Known as Big Sky country for good reason, Montana offers a vast array of outdoor opportunities that seamlessly connect with nature. Amidst the incredible and pristine scenery, along with the amazing golf, every recreational activity under the sun can be enjoyed here. Several grand lodges make it easy for visitors to experience many of these activities on or near their splendid property.
Most airlines fly into Glacier Park International Airport in Flathead County, just outside of Kalispell. From there, just about 15 minutes away is the friendly little town of Whitefish, often referred to as the recreation capital of Montana, where the highest structures are still trees and wildlife still outnumbers residents. You have arrived at a place where eagles and osprey soar through the sky while elk, moose, and mountain goats move through the land with natural grace. And deer sometimes pass through your fairway oblivious to your concerns about which club you are deciding on for the approach to the green.
One of those fine properties is Grouse Mountain Lodge which offers an instant western feel the moment you walk through its doors to check in. Located adjacent to Whitefish Golf Club, you’ll be debating what to put on first, your golf spikes or hiking boots. My suggestion is to talk it over at the very atmospheric Logan’s Bar & Grill (patio seating is available overlooking the 18th hole).
Whichever activity you choose to kick off your stay, hearty meals designed to fuel your adventures abound here. From Venison Roulade to Beef Tenderloin to fresh caught Trout to Curried Cauliflower to Truffle Sacchetti Pasta, sit by the towering stone fireplace and don’t decide anything until you’ve finished your huckleberry cheesecake. And whether your day is filled with golf or other outdoor activities, you can close out the evening and enjoy a cocktail taking advantage of what Big Sky country offers at night – unparalleled stargazing, and you can do that while recuperating in the lodge’s soothing outdoor hot tub.
Another outstanding setting to stay in is The Lodge at Whitefish Lake. Located between majestic mountains and pristine waters, this is truly a special place. Situated between Whitefish Lake and the 28-acre Viking Creek Wetland Preserve, with breathtaking scenery at every turn and no shortage of Montana adventures to experience (while just minutes from the heart of downtown Whitefish), this resort has it all, especially for the golfer who is an outdoor enthusiast.
“We have not only a great location, but among the best dining in town, live music/bar, and a great spa in addition to the many outdoor activities,” explained Daniel Loveridge, the resort’s general manager, “Mountain biking, ziplining, canoeing, hiking, waterskiing, canoeing, paddle boarding, jet skis, fishing, just about any outdoor activity you can think of it is part of who we are. So not everyone plays golf morning, noon and night and our lodge has ample opportunities to fill in that time in between rounds.”
One of the unique opportunities in this part of the country for the golfer to enjoy in between tee times is to take in one of the splendors of America – Glacier National Park. An amazing showcase of melting glaciers, alpine meadows, carved valleys, and spectacular lakes, it is no wonder this place attracts nearly 3 million visitors annually. With over 700 miles of trails, Glacier is a paradise for adventurous visitors in Montana seeking wilderness steeped in human history. Relive the days of old through historic chalets, lodges, and the famous Going-to-the-Sun Road. So photogenic, you can add images of your encounters with diverse wildlife ranging from mountain goats to grizzly bears to your scrapbook.
Montana’s appeal to nature lovers is quantified in its impressive statistics: 37 glaciers, 762 lakes spanning 1,013,594 acres of pristine landscapes, and a rich biodiversity that includes 63 varieties of mammals, 272 varieties of birds, 23 species of fish, and a flourishing array of 10,270 plant varieties.
“There’s also lots of choices when it comes to golf, even within just a 15-20 minute drive,” said Loveridge. “You expand that to an hour and you can play a different high-caliber golf course each day for over a week including Glacier View, Meadow Lake, Village Greens, Buffalo Hill and Northern Pines.”
All that activity builds up an appetite and between the in-house dining option of The Boat Club and the nearby Firebrand restaurant, you’ll find something to suit your palette. Like visitors who are headed to Idaho saying, “I want a potato”, what do they say for Montana in general?
“Steaks!” beams culinary director, Nate Kulchak for Averill Hospitality which oversees the menu at the Lodge at Whitefish Lake. “We really take pride in our steaks.”
