There is no denying the creativity of our fellow humans, especially when fueled by boundless optimism. How else to explain the myriad roadside attractions that summon travelers from the highways and country roads of America? No matter the season of your travels, an array of memory-makers will beckon. Be sure to pack your golf clubs; for every South of the Border or Boll Weevil statue, there’s a nearby golf course for you to play. We’ve put together a 3-part series of some of the … well, oddest commemorations you can imagine and paired them elegantly with area golf opportunities. Time to blend the camp with the course, and play some golf around America, in part two of our series!
The Big Stack (Anaconda, Montana)
At times, the oddities we uncover reveal our lesser side. The Big Stack is the tallest, free-standing masonry structure in the world. It exceeds 585 feet in height, and would be quite the marvel … excepting its history. As the former site of a smelting operation, it disgorged lead and arsenic all around. It now inhabits yet another oddity: a state park that accepts zero visitors. The land is condemned, so all you can do is glance from a mile distant. Fortunately, Anaconda also contracted Jack Nicklaus to design the Old Works golf course. It CAN be played, and is worth a round or two when in the area.
Golden Spike Tower (North Platte, Nebraska)
You could tip your cap to the 20th Century Veteran’s Memorial, or the Fort Cody Trading Post, but we opted for the salute to the world’s largest railroad yards. Fact is, the GST doesn’t look like a spike, and it never did reach its hoped-for height (costs ran over) but if you love the trains, you need to stop by while in America’s heartland. About 35 minutes east (around the corner in Nebraska terms) is the Wild Horse golf course. Built by Dave Axland and Dan Proctor as they were working on Sand Hills with Coore and Crenshaw, Wild Horse has a mythic standing among minimalist golf course aficionados.
Falling Cow or Common Duck? (Manson, Washington)
It’s reminiscent of the South Park episode, when the cows went over the cliff. A cow went over a cliff in Manson, landed on a van, presumably perished, no human injuries. Yup. On the other hand, if Kenny G. played the French Horn (and he might) and decided to play tribute to quackers, you would have this statue. Take your pick, or see both, but be sure to drive the bucolic, 43 miles along the serpentine Columbia river, to visit David Kidd’s Gamble Sands. This is the course that reintroduced fun into Kidd’s designs, and made him a major hire again in the world of golf course architecture.
Dizzy Dean’s Roadside Rest (Wiggins, Mississippi)
“Son, what pitch would you like to miss?” Thus spake Dizzy. Jay Dean and his brother, Paul Dean, were better known as Dizzy and Dazzy. The anchors of the Gashouse Gang’s pitching staff, their 1934 Cardinals won baseball’s World Series the year that this writer’s father was born. Dizzy’s grave site isn’t far away, returning him to the soil that reared him. Nearby is Saucier, where Tom Fazio designed the Fallen Oak golf course in bayou-esque terrain. Part of the Beau Rivage casino, it claims exclusivity, but drop ole’ Dizzy’s name (and throw in a pinch of Daffy, for good measure) and you might be able to wheedle a tee time.
Birthplace of the Republican Party (Ripon, Wisconsin)
While a few other towns lay claim to this designation, Roadside America validates the Ripon claim. In 1854, a squad came together in … yup, believe it, a little white schoolhouse, where they formed a new party. An eponymous, small college in town gave us Han Solo and Indiana Jones … at least, the actor who portrayed them. Around Green Lake from the town awaits the Lawsonia property, home to one of the great, golden-age American golf courses, the Links by Langford and Moreau.