Montana's Free Golf Course

John Espinoza at John's Golf Course in Eureka, Mont.

John Espinoza lines up a putt on a green he tends.

Fourteen years ago John Espinoza’s first golf outing ended in disappointment when impatient players elbowed him off the course. Today he presides over his own nine-hole, par-31 course in Eureka, Mont., about 70 miles north of Kalispell and well worth a stop.

Espinoza, who suffers from a rare genetic disorder called Cornelia de Lange syndrome, has won 30 medals at the Special Olympics—in golf, naturally. His father, Steve, made all this possible by selling handmade tamales to raise money, roping pals into clearing timber on the family land, and then rounding up donations—of mowers, carts, sprinklers, and grass seed—from gear makers and course managers across the country.

This summer golfers can tee off on the Gulley, the first hole, redesigned by three-time Masters champion Nick Faldo and located 100 yards from John’s trailer, recently revamped as a welcome center and pro shop.

The course is open to all players at no charge. And although reservations are recommended, drop-ins are welcome, provided they first chat with the course’s namesake and fastidious superintendent. If you phone ahead, he just may mow the greens for you. (406) 889-3685

Photography by Andrew Geiger

This article was first published in July 2008. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.

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