Montana's Longest Drive

“Behind Jerry’s Saloon” at Meadow Creek Golf Course in Fortine, MT

Meadow Creek Golf Course

A large billboard for Jerry’s Saloon greets drivers along the highway as they head north from Whitefish. Promoting golf, a restaurant, and an RV Park, one has to think, what more could you need in Fortine, Montana?

Down a dirt road in Fortine, the log cabin exterior of Jerry’s Saloon and a pair of flags both blowing in the wind, one Canadian and one American invite you into this rustic bar. For just 15 dollars, that you conveniently pay at the bar, you can head out behind the bar and begin your round on the nine hole Meadow Creek Golf Course.

Beginning with a 125-yard downhill par 3 past a tall pine tree on the right from a tee box that is just paces away from the back deck the Meadow Creek Golf Course has something for everybody. A short course that will be perfect for newcomers or the settle bets made inside the bar, Meadow Creek and Jerry’s Saloon are a hidden treasure along Highway 93.

Working my way around the par 3 course in a short amount of time, I finished my round on the 145-yard par 3 9th which heads up a hill toward the side of the bar. A turtleback green awaits your wedge shot on this closing hole where bets can be settled before heading back into Jerry’s Saloon.

Meadow Creek Golf Course behind Jerry’s Saloon is worth a stop for just the story of playing golf behind a bar in Fortine, Montana. Just watch for the billboard promising golf, a restaurant, and an RV park and you’ll be on your way to a great par 3 course.

Montana's Longest Drive

“Simply Spectacular” at Wilderness Club

Designed by Sir Nick Faldo, the Wilderness Club in Eureka, Montana, is rated as the #1 Course You Can Play in Montana by GolfWeek Magazine.

In the wild landscape of northwestern Montana, the Wilderness Club has sprawling fairways cut out of the tall pines and deep bunkers that will penalize errant shots from both off the tee and near the greens. A few years back I made the long drive north from Great Falls to play the Wilderness Club for the first time and the long day in the car was made worth it by this spectacular golf course.

Coming back to the Wilderness Club, I was with my friends Scott Meissner, Mike Spencer, and Landon Spencer who had played it a few times before I made it to Eureka to meet up with them. Their recent experience on the course had them prepped and ready to go from the first tee where Landon and I decided to play the tips that stretch the course out to 7,207 yards.

The opening hole at the Wilderness Club is a 389-yard par 4 that plays up hill from near the driving range and putting green and bends slightly right-to-left. A trio of bunkers occupy the left side of the fairway before the elevated and undulating green that has a pair of bunkers on the right and one in the back left.

As I made my way across the native grasses that stretch across the fairway everywhere the fairways and pine trees don’t occupy, I was regretting playing the tips as I slashed my ball out of a few bunkers on the 2nd hole.

The 161-yard 3rd hole is beautiful as they get. An over water par 3 with mountain peaks in the backdrop and three deep bunkers surrounding this wide turtleback green make it a challenging par if you can’t find the putting surface.

The 10th hole at Wilderness Club is a downhill 320-yard par 4 with a fairway that is shortened along the left side by a deep blue pond that protects the front of a green with steep slopes near the sides. An old dead tree along the right side 200-yards from the tee provides a great visual for this dastardly hole to open up the back nine.

The back nine at the Wilderness Club takes you back into the meadowlands of beautiful countryside outside of Eureka. The finishing hole plays at 593-yards along a lake where canoes are paddled around the calm water to the left of the fairway that slopes from right-to-left for the entirety of the hole. A par 5 that can be reached with a long drive that runs past a hill with bunkers on both sides or can be wisely played out right of lake to make it a three-shot hole. The 18th green slopes from right-to-left and from front-to-back with a ridge that divides the green and can make for long and challenging putts to complete the round.

The Wilderness Club is a fantastic track in northwest Montana. A unique and challenging course in a gorgeous area this is one of the best around and a refreshing course that anyone can make a tee time and play at.

Thanks to Anthony Sable and to the staff at the Wilderness Club for a spectacular day of golf in Eureka  

Montana's Longest Drive

“I Witnessed a One” at The Ranch Club

On a warm Thursday morning, I was a witness. High on a hillside overlooking a 138-yard par 3 at the Ranch Club, I saw my friend Harley Paugh make a one.

With a wedge he landed his golf ball a few feet left of the pin along a little ridge in the green and spun it to the right. With eyes wide, we all saw it track its way toward the hole and teeter on the edge of the cup before dramatically dropping in.

Instinctually the yelling and cheering started, creating an epic din that could be heard all throughout the Ranch Club. High fives were exchanged, quite a few expletives were dropped in disbelief, and we all gut laughed and cheered long after the ball hit the bottom of the cup.

Then it was my turn to hit and I joked, “How am I supposed to follow that?”

The Ranch Club is a links style golf course that protects its greens with deep pot bunkers and long fescue rough. If your tee shot finds the fescue in some of the areas at the Ranch Club, the ball is as good as gone.

The 7th hole at the Ranch Club is a 585-yard par 5 that seems to have more water than land as you stand on the tee and survey the landscape. A large pond runs the length of the hole and cuts across the fairway midway through the hole forcing players to consistently be wary of the hazard before approaching the large greens of the Ranch Club.

One of my favorite holes at the Ranch Club was the par 4 10th that plays 383-yards from the tips. A sharp dogleg left, the tee shot needs to negotiate the dangerous bunkers along the right of the fairway and sets up a downhill shot to the protected green that slopes from back-to-front.

