Around the Links: golfing the Flathead Valley
August 02, 2010
If you’ve got a week to go golfing, northwest Montana’s Flathead Valley can’t be beat. The area is Montana’s Mecca for golf, offering a course for every skill level and a wide variety of scenery. Here are eight courses that would keep you swinging for a week.
Golfer Pete Graves on Whitefish Lake Golf Club's South Course./Dave Reese photo
Big Mountain Golf Club Kalispell
Big Mountain golf club, formerly Northern Pines, is a blend of Scottish links and traditional Montana mountain-style courses, with tree-lined fairways and abundant natural water hazards.
Andy North, winner of two U.S. Opens, was the co-designer of the course, which opened in 1996.
A couple of old Ponderosa trees tower over the front nine of the course, but aside from that it’s a fairly open links course with deep rough and plenty of fairway mounding. The field the course was built on was "dead flat" in North’s words, so the they had to create some movement to the design through the mounding. A large 20-acre lake that was created will come into play on three holes. There are also some unique hole designs along the Stillwater River, which meanders along the western side of the course.
Tee times: (406) 257-1950 or 800-255-5641
Buffalo Hill Golf Club
Buffalo Hill Golf Club, one of northwest Montana’s oldest courses, combines tree-lined fairways with small greens and abundant water challenges.
The club has an 18-hole Championship Course, and the nine-hole Cameron Nine. The championship 18 holes is a target golf course with many undulations, tricky doglegs and difficult greens. This course has the highest slope rating among the courses in Western Montana. (The slope rating of 128 - higher number, more difficulty - on Buffalo Hill’s Championship 18 means it’s a real challenge; it’s the highest slope of any golf course in western Montana, hitting from the regular men’s tee boxes.)
The Championship 18, built in 1976 and opened in August 1977, was designed by Robert Muir Graves. The course is not long by most standards, measuring 6,247 yards from the white tees, but trouble is inherent with the Stillwater River, ponds, rough and large trees that line the fairways.
Although Buffalo Hill is a not a long hitter’s course, players of all abilities like it, drawn by its demanding features and opportunities for incredible shots. You get to use a lot of clubs in your bag.
The course has a colorful history, dating back to Kalispell’s early days, with sand greens at first in the 1920s, then grass putting surfaces added in the 1930s.
Tee times: 756-4545.
On the Web: www.golfmt.com/buffalohill
Eagle Bend Golf Club
One of Montana’s top public courses, Eagle Bend in Bigfork is a resort course that will cater to the higher handicappers while challenging scratch golfers.
Eagle Bend was named the second-best new Public Golf Course in America in 1989 by Golf Digest and the magazine tabbed Eagle Bend one of the nation’s 50 best public courses in 1990. Eagle Bend’s list of achievements just keeps getting longer. Eagle Bend in 1994 was also the site of the USGA Amateur Public Links Championship, the first USGA event in Montana.
In 1995 Eagle Bend opened a new nine designed by Jack Nicklaus Jr., giving Eagle Bend 27 holes of world-class golf.
Tee times (406) 837-7300
Glacier View Golf Club
Glacier View Golf Course has always been known as a friendly, family-oriented course. Its open fairways and small greens make for a relaxing game that won’t leave you feeling as if you’ve been put through the wringer.
Although that family-oriented style remains at Glacier View, situated next to Glacier National Park, recent changes have made the course more challenging. Grass bunkers have been filled with sand, while water and sand bunkers have been added to make the rough more difficult. The course has also gone to a three-tee system to add some yardage.
Being so close to Glacier National Park, this course allows you to take in the sights of the park and play golf all in the same day. In the morning you could be at the top of 6,400-foot Logan Pass, and that afternoon you could be getting in 18 holes.
Tee times: 1-800-843-5777
Meadow Lake Resort
For a relaxing game of golf along secluded fairways, Meadow Lake Resort is just the ticket.
This 18-hole course is notched out of cottonwood, birch and pine forests just on the outskirts of Columbia Falls.
The setting offers mountain fairways with views into Glacier National Park, which is only a 20-minute drive away. Nearly all the holes at Meadow Lake are separate from adjoining fairways, and with its narrow, densely lined fairways and water hazards, it is one of the more difficult courses in the Flathead Valley.
Despite its difficulty, it is fair to the player who stays out of trouble
On the Net: www.meadowlake.com
Frontier Roadhouse. Kalispell
Frontier Roadhouse is a par-30 executive golf course just east of Kalispell.
The course stretches 1,446 yards from the back tees and is a test of accuracy rather than distance. Bent-grass greens and bluegrass fairways highlight this tricky course.
The longest hole is the 255-yard, par-4 eighth. While short for a 4-par, the fairway is narrow, with out-of-bounds left and trees on the right.
The greens are gently undulating with some breaks that put a premium on putting. With its scenic surroundings and quality greens, Mountain Crossroads offers a relaxing alternative for beginners. The course at the junction of Montana 35 and Montana 206 blends the backdrop of the Swan Mountains in all directions with the fun of large, contoured greens.
There’s also a great barbecue restaurant to enjoy before or after your round.
Tee times: 755-0111
Polson Bay Golf Club, Polson
Polson Bay Golf Club is a treat to play, and even more so with the spectacular scenery that surrounds the course at the south end of Flathead Lake.
The original nine-hole course is more than 50 years old, with huge trees surrounding tight fairways and fairly small greens. Nearly every hole affords views from the pristine waters of Flathead Lake to the Swan and Mission Mountains, and Whitefish Mountain Resort nearly 70 miles to the north. Construction of the original nine dates back to the 1930s, around the same time as the original nine in Whitefish and the historic Cameron Nine at Buffalo Hill Golf Club in Kalispell. Polson’s mild lake-side climate allows it to open the earliest of any course in Northwest Montana.
Tee times (406) 883-8230
The Flathead Valley’s finest bent grass greens and immaculate overall course condition can be found at Village Greens Golf Club. Abundant fairway mounding and knolls, lakes and white sand compliment the one of Montana’s fastest-growing golf courses. With multiple tee boxes on every hole, Village Greens offers variety and challenge to all levels of golfers. Affordable greens fees, a full service golf shop and an all-grass driving range make Village Greens a complete golf destination.
Village Greens is known for its well-kept greens and fairways and deep rough.
There is plenty of out-of-bounds and water to contend with at Village Greens, and the course added new tee boxes on a couple holes, stretching the course’s length to 6,365 yards from the blue tees.
Tee times: (406) 752-4666
Whitefish Lake Golf Club
The only 36-hole golf course in Montana is also one of the most scenic and challenging.
Overlooking Whitefish Lake and Whitefish Mountain Resort, Whitefish Lake Golf Club is a tight, tree-lined course that will keep you on your game throughout your round. This medium length course puts an emphasis on accuracy, not distance. The course dates back more than 50 years to the Depression era, when it was built partly with money from the Works Progress Administration. The course is split into two 18-hole courses, the North Course and the South Course, each with its own unique characteristics.
Tee times: (406) 862-4000