Usually, by this time of the year, the area golf courses have put the courses to bed for the winter and golfers merely dream of spring and hitting the courses again. This year, after an extensive remodel and a new addition, Whitetail Golf Course in Stevensville is now ready to keep golfers golfing. Of course, it is virtual golfing but it is golfing nonetheless.
According to Randy Hodgson, president of the club, the addition to the club house includes a revamping of the kitchen, enough seating for about 65 people, new restrooms and, the crowning glory, two virtual reality screens that allow golfers to select from 99 courses around the nation. They also include a driving range and other golf games. Lessons will also be offered on these simulators.
Each station is about 12 feet across with a screen at the back of the room. The golfer has to stand in a particular spot where the ball is located and a computer sensor. The golfer’s swing is tracked as well as the flight of the ball. It’s about as close to an actual golf course as can be. Golfers can use this to improve their swing and both their long game and their putting.
Club pro Jason Lehtola has set up a league that began play on November 15. These teams of two will play throughout the winter. There are also plans for tournaments and other fun. The simulators will also be available for an hourly rate of $15 for one person for one hour or four people for $30 for an hour. Hodgson said the hour goes pretty quickly and most end up doing a minimum of two hours. There will also be family nights open for non-league play. He stressed this is a kid-friendly venue.
The expansion of the clubhouse has been a two-year project with much of the work being done by the club members themselves. The expansion in the kitchen has resulted in an expansion in the menu. With the new flooring, carpeting and extra rooms, the clubhouse is now a nice meeting area for clubs or family gatherings. During the spring, summer and early fall, there is also a great barbecue area with plenty of seating.
Whitetail Golf Course has about 135 members who pay yearly dues and are able to vote on the running of the club. But the club is open to the public. It’s best to call ahead for tee time when the course is open, and when wanting to use the simulators.
The golf course is unique in that it is the only club located within a wildlife preserve. The Lee Metcalf National Wildlife Refuge surrounds the nine-hole course on three sides and the Bitterroot River is the fourth boundary. This offers a lot of opportunity for wildlife watching, and interaction, with marmots, geese, an occasional bear, and all sorts of deer wandering through.
Even though it is a non-profit organization, the club does need to make more and provide enough income to keep everything in good shape. They have made many improvements but spring flooding is an ongoing issue which can cut down on available days to play in the spring.
Hodgson noticed a few years ago that even though the snow in the winter didn’t tend to last around Stevensville, the snow on the course did. He said it may be because of the river and that it’s just a small micro environment. So, last year they bought a snow machine and grooming machine for cross country skiing. The trail is a traditional cross country trail that circles around the outside edge of the course.
“It’s really convenient,” said Hodgson. “You can be out here from Stevensville and skiing within 10 to 15 minutes and get in a good workout.”