By Don Nelson
Local golfers will encounter some familiar faces – but in different roles – at Bear Creek Golf Course this season.
Brothers Rick and Bart Northcott have taken over management of the scenic 9-hole course near Winthrop from Mike and Laurie Hilton, who had managed Bear Creek since 2018.
The Northcotts are leasing the course and its facilities from longtime owners Ash and Linda Court.
Rick Northcott is a local contractor who also is a former mayor and city council member in Winthrop. He is president of the Winthrop Auditorium Association and of the Winthrop Rhythm & Blues Festival. Bart Northcott recently retired as manager of Methow Valley Thriftway in Winthrop, and owns B-S Bar-b-que in Twisp, a popular food vendor in the valley.
Both the Northcotts are avid golfers and although they will be busy running the operation, they hope to get some tee-and-greens time in as well.
Rick said he had thought about expressing interest in managing Bear Creek for several years. When he learned the Hiltons were leaving, he said, “I finally convinced myself I wanted to do it.”
“It didn’t take long to decide,” Bart said of joining his brother in the venture.
The Northcotts have been reclaiming the course from winter snows and started greens maintenance. The plan is to open “as soon as possible,” Rick said.
The pro shop will have gear and carts for rent, along with merchandise, apparel and snacks including hot sandwiches and soups. Social distancing should be manageable, the Northcotts said, because people are there to be outside. “There’s never all that many people congregating inside,” Bart said.
Last year the pro shop was closed to the public and all transactions took place through a window.
The upstairs portion of the main building may be available for a variety of events, as it has in the past, and for barbecues by Bart. There is also outdoor patio space for gatherings – featuring a spectacular view of the Sawtooth Mountains.
Frisbee golf will be available. A junior golf program may also be offered if there is enough interest, Rick said.
The Northcotts will consider whether to offer fat bikes for rent, and a tubing hill, next winter. This past winter, Bear Creek did not offer bike rentals.
COVID hasn’t been a major game changer for golf, which actually gained in popularity last year because it can be safely played under COVID protocols, Rick said.
For most of the last 70-plus years, the Bear Creek site – an old cattle ranch – has been in the Court family. By 1969, the course had been developed into a regulation-length nine, according to the Bear Creek website. The Courts sold the course in 2007, but repurchased it in 2012.
The Northcotts plan to promote the site’s natural beauty along with player-friendly amenities. Other plans include generally upgrading the condition of the course, which is noted for its scenic vistas.
“It’s a beautiful two hours walking in the park,” Rick said.
Visit www.bearcreekgolfcourse.com for membership information and pricing for the upcoming season.
Bear Creek Golf Course
• 3 miles southeast of Winthrop via the Twisp-Winthrop Eastside Road
• 9 holes, playable as 18 off different tees, 6,271 yards
• Seasonal memberships available
• Online tee times available
• pro shop with equipment and cart rentals, merchandise, food