Montana's Longest Drive

“What’s a Little Rain Gonna Hurt?” at Green Meadow Country Club

After a while, you get used to the rain. The steady noise of water splatting against the bill of your hat and the squish of soft ground under your feet grow familiar. You find yourself clubbing up without thinking of it, lifting up your pant legs as you hop across wide puddles, and constantly wiping your hands off on that last little dry spot of your golf towel before every shot.

As a steady drizzle of precipitation fell from the sky, I headed off toward Green Meadow Country Club in Helena on a Father’s Day Sunday morning to meet up with my friend Nick Dietzen. Nick is a Helena native who plays regularly at Green Meadow and also works as the Communications Director for the Montana State Golf Association. It didn’t take too much convincing to get Nick out on the course for a morning round.

Green Meadow is one of those courses that will constantly keep you coming back. In a low-lying meadow on the west end of the Helena valley, this golf course weaves it’s way across a set of railroad tracks and deep into the meadow for which it is named. Heavy thickets of bushes line the periphery of the course and eagerly anticipate swallowing up any wayward shots that golfers might hit. When you hit it in the bushes at Green Meadow, there is no getting your ball back, it isn’t missing, it is gone. What consistently inspires me at Green Meadow is the shape the course is in. From fair roughs that can penalize wayward tee shots, to consistent fairways, and immaculate sloping greens, this course just gets the important things right.

A par 71 golf course that measures in at 6,403 yards from the back tees Green Meadow doesn’t play long, but instead rewards those who find the fairway and have the flatstick going. I was lucky that my putter decided to make an annual appearance as Nick and I played our way across this track or my score could have been much higher than the one I posted.

As a twosome, Nick and I started on the back nine at Green Meadow on the 393-yard par 4 10th hole. Teeing off from under the shade and shelter of some hundred-year-old cottonwoods your tee shots crosses a rolling creek and avoid the row of pine trees on the left rough to find the short grass. A long tee ball here can set up a player with a mid-iron or wedge into a green that is well protected by a large bunker in the front of a wide green.

Nick and I visited throughout our round about the wet weather, how Green Meadow is one of our favorite courses in the state, and how much we’ve grown to appreciate golf in Montana. Gazing back at Mount Helena on the 12th tee, Nick said, “A lot of people might say other holes are their favorite at Green Meadow, but this one is mine. It just epitomizes how this course plays.”

With Mount Helena in the backdrop of a large crowned green that is protected by a creek 20-yards in front of the green that is some 187-yards from the tee it is a spectacular view. A high row of cottonwood trees cast shade from the right of the green and from behind it while cottonwoods on the tee side of the creek sit on the left of the golfer. I can see why this one would be Nick’s favorite.

After both making par on 12 and meandering our way through the back nine, we started on to the front where my favorite hole is the devilishly short par 3 5th hole. At only 130-yards from the back tees, you would think this hole is a simple birdie opportunity, but trouble lurks around every corner of this green. With a wind that usually blows out of the west and right into the golfer’s face, it plays longer than the listed yardage. A pond protects the front of this kidney bean shaped green and a large mound sits in the front right of the putting surface and can make for dangerous chips and hazardous bounces if you don’t clear it. All around the green is a water hazard lined by cattails and in the back behind the pin are a pair of bunkers that are willing to gobble up any shots hit just a bit too far past the pin.

After scaring the life out of you with these details, you would be hard pressed to believe me when I said that Nick and I both birdied this short par 3.

Walking off the green Nick laughed, “I’m not sure I’ve ever seen two deuces on this hole in my life.”

“Well, I just knocked about three strokes off my score on this course in one hole,” I replied.

The two of us finished our round in the light drizzle and went inside the clubhouse to grab a drink after our last hole. As we sat there and visited about our round at Green Meadow, we decided it wasn’t a bad day for golf at all and that anyone sitting at home because of the light rain was really missing out.

Because if Nick and I had decided to be fair weather golfers and to play another time, we would’ve missed out on both of us making birdie on the par 3 5th.

There’s something to be said for dedication and for toughing out a little bit of precipitation falling from the sky.

Thank you to Todd Fitterer and the staff at Green Meadow Country Club for hosting me at your fantastic golf course. I absolutely loved my time on this course.

 

Montana's Longest Drive

“It Was Worth It” at Fox Ridge Golf Course

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.