MT Golf: Above Par

MT Golf: Above Par

Thielman-Ibes, Kim
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My memories of golfing in Montana as a young girl still provide my diehard golfer friends with a grin and a chuckle. The golf course had no fees, no tees, no sand traps, and come to think of it, no greens either, and golf clubs were optional. A hole-in-one meant you bagged a gopher hole. Welcome to the world of guerilla golf—my first experience chasing the little white ball in Montana. I have to say, this kind of golf suited me quite nicely for a while. It was a tough transition to the real greens, as I had a lock on divots, backspins, blasts, chili dips, chokes, choppers, duck hooks, yanks, and the yips. Yes, I was a duffer—okay, am still a duffer. I’m told that good golfers only remember their worst shots, and bad golfers their best. You should have seen me on that water hole…

Alas, there are no such goat tracks here in the civilized world of Bozeman, Montana. Here, we have a plethora of championship golf courses; four, to be exact. All are within biking distance of downtown Bozeman—and that doesn’t even include the courses at Big Sky, Big Timber, Livingston, Three Forks, Whitehall, or who-ha, Ennis. Actually, in Bozeman alone we have more courses than is typically recommended per capita. Bill Larson, the golf pro at Cottonwood Hills, tells me that the proper ratio is one 18-hole golf course per 25,000 people—you do the math. We obviously love our golf in Montana!

Cottonwood Hills and Bridger Creek are Bozeman’s two public courses while Valley View and the Riverside Country Club are private. The wildlife, like the scenery, appears to be abundant at all four. Depending on the time of year, you can run into the occasional beaver, some obnoxious geese, the ever-present deer, perhaps a glimpse of an elk, and cross your fingers and hope you miss the bears.

Like your favorite golf club or pro, each of these fine courses has its own special story and appeal. Valley View Golf Course dates back to World War II. Its first hole used to be at the bottom of the hill on Church Street and its greens were made of sand (sound familiar?). Today, it actually has real greens and is considered a “shot maker’s” course for its flat, narrow fairways. Cottonwood Hills, on the other hand, skirts the rolling plains and is host to 100-year-old cottonwoods. It’s considered a links-style course and is the only golf club in town that also has a nine-hole par-three executive course.

Both Bridger Creek and Riverside lie at the feet of the beautiful Bridger Mountains. Bridger Creek was built on an old dairy farm in 1994. Some say its hilly greens are a challenge to read (they’re probably spending too much time looking up). Although Riverside Country Club was aptly named, its signature eighteenth hole is a 373-yard par four with an approach shot over a river to the green.

Lately, I’ve been boning up on my golfing etiquette and practicing searching for lost balls. I’m hoping to get my time down to less than 20 minutes before the season starts. If you see me pulling an Oscar Brown (out of bounds) please feel free to play through. Happy Gilmore to you, let the games begin!

Bozeman Golf Radar: Spring 2006

The main golf event this spring will be the 5th annual Big Brothers Big Sisters Celebrity Golf Tournament. Last year they raised over $32,000 and brought 20 local celebrities together to play with their little brothers or sisters. Date TBA; call Neelie Burman at 406-587-1216 for more information.

But the tournament season starts early, with the Bridger Creek two-person scramble on April 22. Bridger Creek also hosts a four-person scramble and a demo day in May, and the annual 49er/Livingston Meats tourney is scheduled for June 3 this year. That’s just the tip of the iceberg, so you better get out there and hit a few buckets as soon as the weather permits. Here are some of the area’s most popular golf courses:

Big Sky Golf Club
2100 Black Otter Road, Big Sky
406-995-4706 Office
406-995-5780 Pro Shop

Cottonwood Hills Golf Club
8955 River Road, one mile west of Four Corners

Riverside Golf (Private)
2500 Springhill Road, Bozeman

Valley View Golf Course (Private)
23 Kagy Boulevard
406-526-2145 Pro Shop
406-587-9751 Office

Gallatin Valley Golf (Indoor)
234 Doe Road, Belgrade

-Ada Montague

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