelled as I picked up both cans like a kid who just ran down the stairs on Christmas morning to see that the jolly old fat man himself did indeed think he was good this year.

Sitting there in the shadows underneath the rain-soaked road between the 15th and 16th holes, were a couple of canned microbrews that the Butte Country Club’s Head Golf Professional Josh Walsh had left for us. He must have figured we might need a pick me up after trapesing through the chilly and wet weather all morning long. And boy was he right.

Decked out in rain gear, I was prepared to play the Butte Country Club by myself that morning when my brother Bill decided to tag along. Dressed like he was a veteran crab fisherman straight off a King Crab season with the crew of The Northwestern on the Bering Sea, Bill offered to walk along with me during my rain soaked round. I’m glad he did, because he got to witness one of the craziest and luckiest shots of my lifetime.

On the 347-yard par 4 5th hole, I had hooked my drive into the trees along the left. With O.B. down the right side of the hole it was a safe miss, but it left me essentially treed. With a pine tree a good ten yards in front of me that had low hanging boughs it forced me to hit a punch shot toward the front of this elevated green that has a steep hill leading up to it from the fairway. At 135-yards out, I played a 4-iron in the back of my stance and intended to bounce it in front of the green and hopefully have it trundle its way up the hill and onto the putting surface.

The ball did just that as it first bounced just past the cart signs 25-yards in front of the green and then continued to roll its way up the hill and onto the green. Then the ball hit the pin and disappeared.

“Did that just go in?” Bill asked as he looked bewildered.

“It sure did!” I exclaimed and let out a belly laugh.

With an improbable eagle on the 5th hole, I had suddenly gone from the outhouse to the penthouse and was reinvigorated with an energy that helped me push through the rest of the rainy round. After plucking my ball out of the cup and venturing on with a grin the size of the Berkeley Pit on my face, Bill and I continued our way around the historic Butte Country Club.

The BCC is a course I’m more than familiar with. It was my home course when I played for Montana Tech in college and even where I shot my career-low round while winning the Butte Country Club Pro-Am last summer. It’s a course that I’ve played hundreds of times and have always enjoyed.

One of my favorite holes at the Butte Country Club is the drive-able downhill par 4 11th that measures in at 336-yards. This hole is a great opportunity for birdie that can jump start your back nine. A long tee ball that lands on the downslope of the hill inside 100-yards of the green can find its way on the putting surface if it misses the small hazard in the front right of the green. An oddly shaped green, pin position on this hole is critical and can make eagle a possibility or only a dream depending on where they place the pin.

The back nine at the Butte Country Club is where the real scoring opportunities are on the course. With a bevy of shorter par 4s and the lone par 5 on the card, the 13th hole, this course can give up a number of birdies on the closing nine if you find fairways and greens.

The 18th hole at the Butte Country Club is a 391-yard par 4 that has you tee off from the southern most corner of the property. With OB down the right side and wide pine trees and Blacktail Creek on the left it can look much tighter from the tee box than it is. A wide fairway gives way to an elevated green that is protected by some trees that hang over the right side of the putting surface and a bunker in the front right. A harsh slope on this crowned green will send anything on the left side of the green down the embankment leaving a difficult up-and-down.

Along with the fantastic 18 holes on the Butte Country Club course, it should also be noted that the bar at the BCC is one of the best. This course’s 19th hole features some of the best people Butte has to offer and a relaxing place to grab a bite before or after your round.

But if you’re really in a bind and looking for a drink at the Butte Country Club, check the tunnel between 15 and 16. If you’re in luck, you might just find an IPA or two waiting for you and your brother.

Thanks to the Butte Country Club and to Head Golf Professional Josh Walsh for the fantastic hospitality and the tunnel beers on Tuesday. 

Montana's Longest Drive

“Not the First Time I’ve Been Called Crazy” at Highland View Golf Course

A friend of mine texted me as I was making the turn at Highland View Golf Course. The text read, “I just thought, who in the hell would be crazy enough to be golfing in this weather!?? Oh wait, it’s Sean, HAHA.”

I’m sure she wasn’t the only one driving by this nine-hole regulation course and nine-hole par 3 course on Monday in Butte thinking about the crazy guy out there playing golf. In fact, I wondered it myself as I trudged my way through puddles and as heavy rain pelted the whole Mining City.

I showed up at Highland View unsure of if I’d find it opened or closed. Inside the pro shop I found a girl working behind the counter who really questioned if I was going to go out and play in this as I paid my greens fee and collected a scorecard.

She gazed out the door as I walked across the ninth fairway and onto the 1st tee where my feet sank into the saturated grass as I placed my tee into the turf. On the 352-yard hole, I pulled back and swung as best as the multiple layers I was wearing would allow and hit my drive down the center of the fairway. I watched it against the hazy skyline that was preventing all of Butte from seeing the bordering mountain ranges and saw my ball come to a splashing halt in one of the thousands of puddles dotting the course. It was a large splash followed by a series of smaller splashes, much like when you go skipping rocks as a kid.

The Butte Muni was a little bit wet that day as I trudged along ever thankful for the recently purchased new rain jacket that was so desperately needed. My old rain gear had me thinking that after deflecting 10,000 gallons of rainwater over the last couple of months, it became instantaneously permeable like a car you drive just past the warranty mileage and then the transmission goes out.

The Muni is a straightforward course with not a dogleg in sight. The holes are back and forth and feature greens that crown from the center out offering challenging putts if your wedge or iron game isn’t sharp.

Where you would go to tune up that iron and wedge game would be the par 3 side of the course. A 1,480-yard layout that features just one hole over 200-yards, this is a perfect place to work on your short game. With receptive greens and a variety of different yardages this nine-hole course is a wonderful little par 3 course in the center of town.

The toughest test on the par 3 course is the 1st hole, a 225-yard starting hole that will quickly remind you that par 3 courses are never as easy as you think. Slightly turning right-to-left this large green is difficult to find with a long iron and usually leaves any player bringing a wedge with them to start the nine.

The shortest of holes at Highland View Par 3 is the 125-yard 9th hole. A short finishing hole, with a back-to-front sloping green, this is a golfer’s last chance at sticking one close and knocking in a birdie putt.

As I settled for par on this last hole, I walked back toward my car and the clubhouse and locked eyes with the girl in the Pro Shop through the window. Her expression seemed to ask, “He must be some kind of a nut to play golf in this?”

If only she knew that she wasn’t the first person to call me crazy today.

Before the Drive

The Beginning

I figured it was about time to give an informal update as the first post on this site. The past week for Montana’s Longest Drive has been very busy.

In the last week I have:

Created a database with all of the names, addresses, and information on every golf course in Montana so that I can send them a letter about this project and reach out to their professionals about playing their golf courses.

I have been working on revising and rewriting the aforementioned letter that will be mailed out shortly.

Met with Insty Prints of Butte on the mailing format and ordering business cards and vehicle magnets I will place on the van while traveling.

Placed an order for shirts, hats, beer koozies, and stickers with 5518 Designs of Butte.

And last but not least, completed the preliminary itinerary for Montana’s Longest drive.

Oh and I designed this website.

Here’s to another busy week of preparing for the best and busiest summer of a lifetime, and one heck of a loop around Montana.