Flathead Valley – A Mecca Unto Itself

There is still an uncharted mecca for golf enthusiasts, which offers terrific courses, excellent weather and breathtaking scenery. Set in a rugged wilderness with friendly people, the Flathead Valley in Northwest Montana is commonly known as the “Gateway” to Glacier National Park and remains one of the last great frontiers of undiscovered golf in the continental United States. Green fees and local accommodations are quite reasonable.

Golf season runs from roughly April through October of each year. Golf came to the Valley more than 50 years ago when the federal Works Progress Administration (WPA) sought a way to put loggers back to work after the Great Depression. Among other things, they built three municipal courses, complete with log cabin clubhouses. These facilities are still managed by boards of local golfers who keep green fees affordable.

Signature courses designed by Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Andy North and Tom Fazio are just the beginning. Overall, Flathead Valley boasts 10 unique public golf courses, all of which offer carpeted and lush fairways with bent-grass greens and a setting that keeps golfers coming back year after year.

Here is what Flathead Valley has to offer:

Buffalo Hill Golf Club:
Located at the end of Main Street in Kalispell, Buffalo Hill is one of the three municipal courses built after World War II. The log cabin clubhouse is still in use, as is the original nine-hole Cameron Course. An additional 18-hole Arnold Palmer-designed course was added in 1978 to make this a 27-hole facility. Since the Palmer addition, Buffalo Hill has ranked as high as No. 3 among the states’ best golf courses, as rated by Golf Digest. Several dogleg holes and massive old growth trees help to make this one of Flathead Valley’s most popular golf attractions.

Eagle Bend:
Eagle Bend’s 27 holes offer scenic mountain and river views throughout. The first 18 holes were designed by William Hull and opened in 1988 to rave reviews. Within two years, Eagle Bend was ranked among Golf Digest’s Top 50 Public Golf Courses in the country, and was voted No. 1 in Montana a year later. An additional nine holes opened in 1995, called the “Nicklaus Nine,” designed by Jack Nicklaus, Jr. This resort-style community boasts a fitness and recreation center with workout equipment and spa treatments, and has condos available for rental near a freshwater marina.

Glacier View Golf Club:
Situated in West Glacier, Montana, Glacier View presents a challenge to gawking golfers, who may have difficulty watching the ball in favor of the nearby majestic peaks of Glacier National Park. The par-69 18-hole course measures 5,161 yards from the men’s tees and 4,756 for ladies. Amenities include a spacious air-conditioned clubhouse with a pro shop, lounge, restaurant and fireplace. RV hookups are available with plenty of room on the surrounding grounds that can make this a comfortable place for large gatherings and tournaments.

Meadow Lake Golf Resort:
The 18-hole championship golf course is just one of the options for entertainment at this secluded getaway in Columbia Falls. Meadow Lake has been called the only traditional full-service resort in the area, with a central inn and condos available to accommodate visitors; recreational activities; a full fitness center; and full-service restaurant and lounge. Golfers will be tested when they play here. This is one of the more challenging layouts in Flathead Valley. A plethora of water hazards and tree-lined fairways open up to views of Glacier National Park - making for a fun and challenging round of golf. Visitors to Meadow Lake often comment on how remote and peaceful the location is. Translation to golfers: Your screams of dismay can be heard from quite some distance.

Mission Mountain Country Club:
Although not known for playing exceptionally long, Mission Mountain, located 14 miles south of Flathead Lake, is a local favorite because of its stunning vista and neatly manicured course. The par-5 18th hole is one of the best finishing holes in the state. To arrive at this course from the Kalispell area, you’ll travel along Flathead Lake, the largest fresh-water lake west of the Great Lakes.

Northern Pines Golf Club:
Designed by two-time U.S. Open champion Andy North, this course blends towering pines with traditional Scottish Highland links. The Stillwater River encompasses the layout, and will make golfers reconsider shot-making decisions at times. Northern Pines opened in 1996 and is the most recent public course to open in the Valley. Northern Pines plays 7,100 yards from the back tees. Low handicappers must make good on forced carries and pinpoint accuracy to score well. However, North devised several sets of tees to make the course fun and playable for all.

Polson Country Club:
Polson is one of the three municipal courses built more than 50 years ago and is situated at the south end of Flathead Lake. The log cabin clubhouse has since been converted to a summer-stock theater, and an additional nine holes were built to give the facility a total of 18. A new clubhouse was constructed at the same time as the expansion project and rests on top of a hill overlooking the first, ninth, 10th and 18th holes. Mature trees line narrow fairways on the older front side and the back nine’s newer holes are more open.

Village Green Golf Club:
The Village Green is billed as a fun course that is run by great staff. This is a place where golfers can play a forgiving par-70 course and take their coolers along for the ride. The fairways are dotted with sand and grass bunkers with plenty of open space to navigate around the obstacles. A scattering of water hazards helps to make for a great round of golf on this course designed by Canadian Bill Robinson.

Whitefish Lake Golf Club:
The Whitefish Lake Golf Association formed in 1934 and one year later the first 18 holes opened for play. Today the Whitefish Lake Golf Club boasts the only 36-hole golf complex in Montana and continues to be the most requested destination for golfers statewide. The North and South Courses are both tightly manicured and are lined with pine and birch trees. In 1996, both 18-hole layouts were ranked among Golf Digest’s top five courses in the state. The clubhouse is one of the three WPA project clubhouses in the valley.

Make Plans Today!
To plan your trip today or to find out more about reservations, accommodations, golf packages and more specific information, please contact the Flathead Valley Golf Association toll-free at 800-392-9795, or visit their website at: www.golfmontana.net.