Helena's Finest Public Golf Experience
Don't let the name fool you. Bill Roberts Golf Course is one of the finest golf experiences in Montana. Located in the center of town on the historic Benton Trail, with panoramic views of the Helena valley and all it famous landmarks, sits Bill Roberts GC. Views of Mt. Helena, Sleeping Giant Mountain, the State Capitol Building, Helena Cathedral, and the Elkhorn Mountains are all easily visible from the golf course.
Everyone of all age and abilities is welcome. We do however ask that you maintain our recommended pace of play of 2 hours 15 minutes for 9 holes and 4 1/2 hours for 18 holes.
History of Bill Roberts Golf Course
The "Last Chance Golf Course," now known as Bill Roberts Golf Course, was established in 1925 as a nine-hole golf course on the north edge of Helena, Montana. The name Last Chance Golf Course was given to the course in reference to the Last Chance Gold Strike of 1864 that eventually ended up being the birthplace of what is now the capital city of Montana.
The name was later changed to Bill Roberts Golf Course in recognizing the efforts of longtime Pro/Greenskeeper Bill Roberts. Bill Roberts, a native of Illinois, came to Montana in 1924 and worked on golf courses in Roundup and Billings before settling as Golf Pro/Greenskeeper at Last Chance Golf Course from 1945-1965.
The golf course was a venture that had been turned over to the City of Helena and wasn't much of a golf course when Bill Roberts arrived. During his tenure, water was introduced to the course in 1942 and 1943. Grass greens replaced the oiled sand greens in 1951. Roberts also planted many cottonwood trees, few of which survived over the years.
In the search for gold and wealth, much of the Helena area had been mined, and the search left its mark on the land. Although most of the gulch was transformed into a beautiful urban development, other areas were left to man and Mother Nature to reclaim. Back in the mid-seventies, the City of Helena undertook a land reclamation project of considerable proportion for its time.
Approximately 75 acres of an adjacent mine dredge was proposed to be the location for an additional nine holes of golf designed around a private housing development. Gold dredging is an ugly process that leaves huge piles, some twenty feet high, of overturned boulders, gravel, sand and silt in its aftermath. The process stratifies the land profile leaving the boulders on top and the fines at the bottom.
Robert Graves was selected as the golf course architect for the project, and Tom Roe shaped the new course layout. In 1976 the City of Helena finally had an 18-hole public golf course. The golf course maintenance staff had a considerable challenge of maintaining 18 holes on a small budget. There were nine new holes built using modern construction techniques and the original nine holes with push-up greens. The biggest problem was the lack of water. It was common in the summer to let the fairways go dormant because the golf course wells were seasonal and produced only enough water to irrigate the tees and greens. Long drives were commonplace because there wasn't any grass to stop the ball. In 1990 the City of Helena recognized the need to improve its golf course. A new construction plan and accompanying fee structure was developed to achieve this goal.
Just over one million dollars in bond sales were committed to a two-part project. The plan was to build new tees, greens, bunkers and ponds. A new irrigation system was installed and 360 new trees planted. In 1991, Phase 1 of the reconstruction began. Temporary greens were constructed to allow play through the three holes under reconstruction. In 1993, Phase 2 reconstructed the remaining six holes. Carl Thusen was selected as the course architect.
The water shortage was also addressed. The golf course now relies on six ground wells. The result is a par 72 golf course that plays 6872 yards with 43 bunkers and 9 water hazards. One interesting note, in 1927 Charles Lindbergh flew his famous silver plane, the Spirit of St. Lewis, into Helena for a touring stop. He used the golf course site for a landing strip. We hope you enjoy the course!