“An Oasis in Eastern Montana” at Cottonwood Country Club

In the seemingly endless landscape of eastern Montana’s rolling hills sits an oasis of sorts. Bordering the badlands of Makoshika State Park sits Glendive, Montana, the home of Cottonwood Country Club.

The cottonwoods for which Glendive’s nine-hole golf course is named tower over the valley floor and present consistent challenges to any golfer who looking to take aim at the tiny greens at Cottonwood Country Club. The wide trunked ancient trees hang their long limbs over the fairways blocking out shots golfers would routinely play.

My tour guides for today’s afternoon round in the sweltering and humid heat of Eastern Montana were my friend Gavin McPherson, his father Scott McPherson, and Jay Morasko. Scott was the manager at Cottonwood for a good many years and both he and Gavin have been crowned the club champion.

Cottonwood presents a number of gorgeous holes that weave their way among the cottonwoods to small undulating greens that can leave you perplexed. The first hole of Cottonwood Country Club is a par 4 playing 380-yards down from the elevated tee sitting underneath the eye of the clubhouse. The opening hole doglegs a hair to the left and fits the eye of the draw-ball hitter leaving just a short wedge from the fairway to a crowned green.

All the greens at Cottonwood seem to have some crown to them presenting a difficult challenge to hold with the simplest of chips or even full shots. You can’t take much for granted while playing a short shot at CCC.

The dogleg right third hole at Cottonwood plays as a par 5 on the front measuring 497-yards while playing as a par 4 measuring in at 400 yards on the back nine. Playing the hole from the blue tees and as a par 4, the third demands a cutting tee shot to move right-to-left because of the out of bounds on the left-hand side of the hole and the wall of cottonwoods on the right that prevent a draw from being played. A long second shot into the third green is hard to hold on the small putting surface.

It is a fact that almost all the trouble on Cottonwood Country Club sits on the left side of the course, making it a draw ball hitter’s nightmare. Out of bounds stakes sit on the left-hand side of 1, 2, 3, 4, and 6, with the lone danger on the right side of the course being on number 9’s tee shot.

The dogleg right closing hole at Cottonwood also can play as a par 4 or par 5 depending on the tees you play. Today it measured in at 477-yards from the blue tees and leaves the opportunity for birdie if your tee shot finds the left side of the fairway just short of the creek that runs the base of the hill. The ninth green is protected by a bunker in the front right and the dangers of cottonwood limbs that hang over the back and sides of the green.

As our round concluded and Gavin, Scott, Jay, and myself visited about the shots we played and putts we didn’t make in the clubhouse I had to remark, “This really is a challenging little golf course with tiny challenging greens.”

Those tiny challenging greens made for a tough putting day down in that cottonwood filled valley at Cottonwood Country Club.

It just happened to make my day that in the oasis of Eastern Montana there happens to be a downtown watering hole named the Oasis Bar where I could belly up to the bar and complain about my short game with the best of them.

Follow Montana’s Longest Drive on Instagram at @MontanasLongestDrive and “Like” it on Facebook

“I Could’ve Used an Ark” at Sidney Country Club

Driving down to Sidney Friday morning, I was wishing I had an ark. Nothing too big, maybe something in the 15 cubits by 10 cubits range. I was in the midst of an absolute downpour.

With raindrops growing larger and larger by the minute, I pulled into the parking lot of the Sidney Country Club and had to time my escape from my car to run inside the clubhouse. In between the heavier waves of heavy rain, I made break for it only to be partially soaked by the time I got inside the door.

In the pro shop, I visited with Sidney’s Head Golf Professional Ryan Troxell before grabbing a bite to eat at the bar. Saddled up to the bar and eating my club sandwich, the bartender at the club said, “You can’t be thinking about playing in this, can you?”

As another heavy band of rain pelted the windows and water pooled on the deck I had to say, “Yep. It’s on the list and I’m set to go out in about an hour. I sure hope it lightens up.”

As we visited about the crummy weather she asked if I had heard about the guy traveling around playing every golf course in Montana.

I had to smirk as I took off my rain jacket revealing my Montana’s Longest Drive polo and said, “Yea, that’s me.”

As I ate my lunch and visited with those around me at the bar, I kept getting asked if I really was going to play in this downpour?

“Absolutely.”

After lunch I meandered back to the pro shop and pulled the trigger on a new pair of Skechers golf shoes that had a waterproof guarantee. “We’ll put that to the test, won’t we?” I thought as my playing partner Benji Berg showed up.

Benji is the golf coach of the Sidney Eagles and stick on his home track. Adorned in our rain gear we took off on a tour of the Sidney Country Club in weather Benji was a little skeptical about playing in.

Over one of my putts on the front nine I had to watch a steady stream of drops fall from the brim of my hat onto my golf ball. And I couldn’t have had more fun in the rain with Benji. On every tee box he would give me an idea of where to hit it and what shots to play.

Even though I wasn’t hitting many of the shots he was helping me decide to hit, it was nice to have a caddy imparting knowledge about the course to me.

As we hacked it around and each made our fair share of bogeys, I was struck by the beauty of the lone 18-hole golf course in Eastern Montana.

The seventh hole is a downhill par 4 measuring in at around 400 yards that weaves its between two hills and past a couple of banks of tall cottonwood trees that can swallow up an errant tee shot. With a crested green and protected by a bunker in the front right.

Another one of the holes that I loved was the par 3 ninth hole that played at 184 yards back towards the clubhouse. With walls of trees on the right and left and the restaurant’s patio in the backdrop it provides the opportunity to make a birdie if your tee shot doesn’t find the front left bunker, the back right bunker, the left greenside bunker, and the pond to the right. Simple right?

At the end of our round Benji and I stood at the 18th tee box and looked at the closing hole of Sidney’s gem of a golf course. It’s a 600-yard downhill par 5 with a narrow fairway lined by even more long cottonwoods that finishes back within vision of the clubhouse. The green is large and inviting if you find yourself in the tight fairway and want to go for it in two.

After our round, Benji and I stopped into the restaurant bar for a post round drink and to dry off. As we sat there commiserating about our golf game but bragging up the golf course I was tapped on the shoulder by the bartender who was gathered around a table with her husband and friends.

She turned and announced to the group, “This is that guy who’s playing every golf course in Montana in one summer. He just got done playing our course.”

Again, I introduced myself to some new friends in Sidney and told them about my project and how much I loved their golf course.

Even if I wished I would’ve had an ark.