Best Public Golf Courses in Montana
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The state of Montana, dubbed the “Big Sky Country”, resides in the Northwestern region of the United States and borders British Columbia and Alberta to the north, Wyoming to the south, North and South Dakota to the east, and Idaho to the west.
True to its slogan, this "Land of the Shining Mountains" boasts a mountainous landscape with a vast wilderness and flourishing vegetation. Home to more than a hundred mountain ranges, big sky vistas, and a multitude of sparkling rivers, streams, and freshwater lakes, Montana is incomparable and unique in terms of its natural beauty and cultural identity. Montana originates from the Spanish word montaña, meaning “mountain", which is a fitting description for the largest Rocky Mountain state.
The fourth largest state in the entire country, with an area of 147,046 square miles, Montana is home to a population of 1.05 million. Its capital city, Helena, is located right in the geographical heart of Montana. Other major cities include Billings, Missoula, Bozeman, Kalispell, Havre, and Anaconda.
Montana is also known as the “Treasure State” due to the abundance of minerals and its prosperous mining industry. It is the nation’s leading producer of gold, copper, and platinum, and contains the largest coal reserve in the nation.
Montana is also teeming with a myriad of top-notch vacation destinations. Adventurers can enjoy the beautiful natural sights of Glacier National Park, Lewis and Clark Caverns State Park, and Gates of the Mountains Wilderness, while hikers can trek across the Highline Trail, Mount Helena, and Ousel Falls Trail. Museum-lovers can visit the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center, Conrad Mansion, and the Museum of the Rockies; whereas those looking to unwind with a much needed R&R can do so at one of the many luxury resorts like Big Sky Montana Ski Resort, The Resort at Paws Up, and the Blue Damsel Lodge on Rock Creek.
With its rich natural topography, mostly sunny skies, and renowned vacation destinations, Montana is a prime location for some of the greatest and most scenic golf courses in the nation with a total of over 100 golf courses throughout the state. In this guide, we will provide you with a list of the top ten best public golf courses in Montana, along with some semi-private clubs that allow playing privileges to non-members in exchange for daily fee rates and other charges.
Best Golf Courses in Montana
Location: Anaconda, Montana
Holes: 18Par: 72Length: 7,705 yards
Earning our vote as the best public golf course in all of Montana is the Old Works Golf Course hailing from Anaconda. The first signature showpiece in the state from the legendary Jack Nicklaus, this 18-hole, par 72 beauty is perched atop a former copper smelter site and one of the town’s old coal mines. It’s impressively laid out over a daunting 7,705-yard property that features greens of bent grass and fairways of fescue bordered by native grass.
The track is reminiscent of a links-style course, with its broad fairway landings, sparse trees, and bodies of water that are few and far between. As one of Golf Digests’s “Top Public Courses in 2015”, Old Works is famous for its unique aesthetics, as it features numerous relics from the copper smelter – such as flue and oven remains – as well as numerous black slag bunkers and black sand traps scattered throughout the course; a creative nod to the town’s rich history of coal production.
With its exceptional assortment of complexities embedded in each hole, Old Works Golf Course has something in store for everybody. There are five sets of tees, ensuring that all golfers from across a varied spectrum of talents will enjoy a challenging but satisfying round. The elevation changes and tricky playing angles also provide an additional challenge that is sure to delight the thinking player in you.
Old Works’ signature hole comes early at the 4th, a 195-yard, par-3 featuring a two-tiered green and an elevated tee in front of a towering flue and a lovely view of the mountains of black sand nearby. Nicklaus’ personal favorite, however, is the 7th hole, a 238-yard layout of vibrant green juxtaposed against the surrounding black sand on all sides.
The standout hole from the back nine was the 442-yard, par-4 10th hole where the Warm Springs Creek crosses the fairway twice before disappearing behind the brick foundations of what was once the Upper Works Silver Mill.
Do not miss the chance to play this course if you pass by the area. The Old Works Golf Course has that defining northwestern character, fun and complexity to stake its claim as one of the best golf courses in Montana.
Location: Eureka, Montana
Holes: 18Par: 72Length: 7,207 yards
Tucked away on the northwest corner of Montana is one of the state’s most luxurious golfing destinations: The Wilderness Club. This Nick Faldo designed course is a brief 45-minute drive from Whitefish and less than 10 miles from the Canadian border. Though it initially opened as a private club in 2009, the Wilderness Club subsequently opened its doors for public access.
Situated atop a gently rolling landscape, natural beauty abounds at the Wilderness Club, where there’s nothing but breathtakingly beautiful clear blue skies for miles set against the backdrop of the surrounding mountain ranges. This championship-standard course covers an expansive 7,207 yards with bent grass greens and bluegrass fairways lined with rows of fescue, and several bodies of water scattered throughout the track. All the holes are decorated with majestic Ponderosa Pine trees, generous fairways, strategically-placed bunkers and a remarkable scenery.
