With the Missouri River running through the valley floor and the Big Belt Mountains touching the sky Townsend sits in a beautiful spot of Montana. Tucked among the farmland of this rich valley is Old Baldy Golf Course.
At the entrance to the golf course sits a cattle guard underneath a wooden post crossbar. Hanging from the top of this entry way is a wooden board that reads OLD BALDY in weathered black paint letters. After crossing the cattleguard and entering the property of Old Baldy Golf Course you see another sign that says HONORARY GREENS FEES PAYMENT REQUIRED.
You see at Old Baldy, they operate on the honor system. If you go out to play golf at Old Baldy you’re expected to place your money into an envelope and slip it into a slot in the pay shed near the 1st hole before you begin your round.
When I pulled up to Old Baldy my playing partners and hosts were waiting for me. The first of which was Kory Bakkum the course’s Greenskeeper, his son John, Townsend’s high school golf coach Pete Robischon, and Jeff Demars. After the introductions our golf group wasted no time making our way to the tee at Old Baldy.
We began with the 460-yard par 5 that doglegs right past a row of trees. A chance to split the rows of trees to the right of the tee box gives big hitters a chance to cut off quite a chunk of the yardage if they can thread the needle. The 1st green at Old Baldy was like the rest of the putting surfaces on the course, fast, hard to hold, and crowned. Throughout the day the greens at Old Baldy didn’t disappoint and often left players with difficult chips after missing the small greens.
“You end up bringing your wedge with you a lot when you play this course” said Kory. “I think that’s the first thing people notice about this course is how small and tricky these greens are.”
Chipping was a common theme throughout the round at Old Baldy as these small and crowned greens made even the most routine of wedge shots extremely challenging. Often it felt like I was trying to land my golf ball on a dinner plate and would have to carry a couple of clubs with me as I walked to the green.
After we had finished a few holes in our round, the owner of Old Baldy drove out in his golf cart to visit with us and follow our group. Mr. Hilton told me about the history of Old Baldy and how the greens were sand until 1988 when grass greens were put in. He talked about his favorite holes on the course and some of his favorite courses across Montana.
As we neared the end of our round we made it to the 8th hole. This challenging par 3 is 185-yards long and features a small bunker on the right of the smallest green I think I’ve come across.
Mr. Hilton joked, “We’ll see if any of you guys can hit this green. It doesn’t happen very often. I’ve got a friend who says this is the toughest par 3 in the state.”
Just missing the green on my tee shot on the 8th hole, I had to agree with Mr. Hilton and the rest of the group that with a green just larger than a large area rug this par 3 was quite the challenge.
After our round, Kory fired up the grill next to the clubhouse and grilled cheeseburgers for our group. Sitting in the early afternoon sun eating a burger and talking golf with my new friends in Townsend was the perfect way to start a day.
It’s something I’d definitely be willing to slip a few bucks into an envelope to do again.