A sampler of Montana's best golf holes
Story and photos by David Reese/Montana Living
If you could think of one golf hole right now, which one would it be?
One hole that stands out in your mind as the one place where you got a hole in one, or it has such striking scenic beauty that it's easier to remember than trying to think of who won the Superbowl last year?
Problem is, in Montana there are so many great holes that sometimes it's harder to pin it down to just one hole; maybe one course, but one hole, that gets a little harder. These golf gems can be found in the obvious places, like Whitefish, Kalispell and Bigfork, so here's a sampler of some of Montana's finest golf holes.
The Seventh at Whitefish Lake. David Reese photo
The Seventh at Whitefish Lake Golf Club, Whitefish
Rarely do you find a golf course that requires short-game accuracy and length off the tee.
But Whitefish Lake Golf Club's South Course will require both. The South Course is part of Whitefish Lake's 36-hole complex, the only 36-hole golf club in Montana. With medium-sized greens, excellent course conditions and a layout that will require dozens of different shots, this is one course that will surely capture your fancy.
The Par three fifth at Meadow Lake in Columbia Falls, Montana. (David Reese photo)
A round on Whitefish Lake's South Course is also an experience in tranquility, as the course winds its way through narrow fairways, tall trees and along Lost Coon Lake, a wetlands filled with wildlife and the constant chatter of birds.
GREAT GOLF HOLE: It's here along the shores of Lost Coon Lake Whitefish Golf Club that you will find the interesting par 3 seventh. From the back tees and with a slight breeze coming off the lake, you'd be wise to club up, or else face disaster in the marsh that fronts the green. Yes, the seventh is a hole that forces your hand. You either go for the peninsula green or lay up and take bogey.
For tee times call 862-4000. Highway 93 N., Whitefish
The 7th at Meadow Lake Resort, Columbia Falls
Meadow Lake Resort is a quiet, secluded resort nestled among a deep forest that provides views into the Swan Mountains and Glacier National Park.
A creek winds through the deep, silent forest, giving you seclusion during your round and a true sense of nature.
With its narrow fairways and tall rough, Meadow Lake is one of the more difficult courses in the Flathead Valley. It's definitely a course where you'll want to bring some extra golf balls.
GREAT GOLF HOLE: One of the toughest holes at Meadow Lake is the par 5 seventh. This 526-yarder is a double dogleg, with a creek in front of an elevated green. A good strategy is to hit a drive down the center, lay up onto a landing area, then pitch over the creek to the green. It's possible to go for the green on your second shot, but that means carrying about 100 yards of forest and the ubiquitous creek.
For times call Meadow Lake Resort at 892-2111. 100 St. Andrews Dr., Columbia Falls
The 14th at Northern Pines, Kalispell
Northern Pines Golf Club is Montana's answer to a links-style course.
The course is a blend of a Scottish links layout with tall rough, large fairway mounds and sweeping, accurate greens. Combine that with a traditional Montana-style course of river and woods, and you have a truly enjoyable golf experience. Two-time U.S. Open winner Andy North co-designed the course with Roger Packard in 1994, and Northern Pines opened for play in 1996.
Northern Pines Golf Club in Kalispell, Montana, is a links style course along the Stillwater River. (David Reese photo)
GREAT GOLF HOLE: When playing Northern Pines from the championship tees, one hole that you won't forget is the par four 14th. At 404 yards it's not long, but the hole will test your driver in that it requires carrying the Stillwater River. Then you're faced with a delicate approach shot to a crowned green. From that hole on, Northern Pines features some of Western Montana's most enjoyable golf holes.
For tee times call 751-1950. 3230 Highway 93 N., Kalispell
The 11th at Buffalo Hill Golf Club, Kalispell
Buffalo Hill has 27 holes: the Championship Course and the Cameron Nine. With the highest slope rating among courses in Montana, the Championship Course requires a solid game in order to truly enjoy. Practice your putting. Practice your chipping. And practice your long and middle irons, because there are several holes where you'll be leaving your driver in your bag.
The Championship Course is where the true beauty of Buffalo Hill lies. The course starts high on top of Buffalo Hill, where Kalispell's founding father Charles Conrad ran a herd of buffalo. The course then drops into the lowlands of the Stillwater River and wanders through dense birch and pine forests.
