Course: Valley View Garden Golf
Location: 1405 9th Street Northwest Great Falls, MT 59404
Price: $6 for 18 holes (cash only)
Review: Sorry, Montanans. I know this may come as a big surprise to all of you “real Montana folk,”* but there really aren’t all that many mini golf courses in your state. Which surprised me, because your state is very, very big. So big that, even though its population is over a million people, its population density is approximately only 6 people per square mile.** So big that, while driving, I was able to listen to the soundtrack to National Treasure four times on repeat before I even reached Helena.*** However, despite its massive size, Montana didn’t really have that many “big name” courses (to the extent that Mt. Atlanticus is a big name). But, after researching Montana’s various courses for several hours, I was able to find one course that definitively stood out from the rest.
Family owned and operated since 1967, the award winning Valley View Garden Golf has been a staple of the Great Falls community for nearly five decades. It even got a write-up in the Great Falls Tribune. And while this venue lacked the motion-activated animatronics or regional authenticity that I have come to expect from America’s best mini golf courses, it was still quite charming. The love and care behind every inch of this course was visible from the moment I began playing: not only was Valley View’s carpet in a near-flawless condition, but its spotless, pristine atmosphere and its unimaginably kind and helpful staff made this course more welcoming than a factory that makes “home is where the heart is” door mats (I bet those factory workers love their jobs!) In addition, the course was surrounded by many cooling mist machines, fun props and a massive garden of flowers that are still grown, to this day, by the course’s 91-year-old creator Robert Petrini. It was all very charming.
And admittedly, the course was pretty simplistic. Its many flat, concrete-enclosed straightaway holes were as repetitive and unending as a review guide dedicated entirely to reviewing the nation’s finest miniature golf courses (zing). Additionally, this course did not have a very clear theme (for several holes, it had a strange, unaccountable “Japanese” vibe which wasn’t culturally insensitive so much as it was just really, bafflingly inexplicable). And, while the course was only six bucks, it was cash only, which I’m not even necessarily sure is a negative aspect, but it was still inconvenient. Not as inconvenient as truth in the Al Gore household. But still, a bit of a nuisance – like a tsetse fly to a wildebeest in heat. The course’s last hole, however, more than made up for these minor flaws, taking the ball over an (again, extremely inexplicable) Japanese bridge, underneath a babbling brook, and through several concrete obstacles. Ultimately, at the end of the day, while it was not necessarily a spectacle of a course, as a course Valley View Garden Golf was decently spectacular.
* As opposed all those “fake Montana folk” who think the bitterroot is just something you eat during the Jewish holiday Pesach, and not Montana’s state flower. Those fakers are probably too busy celebrating the liberation of the Jewish people from Egypt to appreciate that Montana has the largest grizzly bear population of the lower 48 states. Damn those “fake Montana folk!” We should force them to go back to Brooklyn where they belong! Build the wall! Make America Montana Again!
** Which must create some pretty dismal 4th of July parades…
*** The first three times weren’t that enjoyable. But the fourth time I listened to the National Treasure soundtrack, strangely it was the most beautiful, transcendent music I had ever heard. Most people would call that Stockholm syndrome. But what do they know?
Course Score: 55; par – 44
Pros: Very well cared for; very good upkeep; only six dollars; kind staff; beautiful flowers/foliage; cooling mist machines; fantastic final hole; overall quite enjoyable.
Cons: Mostly simplistic/flat holes; lower production value than other courses I’ve visited; cash only; no obvious theme; one or two scuffs/water stains (but not many).