12 Montana Golf Courses
There was a joke making the rounds a few years ago about an alleged press release from the Montana Department of Fish and Wildlife. The bulletin advised golfers in some areas to wear “noise-producing devices such as little bells” on their clothing to alert—but not to startle—resident bears. The department also advised players to carry pepper spray, and to watch for signs of bear activity.
“Golfers should be able to recognize the difference between black bear and grizzly droppings,” the statement read. “Black bear droppings are smaller and contain berries and possibly squirrel fur. Grizzly bear droppings have bells in them and smell like pepper spray.”
It’s a knee-slapper. Why? Because it plays on a real perception. Or in this case, it’s a misperception—that playing golf here is akin to some kind of perilous backcountry safari. Exotic scenery and wildlife aside, nothing could be further from the truth. In both cutting-edge course design and property development, Montana’s golf scene is literally groundbreaking. Consider:
Big Mountain Golf Club
Particulars: 18 holes, par-72, 7,115 yards
Tee to Green: This Andy North design is a gem of a course, defined by rolling fairways, pine trees, blind shots and waving stands of native grasses. The front nine is an adventurous links-style trek, while the back side introduces more water and risk/reward opportunities.
Hole Story: No. 14 is a charming dogleg, marked by bunkers right at the bend. Do your best to hit the green, because you won’t like the unfriendly bounces into the adjacent grassland.
Contacts: (800) 255-5641; www.golfmt.com/bigmtn
Big Sky Resort
Location: Big Sky
Particulars: 18 holes, par-72, 6,500 yards
Tee to Green: An Arnold Palmer design, this course winds along the lush banks of the famous Gallatin River. It’s a high-altitude track. That means longer drives and lots of wildlife.
Hole Story: No. 4 is a moderately long par-4 with a slight rightward bend, and a vicious bunker planted right beyond the curve—perfect for eating up an over-zealous drive.
Contacts: (406) 995-5780; www.bigskyresort.com
Bridger Creek Golf Course
Particulars: 18 holes, par-71, 6,511 yards
Tee to Green: Bridger Creek is easy on the pocketbook and one of the most inviting layouts to play. National media ratings put it in Montana’s top 10 for its nice mix of trees, water hazards and bunkers.
Hole Story: No. 9 is a tricky par-5 for some, depending on the flight path. Water guards the right side, but if you’re prudent you can play it safe and still get home in three. Its 500-yard reach may give up the occasional eagle putt.
Contacts: (406) 586-2333; www.bridgercreek.com
Buffalo Hill Golf Club
Particulars: 27 holes, par-72 (Championship 18), 6,605 yards Tee to Green: Broad array of landscapes, including lots of sidehills, forests, water crossings and plenty of doglegs. The back nine’s greens are especially huge and undulating.
Hole Story: Watch out for No. 10. It’s a wicked dogleg that will eat your lunch, especially if you overextend (read: under-hook) your drive.
Contacts: (888) 342-6319; www.golfbuffalohill.com
Canyon River Golf Club
Particulars: 18 holes, par-72, 6,900 yards
Tee to Green: Nestled in a sculpted terrain of pines and native grasslands, this championship track features ponds and natural wetlands that come into play on at least seven holes.
Hole Story: No. 14 is a short but spectacular par-3 that has a steep drop-off to a tricky putting surface. Pines, a waterfall, and a series of ponds surround it.
Contacts: (406) 721-0222; www.canyonrivergolfclub.com
Cottonwood Hills Golf Course
Particulars: 18 holes, par-71, 6,971 yards
Tee to Green: With four sets of tees, this layout offers challenges for all levels of play, especially if you have a penchant for cutting corners. Also has a 9-hole par-3 course.
Hole Story: No. 5 is a monster of a hole that has a sharp dog-leg, a drive-killing fairway bunker and a well-placed water crossing that makes its 455-yard length (off the back tees) feel more like a par-5.
Contacts: (406) 587-1118; www.cottonwoodhills.com
Eagle Bend Golf Club
Particulars: 27 holes, “Eagle Bend” par-72, 6,711 yards
Tee to Green: A semi-private facility for now, the property harbors 27 holes. The original 18 holes (“Eagle Bend”) were designed by William Hull and a new nine (“Lake Ridge”) was completed by Nicklaus Design. Both tracks feature majestic views of Flathead Lake, the Swan Mountains, and Glacier National Park.
Hole Story: Eagle Bend’s No. 7, a 450-yard goliath of a hole that blasts off an elevated deck with splendid views of the property and Flathead Lake.
