Posted by Rob Rigg
Rock Creek Cattle Company (Deer Lodge, MT)
Par 71 (7,466 yards)
Review and Photos by Jeff Doerr
Architect: Tom Doak – Renaissance Design
A rare occurrence has come to pass at Rock Creek Cattle Company. An owner with means and a keen vision – Bill Foley, has engaged an architect – Tom Doak, who is one of the recognized leaders of the new golden age of golf course architecture. This course is arguably the best new private built in the last few years. While it is confusing how years and ratings are compiled, Golfweek says it is #1, Golf Digest #2, and Golf Magazine #4.
Getting there is a challenge. Take 90 East from Missoula a long way until you come to Deer Lodge, pop. 3,500ish and the just keep following the signs…
When you finally arrive you understand that RCCC is a special place. There is an attention to detail and an easy confidence here that spills over from Foley and through his staff. While this is a new project, it has an old sense of place. RCCC is truly massive, totaling 80,000 acres of Montana “Big Sky” country.
In the photos below it will become evident how challenging the topography must have been for Doak to route across. Many architects would probably have created a “cart ball” course but Doak’s commitment to creating walkable courses, and the support of Foley, has resulted in a wonderful hike through nature at RCCC. While many members will probably take carts, it is fantastic that the golfer is given the option to walk if he or she chooses.
Hole #1 – Par 4 (435/362 yards)
The first hole takes you out into the plain and over a small creek on the approach. There is plenty of room off the tee, but the center bunker gives the big hitter pause on the first shot of the day.
Hole #2 – Par 4 (471/349 yards)
The hole beings with a great tee shot over a big natural rise to a blind fairway. The drive is followed by an approach to a little “Dell” type green. Some work was being done on this green to expand the front right portion and some of the slopes.
Hole #3 – Par 5 (577/448 yards)
The 3rd is the only par 5 on the front and the last hole on the plain. The walking paths from tee to fairway and from green to tee are ever present. My son did a lot of cart driving as I walked with the caddie down the paths on almost every hole. The 3rd green nicely illustrates the beautiful internal contours found on putting surfaces at RCCC.
Hole #4 – Par 4 (457/294 yards)
The 4th deserves mention as one of the best uphill par 4 holes I have ever seen. It has great width and challenge if you play from the correct tees. The natural amphitheater by the green is tremendous.
Hole #5 – Par 4 (354/284 yards)
The 5th is another brilliant uphill par 4 that will be reachable by some in the right conditions. The green provides all the protection the hole needs, which means the golfer faces a myriad of decisions off the tee to determine where the drive should be place to provide an optimal second.
Hole #6 – Par 4 (443/332 yards)
A big rolling fairway gives great character to the Sixth where it is very easy to find a lie that provides a blind shot into the crowned green.
Hole #7 – Par 4 (486/364 yards)
The Seventh must be one of the best “no water and no bunker” two shotters on the planet. The tee shot crosses a swath of native grass before reaching the wide fairway where a buried boulder is your aiming point. When you reach the top of the ridge a phenomenal green site awaits and just behind you can see another one of those delightful walking paths.
Hole #8 – Par 3 (193/151 yards)
The first par 3 is a beauty that calls for a tee shot over the namesake Rock Creek. This is the first of cornerstone holes that anchor the routing. The story is that Doak saw this hole and the par 3 17th on his surveys of the land and the master plan was built around the inclusion of these two holes. An unmanned, but well stocked halfway house can be seen just left of the 8th green.
Hole #9 – Par 4 (403/271 yards)
While shorter than the second hole, the ninth does have some similarity in the uphill drive off the tee and the “Dell” inspired styling of the green. So, while certainly not the same, this “type” of hole has been used effectively twice on the front side.
Hole #10 – Par 5 (632/458 yards)
The Tenth is another magnificent hole which is located at the highest point on the course. There is a speed slot that the golfer can use on this really unique BIG downhill par 5.
Hole #11 – Par 4 (439/353 yards)
The Eleventh fairway has been very naturally routed across the land, with a steep drop long and right that can leave a blind approach to the wonderfully crowned green.
Hole #12 – Par 3 (155/105 yards)
Twelve and Thirteen are back to back par 3s – one short and one long.
Hole #13 – Par 3 (265/170 yards)
There is actually a tee box behind the 12th green that can make 13 even longer. The long par three has plenty of fairway and room to work with around the green. The suspension bridge is a great testament to RCCCs commitment to walking.
Hole #14 – Par 4 (548/351 yards)
After several holes of climbing, the golfer is rewarded with a huge downhill par 4. The 14th is a great driving hole that tumbles downwards from tee to green.
Hole #15 – Par 4 (352/234 yards)
Fifteen is a very pretty short two shotter that presents a quandry on the tee and then challenges you on a green that has plenty of internal movement.
Hole #16 – Par 4 (467/337 yards)
The Sixteenth is another wow hole with a big undulating fairway and some great contours on the green. The back of the putting surface is a work of art.
Hole #17 – Par 3 (191/115)
The golfer hits back across the creek on the penultimate hole. Can I just say that it is priceless to have you and your son make birdie on this beautiful hole. A true lifetime memory!
Hole #18 – Par 5 (598/467 yards)
What a way to finish. Some have complained that the 18th at Rock Creek, like the final hole at Cypress Point, is not in the same class as the previous seventeen but I disagree. The short climb to the tee box provides a tremendous vantage point to view the property while also allowing the golfer to reflect on the incredible experience that has just occurred. There is a demand to the tee shot and the green has great movement. It is a very nice home hole to end a round that will be one of the very best you have ever experienced.
TWG Rating for Rock Creek Cattle Company:
3.0 / 4 – Walkability
4.0 / 4 – Architecture and Aesthetics
2.0 / 2 – Strategy and Playability
9.0 / 10 – Total
Review by Jeff Doerr, 2009
The Walking Golfer Course Rating System
Total is out of 10 Points
0 – 4 points – Walkability
0 – 4 points – Architecture and Aesthetics
0 – 2 points – Playability and Strategy