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Whether you're wanting a leisurely game of golf over rolling prairie hills or to step out the backyard for a fast round before lunch, two Heights-area public golf courses — Eagle Rock and Lake Hills — have just that.

Eagle Rock Golf Course, which is open for its third season, is described as a "destination" course by general manager Bobby Bachman. The course is about three miles north of the Heights.

Bachman said that his course serves as a home-base for area golfers, although Eagle Rock doesn't have as many people on the course as others.

"We have half as many rounds as other courses, so golfers aren't pushed or forced to wait," he explained.

Bachman notes the absence of car and siren noises, plus a view that extends to the edges of the horizon, as bonus amenities of Eagle Rock. Players can make the game be whatever they'd like, he said.

Set on 180 acres of former farmland, the 18 holes of Eagle Rock all have five different sets for the tees. Matt Martinson designed the course with his late father over the course of a decade, and further housing development around the course is in the works.

Bachman started golfing as an adolescent and now plays the course three to six times each week. It's never the same, he said, and as good as a player is — or as bad — each game can be played according to a different scenario.

"Using different clubs gives a different feel on each hole," Bachman said.

Eagle Rock is a lake-style course with long, narrow fairways. The out-of-bounds and rough provide special challenges, Bachman said, but along with the risks, there's a lot of reward.

Due to an unseasonably warm winter, Eagle Rock was open all year last year. Bachman said there was minimal winter-kill on the green, and the course continues to mature.

As Eagle Rock continues in its young life as a golf course, Lake Hills Golf Course in the Heights is ready to celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2007.

Katie Whitbeck, the pro-shop manager at Lake Hills, said the course is in good shape for its age and continues to be a fun place to play golf. Though it's challenging, the course isn't so difficult as to be frustrating. The laid-back atmosphere she describes is one of long-standing success.

This season, Lake Hills will add drainage ponds on the course. As a result, a stream will trickle about 100 yards from the green, and Hole 13 will feature a lake. Though the club is missing its golf simulators, the extra space will better accommodate banquets, Whitbeck said. And a new fleet of golf carts includes GPS locators to inform golfers of their distance from the hole and provide tips for strategy.

Lake Hills is the only course in Montana to offer GPS, Whitbeck said.

The course is privately owned by a Salt Lake City individual, but is open to the public. Golfers include 325 season passholders, but business is about 50-50 for walk-ins.

The area around Lake Hills Golf Course is growing, and, with that, have come new families, Whitbeck said. She's happy Heights residents can count a golf course among their neighborhood amenities rather than forcing residents to make a trip farther from home for a game.

Lake Hills golf is on the fast track each weekend. Games generally take less than four hours, and Whitbeck said that golfers on her course play fast.

"No one wants to be out waiting and spend six hours," she said.

With that in mind, Whitbeck said, the staff works to make sure golfers have fun when they are on the course and have a good experience each time.

Lake Hills is home to several charity tournaments, such as the Skyview Boosters' event, and also hosts First Tee for kids. A national program, First Tee aims to teach golf but also imparts life lessons in integrity, honesty and sportsmanship.

"We have a good course for beginners because it's not so intimidating but it's still challenging," Whitbeck said.

In addition to lessons for kids, golf pro Jon Wright holds group lessons for beginners and is available for one-on-one work as well.

Contact Angela Buckley at abuckley@billingsgazette.com or 657-1241.

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