The Wilderness Club also holds its own as a worthy challenger in terms of course difficulty mainly brought about by the frequent dramatic elevation changes throughout the layout. It eases you into the round with a comparatively pedestrian first few holes, before promptly ramping up the ante with a series of memorable holes starting from the second half of the front nine all the way to the back nine, setting up the stage for an exhilarating finish.
Its signature hole is the 557-yard, par-5 12th hole featuring a steep downhill fairway that tumbles down toward a collection of bunkers that provide ample protection for the green that is situated just beyond the edge of the sparkling pond. An equally noteworthy hole is the 593-yard, par-5 18th. Situated by the lakeside, this hole is also lined with fescue, trees, and bunkers left and right as it descends downhill toward the bunker-fortified green that slightly sweeps to the left to add a little bit more complexity. It is often cited as the best finishing hole in the entire state and securing the Wilderness Club’s place amongst the best public golf courses in Montana.
Location: Kalispell, Montana
Holes: 18Par: 72Length: 6,605 yards
Landing on our number 3 spot is the popular Buffalo Hill Golf Club. Largely considered as the finest among all the golf courses that reside in the Flathead Valley, Buffalo Hill Golf Club is actually a 27-hole facility comprised of the 9-hole Cameron Course and the 18-hole Championship Course.
This Kalispell course was designed by Robert Muir Graves and sports bluegrass greens and fairways. Despite being located within the city limits, Buffalo Hill GC transports you into a lush, green, idyllic hideaway, highlighted by several lakes and the stunning Still Water Rivers meandering through the vast expanse of the course.
With a compact 6,605 yardage from the tips, the Championship Course is particularly suited for strategic and accurate players, as it demands careful planning going into every shot. It is riddled with tight fairways, doglegs, blind shots, and covert water hazards. It demands thoughtful shot placement and ball control that you will be obligated to use all the clubs in your bag before the round is over.
The 387-yard, par-4 6th hole is often cited by many players as their favorite. It is a classic risk/reward hole which dares you to rip it and take the shorter route by carrying the river off the tee with the aim of reaching the green in two, hoping to be rewarded with a possible birdie, or play it safe by following the snaking fairway layout with a par as your best case scenario.
Some other standout holes include the 1st, 2nd, and 17th holes, which all play across the hill and requires strategic and accurate shots to finish in regulation. All things considered, the Buffalo Hill GC is one of the best golf courses, not only in Kalispell but in the entire Pacific Northwest.
Location: Columbia Falls, Montana
Holes: 18Par: 72Length: 6,718 yards
Another contender out of Flathead Valley, the Meadow Lake Golf Course is one of the crowning jewels of the four-season vacation resort. This Dick Phelps design dates back to 1974 – one of the oldest courses on this list – but has somehow remained inexplicably under the radar of many golfers.
A hidden gem from western Montana, Meadow Lake certainly carries its weight when compared with the other leading courses in the area, and may even give the other top courses in the state a run for their money. It is one of only three golf courses in the entire state which has been awarded the coveted 4 ½ stars by Golf Digest.
Carved out of gently rolling hills with crystal clear lakes strewn across the entire 6,718-yard property, the course also boasts of stunning views of the Glacier National Park along the Canadian border. The layout is both a fun ride and an impressive test of skill, with its small greens and uneven lies putting a premium on strategic, well-played approaches.
Many of the greens are also elevated to make sure that any less than perfect approach would probably lead to a bogey, or worse. A pair of particularly treacherous holes is the 8th and 17th holes. The former is a 395-yard, par-4 with a deceivingly level landing area but with a downhill green that’s defended by bunkers from all sides. The latter, often credited as the most difficult hole of the entire layout, is also a downhill, dogleg left with a severely sloping fairway, flanked by thick swathes of trees to its right. Two massive boulders are in play from the tee, and if that’s not harrowing enough, strong winds also regularly come to join the party to affect your shot trajectory.
Plan a short vacation at the resort with your friends and family and book a round or two at the course. It will be absolutely worth it as the Meadow lake Golf Course is definitely one of the top golf courses in Montana.
Location: Polson, Montana
Holes: 18Par: 72Length: 7,008 yards
Polson Bay Golf Club is yet another one of those great courses to have come out of the Flathead Valley region. This John Steidel showpiece (redesigned from a 1936 public works project) promises local players and visitors alike, of a “Montana golf experience as you imagined it would be and as it should be”. It is actually home to two distinct courses, the 9-hole Old Course and the aptly named Eighteen 18-hole course.