GREAT GOLF HOLE: Our choice for Great Golf Hole at Buffalo Hill Golf Club is No. 11, a par five that requires distance and accuracy. If you can crush a drive 250 yards from the white tees, you're in good position to go for the green. The smart shot is to lay up to a narrow strip of fairway with water on both sides, then go for the green.
For tee times call 756-4530. 1176 N. Main, Kalispell
Next best, after the 11th at Buffalo Hill, is No. 12, a downhill par three. Photo by David Reese
The 14th at Village Greens, Kalispell
Village Greens, which is one of Montana's newest public courses, has really matured nicely over the last 20 years.
An 18-hole course in the heart of Kalispell, Village Greens offers fine greens and well-kept fairways in a relatively flat layout. With plenty of water hazards, fairway mounding and rough that's just a cut below U.S. Open standards, Village Greens is deceivingly difficult.
GREAT GOLF HOLE: The 14th is Village Greens' signature hole, playing from elevated tees to a green set against the backdrop of the Swan Mountains. This medium-length par four plays around a lake and a towering Ponderosa pine tree that looms in front of your approach. Safe play: just hit the fairway and give yourself a shot at the green - and birdie.
For tee times call 752-4666. 500 Palmer Dr., Kalispell
The Sixth at Polson Country Club, Polson
Polson Country Club is a diverse 27-hole course on the south shore of Flathead Lake, and the course features a new nine holes that went into play last year.
On one side of the course you have the jagged Mission Mountains and on the other side, the sparkling waters of Flathead Lake. There are outstanding scenic views in all directions.
The new nine holes were incorporated into the former front nine, making the new 18-hole course much more consistent from hole to hole than the former design. The Mission Bay home development has also been incorporated into the new course, and is touting itself as the only development offering golf course living on Flathead Lake.
GREAT GOLF HOLE: The sixth hole on the new nine is a true test from a par five, a dogleg-left hole that winds along the south shore of Flathead Lake. The hole forces you to carry 250-yards on your second shot, or lay up and take your chances with par.
For tee times call 883-8230. 111 Bayview Dr., Polson
The 15th at Mission Mountain Country Club, Ronan
Mission Mountain Country Club is an 18-hole course in the Mission Valley that is a fun and challenging golf experience.
Prime farm land and the majestic Mission Mountains surround the course, allowing you to enjoy the view as well as your golf game. This 13-year-old course has open fairways with maturing trees placed strategically to challenge even the low handicapper. The large, spacious greens, open fairways, wetlands, water hazards and strolling wildlife are all part of Mission Mountain Country Club's charm.
GREAT GOLF HOLE: Hole #15 is the signature hole on the course. The fairway on this 557-yard par five splits after your drive, and you then have a choice to go on the left side of a winding creek or place a perfect second shot to the right into a narrow opening with trees on three sides. Obviously you will need three precise shots if you hope to birdie this hole, and truthfully, many golfers are satisfied with a bogey. Golfers have been heard to say, "I hate that hole. But don't change a thing. I'll be back."
For tee times call Mission Mountain Country Club at (406) 676-4653.
The Fifth at Old Works, Anaconda
Jack Nicklaus turned the first shovel of dirt on Old Works in 1994 and since then the greens have turned to gold.
As Montana's only Nicklaus Design course, Old Works hit pay dirt with the name Nicklaus attached to it. Old Works has become a Montana favorite, taking advantage of the playable design of a Jack Nicklaus course and playing off the historical aspects of the course, which was built on the site of the former Anaconda smelter.GREAT GOLF HOLE: Named after one of the former chimneys for the smelter, Flue No. 5 is a par three with a great view over the Anaconda Valley. The old flue and other remnants of the smelter form a backdrop to the tee. A bunker on the right front side protects the green with its signature black slag, an inert, recycled remnant of the smelter that Nicklaus chose to use instead of sand. "It's a really picturesque hole," says Old Works PGA Professional Steve Wickliffe. You can check out Old Works' website for entire course descriptions at www.oldworks.org.
For tee times call Old Works Golf Club at (888) 229-4833.