Rock Creek Cattle Company
Montana, United States of America

Fourteenth hole, 455 yards; Ludicrously gorgeous, the scale of the hole takes one’s breath away. What a luxury/privilege to find oneself in this environment. There is no substitute for land and space that allows one’s spirit to soar. Cramped courses make for constrained people and this hole highlights how much better great golf is than good golf.

The twelfth is named ‘The Good’, the thirteenth ‘The Bad’ and, in a complete travesty, you guessed the fourteenth’s name!

 

Crucial to enjoying golf is hitting fairways. Given their width, that isn’t an issue at Rock Creek. How nice is it to play a hole of this magnitude from short grass? There are a lot of great holes around the world that golfers chop their way down. Here, a vast percentage of the day’s play occurs on short grass.

A drive down the left leaves a blind approach over a rock-studded landform whereas …

 

… the player who hits his tee ball far enough and keeps his tee ball right of center enjoys this scintillating view through a gap to the putting surface. The position of the tee ball seen above is A1A. Tee balls shorter and to the right will not afford the golfer a look at the green because of the right mound. This diagonal slot through the mounds is another inventive way of creating preferred positions within a big fairway.


Fifteenth hole, 300 yards;
This downhiller clearly lays out the options for the golfer who readily sees the hole. Under certain conditions, the golfer delights in having a go for the green from the tee. Otherwise, the hole location dictates everything: if it is tucked right, the golfer is best served going left off and vice versa. The ideal position may be as different as 50 yards (!) between a tee shot left and one right.

The imperial view from the elevated fifteenth tee shows a sixty yard wide fairway and a shallow but wide green. Options galore emanate from the day’s hole location.

 

Not enough emphasis can be placed on the joy that the two to five foot fairway contours bring to a game of golf here.

This vicious right hole location offers little encouragement to the player with this right center tee ball.

Conversely, this much more encouraging view is from the left and shows plenty of putting surface.


Sixteenth hole, 425 yards;
To this point, the golf on the inward nine has largely been played downhill. That now changes, just as the pressure mounts in one’s match, with the golfer confronting one of the most exacting drives of the round. The tension created between the bunkers cut high on the left to right slope and the solitary central one in the fairway is excellent. Additionally, the uphill approach calls for accuracy/care because the severe back left to front right tilt of the green can make even the best putter appear foolish.

The immediate and intense backdrops seen here and at the seventeenth are in wonderful contrast to the rest of the inward nine.


Seventeenth hole, 170 yards;
Though it’s the third par three in five holes, none are vaguely similar – quite the neat design trick. This one drops into its own amphitheater with an abrupt stone wall behind and a creek left. The green with its roly-poly green contours is adept at eliciting one extra putt from the golfer and is the lowest point on the course, some 400 feet below the seventh tee.

The course doesn’t favor one shaped shot over another. Doak’s use of the creek at seventeen mirrors the challenge at the eighth.


Eighteenth hole, 555 yards;
Some people grumble that the last hole offers something less than a satisfactory conclusion. Really?! The view from the tee, as seen below, should dispel that notion. The ‘hidden’ peril of the hole is the convoluted fairway contours in the landing zone that envelop the golfer who shies too far right away from Rock Creek.  Griping occurs later on, after the golfer fails to realize his desired score because his second shot has gone awry from the awkward lie created by his timid tee shot.

The view from the Home tee with Rock Creek winding its way along the left of the fairway. Note how the fairway contours in the landing zone are more pronounced the farther one steers away from the creek.

The golfer needs to advance his second shot near these bunkers to enjoy a wedge into the Home green.

Doak opines, ‘I’ve always thought that Rock Creek was some of our best work and one of our most beautiful sites. I’m just glad we had the chance to work in Montana; it was one of the highlights of my career.  And of all the places I’ve built, it’s the one my family really likes to visit.  I wish we could get back there every summer.’

The pioneers of the game along the North Sea could have hardly imagined the far flung places where the game would be enjoyed. Despite growth for over a century, the game is suffering, especially in the United States where the game’s joy and ability to connect the player to nature has been severely diluted by the advent of real-estate driven golf. The preponderance of the 16,000 courses in the United States pale in comparison to their brethren in the United Kingdom. Why?  They fail to inspire!

Golf is meant to be an invigorating pursuit, one that makes you appreciate all the good things in life. That happens in techni-color at Rock Creek. The most time-honored design features are found in an environment one wouldn’t typically associate with classical golf. The grandeur of the course’s setting and the shots that are required re-awaken the spirit. With child-like delight, you stay outdoors and play golf until dark. What Mr. Foley and Doak and his crew have accomplished here is extraordinary and as good as the game has to offer.

Another day of being in the great outdoors comes to an end with you having gained from the experience.

 The End