“A Shot-Maker’s Course” at Cabinet View Golf Club

Cabinet View Golf Club in Libby can be described as a shot-maker’s course. Carved out of the pines of northwest Montana, Cabinet View has a reputation for being a challenging track and I put that reputation to test when I played it on Friday.

On Friday, I hopped in the car and headed toward Libby to meet up with Libby golfers Gary Peck and Wayne Haines. In the pro shop I visited with the course pro Jeff Dooley who said, “If you want the real scoop on this course, you picked the right group to play with. These guys play here every day.”

Gary Peck is a bit of a Libby legend and played basketball and golf at the University of Montana in the 1960s. As we played our round, Gary told the story of his Griz team winning the school’s first Big Sky Conference Championship in golf.

Wayne Haines is a tremendous golfer himself having shot his age nearly 130 times and still playing to a low handicap. Wayne was instrumental in building the expansion of Cabinet View Golf Club from a 9-hole course to a championship quality 18-hole course. When the back nine was built, Gary worked six days a week and even has a pond on the new nine named for him.

The front nine at Cabinet View starts with a 513-yard par 5 that is tree lined on both sides of the fairway. The fairway turns up the hill and to the left past some tall pines before a bunker protects the large sloping green.

The course at Cabinet View is as fantastic as the reputation it has. The greens at this course are as nice as I have putted on during this trip, they are quick and roll true, the kind of greens that inspire confidence that often isn’t there with the putter in your hand.

The best view of the Cabinet View Mountains that sit high above Libby and the Kootenai River comes from the 5th hole. Slightly turning right from the tee box with the pine trees perfectly framing the green and greenside bunker in the foreground with the mountains in the back, this is a gorgeous 417-yard par 4.

The back at Cabinet View is a shot-maker’s course. Carved out of the mountain hillside by Wayne and others, this course cannot be overpowered but instead must be played. It is a nine that reminds you of the precision that golf requires.

One of the most beautiful holes on the course is the par 3 11th that plays 150-yards from the tips. A With a small pond to the right of the hole and bunkers on each side of this undulating green that slopes from back-to-front and from left-to-right it is a fantastic short par 3.

Throughout the round at Cabinet View, Gary and Wayne told me about the history of the course. Gary spoke mostly about the front nine while Wayne talked about the back nine he helped construct.

In fact, Libby has a tremendous history of golf in Montana. At one point, Libby has been the home course of one of the best professionals in Montana Jim Mee, the best amateur, Arizona State commit Ryggs Johnston, and Joe Cielak who is the reigning Montana State Mid-Amateur Champion. It isn’t a wonder why this course has produced so many fine golfers.

Libby’s Cabinet View Golf Club is an amazing course in northwest Montana that lives up to its reputation for being a great but challenging track.

Thanks to Cabinet View Golf Club and their PGA Professional Jeff Dooley for a fantastic day of golf in Libby.

 

“Scared to Death by a Snake” at Indian Springs Ranch

After a long drive up the western side of the state, I pulled into the parking lot at Indian Springs Ranch in Eureka, Montana. Five hours in the car left me eager to get out on this links style course in the late afternoon.

Tall fescue rough and green fairways abound on this links style golf course in northwest corner of the state. At 6,677 yards, this tight golf course offers up a great challenge to anyone who ventures out to play it.

Opening with a 410-yard par 4, Indian Springs Ranch has a narrow fairway with mounds along the right of the rough and fescue lining the second cut on this hole that slightly turns to the left and plays uphill to a green that is two tiered and slopes back-to-front.

Making my way around this challenging course, one of the best views was from the par 3 6th hole that sits high on the hillside and requires a long tee shot to cover the gully that runs between the tees and the green. A deep sand trap sits in front of this undulating green and anything short of the bunker will be lost to the gully.

The scariest moment of my trip was walking to the par 3 8th hole from the 7th green. Walking down the cart path I took a slight shortcut through a small patch of fescue and onto the 8th tee when I felt something under my foot. The “Fight or Flight” response kicked in as I high-stepped my way out of the tall grass and onto the tee. I tried to scream but like in a nightmare when you try to cry out and can’t muster a sound, I was even too frightened to make a noise when I looked down and saw the snake at my feet.

