On the edge of the Glacier National Park in Montana lies a golf destination to behold. Many courses in the Whitefish area offer spectacular views and challenges.
At The Lodge at Whitefish Lake you can start and/or finish the day in a lakeside jacuzzi gazing at Whitefish Mountain, still snowcapped the end of May. A gigantic stuffed grizzly bear welcomes guests to the lobby along with a white long-haired mountain goat, crackling fires and other assorted wildlife mounted on walls. A piano is positioned for evening play and live bands entertain in the bar of the waterfront Boat Club, a restaurant where breakfast, lunch and dinner menus are creative with delicious dishes featuring elk and huckleberry mud pie that is out of this world.
Views of the lake, marina and beyond are stunning. A train toots along the tracks weaving through pines across the lake. The marina slips harbor pontoons, speed boats, sailing ships and sea planes. Assorted rental crafts are available to guests. The Tiki bar was readying for Memorial Day weekend with lounge chairs scattered around the freshly cleaned pool. The stony beach has more lounge chairs, convenient for dipping your toe or diving into the lake at will. Spa, hike or bike the wooded trails behind the resort and pedal or shuttle downtown for shops, restaurants and bars like Casey’s rooftop or Tupelos fine dining and Jersey Boys for the locals’ preferred pizza.
The Whitefish Lake Golf Club’s North Course curves by the lake and is more playable but the South Course has a few more phenomenal mountain views. Fairways are lined by towering pines and aged birch, interspersed by streams. The restaurant is the favorite of all locals for dinner, especially recommending the prime rib.
The Buffalo Hill lodge was built by the WPA just like the Whitefish Lodge. The 18-hole course was opened by none other than Arnold Palmer in ’78. It really is a shot maker’s delight. A river runs through it begging the question, “Shall we fish or golf?” Nice elevations make a healthy calf’s workout for walkers.
Northern Pines Golf club is an unspoiled ride or walk through the woods by waterways in Flathead Valley. It is the newest course in Northwest Montana. Don’t pass on the chef’s handmade cookies, worth every bite.
Eagle Bend Golf Club has 27 holes situated on the North Shore of Flathead Lake with gorgeous views and wildlife as the gallery.
Glacier View Golf is the most affordable of courses in the area. It is a flat layout with dynamic peeks of glacial peaks close to the Park’s entrance.
The Meadow Lakes front nine is secluded in the woods. Number 7 is a double dogleg dare with a bridge to the green over a crystal-clear stream where TJ the assistant pro says, “In September the “brookies” spawn and we’ll watch for 20 minutes if no one is chasing behind us.” The clubhouse is part of a 23-room hotel with timeshares available.
Other lodges and B&Bs avail. Of note is Grouse Mountain Lodge in Pursuit’s Glacier Park Collection. Bordering the Whitefish Lake South Course, it has a rustic and affordable appeal. The Firebrand Hotel has a new rooftop jacuzzi worth checking out, in downtown Whitefish.
The Glacier Park might take days of exploration. Take your bear spray. Attacks are real. Anyone who lives in the area has a story of someone being mauled.
Take the scenic gondola ride up to Whitefish Mountain. Take a bucket for huckleberry picking in the season.
Flathead Lake is the largest west of the Mississippi. The Raven is highly recommended, a low-key waterfront bar and restaurant with a dock and rocky shore. The owner knows everyone in the area and after a sip of Huckleberry Vodka, directed us to the next stop.
Whistling Andy Distillery is the oldest in the state where they mill the Montana corn, wheat, rye and barley. Junipers are outsourced to distill the cucumber gin which mixes well with lemonade and rosemary for a refreshing “Farmer’s Daughter” drink.
Symes Hot Springs might not look like much on their website and it really is a modest if not outdated facility, but all the locals said it was a must stop on our way back to Spokane. Three pools have increasingly warm temperatures of the highest mineral content water as certified by state geologists. Spend as much time as you want for $10 including a little towel and changing rooms. We soaked with an old man who comes twice a week, a Floridian checking it off her bucket list and a couple from Sandpoint, Idaho who make it a regular healing trek. As the road sign says, “Limp in, leap out.” It is a nice break in the drive.
Fly directly to Kalispell or make a scenic 3 ½ hour drive from Spokane passing many mountain passes, wondering how early settlers could have managed. If you take this route, St Regis is your pit stop for huckleberry shakes, good food, a trout aquarium and very unique gifts and Montana souvenirs.