A road trip from Yellowstone National Park to Glacier National Park is a bucket list trip made even better with some golf, heeding a few calls to take the “scenic route,” and some microbrews sprinkled in.
Kick things off in the college town of Bozeman, Montana. Bozeman is home to Montana State University and the Smithsonian-affiliated Museum of the Rockies, renowned for displaying an extensive collection of dinosaur fossils, including a fully mounted Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton!
The choice for golf in Bozeman is the Tom Weiskopf-designed Black Bull. It’s a private community but is part of the Troon Prive′ network for reciprocal play. Every major hotel chain has a spot along the interstate if you’re inclined, or you can stay in a downtown Bozeman hotel such as the funky, retro motel The Lark. Sidle up to the bar at Bridger Brewing and try a Vigilante IPA.
Working toward Yellowstone National Park, you’ll head through Gallatin Canyon to the resort town of Big Sky. Legendary newsman Chet Huntley envisioned this place in the early ’70s, and it continues to blossom. From a golfer’s perspective, the town of 2,300 boasts Arnold Palmer’s first design, two Weiskopf-designed courses, and a Jack Nicklaus-signature course.
The Nicklaus course is The Reserve golf course in the Moonlight Basin community. The numbers here are mind-boggling: 8,000 yards from the tips, 10 miles of cart paths, and a 777-yard par 5 with a 600-foot elevation drop from tee to green.
The impressive hang time on a well-struck drive from the elevated tee box on hole #1 is a great start to the day. The par five 6th epitomizes the dramatic elevation changes and awe-inspiring backdrops that infuse the course. A drive center-right in the fairway sets one up nicely for the dicey decision to go for it (over considerable trouble) or lay up. The well-stocked Comfort Station between #12 and #13 is an awesome addition. And the split fairway to an elevated green on #18 is a fun ending to a fantastic and memorable round of golf.
Moonlight Basin is a private community with a good offering of homes for rent in Big Sky.
Another option is to stay at a Big Sky hotel like The Wilson and book a tee time at the public Palmer-designed Big Sky Resort Golf Course. Stop into Beehive Basin Brewery and try the Green Bridge IPA.
Yellowstone National Park
No matter what you’ve seen or heard, you have to experience Yellowstone National Park to believe it. It’s easy to understand why Yellowstone was the first of our national parks. It is other-worldly with geysers shooting water hundreds of feet into to air, boiling mud pots, natural hot springs, and amazing waterfalls – and those are just some of the water features. Add the wildlife component with bison, bears, and wolves (oh my!). An architecture buff might not leave the historic lodges like the Old Faithful Inn. If it’s booked, Yellowstone Park lodging includes many other options and several hotels just outside the park in West Yellowstone.
Venturing out from Yellowstone, you could backtrack to Bozeman, or you could heed the call to take the path less traveled and go through Ennis, Virginia City, Sheridan (pit stop at Ruby Valley Brew to meet Maverick Mary or Mustache Sally), and Twin Bridges en route to the Old Works Golf Course in Anaconda. This Nicklaus-designed course is uniquely located on a former Superfund site. Anaconda was home to the smelter operation that processed copper ore from the mines in nearby Butte. When the smelter operations closed, the town retained the smokestack as an ode to the town’s origins, and the golf course winds through relics of the old smelter operation, including black slag bunkers.
The scenic route from Anaconda to Missoula is by way of Georgetown Lake and Phillipsburg. Philipsburg lodging options include the Historic Broadway Hotel offering easy access to the renowned Sweet Palace candy store. At the Philipsburg Brewing Company, give the Otter Water a pull.
From Philipsburg, we head to the college town of Missoula. The best golf course in Missoula is The Ranch Club. This private golf community boasts a links-style layout designed by Les Furber. Furber’s tutelage under Robert Trent Jones Sr. comes through loud and clear on this championship layout. The course has nary a tree in play, and the fairways are wide, but one best keep the ball in the short grass or pay the price in the native rough.
Some individual holes that stand out include the par five 7th (that offers two routes to the same goal, and both include shots over water) and the 16th. It’s a dogleg left with an elevated green well protected by bunkers. Long hitters might try to straighten the hole, but two massive bunkers and the ever-present native rough are lurking. This hole holds birdie potential – but the bogey monster is always watching.
The Ranch Club is private with Missoula golf stay and play partnerships and guest play policies that allow a club experience for the traveling golfer.
There are a lot of brewery options in Missoula. A stop at Draught Works for a Hand Rolled Hazy IPA or the KettleHouse for a Double Haul are two good choices.
From Missoula, venture north to Flathead Lake on the way to Whitefish. The eastern route around the lake goes through the artsy community of Bigfork, which offers streets lined with galleries, shops, and restaurants. Flathead Lake Brewing Company is worth a stop for a bite and a Citrus Smash IPA.
If you decide instead to take the western route around Flathead Lake, stop at Tamarack Brewing Company in Lakeside for some fish tacos and a Hat Trick Hop IPA.
Either route around Flathead Lake can lead you to the Andy North-designed Northern Pines Golf Course in Kalispell.
Ten miles up the road from Kalispell is the resort town of Whitefish. Whitefish Lake Golf Club is a 36-hole layout with North and South courses. The North course offers views across Whitefish Lake with the ski runs of Whitefish Mountain Resort looming in the background. The course is carved through the trees and rewards the straight over the long. The Whitefish stay-and-play options include the Lodge at Whitefish Lake.
Blackstar Brewery in Whitefish brews Jeremiah Johnson beers, including the Mountain Man Scotch Ale.
The West Glacier entrance to Glacier National Park is 30 minutes from Whitefish. While Yellowstone stands out for its unique water and thermal features, Glacier offers dramatic views of glacially carved peaks. The winding Going-to-the-Sun Road offers passage up and over the top at Logan Pass. Do yourself a favor and get out of your car and do some exploring on foot. If a one-mile walk is what you’ve got in the tank, check out the Trail of the Cedars. If you can make a day of it, take a shuttle to Logan Pass and hike the Highline Trail.
Glacier National Park lodging options include historic lodges and traditional hotels in the surrounding communities.
700 miles, two national parks, seven golf courses, and nine breweries – “it’s all part of the experience…”