Contacts: (800) 255-5641; www.golfmt.com/eaglebend
Meadow Lake Resort
Location: Columbia Falls
Particulars: 18 holes, par-72, 6,694 yards
Tee to Green: One of the more picturesque courses in Montana for its beautiful fountains, its “lake” reference is quite an understatement. There are water features on several holes. The layout itself is a roller coaster of immaculate fairways, shadowy woodlands, and pristine greens.
Hole Story: The 579-yard No. 3 has walls of pines and lots of OB. Scary, but pretty. A long, undulating fairway snakes its way to a bunker-guarded green.
Contacts: (406) 892-8700; www.meadowlake.com
Particulars: 18 holes, par-72, 7,705 yards (nope, that’s not a typo)
Tee to Green: Interspersed with slag traps, its undulating ribbons of fairway are beautiful to behold. It has a “links” feel, but also dramatic elevation changes. Designed by Jack Nicklaus, the greens are huge and challenging to read.
Hole Story: No. 11 is called “Lower Works.” I would have named it “Miracle Mile.” The 597-yard par-5 has slag traps galore and also demands a careful approach over a rushing stream.
Contacts: (406) 563-5989; www.oldworks.org
Polson Bay Golf Course
Particulars: 18 holes, par-72, 6,964 yards
Tee to Green: Polson’s 18-hole championship course features dramatic rolling terrain just a stone’s throw from the banks of Flathead Lake. It is an all-around test for championship play and often ranked as a top-10 course.
Hole Story: No. 6 is a sweeping monster that follows the lake along the left side. If you play a fade, aim for the middle. If you play a draw, allow for plenty of cross-roll.
Contacts: (406) 883-8230; www.polsonbaygolf.com
The Ranch Club
Particulars: 18 holes, par-72, 7,020 yards
Tee to Green: The Ranch Club (formerly a real cattle ranch) is a beautiful links course that sits on a 340-acre scenic swath of undulating hills just minutes from the banks of the Clark Fork River. Yardage taps out at 7,000-plus, but there are multiple boxes to suit every caliber of player.
Hole Story: No. 18 is one of a handful of blind tee shots, and it begs you to gamble with a driver. Drill it and you could be putting. Yank it and, well, you could be fishing.
Contacts: (406) 532-1000; www.ranchclub.com
Whitefish Golf Club
Location: Whitefish Golf Club
Particulars: 36 holes, (South) par-71, 6,551 yards (North) par-72, 6,869 yards
Tee to Green: Whitefish’s North Course is a classic layout with lots of pines and short dogleg par-4s. The South Course edges toward a small lake and has long par-4s and steeper slopes.
Hole Story: The South Course’s No. 7 is a par-3 to a huge oblong green, flanked by a huge bunker and a lake on the left hand side.
Contacts: (406) 862-4000; www.golfwhitefish.com
Some of Steve Smede’s day-job cohorts call him a hack. Some on-course cohorts call him a hacker. He doesn’t mind either moniker, just as long as he can reserve his weekends for the four-letter g-word and then live to write about it. When not begging his employer for expense-paid forays to regional and national golf tournaments, Smede can be found lashing, shanking, and cussing on his favorite courses throughout the region. His credits include editorial posts for Mountain West Golf magazine and a number of other niche recreational publications.
MORE TO EXPLORE
Additional options for your
2011 Montana golf adventures
Cabinet View Country Club, Libby
Fairways are fairly flat and easy to walk. Water hazards (ponds) come into play on two holes. (406) 293-7332
Glacier View Golf Course, W. Glacier
Carved into tree-lined fairways and located near the mountains, you can expect some great views. (406) 888-5471
Double Arrow Resort, Seeley Lake
Expanded to 18 holes July 2001, it’s a full regulation course with ample amounts of water and tree trouble. Greens are flat and easy to read. (406) 677-2777
Yegen Golf Club, Billings
It’s a links-style course only with a handful of trees, moderate sand and plenty of aqua in the form of six ponds. Greens are large and usually flat. (406) 656-8099
King Ranch Golf Course, Frenchtown
Expanded in 2000 to 18 holes, it’s a fun stretch of golf on the banks of the Clark Fork River. Water trouble can be found on at least five holes. (406) 626-4000
Fox Ridge Golf Course, Helena
Has an 18-hole par-3 course. (406) 227-8304
Fairmont Hot Springs, Fairmont
It holds two unique state golf course records: the longest hole and largest green. (406)-797-3000
Village Greens Golf Course, Kalispell
A fun Flathead Valley course that is easy on the pocketbook—and on your feet. According to the locals, its greens are usually immaculate. (406) 752-4666