On a cool morning, I drove through the green countryside of the East Helena valley and found my way to Fox Ridge Golf Course. With clouds blanketing the sky and a slight nip in the air, I walked into the clubhouse and met up with my good friends Jerry and Jan Hystad and Jerry’s buddy Don Herzog.
The Hystads have been fervent supporters of this project and made sure some months ago that I would be having a ball at Fox Ridge Golf Course. Any time with the Hystads, is an undoubtedly a blast and Friday’s round was no different.
The front nine at Fox Ridge features a number of small ponds and irrigation ditches that make for challenging tee shots where you have to place the ball or swing hard and carry the trouble. The 1st hole at Fox Ridge is a perfect example of this as it measures in at 376-yards but has a small channel of water that crosses the fairway some 270-yards off the tee. This green is large and inviting but is protected by a bunker in the front right and features a number of undulations that can create tricky chips and putts around the putting surface.
One of the most picturesque holes at Fox Ridge was the par 3 3rd that is 196 yards over a small pond lined by cattails. With a backdrop that includes the Sleeping Giant in the mountains north of Helena this hole sets up for a drawing iron shot so as to not leave the ball dangling in the wind over the water hazard. This large back-to-front sloping green is protected by a giant bunker on the left side.
As we traversed the front nine that occupies the low meadow of this East Helena valley, the Hystads, Don, and I chased our golf balls all around the hillsides and past the trees, we laughed and told stories about golf and life. Both Jerry and Don spent their careers as lineman around Montana and worked on the same crew countless times. Now enjoying their retirement, they’re still stirring up trouble, it’s just on the golf course.
Making our way to the back nine at Fox Ridge, the course changed from a long hitters track and into a strategic golf shot kind of course. Climbing the hillside on the east end of the property, the thickets of tall pine trees narrow the fairways.
One of the best holes at Fox Ridge is the par 5 11th, this dogleg right par 5 demands a tee shot down the left side of the fairway to avoid the pine trees from blocking out your second shot. With a high wall of trees on the right corner of this hole, and a pond in the front left of this green, going for it in two isn’t an easy decision. Lots of trouble lurks around every corner when you stretch your game on the back nine at Fox Ridge. This sloping two-tiered green can make for some hair-raising putts if your ball ends up in the wrong place.
After wrapping up our hike through the hilly back nine, Jerry, Don, and I went inside to the Red Fox to toast to our round. More stories were told, and laughs were had after the round. As Jerry and Don, went on their way, I took my clubs over to play the par 3 course at Fox Ridge.
An 18-hole layout with the longest hole playing 196 yards, this place is the perfect place to hone your wedge game and for anyone to play. With great greens and beautiful water features this little course is a treat.
As I played, I met a lady and her great nephew who she was out teaching how to play golf. As they let me join them for a hole, we visited about Fox Ridge and this par 3 course. She said, “I just love this course. It’s a perfect place for me to bring my great nephew and I have a great time playing it as well.”
I echoed her sentiments as I cruised around this track. Hitting wedge shots and mid irons into great greens this was a treat to play and didn’t take up much time.
Walking back up to the clubhouse, I ran into the owners of Fox Ridge. We visited, and they told me the history of this golf course. They talked about shaping every green and planting every tee with a vision of having this be a place for everyone to enjoy.
They were right about that. After playing 36 holes at Fox Ridge, I knew that I had had a great time on the championship course and thoroughly enjoyed the Par 3 as well.
Few places can make the long hitter and the beginner feel right at home and as I watched the lady and her great nephew finishing up their round, I knew that these owners had gotten it right.
All the trees they planted and greens they shaped were worth it. Just ask that kid.