Episode 11 - Anaconda

Secret Golf's Steve Elkington does a little fly fishing in Anaconda, Montana and plays golf at Old Works Golf Club, a Jack Nicklaus design built on the first copper-smelting facility.

 Episode Guide 

You may also like:


NARRATOR: On this episode of Secret Golf, Elk travels to Big Sky country for a little rest and relaxation.

STEVE ELKINGTON: I was excited, personally, come up and have a show that had a chance to do a little fishing.

NARRATOR: We visit a golf club that was saved by a golden bear.

RYAN STEMSRUD: Jack Nicklaus was able to do was to turn something that was contaminated and remedy it with a beautiful golf course that brings people into Anaconda in southwest Montana.

NARRATOR: And we find one of the most unique trademarks of any golf course anywhere.

-We don't see black sand bunkers. It plays really nice. It's firm underneath, so you squiggle in a little bit and it's easy to hit out of it.

NARRATOR: Secret Golf is rolling your way.



SINGER: It's Secret Golf. It's what I'm looking for. It's why I get up every morning, all my good-timing [INAUDIBLE] keeps me coming back for more.

Secret Golf. We're headed down the road. We're just loading up the big show, going looking for the heart and soul.

Rolling till the wheels fall off, it's Secret Golf. Shh, it's a secret.

NARRATOR: Located in the southwest region of Montana, rests a city thriving in revitalization.

RYAN STEMSRUD: Anaconda's working on reinventing itself as a destination and finding other opportunities to thrive as, originally, a mining town.

STEVE ELKINGTON: Well, I was excited to come back to Montana. I've only been here once before, and I was on a fishing trip. I got into town a little bit earlier and run smack bang into their super fun group talking about what they're doing up here to re-establish this property.

TIM FLYNN: For people that golf and for people who like the outdoors, you're right. This is paradise.

STEVE ELKINGTON: So I was excited personally come up, and have a show that had a chance to do a little fishing.

TIM FLYNN: Yeah, this guy knows all the flies. He knows all the local fishing. He'll help us out.

-He told me that we have to come down here and get a few, maybe, flies that might get us some fish.

-I can help you out there. Well, let's look at some here.

STEVE ELKINGTON: What have we got there first?

-This little guy, be one you have to have. That's called the prince nymph.

STEVE ELKINGTON: Prince nymph.

GARY PEARSON: It's weighted. It will sink. The San Juan worm, also.

STEVE ELKINGTON: That's from the San Juan River.

GARY PEARSON: Let's go down here.

STEVE ELKINGTON: What do you got down here, Gary?

-We have a little emerger pattern here that you have to have down there. It's called the Bluewing Olive emerger.

STEVE ELKINGTON: That looks like a grass seed.

-When that guy develops into the adult, it looks like that.

STEVE ELKINGTON: Ande it's vulnerable, is it?

GARY PEARSON: It's very vulnerable. Fish eat a lot of emergers, and boy, they'll just come.


-You've got the little guys which fish eat all the time. Then you also have to have something that gives them a little more of a mouthful.


-There's a colorful woolly booger.

STEVE ELKINGTON: A woolly booger.

-When the fish get these, they want the fly rod, too.

-No kidding.

-They'll hit it hard.

-Now, what type of fish we're talking about, is the main fish you're pulling out of this river down here, Gary?



GARY PEARSON: Browns and rainbows.

STEVE ELKINGTON: That's what you're known for up here.

GARY PEARSON: Browns and rainbows.

STEVE ELKINGTON: So any other advice?

-Fish the entire run. Six, eight inches apart, make your cast. If it's a little too far out of his alley, or his lane, he's not going to move. He's lazy.

STEVE ELKINGTON: Is that because-- is that because the fish has a little computer in its head that says, it's going to cost me too many calories to go over there and get it?

GARY PEARSON: Sure. Sure. He's waiting 'till they jump right in his mouth.


-You're a much better looking man now, Elf.

