By Joel Zuckerman,
This little town tucked away in Montana's northwest corner, in an area known as the Flathead Valley, is ready to be discovered as a great golf and ski destination. Springtime might be the best time to check out Whitefish: The weather is warming and the golf courses are open, yet there is still plenty of fresh powder on nearby Big Mountain.
Whitefish is not nearly as remote as it sounds: There's nonstop flights from Salt Lake, Seattle and, seasonally, Minneapolis.
Here's the lowdown on all of what Whitefish and Montana's Flathead Valley has to offer golfers.
There are an exceptional number of public golf courses spread across the Flathead Valley, all of which are championship caliber but with greens fees at a fraction of what is found in more typical resort locales.
Golf Digest ranked the area among the top 50 international golf destinations back in 2000, ahead of better known hot spots like Palm Beach, Bermuda and Puerto Rico. In Golfweek Magazine's recent state-by-state ranking of America's best public golf courses, four of the five slots allotted to Montana were courses found in the Flathead Valley. Here is a sample.
Whitefish Lake Golf Club: There are two championship courses at Whitefish Lake GC, the traditional North Course, which dates to the 1930s, and its much younger sibling, the 10-year-old South Course.
Lost Coon Lake influences play on four of the South's holes, and the course boasts four more holes where water and forced carries are squarely in play.
The North Course has more elevation changes, with many holes lined with abundant Montana hardwoods, which often come in to play.
Northern Pines Golf Club: This Andy North-designed track seems to have a split personality. Here you'll find nine holes fashioned in a links style, with many mounds and tall grass, and another nine holes of a more traditional cut, many of which playing alongside the Stillwater River.
Like at Northern and Whitefish, Eagle Bend's greens are made of bent grass and are well-conditioned. Eagle Bend also shares several other things with its two neighbors: Inspiring views of the Mission Mountains, and bargain greens fees. High season will run you in the $40 range for walkers, and under $55 with carts.
While Flathead golf is great, the true majesty of the region its alpine environment. Big Mountain features abundant snow and few crowds, which is the exact opposite found at many major ski resorts around the nation.
The downhill skiing is the chief attraction, particularly with an endless variety of trails, bowls and glades falling off the summit in 360 degrees.
Not into spring skiing? Whitefish is close to Glacier National Park, where kayaking and hiking (along with cross-country skiing ad snow-shoeing) will stir the soul and the metabolism concurrently.
Whitefish boasts a number fine restaurants, bars, galleries and hotels in this unique western hamlet.
The breakfasts at the Buffalo Cafe are superb, there's fine sushi at Wasabi, great Cajun at Tupelo Grill, and you can find topnotch steaks, venison and game throughout town, including The Grill at Grouse Mountain.
Two of the finer lodgings include Kandahar Lodge at the mountain resort itself and Grouse Mountain Lodge down in town.
April 11, 2007
Any opinions expressed above are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of the management. The information in this story was accurate at the time of publication. All contact information, directions and prices should be confirmed directly with the golf course or resort before making reservations and/or travel plans.