Golf on the Hi-Line: Harlem's course, a hidden oasis
Golf on the Hi-Line: Part Three
Last updated 7/1/2013 at 9:57am
Across the golf crazy United States, there are hidden golf courses that turn out to exceed golfers’ expectations. courses people may drive past daily, but don’t know what they have to offer until they actually stop and play.
There’s one such golf course right here on the Hi-Line.
Just a few miles south of Harlem, the Harlem Golf Course is exactly that — a course which doesn’t get the recognition that other area courses might, and may not get the foot traffic of those courses either. Still, it’s a great public 9-holes course, and one that every golf enthusiast in the area should check out.
Harlem Golf Course offers daily rates of $15 for nine holes and $20 for 18. The course, run by Cory Shelhammer, also offers a $30 play-all-day special. Harlem is also home to men’s league golf and several great tournaments, including the upcoming 27-hole Par-3 Tournament on July 6, as well as the Ash Stiffarm Memorial Three-person scramble on July 27 and the Richman Insurance/E-Z Mart Four-person scramble Aug. 17.
The Harlem track is another Hi-Line course set in scenic Milk River country. The river itself doesn’t come into play on any particular hole, but it does border the course and makes for classic north central Montana golfing views, while wildlife is always abundant in the area.
The course was designed by Billings’ Carl Thuesen and is relatively young, as golf courses go. Construction began in 1989 and the course was open for play in 1991.
Harlem is a relatively long, traditional par-36 layout with two par 5s and two par 3s. The course measures 6,780 yards at its longest distance and there are front- and back-nine tees for the men, as well as one set of tees for women.
And while looking south off of U.S. Highway 2, it may look like the course is wide open, it’s anything but.
Harlem does have more trees in play than most people think, while even more trees were planted or relocated in recent times. There are also two water hazards in play at Harlem, as well as some out-of-bounds and lateral hazarding around the track.
Harlem also has a traditional defense. Rough.
Native grasses were designed to stay in play, and especially in the spring and early part of the summer, those grasses can really create difficulties for golfers. Not only is wild Montana grass thick and gnarly, it’s also dense and dark, making it hard for golfers just to find wayward shots, let alone hit out of it.
Shelhammer says though the course isn’t a traditional European links course, it plays like one, as the course doesn’t have any significant elevation changes. He also notes that the 200-yard par-3 fourth hole is the course’s signature hole. The hole isn’t just long and straight, but tee shots also must carry a water hazard to reach the green complex. Following up with the tough par 3 is the most difficult hole on Harlem’s track, the par-4 fifth hole. Harlem also has a tough finishing stretch with the par-4, eighth hole ranked the third-hardest hole on the course, and the par-4 ninth ranked as the second hardest hole on the course.
The Harlem Golf Course may have started out as a simple track two decades ago, but a massive change took place six years ago. In it’s infancy, Harlem played on temporary and sand greens, but six summers ago, full green complexes were built, and that really upgraded the course’s playability. Harlem’s greens are nice, too. They are quick, roll true and very much make the course one that golfers in the area shouldn’t resist.
There are plenty of places to play golf on the Hi-Line; however, not many people may know just how good the Harlem Course is. That happens every day in the golfing community. But any duffer who decides to stop and play the course will find out, Harlem just may be the hidden gem of golfing in our area.
Editor’s Note: This is the third installment of the Golf on the Hi-Line Series. See next Monday’s Havre Daily News for a look at the Signal Point Golf Club in Fort Benton.