-Are you--are we ready? We're going to take it to the big snake. Anaconda.

-Yes, we are.

-All right. Let me square up with you, Gary.

-Fish are in trouble now.

NARRATOR: Old Works Golf Course is proof that one man's trash is another man's treasure. Constructed atop the remains of a 19th century copper mine, Old Works was the first course ever built on an EPA-designated Superfund site.

RYAN STEMSRUD: Old Works is a Jack Nicklaus signature designed facility, opened in 1997. We're ranked, currently number 94 in America's greatest top 100 golf courses, by Golf Digest magazine. Old Works was built here where the Anaconda Mining Company was, and is a result of Superfund cleanup operations where we had an area that was a little contaminated with waste from the smelting process. What Jack Nicklaus was able to do was to turn something that was contaminated ans remedy it with a beautiful golf course that brings people into Anaconda and southwest Montana.

STEVE ELKINGTON: We know that this place was a copper mine. With the help of the government and the Superfund, they have put the money back together to come in, and Jack Nicklaus, course, who's better to do it than him? Come back and look at-- look what's beyond us here. It's just made a great course.

RYAN STEMSRUD: Beautiful scenery out here at Old Works. Really unique slag bunkers, which slag is a byproduct of the smelting process. And Jack liked to use that. It's real consistent, nice and firm, and very playable. Of course, we got Mt. Haggin behind me in the background there, that we see. It's really a hidden gem.

-I would think that anybody that did come out and play, that have seen golf courses all over the world, would agree that we have something very special here.

-I'm going to get my gear on, chief.

-Gonna wader up? Thatta boy. One foot at a time.

STEVE ELKINGTON: I'm making that look hard, aren't I?

-Do you need help?

-No, I don't. Don't touch me.

-Let the belly out there.

-Why you got to go there right now? I'm feeling it.

-Are you feeling rather fishy?

-I'm feeling very fishy. That's a lot of water.

TIM FLYNN: It's not crystal clear, but we're going to give it a shot.

STEVE ELKINGTON: Absolutely, we're going to give it a shot.

TIM FLYNN: We're gonna give it a shot. Loop it out, bring it right under. There you go. There you go.

STEVE ELKINGTON: Just running so fast, isn't it?

TIM FLYNN: It is. Very challenging.

It's you against the river, or not necessarily against the fish.

Nice cast, Elk. Nice cast.

-I was doing some other cast, which was good, because fly fishing's not always about just that one pretty deal. Sometimes you've got a tree in the way.

What a stupid place to plant a tree. Who'd want to put a tree there? Right in the way. I'm going to write a letter to that beaver, telling him to knock that out.

And when in that way, or you've got to go that way, there's all kind of ways to get it into the stream.

TIM FLYNN: Serve it through that deep hole, there'll be a fish laying in there.

STEVE ELKINGTON: We got out there and got our feet in the water and made some good throws, presented the fly the way we wanted to, and that's half the battle.

I like when you give it the business, get some speed on the rod when you come through like that.

TIM FLYNN: Yeah. That's the whole key.

-And I learned that you've got to be so precise, you've got to put it right on his nose, in a way, if he's not hungry, and then he doesn't have to spend any calories to take it.

I'm just not getting it right in the--

-It's real close to the zone. You got that part of the hole covered, there's no doubt.

STEVE ELKINGTON: We didn't get amongst them like we wanted to, Tim and I, but we had a lot of fun trying. You don't have to catch them all the time to be winning at fly fishing.

TIM FLYNN: We put the flies in front of the fish, the fish just didn't cooperate.

STEVE ELKINGTON: Didn't cooperate today.

TIM FLYNN: It's all right.

Yeah, I think there is a secret to fly fishing. The right fly and the right spot.

STEVE ELKINGTON: So one of the things that we were in the river yesterday, got our fly rod. We always want to have a fly rod here because we're right next to the river. But the most important thing for me when I was fishing, and I learned from you, Tim, was when you cast this rod, right-- and I was working on this with my swing. I'm going to get to what I was working on in my swing in a second-- but as that line comes up here, it's got a long way to go. I got to be real patient before I can deliver it, correct?

