Growing up in Great Falls I know a thing or two about the wind.
First things first, it sucks. Secondly, it can wreak havoc on golf shots if you’re not prepared. Always feeling like the wind in your face was a common theme in my youth and I think it prepared me for links golf.
Northern Pines in Kalispell is as good a links golf course as I’ve come across on this trip. At over 7,000 yards from the tips, this Andy North design has long fescue rough bordering every hole and large greens protected by deep bunkers that require flighted irons and creative plays around the greens to score well.
With the breeze into your face on the 384-yard 1st hole that bends left past some rolling hills that hide the fescue rough that sits through the fairway ready to eat any tee shots running through the short grass. A low spot along the fairway on the left serves as a collection area for tee shots leaving a slightly uphill second shot into a green that slopes from back right to front left an dis protected by a deep bunker in the front of the putting surface.
An excellent links course presents challenges to golfers that in turn have to use creativity to carve their way through the rolling hills and fescue with success. Northern Pines is a links course that gets the little imagination working while you play the course by presenting multiple ways to play some of the shorter holes.
An example of this is the par 4 9th that plays 430-yards, usually downwind, but has dangers all down the right side of the fairway. If the deep bunker at 260-yards down the right side doesn’t dispel players from taking an aggressive line on this hole that doglegs slightly to the right, the deep grass bunker past the sand bunker will leave you sorry you didn’t play it out safely into the left side of the fairway. A pair of bunkers in the front left are to be avoided when hitting into this undulating and tiered green.
The 404-yard 14th at Northern Pines is my favorite hole on the course. A slight dogleg right from an elevated tee box, this hole has a string of bunkers running down the right side of the fairway and a hazard running down the left. A lone bunker in the front right protects this green that slopes harshly from back right to front left that sits near the meandering river and in the shade of some tall trees in the backdrop.
Battling wind and fescue, my first time playing Northern Pines was an absolute treat. Links style golf courses will always hold a special place in my heart because of the shots they require and the elements you are forced to battle.
The wind of course is old hat for a guy who grew up in windy Great Falls, but the dangers of Northern Pines were a new and exciting challenge I would take up any day.
Thanks to Northern Pines Golf Club for a wonderful day of golf on this great links style track.