Tee Time: A Golfer’s Guide to the Flathead Valley

By Beacon Staff

It’s almost time to dust off the clubs. Sunny conditions and warm weather are quickly ushering in the golf season in one of Montana’s golf meccas. The Flathead Valley, ranked one of the top 50 destinations in the U.S. for golf enthusiasts, boasts many of the state’s finest, most unique courses. In the coming weeks, more than 70 courses spread across the state will accept the season’s first tee times. Polson Bay Golf Club on the south end of Flathead Lake is already playing, and other local venues are expected to open this week or next. The official golf season for the Montana State Golf Association runs April 1 through Oct. 31.

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

NORTHERN PINES, KALISPELL
This 18-hole links-style course north of Kalispell has consistently ranked among the best in the state. Built in 1996 by two-time U.S. Open Champion Andy North and Roger Packard, Northern Pines boasts a unique design of rolling fairways surrounded by abundant — and treacherous — native grasses. The trademark Ponderosa pines tower throughout the winding course, which tracks along the Stillwater River. Golf Digest named the course the seventh best venue in Montana in last year’s “Best in State Rankings.”
Address: 3230 U.S. 93 North, Kalispell. Call 751-1950, or visit www.northernpinesgolfclub.com

BUFFALO HILL, KALISPELL
One of the valley’s classic courses, this top-ranked destination offers golfers two quality options: the Cameron Nine or the Championship 18. The redesigned driving range, also just minutes from downtown, is an ideal spot to iron out the kinks before hitting the course. There are free men’s and women’s clinics at 6 p.m. on April 14, April 19, April 21 and April 26. A complete list with more information is online. One of the consistent highlights of the season is the annual Labor Day Tournament, in its 77th year, slated for Aug. 30-Sept. 1.
Address: 1176 N. Main St., Kalispell. Call 756-4530, or visit www.golfbuffalohill.com

VILLAGE GREENS, KALISPELL
This popular 18-hole course is tucked amid a residential setting with quality fairways wrapped around water features and the idyllic mountain vista in the backdrop. It’s a good venue for golfers of all abilities and features a driving range that’s one of the favorite tune-up spots in Kalispell. The course hosts several tournaments throughout the season, starting with the upcoming 21st annual American Legion Baseball Golf Tournament on April 28. 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. The Montana State Seniors Championships is also taking place here in early August.
Address: 500 Palmer Dr., Kalispell. Call 752-4666, or visit www.villagegreensmontana.com

WHITEFISH LAKE, WHITEFISH
One of Montana’s premier golf venues, this 36-hole complex is the largest in the valley and one of the historic catalysts of the sport. Adjacent to Whitefish and Lost Coon lakes, the courses both offer scenic opportunities that rank the overall experience as one of the finest in the state. This venue hosts several tournaments throughout the spring and summer, including many of the top events in the state. A few early-season highlights include the Ski Patrol Open, April 25, and the season-opener tournament, May 3. The big event of the season, the Fourth of July Tournament, is scheduled for July 3-5. Sign up early, though, as the 220 open spots fill up fast for the competitive event.
Address: 1200 U.S. 93 North, Whitefish. Call 862-5960, or visit www.golfwhitefish.com

EAGLE BEND, BIGFORK
Long considered one of the top courses in the state, Eagle Bend is an exceptional 27-hole venue that provides all the admired qualities of Montana’s outdoors, including fairways that wind through a forested landscape in front of soaring mountains. William Hull designed the original 18 holes three decades ago; the Eagle 9 was completed in 1984 and the Osprey 9 in 1988. The Bear 9 was designed by Nicklaus Design and opened in 1995. The practice facilities include everything from a chipping and putting green to an expansive driving range just minutes from downtown Bigfork.
Address: 279 Eagle Bend Drive, Bigfork. Call 837-7310, or visit www.eaglebendgolfclub.com

MEADOW LAKE, COLUMBIA FALLS
This 18-hole course, on the edge of Columbia Falls and set to the backdrop of Glacier National Park, boasts itself as the most challenging layout in the valley. It’s long been considered one of the top public courses in the state and earned Golf Digest’s 4.5 star rating, a rare honor. It features full practice facilities and quality dining opportunities that give the venue its distinct resort appeal. It’s a regular site of the popular and prestigious Governor’s Cup Tournament, which draws golfers from across the state. This year’s 26th annual tournament is July 31-Aug. 2, sharing time between Meadow Lake, Buffalo Hill and Eagle Bend.
Address: 490 St. Andrews Dr., Columbia Falls Call 892-2111 or visit www.meadowlakegolf.com

GLACIER VIEW, WEST GLACIER
This picturesque 18-hole course provides the best surrounding views of any venue around and offers an experience the whole family can enjoy. 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. Warm up with the practice range and putting greens and enjoy dinner afterward on site.
Address: 640 Riverbend Dr., West Glacier. Call 888-5471, or visit www.glacierviewgolf.com

INDIAN SPRINGS RANCH, EUREKA
Weaving through fescue grass that spreads across the historic 69 Ranch, this 18-hole course is entering its fourth season as a popular attraction for golf enthusiasts. Only an hour north of Whitefish, this course draws inspiration from links-style venues with a unique touch of Western character. Nearby RV lots are available for visitors looking for a multi-day vacation.
Address: 3082 U.S. 93 North, Eureka. 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. Sitting just outside Eureka in a peaceful setting, the Wilderness Club ranks as one of the finest golf experiences in the state. Swing by and play a round during one of the community’s festive highlights, Eureka Rendezvous Days, which is taking place April 26-27.
Address: 1885 Sophie Lake Rd., Eureka. Call 889-6501 or visit www.thewildernessclub.com

CABINET VIEW, LIBBY
With the Cabinet Mountains rising in the background, this newly remodeled 18-hole course has become a popular destination in the Kootenai since it opened in 1955. The layout is everything Montana golf could offer with the unique setting of lakes, an array of trees and the expansive mountain range in the forefront. This season’s early highlight events include the Ben Graham Memorial, May 17-18, the CVGC Memorial, June 17-18 and the Kootenai Pro-Am, July 12-13.
Address: 458 Cabinet View Rd., Libby. Call 293-7332 or visit www.golflibby.com

POLSON BAY, POLSON
One of the oldest courses in Montana, this beloved venue sits on the southern shores of Flathead Lake. The 18-hole course is already open with permanent greens and is playing great, according to club house managers. The other nine-hole “Olde Course” is still thawing out but should be open soon. One of the season’s highlights is the Lake City Open, a popular, competitive tournament that has been going on in some form or fashion since the 1950s and attracts upwards of 30 professionals and more than 110 amateurs. This year’s 36-hole stroke play event is May 3-4.
Address: 111 Bayview Dr., Polson. Call 883-8230 or visit www.polsonbaygolf.com

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