The hardest part about playing golf in Montana is playing golf in Montana. The sky is bigger, the mountains are taller and still capped with snow, the fir trees seem to jut up to the sky, and the rivers are wider and swifter. Focusing on one’s golf game becomes secondary in importance.
From the first tee at River’s Bend Golf Course at Thompson Falls, Montana, I knew we had some distance problems. Everything in Montana is so expansive that long distances look close up. We chose to hit irons to the 90 degree dogleg to avoid hitting into the swiftly-flowing Clark Fork River. Feeling rather foolish, we realized that we could have hit our drivers all day long!
River’s Bend is a picturesque layout, its first 3 holes following the banks of the river and its last 6 holes wandering among the tall Montana pines. Many of the holes are sharp doglegs, making the wandering all that more difficult. We definitely needed a knowledgeable Montana guide. However, errant tee shots and misjudged approaches allowed us to focus on the beauty around us rather than our scores.
My cousin, Dale, who thought he looked like Little Lord Fauntleroy in his “golf” shorts (his son was afraid he might get beat up at the gas station) and who plays golf twice a year, won the putting contest on the last hole, so we headed into the clubhouse to buy him a beer. The clubhouse/coffee shop/pro shop provided a wealth of information about golf here. Our young host/golf assistant could not have been more charming. The bulletin board advertised a weekly men’s league, a women’s league, and guided fly fishing trips. A scrapbook described the 1989 Ladies Invitational, a 9 hole affair that offered 6 carts for use to the 8 members and 56 guests. Photos on the wall bragged about the championships of the Thompson Falls Bluehawks golf team. We noticed that high school girls were part of the teams as well as boys. The focal point of the room in addition to the expansive view of the Clark Fork River, was the set of antlers mounted on the wall, a well-used persimmon 3 wood woven among its prongs.
Our game at River’s Bend proved to be a relaxing time for us in Montana. We felt at home among its beauty and its people. Located on scenic State Highway 200 between Missoula and Sandpoint, Idaho, it is a memorable and refreshing 9-hole stop in a truly beautiful state.