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Marias Valley Golf Course History - Shelby Golf

Golf in Shelby, Montana has a long and clouded history. Depending on whom you talk to, the beautiful Marias Valley Golf Course is the evolutionary result of three, four or five different golf courses in Shelby. The old timers disagree as to just where the first and second courses were located, but all agree that there has been a course to play on here since the early 1900’s.

The immediate predecessor to our course was located just southwest of Shelby. It had 9 holes, sand greens and prairie fairways. It also was hot, dry and windy and not very fun to play. In 1966, during a particularly windy men’s league night, a group of progressive golfers said that “Enough is enough, there has to be something better than this”. The Marias Valley Golf Course was born.

These early visionaries, calling themselves “Green Grass,” looked into bringing water to their existing layout, but found out it was far too expensive to purchase water from the City to irrigate a golf course. They then looked at the cost of laying Astro-turf out to play on. This was also a pricey option.

Led by Bob Turner, the group collected $20 from anyone who would listen to their story and started the process of building Marias Valley.

With only $400 in the bank, and a lot of nerve, the group contacted one of North America’s foremost golf course architects, Norman H. Woods, to design a 9 hole golf course along the beautiful Marias River Valley.

A private golf corporation was created and $100 shares were sold to anyone interested in being a member of the new course. To finance construction, this corporation borrowed $115,000 from the Farmers Home Administration on a 40 year term. With money in hand, they were off and running.

It soon became apparent that their architect was not used to building an entire golf course on a $115,000 budget. He provided them with a preliminary blueprint, but left the project incomplete. To finish, the Club hired Lin Storti, a former professional baseball player, PGA Pro and the then Superintendent of the Polson Country Club to take over the project.

Lin Storti was a miracle worker. Through his hard work and the outstanding leadership provided by the first club president, Bob Turner, and thousands of hours of volunteer labor by club members, the golf course was constructed nearly on time and on budget.

The golf course opened for business in the summer of 1969 and was formerly dedicated in September of 1970. The course was praised for it’s very large and very fine grass greens along with what was then the longest golf hole in Montana at over 600 yards long.

The course suffered a severe set back in the spring of 1975 when early spring mountain rains caused the Marias River to flood. Over 75% of the golf course was underwater and a heavy layer of mud was deposited on the holes closest to the river. The flood caused the near bankruptcy of the Country Club. With some pretty resourceful thinking, the private country club reinvented itself and was donated to the City of Shelby to become the public course it is today.

In 1995, the family of long time city benefactor, Stan Watkins, donated the land and labor necessary to construct an additional 9 holes at Marias Valley. The project, led by Steve “Curly” Williamson and constructed under the guidance and hard work of course superintendent, Tom Russell, was open for play in 1997.

Joey Esh, originally of Polson, Montana was the Golf Professional from 1992-2002 and was a very important resource in the advancement of MVGCC.  Joey is now the P.G.A. pro at Lewiston Golf and Country Club in Lewiston, Idaho.  After Joey left, one of his former assistants, Travis Clark, moved back to Shelby to take the General Manager/Head Golf Professional position.

In 2002 Marias Valley experienced another flood due to the heavy rains in June.  With the hard work of Tom Russell and his crews, the damage was kept to a minimum.  By the end of the month the course was back to the fantastic shape it is known for.

The beautiful Marias Valley Golf Course is consistently rated as one of the top five golf courses in Montana. Located in the picturesque Marias River valley and surrounded by huge river bluffs and ancient cotton wood trees, Marias Valley Golf Course is a lovely oasis in North Central Montana.
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