Phantom Links golf course will thrill and entertain
by David Reese/Montana Living
Standing on the fifth tee at Phantom Links Golf Club in Missoula, a long fairway stretches out before you.
Fairway bunkers are situated along the right, while tall rough commands the left side of the fairway. Wind whispers through the tall fescue, which in spring is tipped with purple and green, while horses feed nonchalantly in a field nearby.
To stand here at Phantom Links and eye your tee shot is to witness all of golf that has come before us, bringing us from the wind-swept dunes and fairways of Scotland, to a rural area on the west side of Missoula. Here on 202 acres of rolling farmland dotted with sage and punctuated with deep draws and gulches, 18 holes of Phantom Links golf have been delicately laid out.
The course, the newest on the Missoula golf scene since Larchmont opened in the mid-70s, is a true Scottish links layout. Designed by Les Furber, architect for Trent Jones and Valdorama, the course features wide, rolling fairways with ryegrass rough and deep bunkers reminiscent of the pot bunkers found on Scottish links.
The final nine holes of the course opened in June, following the initial nine that opened last fall. The course is built on Mullan Road, an area of Missoula that has been traditional farmland for generations. Small farms still surround the course, and horse and barns lend the area a sense of pastoral flavor.
Looking down the fairways, your eyes drift up from the verdant landscape to the surrounding mountains, including Squaw Peak, Blue Mountain, and Mount Sentinel and Mount Jumbo, constant reminders of your place in Missoula.
"This is a perfect piece of links-style ground," Bob Veroulis, Phantom Links' head PGA professional, said.
Each hole has multiple tee boxes, allowing for a completely different look and a different challenge for every level of player. There are abundant water and lakes, especially on the par 5 seventh, where a large lake forces you to make a critical decision on your second shot.
The fairways are true links style, where you can run the ball up to any green and high, lofty approach shots are not required. Wind can play a factor on this course. "This course will require you to use every shot in your golf bag," said Veroulis, a former head professional at Eagle Bend in Bigfork and longtime Montana teaching professional. "This course will play well for any player, if they play the right tees."
Phantom Links combines the high-quality service and amenities of a private golf club, with the accessibility and affordability of a public course.
In addition to the 18 holes of immaculate golf, the course features a timber and stone clubhouse designed by Nick Fullerton Architects of Bigfork. The clubhouse features deep leather chairs and a tall rock fireplace, and tall windows that look out over the course. Dark colors give the clubhouse a rich feel, and a long bar with stools accents the social atmosphere.
Men's and women's locker rooms have the look and feel of private facility, with rock-lined shower stalls that give them an overall opulent feel. A large deck overlooks the practice tees and the 18th hole.
Golf course superintendent is Richard Haas, and noted Missoula chef Jim Gray heads up the food and beverage operation.
In Missoula, an area that has been underserved in the golf market for years, this philosophy - of quality amenities and affordable prices - should pay off.
The Missoula golf market gets about 100,000 rounds of golf played each year, among Larchmont, the Highlands and the University of Montana - all public courses. The only private course in the area is the Missoula Country Club.
"Golf is a big deal in Missoula," Veroulis said. "The golfing public has been dying for something like this."
Veroulis thinks Phantom Links won't take away from the already-busy public courses in the area. "The public facilities, if they are run right, will always be successful," he said.
Upscale "daily-fee" public courses like Phantom Links are becoming more popular with aging baby boomers who don't want to be tied down to playing one course, but want the amenities of a private facility.
The course, restaurant and clubhouse were developed by Washington Corp., but are managed by O.B. Sports, a professional golf course management firm. Having an outside management firm will allow Phantom Links to focus on providing excellent golf and clubhouse amenities, staff and personnel change throughout the years, clubhouse manager Kim Hansen said.
Phantom Links has homesites around it, with several homes already going up. Edgell Homes, Modstad Construction, Shelter West and Hoyt Homes are the developers. They are offering 263 single-family lots and 101 townhomes.
Memberships at Phantom Links range from a $400 annual pass for juniors, a $1,500 for singles, and $2,250 for couples.
Members get a free golf cart, free range balls, locker and preferred tee times. For nonmembers, a $100 gold card allows discounted green fees and other amenities. The daily green fee is $43 for Missoula and Ravalli county residents, $60 for nonresidents.
Information: www.phantomlinks.com or 532-1000.
Phantom Links facts
Course acreage: 202
No. of water features: 5
No. bunkers: 68
Editor's note: this story appeared in a 2006 issue of Montana Golf Magazine