And what is the secret to their success with visitors who sink their forks into juicy beef as they dine on the patio overlooking the lake?
It is the globally-acclaimed Japanese Wagyu beef which is cross-bred here with Jersey cows.
“Your standard cow goes on maybe 250 days of feed. Our Range Wagyu is more like 700 days of feed,” revealed Kulchak. “So, the marbling in their beef is incredible. I’ve never had a better New York steak.”
And if you venture about an hour north on Highway 93 you will never have a better experience when it comes to golf in Montana.
Appropriately named because once you arrive at Eureka, golfers will feel they have struck gold.
The Wilderness Club, the number-one-rated golf course in the entire state, is a quiet getaway surrounded by the Kootenai National Forest and massive Lake Koocanusa and various mountain ranges. Sixty minutes from Glacier International Airport and ten minutes from Eureka’s regional airstrip make travel to Northwest Montana as stress-free as Wilderness Club’s relaxing atmosphere.
What an ambiance, and it starts with a real home-away-from-home feel as the resort offers fully equipped luxury cottages, many right on the golf course.
“The Wilderness Club offers a range of lodging options from Wilderness Suites to large cabins for groups of 18 guests,” said Amanda White, Director of Marketing. “Our luxury cottages are rented turnkey, featuring fully equipped kitchens, private cedar hot tubs, fireplaces, and spacious decks.”
While the busiest time of the year for golf starts mid-June and runs through the end of September, Golf Manager Alisha Ramsey explains the seasons overall.
“Old man winter is at our door November through February, however, during our peak season, the weather is mild, little rain and warm breezes are a constant. The sun is always shining with large clouds racing across the big sky.”
Designed by Nick Faldo, The Wilderness Club is one of Montana’s elite tracks and presents a very strategic layout with fescue lining the fairways, rugged-edged bunkers throughout the routing, and impressive elevation changes framed by mountain backdrops.
“The course will test your patience and challenge even the most seasoned golfer,” explained Ramsey. “Our golf course encompasses a total of 137 acres. Greens consist of T1 Bentgrass with an average size of 7000 sq ft. The fairways are lined by our indigenous fescue, that will surlily grab you and 32 acres of bluegrass.”
Ramsey added that she has a personal favorite hole that might become yours too: “Hole 9, a par 4, reaching 503 yards. The tee is set back and you are faced with dual tree-lined fairways, a blind landing area and no green in site. Your second shot leaves you smiling as you attack the tucked gentil rolling green from an elevated position, with nestled traps on the front and out of bounds to the rear. Once on the green you are left with the view of 18, Wilderness Lake and of course, the Rocky Mountains.”
It is easy to see why that setting inspired 6-time major winner Faldo to create the award-winning layout in Eureka.
“I was struck by the vastness of the terrain here on all my visits to the Wilderness Club, now that the design is complete, you can really appreciate how our course perfectly complements this awe-inspiring landscape. The sandy side and gently rolling topography, coupled with the dense pine forest that the area borders make for an interesting mix of woodland and links-style qualities that offers a truly diverse golfing experience,” said Faldo. “As with any of our projects, this design offers strategic choices that appeal to golfers of all abilities, from the casual weekender to the seasonal professional. With this emphasis on thoughtful golf and a design approach that has been extremely sympathetic to preserving the existing character of these wonderful surroundings, I’m confident that our completed layout at the Wilderness Club will stand comparison with some of the most memorable courses in the country.”
That is an understatement. With spectacular views and impeccable conditioning, it is truly an unforgettable experience, and no surprise that The Wilderness Club was named the #1 course in Montana by Golf Week (2022).
In the heart of Montana’s wilderness, Sir Nick Faldo’s design at the Wilderness Club is a golfing masterpiece. With strategic choices appealing to all golfers and a commitment to preserving the natural character, the completed layout stands as one of the country’s memorable courses. Awarded the #1 course in Montana by Golf Week (2022), the Wilderness Club offers an unforgettable experience, blending spectacular views and impeccable conditioning. As the sun sets, it’s a testament to the seamless harmony of nature and golf, leaving an indelible mark on every player’s heart.