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On the Green

Sun Mountain Sports is Missoula based and making a big impact

Missoula. Montana. Sports.

Enter those words into your internal search engine and chances are good that the Rolodex of images conjured might contain skiers carving a snowy slope, rafters shooting the nearby Alberton Gorge, sun-toned climbers scaling a jagged crag of rock under the summer sun, or fly fishers lining the slack water of the Big Blackfoot.

If you were, even briefly, to turn your eyes away from these more rowdy or romantic scenes you’d probably discover the more sedate and humble—but no less intoxicating—game of golf, a sport that is very much at home in the Missoula Valley. It certainly doesn’t hurt that Missoula is also home to Sun Mountain Sports, a 40-plus-year-old local institution and worldwide industry leader in golf bags, outerwear, travel gear, and push carts.

With seven golf courses (nine if you include courses in Frenchtown and Stevensville), Missoula is an “unassuming golf gem,” in the words of Grant Knudson, President and Chief Brand Officer of Sun Mountain. “Where the golf mecca is in Carlsbad, California, this has always been kind of a magical, fairy-tale place where all the Sun Mountain bags come from.”

When asked about the overall culture surrounding the sport in our area, Grant is confident that golf has a good home here among the Five Valleys. “There’s a lot of pride in the fact that Sun Mountain resides here in Missoula, Montana,” he says. “Golf is thriving. Montana and its vibe is also thriving nationwide in pop culture. That, along with the fact that golf is having a resurgence, and the fact that Sun Mountain is here, it’s a great place to be outdoors and a great place to play golf.”

“This is one of the few places in the world where you can ski in the morning and come golf in the afternoon,” Grant says. “A lot of times they go hand-in-hand. There’s a lot of skiers that also golf, because they’re both lifelong sports. I think that’s what’s so cool about golf: you can play it from the time you’re able to walk until whenever, as long as you can still swing a club.”

Since its inception in 1981 Sun Mountain has been an innovation-driven company, from crafting golf bags out of lighter-weight nylon as opposed to the previously-utilized leather or vinyl, to creating the first golf bag with a built-in stand, to the first-ever push cart, to the first waterproof golf bags. From a vantage in the year 2024, it may be easy to overlook just how groundbreaking some of these novelties were, given their current industry-wide ubiquity. But the fact that these innovations, and many others, can be seen on golf courses around the world lets you know just how important Sun Mountain Sports has been—and continues to be—to the sport of golf.

“We have a lot of PGA tour members who either call or request our gear,” Grant says. “Not because we pay them, but because they know that we make the best.”

“We do a lot of custom stuff for high schools and colleges, all over the world,” he continues. “It’s something of a badge of honor to have the Sun Mountain Sports logo on your golf bag, especially if you’re in the collegiate or high school world.”

It’s not a stretch to presume that Sun Mountain—with their cutting-edge advancements in comfort, convenience, and accessibility to the game—may have had a hand in golf’s current popularity. Whatever the case may be, Grant Knudson sees a bright future for the sport, and Sun Mountain Sports will be there as it always has, at the forefront.

“There’s a ton of new people that have come to the game,” he says. “It’s grown more in the last couple years than I’ve seen in my career. There’s so much interest in it, and a younger demographic, too…It’s a fun game that anyone can play, that anyone can aspire to get better at. You’re always trying to beat your own personal best, and no one ever masters it. That one good shot will keep you coming back.”

“This is one of the few places in the world where you can ski in the morning and come golf in the afternoon." - Grant Knudson