In the heat of midday, I pulled into the gravel parking lot of Sunnyside Country Club in Glasgow, Montana. With barely a breath of wind and temperatures being north of 80 degrees for the first time of my trip I couldn’t help but think I had lucked out with weather in the Northeastern part of the state so far.
Thinking back on it, I had only been in Glasgow two times in my life and had only played Sunnyside one time. The first time I came to Glasgow it was because my high school football team was kicking off our first 6-man football game against the Fraser Bearcubs in Fraser. The second time I’d been to Glasgow and the first time I’d played Sunnyside was when my dad and I were the decoys for my Aunt Deb and Uncle Marc’s surprise anniversary party. My dad and I played the whole nine holes with them and when we came back to the clubhouse after finishing up on the ninth green the surprise was a hit.
I would be playing Sunnyside this time with my uncle Marc Swanson and two of his friends he’d lined up to play in the middle of a hot Monday afternoon. Rounding out the group on the first teebox was Ed Hopfauf and Scott “Hootie” Markle.
There was a local reporter taking pictures of us on the first tee which added pressure to an already unfamiliar tee shot on a par 4 with nothing but trouble on the right. All three of my playing partners got up and hit fairway splitting drives with the camera focused on them and then breathed a sigh of relief as the pressure was off.
When I got over the ball as the last one to tee off, my only swing thought was, “This would be a terribly embarrassing time to hit one in the shit.”
Thankfully, despite my glass half empty swing thought, my drive was right where I wanted and left me a short wedge into the green. As we started our trek across the green country of Sunnyside, my uncle Marc, Ed, and Scott all talked about their golf course and community.
“It might not ever be the best golf course in Montana, but our goal is to have this as the greenest golf course in Montana.” said Marc. “And every year we try and take on one big project to improve this course one hole at a time.”
We continued our way to the first green I had been well warned about the small size and mounded shape of Sunnyside Country Club’s putting surfaces. They weren’t lying.
Sunnyside Country Club’s greens are roughly the size of a Volkswagen van and have the large crowned centers that force you to bounce the ball into the greens rather than fly the ball on. It may have taken me a good three holes to figure this out.
The second fact I had to find out the hard way was that all the trouble on the golf course sits on the right side of the hole. For a guy playing a large draw, this means tempting fate on every tee shot only to be let down a handful of times. Somewhere in the hazards of Sunnyside Country Club there are a couple of errant tee shots that I would very much like back.
I joked with the guys I was playing with after I knocked one out of bounds on the short risk reward par 4 seventh that back in college I was a Second Ball All-American. Which meant that if I knocked my first one too far to the right or left, I was going to hit my next shot right where I was aiming the last time.
The seventh was an intriguing hole, I wish I could go back and have another crack at. With Glasgow’s characteristic trouble on the right-hand side, it dog-legs from left to right to a hidden green that hangs just barely over the hazard. The hazard itself sits behind and to the right of the green you can’t fly a ball into because it will bound off the firm green and right into the crud.
Thinking about it, my favorite hole must be the dog-leg par 5 ninth. Measuring in at 460 yards and almost horseshoeing itself back towards the clubhouse, it presents the golfer with multiple opportunities to knock the ball out of bounds if they’re not careful. It’s a fantastic finishing hole that can destroy a round with a high number or provide an opportunity for a birdie or even eagle if you can trust yourself and your game.
Perhaps the best part about Sunnyside Country Club was the hospitality that Marc, Ed, and Scott showed me. We must have sat in the clubhouse swapping golf stories about Sunnyside and other courses we’ve played for two hours or so. I haven’t a doubt that Sunnyside is the fun and challenging golf course it is, because of the people who care for it, play it, and make it their home track.
Sunnyside Country Club may have stolen a few of my golf balls during our nine-hole round but it definitely provided me with an afternoon and new friends I’d willingly trade golf balls for anytime.