In the flatlands of Eastern Montana sits a town surrounded by oil pumpjacks still slowly nudging their heads toward the earth extracting crude oil from below the sandstone surface with each motion. The rhythm of the pumpjacks is a mesmerizing sight to behold as you roll down the highway closer to Baker, Montana. These pumpjacks stand out against the horizon as old working relics of a booming oil town that still has oil under its feet.
Baker is home to the Lakeview Country Club which sits on the southeastern edge of town near the airport and offers a view of Lake Baker which sits in the middle of this 1,700-resident town. Even the golf course at Lakeview Country Club has two pumpjacks on the property with one sitting near the clubhouse and one between the tee boxes of the fifth and ninth holes.
Lakeview Country Club starts off with a near 500-yard par 5 that runs parallel to some caragana bushes on the left that border the out of bounds fence along Airport Road. A reachable par 5, the first hole has a small creek running through the fairway inside of a hundred yards and a strongly sloping back-to-front green where you don’t want to be long.
As the breeze picked up out of the West, Lakeview Country Club started to show its teeth. In course out of bounds stakes made routine tee shots more intimidating while large igneous boulders line the rough and can carve a golf ball with one errant swing.
The third hole at Lakeview is an over water par 3 that can play 194 yards or 150 yards depending on where the tee markers are placed. With the wind fighting the ball from left-to-right the tee shot into this sloping green can be quite challenging.
I was having a well enough round in the wind at Baker until I came to the par 5 sixth hole that was playing downwind. The dogleg right hole features out of bounds stakes along the right-hand side until you get past the driving range and my drive had cut the corner giving me only a mid-iron into the uphill green.
That’s when it happened. That’s when they happened.
That’s when I got the shanks. Those god-damn shanks.
I was expecting my mid-iron to place me on the green with a good look at an eagle putt when the next thing I know I was trapesing through the long grass looking for my Titleist and trying to salvage a par.
Once you have one shank you can’t seem to shake the fear they instill in you. It’s there as you decide which club to hit, when you tee up your ball, when you take the club back, and it’s even there after you’ve successfully hit the ball without using the hosel.
If making a birdie can give a golfer confidence, shanking a ball can shatter that confidence worse than getting dumped by the girl of your dreams.
As I trudged up the hill towards the clubhouse after finishing my round with only one more shank to my credit I looked around at the land surrounding Baker. Looking into the expanse of farmland and seeing the nudging heads of the pumpjacks in the distance I had to laugh as I walked in the clubhouse to get a beer.
I know I’ll never forget the time I got the shanks in Baker, Montana at Lakeview Country Club.