By Ron VandenBoom
Montana's largest indoor putting green is not in Billings or Great Falls like might be expected, but is found just to the left of the main entrance at Beaver Creek Golf Course in Havre.
"As far as we know," said Ann Bruskotter, the manager of the complex, "this is Montana's largest indoor putting green.
"Which was quite an endeavor."
The green contains 21 yards of dirt under a silicon sand base that is topped with a green carpet-like material that simulates a green of real grass.
Several holes are located on different areas of the green offering golfers different angles and grades they can use to practice their putting. Several chip-shot areas also line the green so indoor golfers can improve that aspect of their game.
The putting green is just one of many renovations that Bruskotter and Max Erickson, the new owner of Beaver Creek Golf Course, are working to add to the facility.
Just to the east of the putting green is another new addition to the complex, a golf simulator.
The simulator provides the indoor golfer a choice of playing any of 32 nationally-known golf courses while never leaving the climate-controlled atmosphere of the building. Courses range from the famous Pebble Beach golf course to a little par-three course located in someplace USA.
"They can play golf here just like they play outside," Bruskotter said. "It's exactly the same."
A large screen stands just feet in front of the golfer as they launch their ball directly at the screen. The computer calculates the speed of the ball, the direction, and any other information necessary to present a picture of the shot to the golfer.
"It's also really good for the golf game, because you're keeping your game going all winter instead of letting it rest until spring," Bruskotter said. "This is keeping people pretty active and pretty busy."
The simulator rents for $20 an hour and can be played by one, or more than one person at a time. Chairs and a couple of tables sit to the rear of the the simulator where those waiting can enjoy their favorite beverage while waiting their turn to golf.
Bruskotter said she is planning on starting league play in January.
The leagues can book their own time to play and print their scores on the printer provided. The scores can then be turned in so accurate statistics can be kept.
Also on Bruskotter's agenda in January will be longest-drive contests and closest to the pin contests -- "just for kicks," she said.
Soon to be added to the room will also be a big screen TV and a Ping-Pong table.
The putting green, simulator, and bar, might be the easiest thing to notice when you first enter the complex, but it won't take long before other renovations are added to the mix.
A newly remodeled restaurant is also on the new owners agenda.
Currently being used for Christmas parties and banquets, Bruskotter said the restaurant will be closed in January while it goes through a month and a half of remodeling.
"We hope to have a grand opening Feb. 14, with a Valentines Day party," she said.
After that the restaurant will be open on a nightly basis with a new menu and what Bruskotter described as "nice dinning" and "family dining."
A new chef has been hired to prepare the meals and he is doing a great job, Bruskotter said.
"He's been, we think, excellent," she said.
The exact composition of the menu has not been determined yet either as Bruskotter said she wants, "the people to tell us what they want."
"We don't want to try and tell them what they want," she added.
A revamping of the banquet room is also on the agenda at some point in the future as is improvements to the golf course.
"One of the things we want to do is put a fountain in the pond," Bruskotter said. "And we're looking at a lighted fountain that would enhance the view even more."
Other plans include more sand on the course and new signs in the T-boxes with maps of each of the holes. There have also been 1,100 seedling trees orders to use as shelter belts and decoration on the course.
Patrons will also see a new golf cart storage barn, new uses for the old racket-ball courts, and a revamped pro-shop in the complex.
Rates at Beaver Creek Golf Course will not be rising, Bruskotter said.
Nine holes of golf will still be $11 and 18 holes will go for $18.
Cart rentals will be $10 and a membership at the course will be $425 per year.
But Bruskotter emphasizes that you never have to be a member to come out and enjoy any of the activities Beaver Creek Golf Course has to offer.