Montana's Longest Drive

“Like a Copper King” at Stock Farm

In the Bitterroot Valley sits an exclusive and wonderful golf club just outside of Hamilton, Montana called the Stock Farm Club.

The long roadway out to Stock Farm is lined by tall cottonwoods that the Copper King Marcus Daly planted so his buggy rides could be in the shade and not under the hot sun. It was at Stock Farm where Daly began breeding champion race horses like Scottish Chieftain who was the only horse bred in Montana to win the Belmont Stakes in 1897.

On this treasured land rich with Montana history is the Stock Farm Club. While staying true to its historic roots with homes in the classic red barn style and a gorgeous log and stone clubhouse, the Stock Farm is home to a championship golf course designed by Tom Fazio.

With my host Mr. Chuck Shonkwiler, his son-in-law Harley Paugh, and Dave Pyrone, our foursome put down some putts on the fast-paced practice green before we found our way to the back tees that are near the clubhouse deck. From high on the beautiful hill the 1st hole at Stock Farm is a 420-yard par 4 down a hill that with a deep bunker on the right-hand side of the fairway that slopes from left-to-right. A two-tiered green slopes from back-to-front and demands an on target second shot below the hole for a any real chance of making a birdie.

The signature hole at Stock Farm is the 356-yard par 4 3rd that tees off from an elevated tee box and then crosses a wide ravine to a fairway that has a steep hillside of sagebrush to the left and a large bunker 250-yards from the tee box. Requiring a precise tee shot with the beautiful Bitterroot Mountains and Blodgett Canyon in the backdrop, the second shot on this hole doesn’t get any easier as a turtleback green built out near the edge of the hillside is protected by a large bunker on the left and a deep bunker on the right.

As Chuck, Harley, Dave, and I made our way around the Stock Farm Club, I was instantly overtaken by the beautiful surroundings that Stock Farm is nestled in. With ponderosa pine trees and sagebrush lining the periphery of every fairway and green, and deep high lipped pot bunkers scattered around the property this course is as challenging as it is beautiful.

After the turn, we were greeted by the exciting and challenging 375-yard par 4 11th hole that again demands accuracy with not only the tee shot but also the shot into the green for any hope at birdie. A narrow fairway with a bunker on the right ends as a small creek runs in front of the green that is protected by a deep bunker in the front right. The small putting surface is two-tiered and slopes from right-to-left with a dramatic slope running through the center of the green.

On a beautiful afternoon Stock Farm was more magnificent as I could have imagined and the company I had couldn’t have been better. As Harley and Dave rode in a cart together, Chuck drove alongside me, and we visited throughout the round. He explained the design ideas behind every hole and even read a few putts on the tricky Fazio greens for me.

The finishing hole at Stock Farm is one to remember, playing 436-yards from an elevated tee to a downhill fairway with three bunkers protecting the landing area that slopes from left-to-right before climbing back up the hill. With a second shot playing a club longer than it says due to the slope a large bunker sits in front of the green ready to snag any shots that aren’t carefully thought out or executed into this sloping and challenging green with a ridge in the right third.

After our round, our foursome went into the men’s locker room area of Stock Farm that was decorated with some big game trophies that filled the vaulted ceiling room. Complete with a full bar, leather couches, a card table, and an attendant that greeted us, we sat around and reminisced about our round and my first time playing Stock Farm.

Leaving the property in the shade of those mile-high cottonwoods that Marcus Daly rode his buggy under around 120 years ago, I was enthralled by the majestic course and great hospitality at Stock Farm. I’m not sure if it can get any better than playing golf in the Bitterroot Valley on a sunny day.

Something about playing golf at Stock Farm made me think that I would’ve enjoyed being a Copper King.

Thanks to PGA Professional Gary Nye, Chuck Shonkwiler, and the staff at Stock Farm for a wonderful day of golf. 

Montana's Longest Drive

“Across the Sapphires and into the Bitterroot” at Hamilton Golf Club

High in the Sapphire Mountains where the clouds blanket the pine trees, I stood atop the Skalkaho pass and watched the water thunder down the rocks of a magnificent waterfall. The dirt road leading from Philipsburg across to Hamilton was a shortcut of sorts, even though I spent a great deal of time outside my car gazing at the amazing scenery.

Descending the mountainside and out of the clouds I entered the Bitterroot Valley and into Hamilton just in time to play the Hamilton Golf Club with Robby Porch Jr. Introducing myself to Robby and heading toward the 1st tee at the HGC, we were greeted by a downhill dogleg left par 4 with a tall bank of cottonwoods lining the left rough just past a pond. The green at the 1st is protected by a bunker in the right front and slopes from back-to-front.

The course at Hamilton Golf Club is a beautiful parkland style track. With beautiful trees lining all the fairways and greens. A small creek runs through the front nine and cuts across the fairways of the some of the holes.

The par 5 7th hole is one of the fairways that is divided by the creek which runs at a diagonal from 300-yards on the right rough to about 240-yards as it crosses the left rough. Making long tee shots dangerous this creek can force longer hitters to lay back from it and then attack this par 5 with a smart second shot and then a wedge in. Another undulating and quick green greets the golfer and can make for a difficult birdie putt.

On the back nine at Hamilton Golf Club is where the Bitterroot Mountain Range offers a fantastic backdrop on every hole. Stepping across the road and onto the 10th tee a 414-yard par 4 that doglegs right greets the players. You must place your shot in between the trees on the right and ponds on the left that will catch anything that runs too far through the fairway. A small bunker protects the green in the front left that slopes back-to-front.

As Robby and I played our way in toward the clubhouse, the finishing stretch at Hamilton Golf Club is an amazing trio of holes. The 16th is a dogleg right drivable par 4 that plays 363-yards but the tee shot must carry the large pond on the right and miss the bunker in the front left of this green. The 17th is a 167-yard par 3 with a large bunker in the front right with a wide green and the 18th is a narrow 430-yard par 4 with ponds to the left and out of bounds past the tree lined right rough.

After wrapping up our round at Hamilton Golf Club, Robby and I headed into downtown Hamilton and stopped at Nap’s Grill for a burger. Diving into a fantastic 2/3 LB burger and talking about our round, Robby and I were quickly in a food coma as we sank deeper into our booth seats.

As we said our goodbyes and I headed down the road, I took another look at the Sapphire Mountains which I had traversed earlier that morning. Near dawn I was gazing at the Skalkaho Falls and in the afternoon,  I had already played the spectacular Hamilton Golf Club and had one of the best burgers on my trip.

My trip across the Mountains into Hamilton was one I will surely be making again.

Thanks to the Hamilton Golf Club and Robby Porch Jr. for a wonderful day of golf in the Bitterroot Valley