TIM FLYNN: Yes, sir.

STEVE ELKINGTON: I was given a lesson to my son Sam the other day about completing that top piece here. There's never anything more relevant than completing that top piece in fly fishing, because as that line goes up here, that line has got to go all the way back and get to its end, and then when you deliver it forward, that whole cane puts it out there. Well, same thing with a golf shot. You're there, you're back, you're back, and then whoom. Same thing. And that gives me that sort of boom, boom.

TIM FLYNN: And then when he started talking about bringing the club to here and loading it up before you release it to here, that's the same in fly fishing because you've got to get the rod here, the rod has to load with your fly line, and then it can present it here.

STEVE ELKINGTON: Because yesterday, when we got into the fish, or were near the fish, and you get antsy, the first thing I'm doing is I want to get it back in there real quick. I didn't want to keep it to the back. There it is. I can do it here because there's no fish out there.

I think I explained it perfectly.


Old Works Golf Club, Anaconda, Montana. Paradise. We're having a Secret Smackdown with my guys here. We're on number four, par 3. Ryan, tell us about this hole, please.

RYAN STEMSRUD: Well, number four is our signature hole. About 180 yard, par 3. I got the flue in the background there, with some of the--

-When you say a flue?

RYAN STEMSRUD: The flu is a structure in the top there that would direct the smoke up from the smelter so that it would stay up and above the town.

-OK, down to business. Secret Smackdown. I've decided. I've got my fishing buddy. You two guys are going to play me. I think that's-- I think that's the move. You guys play, you guys play scramble? How's that sound?

-Scramble's sweet.

-Loser can-- loser has to caddy for the other guy fishing or something.

-You got it. You got it.

STEVE ELKINGTON: So we're a little bit of altitude here. So it's 180 yards. People listening are going to think that you're an animal, but it's about 10% less up here, isn't it?

-Yeah, it's just--

-50 some-- what are we at?

-5,400 feet, basically.

-Mile above sea level.

-We're used to the elevation. We don't have to change the elevation thing. We go down to sea level, we just wonder why we're not hitting it as far.

STEVE ELKINGTON: Ooh. Very tasty.

TIM FLYNN: I was nervous. I think that probably helped because I couldn't grip the club so hard, so I think that's probably why that first tee shot went so well.

STEVE ELKINGTON: Good swing. Whenever I come up and play in altitude, the hardest thing for me is, it's 180 yards and I've got to pull an 8. And for me to get there with an 8, just-- it's usually a 5 at sea level, or a 6, right?



STEVE ELKINGTON: Where are we? Oh. Is that good?

RYAN STEMSRUD: That'll be fine.

TIM FLYNN: Perfect.


TIM FLYNN: There's a little piece of history here. Everything breaks to the smelter.

STEVE ELKINGTON: That thing? But that's uphill, that's up the hill.

TIM FLYNN: Just like a mountain, it's just like-- I guess the ocean's usually downhill, but yeah, everything breaks to the smelter, Elk.


I gave it a little too much smelt. A little too much smelt, but I think--

TIM FLYNN: See it come at the end, though?

STEVE ELKINGTON: Yeah, I got my 3. Is that good?

TIM FLYNN: Yes, sir.


RYAN STEMSRUD: Elk announced on number one tee that Tim and I were going to play a scramble against his ball, so Tim and I got pretty excited at that point because we knew we couldn't do well, you know, by ourselves against Elk, but in a scramble, we thought we had a chance.

STEVE ELKINGTON: He's going for it. Oh, no.


TIM FLYNN: Oh my gosh, Elk. Oh my gosh, I've never had a birdie on this hole.

STEVE ELKINGTON: What's happening? What's happening?

TIM FLYNN: It's those fly fishing lessons that you were giving me.