Nestled between the vast, sparkling waters of Flathead Lake on one side, and the scenic Mission Mountains on the other, Polson Bay flaunts splendid views from all around. The course is also famous for its fairways bordering the shores of Flathead Lake and several impressive lakeside greens. With its 4-star rating from Golf Digest’s “Best Places to Play”, it’s even worth visiting just for the sights alone.
The Eighteen at Polson Bay is a 7,008-yard expanse of well-manicured grass and spacious fairways lined with swathes of tall trees and punctuated by several bodies of water. Expect some moderate elevation changes to come into play throughout the track. It’s most memorable holes are the 6th, a par-5 lakeside hole with a dogleg-left fairway, and the 608-yard, par-5 3rd hole, with its long and narrow fairway leading to the hourglass-shaped green guarded by a deep sand bunker to the left.
With its fantastic scenery, challenging layout, excellent course maintenance, and friendly staff, there’s no way to go around the fact that Polson Bay ticks all the right boxes to make it to our list of the best public golf courses in Montana.
Location: Bozeman, Montana
Holes: 18Par: 71Length: 6,577 yards
Rounding off our list of the best public golf courses in Montana is the Bridger Creek Golf Course. Situated at the foot of the Bridger Mountains, Bridger Creek GC is a quick 10-minute drive from downtown Bozeman and it’s certain to be a trip that you won’t likely soon forget, as this course successfully merges a challenging layout with the natural inherent beauty of its surrounding landscape.
Course designer Mac Hunter, who was a Riviera Country Club golf pro back in the 60’s and 70’s, has crafted an excellent 18-hole layout that’s engaging and satisfying for both beginners and veterans alike.
The starting nine is comprised of straightforward, relatively flat holes along the Bridger Creek punctuated by a number of ponds and small streams, with only doglegs providing some semblance of a challenge. The back nine, however, ascends into the rolling areas of the mountain and boasts of many elevated tee shots plunging into generous fairways. The finishing holes trail into a wooded area with a few bodies of water providing the climactic backdrop to end your round on a scenic high note.
It was the venue for two U.S. amateur qualifiers and several state and regional tournaments (the State Seniors tournament and the Rocky Mountain Section PGA tournament, to name a few). Bridger Creek was also recognized by Golf Digest as one of the "Top Ten Best Courses in Montana" in 2017. The rare combination of mountain splendor, natural beauty, and challenging play offered by the Bridger Creek Golf Course is hard to top, which is why it deserves a spot on our list of the best public golf courses in the state of Montana.
Location: Ronan, Montana
Holes: 18Par: 72Length: 6,706 yards
Lying at the foot of the beautiful Mission Mountains, on a prime farmland area at the heart of the valley, this semi-private golf course was built in 1988 and designed by Gary Roger Baird. This pick is for locals and tourists alike who are looking to treat themselves to a nice weekend getaway in the countryside yet still be able to satisfy their golfing fix at the same time.
Mission Mountain Golf Club’s scenic views, idyllic ambiance, and intricate 18-hole layout all contribute to making it one of the best golf courses in Montana. It can accommodate and challenge all players from various skill levels. It is characterized by generous fairways, spacious greens, and strategically-placed trees that sometimes come into play – proving to be a formidable foe even for low handicappers. Wetlands, water hazards (particularly, a lake and a stream), and flourishing wildlife also come into play throughout the track and adds an unmistakable allure to the Mission Mountain Golf Club.
The course is kept in great shape and though it can provide enough challenges for seasoned golfers playing from the back tees, it's more practically suited for beginners who are looking to hone their skills due to its relatively flat terrain and comparatively friendlier layout.
Its signature hole is the 562-yard, par-5 15th hole which has been recognized as one of the “Greatest Golf Holes of Montana” by Montana Living. In a classic risk/reward scenario, a fork presents itself on your 2nd shot whereby you will have to choose between two possible options. You can either take the longer route to the green by going left and following the winding creek, or take a gamble by threading the needle through a small opening created by trees left, right, and center – hoping to bag a birdie if you successfully manage to squeeze through.
Location: Kalispell, Montana
Holes: 18Par: 70Length: 6,401 yards
Despite being a relative newcomer to the golfing scene of Flathead Valley, Village Greens Golf Course has already become a popular destination for many avid golfers all across the state. It is home to a number of sparkling lakes and beautiful mountain vistas that on its own are enough reasons to merit a visit to this marvelous course in Kalispell, Montana.
Designed by Bill Robinson (of Blackledge Country Club fame), Village Greens GC is a guaranteed good time for all golfers regardless of skill level. It is exceptionally maintained from the tee to the green, as shown by its impeccable bluegrass greens, lush well-manicured grounds, and stunning fairway knolls.
