Swinging Into Spring

By Beacon Staff

“There’s a lot of energy around the clubhouse right now and a lot of energy around golf,” said Steve Dunfee, general manager at Buffalo Hill Golf Club in Kalispell.

Indeed, excitement is spiking as spring arrives and ushers in another golf season.

There’s no shortage of greens and fairways for golfers in Montana. More than 70 courses spread across the state, including almost 30 in this northwest corner.

Golf Digest has named the Flathead Valley one of the top 50 golf destinations in the U.S.

Here’s a look at golf venues that make this a desired destination:

Northern Pines, Kalispell
The 18-hole links-style course north of Kalispell returned to its roots this year and changed its name from Big Mountain Golf Club back to its original moniker. Built in 1996 by two-time U.S. Open Champion Andy North and Roger Packard, Northern Pines is 100 percent open. Golf Digest named the course the seventh best venue in Montana in its most recent “Best in State Rankings.” Only two other public courses made the list, Eagle Bend in Bigfork (ranked eighth) and Old Works in Anaconda (ranked fifth). Call 751-1950, or visit www.northernpinesgolfclub.com.

Buffalo Hill, Kalispell
One of the valley’s classic courses is fully open along with the new driving range just minutes from downtown. Golfers have two quality options to choose between: the Cameron Nine or the Championship 18. There’s also the expansive driving range that was installed last year. One of the consistent highlights of the season is the annual Labor Day Tournament, slated for Aug.31-Sept. 2. This year the course is also hosting the Montana State Mid Amateur Tournament, Aug. 15-17. Call 756-4530, or visit www.golfbuffalohill.com.

Village Greens, Kalispell
Jess Roper replaced Ryan Malby as the head professional at the popular 18-hole course that’s tucked amid a residential setting. Roper is a Flathead High graduate and has worked at Village Greens since 2005. The course, which is fully open, hosts several events throughout the season, including the upcoming 20th annual American Legion Baseball Golf Tournament on April 20. The tournament is an 18-hole scramble for four-person teams and features hole prizes and a putting contest. The event supports the Kalispell Lakers legion baseball organization. Call 752-4666, or visit www.villagegreensmontana.com.

Whitefish Lake, Whitefish
Whitefish is undoubtedly a ski town during winter. But in spring and summer, many residents trade skis for clubs. With 36 total holes, the Whitefish Lake Golf Club holds the distinction of being the largest course in the valley. The North Course opened April 5, and the South Course opened April 9. The big event of the season, the Fourth of July Tournament, is scheduled for July 4-6. Sign up early, though. The 220 open spots fill up fast for the competitive event. Call 862-5960, or visit www.golfwhitefish.com.

Eagle Bend, Bigfork
Long considered one of the top courses in Montana, Eagle Bend opened the earliest in at least 12 years this season. Thanks to good spring conditions, the 27-hole venue started accepting tee times March 15, the earliest since head professional Mike Wynne has been there. Golf Digest ranked Eagle Bend the #1 course in the state between 1991-96 and among the top 50 in the U.S. The course once again earned high honors recently and was listed as the eighth best in Montana. Call 837-7310, or visit www.eaglebendgolfclub.com.

Meadow Lake, Columbia Falls
Glacier National Park stands in the backdrop of this 18-hole course on the west edge of Columbia Falls. Club managers were hoping to open the full venue early this week. Golf Digest has rated the course a 4.5 star venue and called it one of the best public courses in the state. Call 892-2111 or visit www.meadowlakegolf.com.

Markus McCrorie swings away at the Village Greens Golf Club driving range. file photo by lido Vizzutti | Flathead Beacon

Glacier View, West Glacier
There’s no debate: this 18-hole course provides the best surrounding views of any venue around. Founded in 1969, Glacier View is threaded along the edge of the nearby national park and sits in the heart of the Crown of the Continent. As of April 5, the course was not yet open, but club managers plan to accept tee times soon. Call 888-5471, or visit www.glacierviewgolf.com, or the course’s Facebook page.

Indian Springs Ranch, Eureka
Weaving through fescue grass that spreads across the historic 69 Ranch, this 18-hole course is entering its third season. Club managers announced the venue would be fully opened April 12. Birch Criswell is the new head professional and touts nearly 20 years of experience in the industry. Call 889-5056 or visit www.indianspringsmontana.com.

The Wilderness Club, Eureka
Nick Faldo, the winner of six PGA major championships, designed this 18-hole venue along with renowned course architects Lee Schmidt and Brian Curley. It opened in 2009 as a private facility and is now available to the public. Golf Magazine named it the second best new private course in the U.S. Call 889-6501 or visit www.thewildernessclub.com.

Cabinet View, Libby
With the Cabinet Mountains rising in the background, this 18-hole course has become a popular destination since it opened in 1955. The venue is open along with the driving range. Call 293-7332 or visit www.golflibby.com.

Polson Bay, Polson
Among the 27 holes that meander along the shores of Flathead Lake, the nine-hole “Olde Course” is one of Montana’s originals, dating back to 1938. Everything has been open this season since early March. Call 883-8230 or visit www.polsonbaygolf.com.

Mission Mountain, Ronan
Tee times are being accepted for all 18 holes that span 6,479 yards. All active military personnel and their spouses golf for free with a valid military ID. Call 676-4653 or visit www.golfmissionmountain.com.

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