STEVE ELKINGTON: Let's go. One down. I don't like getting beat on my show, but here we go.

TIM FLYNN: I can't believe that.


NARRATOR: So if you're asking yourself, what's a Superfund site? Well, according to the EPA, a Superfund site is an uncontrolled or abandoned place where hazardous waste is located, possibly affecting local ecosystems or people. Or in other words--

TIM FLYNN: Superfund site was, it's an area that is quote, unquote "so contaminated" the responsible parties for the contamination were pushed to clean it up in a manner that it could be used in some aspect.

RYAN STEMSRUD: Smelting operations closed here in Anaconda, and that's when, you know, discussions on how to clean up the site began. In the early 1990s the groundwork was laid to build a world-class facility and transform this area with the historic pieces that are still intact, which was neat. We're fortunate to see this area that was once, you know, polluted with those contaminants to be such an amazing habitat for wildlife and for people to recreate.

TIM FLYNN: It meant that an area that was devastated and unusable before is now a prime recreation spot. The EPA's oversight and planning, making sure that the place was cleaned up has really been a good thing for the community.

RYAN STEMSRUD: Our second host in the smackdown was number 10. That's par 4. Second shot over Warm Springs Creek. Beautiful backdrop, of course, but it's an easy approach shot into a pretty flat green.

STEVE ELKINGTON: Man's on fire.

RYAN STEMSRUD: The toughest part of number 10 is the tee shot. If you can get into the fairway there, it sets up pretty well.

STEVE ELKINGTON: I'm going to try to drive this ball in there a little bit, with a little bit of draw, maybe. Let's see what we can do here. Kinda old school shot. There's the low.


TIM FLYNN: So apparently you were think 10 feet left, 'cause that's where it's at.

STEVE ELKINGTON: Is that what you were thinking I was thinking?

TIM FLYNN: I'm thinking that. Nice shot, partner.

Knocked it in the hole.

TIM FLYNN: Might be.

STEVE ELKINGTON: Ryan just flagged it, right over top of the hole. Tim made a pretty good shot, and I was able to get mine in there pin high, and I'm almost getting ready to go down two down, in this three-hole smackdown, and it's my show, and now we're going to have a two-hole smackdown. I mean, I've got drama. I've got stress.

Hey, hey, hey. What are you-- what are you doing?

TIM FLYNN: Ho-ho, nice shot, partner.

RYAN STEMSRUD: Greens are rolling really nice, course is in good shape, so that put, if I just got it started on the right line, I knew it'd take care of itself from there.

TIM FLYNN: Now Steve knows he's got to make it just go to the third hole, or the smackdown's over.


TIM FLYNN: Nice putt. He made a great putt, played the smelter break, and so we have the hole. Going to the third hole in the smackdown.

STEVE ELKINGTON: We are looking down the beautiful fifth hole here. We're not playing it today in the Secret Smackdown, but Jack Nicklaus has his own personal, very small space that he likes to play the hole from, but I want to know, Tim, I'm looking on top of this pile, if you will, I see a tee up there, but what is that?

-Steve, that's a roast heap. What they did is they would layer rocks and wood in there and then they'd burn it.

STEVE ELKINGTON: So I see over there on the left some footprints going up there. Is that Sasquatch?

TIM FLYNN: Elk, here In the states we see Sasquatch, but yes, it could be No,


-It could be the Slagsquatch.

-Let's go-- the Slagsquatch. I like it.

STEVE ELKINGTON: So Ryan, this is the 11th hole of this incredible golf course. This is the third hole of our Secret Smackdown. Talk to me.

RYAN STEMSRUD: Awesome par 5 here. Can be reached into. Got a river runs right in front of it, protecting the green with a nice bunker there. It's a shallow green.

TIM FLYNN: I was feeling very good then, because really, you can't lose. You can come up tied or you can win, but you can't lose.

STEVE ELKINGTON: Ryan, he didn't tell me he was such a long hitter. He hammers one down the next hole. Tim's in play, I put one out there nice. We had to lay out, because the hole is like 650 yards at altitude.

