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|LedgeStone Championship Golf Course, just outside Branson, is in the Stonebridge develpment. (Tim McDonald/WorldGolf.com)|
REEDS SPRING, Mo. - LedgeStone Championship Golf Course unfolds inside the ritzy Stonebridge Village, just outside Branson, high in the Ozarks.
The Ozarks aren't a mountain range in the typical sense; this part of southern Missouri is set on a high, rocky plateau, but LedgeStone is, for all intents and purposes, a mountain golf course with sweeping, distant views and steep, rocky hills rising above the fairways.
It is an excellent course, consistently ranked by golf magazines among the best golf courses in Missouri.
At LedgeStone, Clark let the surroundings showcase the course; it climbs up and down the steep terrain, with some serious elevation changes - I defy anyone to play No. 15, a par 3, and not get at least a mild case of vertigo. The 200-yard hole feels like it's almost straight down - you can barely see the flag from the back tees - with the rocky face of a cliff to the left. You're hitting down into a three-tiered green with a deep valley in the middle.
No. 15 is the most dramatic example, but quite a few other holes highlight this part of the Ozarks; No. 3 is another sharply descending par 3, No. 4 is a sweeping downhill par 4 off the tee and No. 9 is the same with a high ridge on the far side.
No. 14 is a sharp dogleg right with a fairway straight out of hell, rising sharply on the left and twisting back to the right like a giant serpent. And so on.
"The first time I played that course, I was amazed," said Robbie Blumfield, of Arkansas. "It was quite an experience."
It does take some getting used to. With all the twists and turns and elevation changes, you need to play this course a few times before figuring out the angles. That dogleg that looks so inviting may have serious trouble lurking just around the corner.
It's very well-conditioned, with zoysia fairways and bentgrass greens, and clear, little mountain streams that run along many of the fairways. Small waterfalls and bridges take you over lakes and ponds, and elegant landscaping augments the aesthetics: orange butterflies hovering over purple flowers.
LedgeStone is indeed a dramatic layout, 6,800 yards from the tips with a slope rating of 133, but it is also playable, especially if you don't get too bull-headed and play on the conservative side - at least on your first few trips around.
There is nothing fancy about the greens, they're just in good shape with some subtle breaks.
Golf Digest has described it as a "masterpiece of mountain golf architecture."
It is Branson's only private golf course, but they're rather lax about the rules here. LedgeStone has good practice facilities, a driving range and putting green, and elegant clubhouse. The carts have GPS.
Green fees range from $90 for outside guests to $79 for those staying on the property.
The Hilton Promenade is right next to the Branson convention center, in the heart of the historic Branson downtown, and overlooks the Branson Landing and Lake Taneycomo.
It's an impressive facility, with 242 rooms, suites and condos, most with nice views of the lake and the downtown. The one and two bedroom condos have fully equipped kitchens.
It also has a beautiful lobby and an excellent restaurant, the Liberty Tavern; try the fresh Maine lobster cakes and pan-seared trout.
The Hilton is only a short drive to the area's golf courses, 49 theaters, Table Rock Lake, Silver Dollar City, Celebration City and other Branson attractions. And, of course, its location right next to Branson Landing means a ton of shopping options are just a short walk away, including the Bass Pro Shop, a commercial shrine to bass fishing.
The Hilton has a very nice fitness center, with an indoor and hydrotherapy pool, weight room and dressing rooms for men and women.
The rooms have large business desks with high-speed Internet, both wired and wireless, video check-out and 32-inch, flat-screen televisions. There is a concierge service that can set up sight-seeing tours and get you tickets to shows.
Being next to the convention center, you'd expect business amenities, and the Hilton has a 24-hour business center, with copy machines, a fax and Internet access.
It can also provide meeting facilities for up to 4,500 people.
Valet parking is available for $12, and self-parking across the street is $8 a day.
July 1, 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.
Referred to by its hosts as a "hidden gem," the greens alone at Sterling Hills Golf Club in Camarillo, Calif. make this a stone worth turning over. Located an hour northwest of L.A., it's a pleasing, quiet and generally engaging round that will appease players of all levels.
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