After Harley had made a one at the 4th hole, the rest of our round was spent focusing on the upcoming shot and then reminding ourselves with a, “Did that really happen?”

The par 5 17th hole at the Ranch Club is a 544-yard hole with a landing area along the left of the fairway on that will shoot your ball down the fairway and bring the green into play on the second shot. A slightly downhill shot protected by a pond to the right of the green and bunkers surrounding the putting surface faces the golfer if their drive is long enough.

After our round, Harley, his buddy Will, and I, had to go into the clubhouse to tell our tale. Each version of the hole-in-one we all saw was even more dramatic than the previous. Sitting at the bar in the clubhouse of the Ranch Club having a beer compliments of the hole-in-one hitter himself, I even told a tale or two about the epic shot to anyone who would listen.

My first trip around the Ranch Club was a phenomenal experience highlighted by seeing someone make a one.

Because, I was a witness.

Thanks to Harley Paugh and the Ranch Club for a great day of golf in Missoula. This is a fantastic golf course I am eager to play again.

 

Montana's Longest Drive

“A Fantastic 4th of July” at The Highlands Golf Club

“We’re a drinking club with a golfing problem,” was the way Mike O’Connell described The Highlands Golf Club to me as I toured the old mansion style restaurant called The Keep before our round.

A building with high vaulted ceilings, old stone fireplaces, and old wooden beams, the clubhouse of The Highlands Golf Club is housed downstairs while the restaurant is up above offering amazing views of the whole Missoula valley.

The Highlands Golf Club begins with a 380-yard downhill par 4 that turns slightly right-to-left. With a pair of bunkers midway through the fairway and another bunker farther down the right side this downhill par 4 is a challenging opening hole. The fairways at Highlands are very tough because of the sidehill lies you get on every one of the holes.

Another downhill par 4, the 2nd hole at Highlands Golf Club is a challenging tee shot through a narrow corridor of trees. This rolling fairway has out-of-bounds to the left of the rough and leads to an undulating and extremely sloped green.

As Mike and Mike’s friends Will and Andrew and I walked our way around this unique little golf course, one of the most surprising things was the number of deer and fawns on the course. Not at all timid these deer would watch you hit shots from within feet away.

The 9th hole at Highlands plays as a par 4 on the front nine but a par 5 on the back. From the tips it measures 515-yards up a steep hill toward a green near the clubhouse. A steady climb with a pair of bunkers on both sides of the fairway in the landing area. The ninth green is a turtleback with a large ridge running down the middle of the putting surface that also has a pair of bunkers surround it.

After we had finished our nine and before Mike and his buddies continued their round we sat on the patio and had a drink to celebrate our round. As we visited and looked out on the backdrop that is the greater Missoula area, Mike invited all of us over for a 4th of July barbecue later in the day.

In true 4th of July style, hot dogs and hamburgers were cooked on the grill and beers were put on ice in the cooler. A number of my cousins and extended family showed up and we sat in lawn chairs in the sun on a great day and visited.

It was a great day for golf, for a barbecue, and to see family and friends. And it got off to a great start at The Highlands Golf Club, “a drinking club with a golfing problem”.

Thanks to Mike O’Connell and his family and the staff at The Highlands Golf Club for a great 4th of July

Montana's Longest Drive

“Wishing My School Had a Golf Course” at the University of Montana Golf Course

I wish my school had a golf course.

At the base of Mount Sentinel just past the University of Montana is a nine hole golf course. Decorated with Griz flags and tee markers, this par 35/36 track is an old staple in Missoula. Originally called the Missoula Country Club, the University of Montana Golf Course was established in 1924 and has matured into a tree-lined beauty in the Garden City.

The University Course is a reasonably flat track that you can cruise around and play a quick nine in about an hour and a half. That was just the case when my friend and former college teammate Taryn Campbell, her older sister Carlan, and myself made our way out for an afternoon round.

An opening tee shoot from right by the deck of the Iron Griz restaurant operated by the University’s Dining program on the par 4 364-yard 1st hole welcomes you to this fun track. A relatively straight course keeping your shots in between the trees is the most important part of playing this course. Twin bunkers protect this turtleback green to open up the round.

The best view of the course is from the 3rd tee perched on the hillside of Mount Sentinel for the 462-yard downhill par 5. With trees left and out of bounds past the trees on the right this tight fairway needs a straight tee shot to give players any hope of getting on the green in two. A small pond in the front left of the green protects this putting surface and can force some players to lay up just to be safe going in to this crowned green.

As you make your way around the University Course you will have to hoist shots over the tops of skyscraping pine trees while also punching low shots underneath the low hanging branches of some other deciduous hazards.

Finishing the round at the University of Montana Golf Course is the par 5 535-yard ninth hole. Another long tree-lined fairway, this closing hole has the driving range to the right of the rough and a tall fence protecting the student apartments left of the left rough. Twin bunkers protect this putting surface from any shots intending to roll their way up from the sides of this hole and onto this back-to-front sloping green.

After our round at the University Course, our group headed over to the Iron Griz to grab a quick bite and a beer. As the men’s league went out to go play their matches on a beautiful summer’s night we visited and watched them tee off from the 1st tee right outside the windows of the Iron Griz.

It’s too bad my school doesn’t have a golf course like this.

Thanks to Chris Anderson and the staff at the University of Montana Golf Course for the hospitality and for a great round of golf on this fun track.