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Golf on the Hi-Line: Back Nine on its way at Prairie Farms

 

June 20, 2013

Daniel Horton

A piece of heavy machinery sits in front of recently moved earth near the rolling hills just east of the existing nine holes at Prairie Farms Golf Course. Prairie Farms is in the midst of adding a second nine holes and is set to become Havre's first 18-hole golf course.

There’s many advantages to 18-hole golf courses. It doesn’t matter if the town is the size of New York City or Havre. Being able to play 18 different holes, and being able to open up more golf to the public, those things are all good things when it comes to golf courses.

And soon, Havre will have its first 18-hole golf course.

When owners Greg and Gary Baltrusch first broke ground on what is now Prairie Farms Golf Course, located east of Havre, back in 2004, the plan was always to have an 18-hole course. But initially the idea was to get the first nine holes up and running, and then expand later on. The first nine at Prairie Farms opened in 2007, and has now been going strong for six golf seasons.

But starting last fall, the expansion project really started to kick into high gear, and now the course is headed towards having a second nine holes. The original nine will soon be the front nine and the second nine, which is under construction now, will be the back nine.

“We’ve got quite a bit done already,” said Greg Baltrusch, who is doing a lot of the back-nine construction. “We’ve roughed out quite a bit of the course, built the greens and tees. We’ve done a lot of the initial dirt work so far.”

Indeed. Golfers can see what’s going on in the construction of the back nine at Prairie Farms, and what they’ll notice right away is, it will be a totally different type of course than the original nine holes. The front nine at Prairie is heavily tree-lined, with tight driving holes and plenty of natural landscape to swallow up golf balls.

But the back nine is being built on wide open farmland, and will weave into the rolling hills just east of the existing nine holes. There are literally no trees in the area where the back nine is being built, and much of the construction area is on relatively flat land. That will give the new nine holes a more links-style feel to it, though it will still be more of a traditional Montana golf course.

The back nine, which was designed with the help and vision of longtime Havre resident Dan Wagner, is tentatively planned to be another par-36 layout with holes 10, 12, 14 and 16 certain to be par 4s. Holes 13 and 15 will be par 3s, while it’s yet to be determined which of 17 and 18 will be the other par 5 and the last par 4. One thing that has been determined is that No. 11 will be as daunting a hole as there is at Prairie Farms. All of the Prairie Farms’ staff have set out to make No. 11 the longest par 5 in the state of Montana. According to Baltrusch, the back nine will also be more heavily bunkered than the front nine, including several fairway bunkers.

“That’s what we’re doing now,” he said. “Putting in sand traps and doing fairway work. We’re also trying to figure out where to put all the hazards right now.”

So with four par 3s and four par 5s, when the back nine is completed, Prairie Farms should be a challenging, traditional par-72 layout, with two totally different nine holes. The expansion won’t affect the existing front nine much, according to longtime course superintendent Brett Gilman.

“I don’t see any drastic changes to the front nine,” Gilman said. “We may add some new tee boxes or move some of the tee boxes around, maybe make some small yardage changes to some of the holes. But nothing major.”

Courtesy photo

A labeled overhead view of Prairie Farms Golf Course, just east of Havre, also shows where the addition of the back nine holes will be. Construction of the second nine at Prairie Farms is ongoing this summer. For the next installment of Golf on the Hi-Line, see Monday's Havre Daily News.

But the construction of the back nine is major, and it will take time. Work will continue to be done throughout the summer, and major project still to come is the installation of the irrigation system. That has to come before any grass can be planted on the layout. This summer, Prairie Farms is also adding an 80x40 events building next to the clubhouse, and the plan is to have that done by the fall. The clubhouse is also getting an expanded patio area this summer as well.

“We’re hoping to have the main line in by fall,” Baltrusch said. “That will depend on the weather. We’re looking at seeding the course maybe next fall or the following spring. But a lot of that also depends on the weather during those times of year.”

Just like the front nine, all the work being done on the Prairie Farms’ expansion project is being done by the Baltrusch family and course staff. So that means things will take some time to unfold. Nevertheless, take a trip out to Prairie Farms one of these days, and you’ll see just how much work on the back nine is being done, and then you’ll know, it won’t be long before Havre has its first, and only 18-hole golf course.

For area golfers, it’s certainly an exciting time.

 

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