Four triangular driftwood structures stand in a row on the sandy shore of Flathead Lake in Bigfork. Ranging from five feet to nine feet tall, the closest and shortest one is 100 yards out, then 150, 200, and 250.
The targets would normally be underwater, but with the lake levels low, Lon Hinkle was able to turn the temporarily extended beach behind his home into a golf driving range.
They appear the same size from the dock behind Hinkle’s home on Riversend Road. There’s just enough deviation from the line that the center of each is clearly visible.
Hinkle is a professional golfer and was on the PGA Tour from 1972 until 1994 when he and his wife, Leslie, moved to Bigfork.
“As I walk the dogs, I pick up driftwood, a piece or two a day,” Hinkle said as his dogs ran around his driftwood driving range.
He started building the structures around Jan. 1 and has added to them daily since then. Each one is made entirely from what washes up on shore.
Others have added driftwood as well, and someone managed to get a discarded and cracked red plastic funnel on top of the nine-foot tall 200-yard post.
“The amazing part is the kids don’t knock them down and people add to it,” Leslie said.
When the lake level is low in the spring, the waterline that normally extends to their boat dock goes back 350 yards. Perfect for a golf driving range.
Hinkle used a range finder to measure the distance of each structure. A range finder looks like a normal pair of binoculars, but is able to determine how far away an object is.
Hinkle plans to dismantle his golf range as the lake level rises so they don’t become water hazards for this summer’s boaters.