The black sands of the Copper King lure golfers to Montana

Lisa_Wareham_Old_Works-lgIt is known as one of the finest municipal golf courses in North America. But even to nongolfers, it’s easy to see that the Old Works Golf Course in Anaconda, Mont., is something special.

For one thing, there are the towering mountains that surround the course, lending a breathtaking backdrop to every swing. And then there are the bunkers filled with sand that’s as black as coal.

At least when you hit a trap, you won’t have trouble spotting your ball.

The history of the course is as fascinating as its beauty. In 1884, “Copper King” Marcus Daly chose this site for a sprawling facility to process copper ore from nearby Butte. Over the years, millions of tons of ore moved through the Anaconda valley, leaving behind massive amounts of soil, slag and flue dust contaminated with heavy metals. The area ultimately became part of the nation’s largest Superfund site.

Rather than simply clean up the Old Works, Environmental Protection Agency partnered with the Anaconda community and ARCO to preserve its historic significance and create a championship golf course.

Designed by Jack Nicklaus, the 18-hole, 7,700-yard Old Works Golf Course opened in 1997 and received immediate praise from pros and duffers alike. Nicklaus took advantage of the area’s spectacular mountain vistas and preserved many of the unique historic characteristics of the former smelting site. Most noticeably, he filled the bunkers with black “sland” — inert and harmless sand-like slag left behind by the smelter’s furnaces.

Novelty aside, the course has been nationally recognized by Golf Digest as “world class…with 18 fascinating holes.”

Scenic beauty and historic charm hardly stop at the edge of the rough. Conveniently positioned midway between Glacier and Yellowstone National Parks, the historic community of Anaconda is rich with ornate commercial architecture, including the Old City Hall and Washoe Theater, and large mansions that line the hilly upper streets of the residential sections of town — all remnants of the great wealth the Anaconda Copper Mining Company once brought to the area. The Marcus Daly Motel, where the proprietor greets you with freshly baked cookies and a wealth of knowledge about the area, is a favorite among visitors. And while you’re here, a drive on the Anaconda-Pintler Scenic Highway is a must see on any Montana traveler’s to-do list.

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