The Old Works Golf Club is a Jack Nicklaus designed course that opened in 1997. When you find a Nicklaus designed course in a small Montana town (population 9,300) you suspect there is more to the story, which is the case with Anaconda.
Anaconda was founded by Marcus Daly in 1883 who financed the construction of a smelter on nearby Warm Springs Creek to process copper ore from the Butte mines. Smelting is a form of extractive metallurgy; its main use is to produce a metal a from its ore. This includes production of silver, iron, copper and other base metals. Smelting uses heat and a chemical reducing agent to decompose the ore, driving off other elements as gasses or slag and leaving just the metal behind.
The Anaconda company expanded smelting capacity over time, and by 1919 could boast that its 585-foot smokestack was the tallest masonry structure in the world and that the smelter-refining complex constituted the world’s largest nonferrous processing plant. In 1980, Atlantic Richfield (ARCO) closed the smelter, bringing an end to almost a century of mineral processing.
Ladles used in the smelter converter decorate the entrance sign to Anaconda
Old equipment from the smelting operations
Remains from the first smelter sit on a ridge above hole #3 fairway
The 585-foot tall smelter smoke stack sits on a hilltop overlooking the town of Anaconda
A mountain of black slag at the edge of town
Since then, an operation for environmental cleanup was put into place by the Environmental Protection Agency and executed with the assistance of ARCO. The multi-million dollar cleanup and investment resulted in the formation of "Old Works" Golf Course, a championship 18-hole course designed by Jack Nicklaus. Now you know “the rest of the story” as Paul Harvey would have said. (I know some of you will have to Google “Paul Harvey” to see who he was!).
Location: Anaconda, MT
Golf Digest Best-In-State Rank: #5
Date: 9 Aug, tee off at 1:40 PM
Conditions: sunny with hazy overcast skies, 3 MPH wind, 82 degrees
Lost balls: 1
Score: 82 on a par 72
Lack of attention to detail caused me to arrive late at the course for my scheduled tee time; we did not account for a time zone change in the journey out of northern Idaho which meant I arrived one hour later than expected. The only group waiting to play was a foursome who were eating lunch in the club house. I skipped a warm-up and proceeded to the #1 tee box in order to avoid playing behind them. After a bogey on #1 and a birdie on #2, I shot 4 straight pars. I was playing the ball down the middle and hitting the greens in regulation which meant I was also playing rather quickly. I caught up to a foursome on hole #4 who let me play through; I subsequently caught a single player on the #7 tee box who let me join him for the remaining 12-holes.
310-yard par 4 hole #2 (view of the green)
532-yard par 5 hole #3
170-yard par 3 hole #4
424-yard par 4 hole #5 (view from backside of the green looking back up the fairway)
Ryan Rumsey is a 63-year old man who provided me with a very interesting conversation during the round. When I first asked how long he had been married the reply was “40-years”, after which he said they lived together for 18-years prior to marriage. Ryan did not look that old! Perhaps it just felt like 40-years; it turned out to be just 25-years after we further scrutinized the numbers.
Ryan & his wife, Linda, operated an antiques store until the market turned soft. Linda’s brother got them started in the antler business, which began with selling a few light chandeliers made from elk antlers. A pile of antlers in front of their store caught the passing eye of a Korean buyer a few years back. He was interested in buying antlers from the USA and shipping them back to Korea. That started them in the export business, one that has grown to an annual shipment of 150,000 pounds to Korea and China.
Note: the antlers are softened by soaking in cold water prior to being shaved into small slices that are dried and packaged. Deer antler is considered to be one of the "big three" ultimate herbs of Eastern medicine: ginseng, reishi mushroom and deer antler. All three are tonic herbs that have been used since pre-historic times to prolong life, improve energy, protect the body and promote wisdom.
Ryan had peaked my curiosity, so I kept peppering him with questions. He buys 100,000 pounds of antlers from two Arizona based native American Indian tribes. Another source of antlers is the annual Jackson Hole Boy Scout Elk Antler Auction. Thousands of elk winter on the nearby National Elk Refuge who shed their antlers every spring before migrating to their summer range. The Boy Scouts harvest the shed antlers and auction them to the highest bidder. In turn, the Scouts receive 20% of the auction proceeds with the remaining 80% used for improvements to the natural habitat for elk.
One of Ryan’s suppliers picks through the antlers before they are shipped to Asia. He culls select antlers which will be made into chandeliers and light fixtures for their store. Ryan & Linda now sell Western & lodge home furnishings under the name Wild West Designs.
Another product line they handle is animal mounts. Ryan was playing golf in Anaconda on his way home from Missoula, Montana; he had picked up a fully mounted grizzly bear from his favorite taxidermist earlier that day. He mentioned one other sale that captured my interest: a buffalo head mount, moose head mount and a fully mounted cougar had been purchased by Hitachi. The order had been shipped to one of Hitachi’s operating units in China. Note: John Deere operates in a construction equipment joint venture with Hitachi.
I bogeyed the first two holes after joining up with Ryan to finish the front nine with a 38. My first bad shot of the day was an approach to the #10 green that pulled left into the creek, resulting in my first double bogey.
360-yard par 4 hole #8
404-yard par 4 hole #9 (view of approach shot from the fairway)
396-yard par 4 hole #10 (view of the creek & trees that come into play on the approach shots)
A missed approach shot combined with poor putting for a second double bogey on hole #15; with 3 pars and 4 bogeys over the remaining holes I ended with a score of 44 on the back nine.
One final note: the sand traps at the Old Works contained black slag, a byproduct from the smelting process. I managed to avoid hitting into any of the traps during my round so I could not tell you how it compares to playing out of a normal sand trap.
397-yard par 4 hole #12 (view of the green)
380-yard par 4 hole #14 (view of the green side bunker)
436-yard par 4 hole #16
We drove into Butte where we ate pizza at the Broadway Cafe, drove through some of the old copper mining sections of town and stayed overnight in a hotel.