When the Havre Blue Ponies step on the first tee at Old Works Golf Course this weekend in Anaconda, they’ll see o
ne of the most unique golf courses not just in Montana, but in the world.
And that’s going to make for a special Class A state tournament indeed.
Old Works, built on an old smelter site in Anaconda, is famous for its black “slag” bunkers, it’s use of the existing mine and its equipment and its beautiful surrounding mountains and vistas.
But the Jack Nicklaus Signature Course is also known for its toughness, and there’s a host of reasons why life for the Ponies, and the rest of Class A will be more than difficult Friday and Saturday.
Old Works is a championship golf course at its very best. It’s long, it’s got unbalanced lies in the sloping fairways, it’s heavily bunkered and it’s got medium-sized, heavily sloped greens that require solid putting and are only attainable by precision shot-making. It’s also got defenses. The course has several key water hazards, and while it looks wide open, there’s plenty of trees in all the wrong places too. There’s also the rough, which, after the first cut, is mostly 3-5 foot native grasses, and those are places you don’t want to find your ball. And the last defense is the wind. Built on an old mine site, the course looks like it was layered into different plateaus as it rises then falls, rise again and t wind can be as much of a factor is any part of the layout itself.
There are also some monster holes out there too. From the “Slag” tees, the course can play a whopping 7,705 yards, but it will most likely be set up from the Copper tees this weekend, which will still play at a lengthy 6,700 yards for the boys and about 5,500 for the girls.
The most difficult hole on the course No. 6, a 600-yard Par 5 called Black Canyon. And while Par 5’s are known for scoring, none of the Old Work’s Par 5’s are very forgiving. Included in that list is No. 11, known as Lower Works. That hole is 597, has an intense right to left fairway with the “slag” lining the entire left side and finally an intimidating approach shot over a ravine to a tightly-tucked, three-tiered green. The monster Par 5 comes right after a trick 10th hole and ends a stretch of No. 9, which is ninth most difficult hole, No. 10 which is eighth on the lost and 11 which fourth. Rounding out a brutal group of Par 5’s is No. 15, which is known as Crusher. It’s wide open, but it’s the longest hole on the course, measuring at a ridiculous 644 from the back tees. I’ve played Old Works over 10 times in my life and I’ve never seen a hole that seems to never end like Crusher does.
The Par 3’s are no easy bargain either, even from the shorter Copper tees. They average about 170 and every one of them seems to be effected by the winds. The course’s signature hole, the downhill No. 7, which is built directly on top of a smelter pile, is the third-toughest hole on the course and because of the extremely elevated tee, it tricks players into picking the wrong club. It’s done it to me, time after time.
Of course Old Works isn’t all brutal. The fairways are huge from side to side which allows for margin of error off the tee. In fact, Old Works is so big that wayward drives might end up in perfect positions in the fairway. And though it’s bunkered heavily, the “slag” is very forgiving to hit of once a player gets used to it. It’s thin, grainy sand, even when wet so picking balls clean is a good choice out of it.
And finally, there’s the weather. The wind isn’t supposed to be up this weekend I Anaconda, with forecasts calling for temperatures in the low 70’s, plenty of sunshine and light winds. When the wind isn’t up, Old Works can actually seem kind of pleasant.
Never-the-less, for a high school statec tournament, I can’ think of a better test of golf than Old Works, and it’s going to be a great weekend for the Blue Ponies, and all the participants in this year’s Class A state tourney.