Standing on the 8th tee after my encounter with the snake, I had to take a moment to catch my breath. Panting and winded, I quickly took an inventory and reassured myself that I was in fact, okay. Amazingly I hadn’t messed my shorts when I was almost scared s@#$-less by the snake.

Calming my nerves, it must have been the adrenaline coursing through my veins that helped me stick an iron close to the downhill 182-yard 8th hole that has a pond to the left and a green that slopes from front-to-back and from right-to-left and make a very memorable birdie.

My favorite hole at Indian Springs Ranch Golf Course was the par 4 14th hole that plays uphill for the duration. Playing 355-yards from the tips, a cross bunker sits in the middle of the fairway at 235-yards and another fairway bunker anchors the right side. A small creek runs the length of the right of the hole and the elevated green sits protected with a bunker in the front left.

After my round I visited with Indian Springs Ranch’s Head Golf Professional Mark Fenech. We talked about our favorite holes, some of the challenges around this track, and how tight of a links style course this one can play like.

If you want to be tested by gorgeous links course in northwest Montana, make your way up to Eureka and play Indian Springs Ranch. Just watch out for the snakes.

Thanks to Mark Fenech and the staff at Indian Springs Ranch for a wonderful afternoon of golf in Eureka.

“Aiming for the Middle” at Linda Vista Golf Course

It was a strange feeling playing a hole without a flagstick, but it might have helped my game. Instead of taking aim at a pin, I had to hit toward the center of the green.

This was the case on the 8th and 9th holes at Linda Vista Golf Course. With high waters earlier in the year, Linda Vista is recovered from the flooding that affected Missoula quite well. Talking with Linda Vista’s Pro Charles G. Miller in the clubhouse before I went out to play, he gave me permission to go play the 8th and 9th holes even though they weren’t open to the public yet.

I set out on to play the par 29 Linda Vista Golf Course on a beautiful morning. Weaving its way back through the low meadow off of Lower Miller Creek Road near the Bitterroot River, Linda Vista plays to 1,815-yards with two par 4s and seven par 3s.

The opening hole at Linda Vista is a 350-yard par 4 that doglegs slightly right past a fairway bunker on the right corner of the hole. Trees and bushes line the left side of the rough along the hole before a turtleback green that sits protected by a pair of bunkers completes the whole.

One of the most beautiful holes at Linda Vista is the par 3 4th hole that plays 137-yards from the back tees. An over water tee shot awaits the player from the back tee where you must walk down a small corridor through the bushes to find an isolated tee box. The green on the 4th is a large surface with a deep bunker in front of the undulating green.

After making my way through the next few holes at Linda Vista, I crossed under the caution tape and went to the 8th and 9th holes that hadn’t been opened to the public yet. It was an interesting feeling on the 9th tee hitting back toward the clubhouse on the 145-yard hole protected by three bunkers and having to just take a guess at where the hole might be.

After finding the middle of the green with my tee shot, I found the hole located in the back-left corner of the green. Not being able to see the pin on the hole really changes the way you play golf. It might be an improvement for my game to just hit for the middle of the green and like I had to playing Linda Vista’s 8th and 9th holes.

Linda Vista Golf Course in Missoula is a great executive course that is a nice fit for people who don’t hit the ball too far off the tee, younger people learning the game, and for someone who wants to work on their irons and wedge game.

Thanks to Charles Miller and the staff at Linda Vista Golf Course for having me out to play this great course and letting me get the 8th and 9th holes in.

 

“Along the Clark Fork” at River’s Bend Golf Course

Along the beautiful Clark Fork River is a great nine-hole golf course that weaves its way along the river and through the trees and offers tremendous views of the scenic mountain valley that Thompson Falls sits in.

Arriving at River’s Bend on Tuesday afternoon, I started my round on the dogleg right par 4 that plays right along the bend in the Clark Fork River. From an elevated tee this hole plays 338-yards and is lined down the right side by pine trees and on the left by the driving range which gives way to the river. After hitting down the hill to the landing area, the second shot at River’s Bend is into a turtleback green along the tree line.