I want to get down there. I got to get in front of your ball, so I can put some pressure on there. He's going to have to take another birdie to hold me off, I feel. A little chubby. All right.

TIM FLYNN: Not bad.


-Then, of course, that magic swing with that temple, just-- and Steve stuffs it in there. I mean, just stuffs it in there.

-Whoa, OK. I'm in the game. Here's the state of affairs, gentlemen. You guys make this, I'm out. I'm done. You've got me. If you miss, I've got a shot. Please, no. Please no!

TIM FLYNN: Oh, gosh.

STEVE ELKINGTON: I thought you said you couldn't putt.

-I can't.

RYAN STEMSRUD: We were stoked. I mean, it just came together. Tim hit some putts that he normally won't hit, and I hit some shots that I normally won't hit, and we stepped up to the occasion. And I think the adrenaline was flowing and nerves were kicking, and a lot of times when you're playing golf, you rise up to the level of the people you're playing with. Of course, we could never rise up to Elk's level, but we certainly bettered our game and made some awesome shots out there.

-Lucky enough to get up there and make another one, which-- which was really surprising, but I was sure glad it went in. I'll remember the smackdown for a long time.

-Well done. Congratulations. Smackdown champs. Smackdown champs right here.

OK, you guys won the smackdown. You guys are the champs. When I play golf, I never try to go in a bucket. Maybe sometimes, but I've got to go in the slag. I got to go hit a shot. I got to make a report to these people, what is it all about the black bunkers?

Slag's one of my new favorite words that I'm taking with me from here. You slag.

OK, I'm going to go in the slag zone. See what this-- oh, it's real soft.

RYAN STEMSRUD: The black slag bunkers are a byproduct of the smelting process. So when you smelt the copper, part of the leftovers are slag. And it's a very, very unique, it's very picturesque, and it plays extremely well.

STEVE ELKINGTON: That felt good. We don't see black sand bunkers. And it plays really nice. It's firm underneath, so you squiggle in a little bit and then it's easy to hit out of them.

It's firm, it's got a nice little firm base to it. What do you guys-- is that the rule of--

TIM FLYNN: Yeah, everybody says it's firm and it's very consistent.

-It's not hard to get out of, is it? The slag. What about a-- what about one close here? That's all right.


STEVE ELKINGTON: It's a rock. It's a crushed rock, it's not sand. I mean, like you wouldn't put a beach towel in there and just lay in it, that's not the move, but it plays just like sand.

TIM FLYNN: Wow. Go in.

STEVE ELKINGTON: That was all right. That was my little new slag splash. This is so far that way, this is ultra cool. This is like hip. Hip slag, if you will.


The summary of my trip to Anaconda is, I got a nice understanding of what this community has been through in the last 100 years, and I've understood their quest to try to clean up this part of the country by their own initiative and the help with the Superfund. As far as what I thought it was going to be, they got a great golf course here, they got great fishing. Not every show that I do I want to come back to that place, but I will come back here, and I will bring my friends. And I want to go on that float trip and I want to catch that big fish on that little grass-headed thing and I want to play the whole course a couple times. ;


We are here in Dublin, Texas. My co-founder, history buff Mike Maze is with me. Why are we in Dublin, Texas?

MIKE MAZE: We're here because every year there is a pilgrimage to this town to celebrate the life of one of the greatest golfers of all time.


NARRATOR: So Elk just had to swing by the world's largest Ben Hogan museum.

-This is-- this is Hogan's putter, right here.

STEVE ELKINGTON: I know. You got to be kidding me.

NARRATOR: And squeezes in an all-Hogan smackdown.

-Welcome to the Ben Hogan smackdown. I like that it's a competition. Who's going to be the favorite?



We're going to be the favorite.


NARRATOR: Secret Golf with Steve Elkington has been a presentation of Secret Golf Incorporated.

SINGER: Shh. It's a secret.