With a very manageable 6,401 yards from the tips, this 18-hole, par-70 course is not an overly difficult course by definition. The starting nine is particularly friendly to beginners and will spot you up for some easy shots before you make the turn towards the relatively more difficult half of the course. The back nine, however, is where Village Greens GC earns its keep as you will be treated to an assortment of distinct and creative golf holes, framed by fantastic views of the surrounding scenery. Though the track is relatively level, the presence of numerous water hazards, fairway mounding, bunkers, and rough make for a uniquely exciting and interesting game.
Some of the most notable holes are the 422-yard, par-4 Hole No. 6 and the 387-yard, par-4 Hole No. 14 (their signature hole). The former is a curiously designed dogleg left hole where you have to avoid the pond at the middle of the fairway off the tee. The latter is a descending par-4 that plays around a lake and a looming pine tree while allowing for some of the best views of the lovely Swan Mountains nearby.
Village Greens GC also comes fully equipped with an all-grass driving range, a full-service pro shop, practice greens, and golf lessons to deliver a complete range of amenities and experiences for all patrons to rightfully earn its spot among the best golf courses in Montana.
Location: Whitefish, Montana
Holes: 18Par: 71Length: 6,551 yards
The Whitefish Lake Golf Club is a 36-hole facility that is comprised of two 18-hole courses, namely: The North and South courses. This municipal facility is the only golf club in all of Montana that offers a 36-hole layout in one location. Though the North Course is recognized as the elder of the two, the South Course is our pick for one of the best public golf courses in Montana.
Originally opened in 1979, John Steidel subsequently renovated and improved the course in 1994 with the addition of new cart paths, tees, as well as bentgrass fairways and greens. Snuggled comfortably along the shores of Lost Coon Lake, it also offers a magnificent, unencumbered view of Big Mountain all throughout the layout.
At 6,551 yards from the tips, the South Course at Whitefish Lake is not a long course by any stretch of the imagination but it does offer an eclectic mix of long and short holes with creatively-designed layouts, enough to whet any player’s competitive juices. It puts a premium on your short-game mastery as well as length off the tee on select holes.
There’s also something to be said about the way the track bobs and weaves along the narrow fairways and towering trees, as it is quite a challenge in itself. Some standout holes are the 7th and 12th. The former is a short par-3 risk/reward hole situated near Lost Coon Lake with its green guarded by a marsh, presenting the ultimatum of either going directly for the green and aim for a birdie or laying up safely to take a routine par. The latter is a 548-yard, par-5 beauty featuring a tight dogleg-left fairway that is also touted as the longest hole in the state of Montana.
Location: Kalispell, Montana
Holes: 18Par: 72Length: 7,015 yards
Awarded for Outstanding Design twice (first in 2011, then again in 2012) by Golf Digest and ranked third in Golf Magazine’s “Best Public Courses in Montana” in 2008 and 2009, Northern Pines Golf Course is widely regarded as one of the state’s premier golfing destinations, and it’s not hard to see why.
Built in 1996 and crafted by architects Roger Packard and two-time US Open champion Andy North, Northern Pines GC is a links-style course that approximates that Scottish links ambiance minus the ocean-side vista. Perched atop a mountainous terrain, this 18-hole course features flourishing native grasses, lovely Ponderosa pine trees, impeccably maintained greens that roll fast and true, and rolling fairways that make for some intriguing lies all along the layout. As an added treat, players will also be able to see the Stillwater River up close as it meanders along the back nine of the course.
The front and back nine are strikingly distinct in their designs. The front nine boasts of numerous elevation changes and challenging holes, whereas the back nine can best be described as a scenic walk alongside the Stillwater River in the midst of bountiful lush greens. My favorite hole is the 404-yard, par-4 14th hole where you have to carry the picturesque river off the tee while trying to avoid the bunker on a dogleg-right fairway.
The course is well-kept and maintained in pristine condition, with regularly trimmed grass and bunkers that are frequently filled and raked. Other course amenities include a well-stocked pro shop, top-notch practice facilities, lessons with golf professionals, and an open-daily deli that serves breakfast and lunch.
With such a beautiful landscape, challenging layout, and great amenities, Northern Pines is another Kalispell course worthy of being named as one of the best public golf courses in all of Montana.
The amazing golf courses in Montana only serve to add to its appeal as one of the country’s premier vacation destinations. The pleasantly sunny weather and lush green landscapes are straight out of any avid golfer’s daydream.
From many high-profile luxury golf clubs to the more humble hidden gems of the idyllic countryside, Montana is certain to have something to offer for all golfers of varying skill levels.
If you happen to have a different list from ours, it is perfectly natural as this can be a matter of taste and personal preferences, and could also be influenced by the timing and conditions when you played the course.
The important thing is you go out there and enjoy a truly wonderful game in the midst of exquisite natural surroundings. No other game makes you feel more alive and aware of the amazing beauty of nature than the game of golf. You can start with this list of the best golf courses in Montana to set you in the right direction.