Throughout this course, every tee shot requires something different. The 2nd hole for example is a par 5 begins along the river and then works back up a hill and toward the trees. On this 500-yard par 5, the safest play is to hit to the base of the hill with an iron and then layup to a wedge to attack this back-to-front sloping green.

The course at River’s Bend then begins to get tighter as the holes delve deeper into the rows of pine trees. One of the toughest holes on the course is the 410-yard slight dogleg right par 4 4th hole. Trees line the left and right of this fairway that bends slowly to a small slightly elevated green.

Sitting in the clubhouse after the round and looking out the window at the Clark Fork River and the high mountain face that watches over the river and the course I visited with the lady working the bar at the clubhouse. We visited for a short while about River’s Bend and then about this beautiful little northwest stretch of Montana.

River’s Bend is a beautiful and wonderful little nine-hole golf course that truly does bend along the scenic Clark Fork River.

“A Nine Through the Pines” at Trestle Creek

Trestle Creek Golf Club

I found out that there are two people who would drive a couple of hundred miles to play golf with me last Tuesday morning when my uncle Bill Ryan and Jerry Hystad each met me in St. Regis, Montana.

Early that morning, Jerry drove to Trestle Creek from Helena, Montana to meet up with my uncle Bill and I while my uncle Bill drove from Moscow, Idaho where he was at some work meetings.

“Actually, I took a wrong turn out of Moscow, so I really drove over from Washington to be here this morning,” Bill joked.

After that slight detour through the Apple State, Bill and Jerry were waiting for me at Trestle Creek when I made my way off the Interstate and into the clubhouse at Trestle Creek. Trestle Creek has always been one of those golf courses I’ve thought about playing as I cruised by on the highway. From the Interstate, the sight of greens and fairways always catches a golfer’s eye.

Trestle Creek is a relatively young course in Montana’s golf landscape. A photo album sits on the glass-plated countertop filled with golf balls and sand that shows photos of the construction of Trestle Creek in 1994.

Weaving its ways through the trees, Trestle Creek is a tree-lined nine-hole track. The opening hole at Trestle Creek is a 354-yard dogleg right par 4 lined by tall pines on the both the left and right side of the fairway that narrows near the green that slopes back-to-front.

The 3rd hole is the one most visible from the Interstate and will make any golf junkie want to take the exit and get a quick nine in while on a road trip. What better way to stretch the legs on a long drive than to stop and play some golf. The third is a slight dogleg left with trees on the left of the fairway and out-of-bounds along the right. Three bunkers line the landing area of the fairway 250-yards or so off the tee right at the corner of this hole and a large bunker in the front left of the green protects an undulating back-to-front putting surface.

Trestle Creek has an abundance of challenging and scenic holes on the course like the 356-yard par 4 4th that plays down a tight corridor of a fairway lined by tall pines on both sides and with a pair of pine trees in the fairway down the left-hand side. A large green that slopes back-to-front slopes away from the players has a bunker on the right completing this challenging par 4.

The next memorable hole at Trestle Creek is an over water par 3 that plays 143-yards to a green shaded by a tall pine behind the left of the green and a small flowering tree in the front left. Countless golf balls are visible under the pond and serve as a reminder that being short isn’t an option on this hole.

After our round, Bill, Jerry, and I made our way into the clubhouse and sat down for a beer. Throughout our round we had laughs, told stories, and perhaps hit a few pine trees on this tight course. The stories of trying to carve a ball through the narrowest of windows in the trees made for plenty of material for laughs and storytelling as we sat around a buddy bar.

As my uncle Bill, Jerry, and I said our goodbyes in the parking lot after shooting the breeze we each pulled out of the parking lot and headed down the highway.

I’m a pretty lucky guy to have an uncle and a friend like Bill and Jerry who would each drive a couple of hundred miles to play golf with me in St. Regis.

Thanks to Dan Park and Trestle Creek Golf Course for a wonderful day of golf in St. Regis, Montana.