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|Branson Creek Golf Club has quite a few downhill tee shots to wide fairways, like No. 8. (Tim McDonald/WorldGolf.com)|
Branson Creek Golf Club is the class of Branson-area golf courses, a superb, daily-fee course by Tom Fazio high in the Ozarks.
HOLLISTER, Mo. - You can see all the way clear to Arkansas from the Branson Creek Golf Club, but your eyes are likely to be distracted along the way.
Branson Creek, by most accounts the best golf course in the "show me" state of Missouri, shows you quite a bit along the way, as your eyes wander south.
The golf course plays up and down the hills of the high plateau that takes up most of southern Missouri. Those holes that play along the high, rocky ridges give off grand, misty views, and the holes that plunge down to the valleys are perhaps even more scenic, with purple-flowered hills rising gracefully above the fairways.
It is a dazzling layout in this part of the postcard-ready Ozarks, outside the town of Hollister, a few minutes south of Branson.
Its scenic beauty is matched only by the artistry of the Tom Fazio design. Who doesn't love downhill tee shots to wide open fairways and approach shots into huge, pristine greens?
"I've played all the nice golf courses in Missouri, and there aren't any that compare to this," said Cliff Easum, a local golf professional.
It's a course where you can swing away like the man you know you are and seldom find yourself in too much trouble. In fact, that is the only criticism, albeit minor, the course ever runs into: Some people feel it may be a little too tourist-friendly.
But, with nine million visitors to this area annually, you won't find many complaints.
Besides, the back tees measure a tad over 7,000 yards with a slope of 133 if you really want an alley fight. The more realistic gold tees are 6,628 yards with a slope of 129. The course has five sets of tee boxes.
You won't find many public, daily fee golf courses of this caliber. One beautiful hole flows from the next, and although there seems to be a plethora of dogleg lefts, every hole brings a separate adventure.
The scenery is everything you'd expect from a mountain course high in the Ozarks: Lakes, ponds, little mountain streams and rugged rock outcroppings go along with the purple redbuds, white dogwood and pine and cedar trees.
Only one or two homes are on the perimeter now, though that will mostly likely change in the future.
The attention to detail in the landscaping is first-rate; the elevated, rock-supported tee box at No. 14 alone, with a bonus waterfall, is worth the price of admission.
The greens are something special as well. As mentioned, they are very big and fast. The day I played in mid-April, they were rolling an 11 or 12 on the stimpmeter. Gracefully contoured, many have different levels without the obviousness of well-defined tiers.
"They roll very true," Easum said. "If you miss it, it's your own fault."
The green complexes, not surprisingly for a Fazio design, can be fairly intricate, offering various mounds and contours that can be used to get the ball to the hole.
The green fees here are substantially cheaper than they would be for a golf course of this standing in certain other parts of the country.
In January and February - if you dare - they're $48. March green fees are $60, April is $76, and May through October $90-$99. That includes cart and range balls.
Murder Rock also lies in the Branson Creek community, and there is talk that up to three or even four more courses will be built, in an attempt to make the facility a fly-in destination. If they build more golf courses like Branson Creek, I'm making reservations now.
It's managed by Troon, and the course always finds its way into the lofty rankings by the major golf magazines.
Surprisingly, the course has yet to build a clubhouse, with a trailer serving temporary duty. However, a large hotel is planned, and the clubhouse will be part of it.
Branson Creek has excellent practice facilities.
The Thousand Hills Golf and Conference Center is close to all the Branson attractions and, of course, has its own golf course. It has a large rental program, with more than 250 cabin and condo rentals, from suites to four-bedroom units.
The rustic-looking cabins can sleep from two to 16 people, and have jacuzzis, fireplaces, fully equipped kitchens and screened-in back porches. They range in price from $139-$405.
The condos go from jacuzzi king suites up to four-bedroom, four-bath units that sleep up to 10 people, with private patios or decks, washers and dryers and free high-speed Internet. They range in price from $89 to $389 a day.
All cabins and condos have either golf course or wooded views.
The resort has seven indoor and outdoor swimming pools, a fully equipped fitness center, tennis courts and free parking, something you can't always count on in Branson.
May 2, 2008
Veteran golf writer Tim McDonald keeps one eye on the PGA Tour and another watching golf vacation hotspots and letting travelers in on the best place to vacation.
Any opinions expressed above are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of the management.
The Lakes Course at the Ruttger's Bay Lake Lodge in Minnesota provides pure up-north forested golf, and the slight drive from nearby Brainerd is well worth the visit, as players will undoubtedly acquire a love for the handsome wooded surroundings.
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