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The Club at Old Kinderhook near the Lake of Ozarks, Missouri demands precision and patience

Kiel ChristiansonBy Kiel Christianson,
Senior Writer
The Club at Old Kinderhook - hole 5
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The green complex of the 446-yard, par-4 fifth at The Club at Old Kinderhook is a work of art. (Andrew Hollingworth/TravelGolf)

CAMDENTON, Mo. – Back in his playing heyday, Tom Weiskopf was known as one of the best iron players on the PGA Tour. He earned near-legendary status for his precision with the blades, and his swing was classic.

Golf courses designed by great players, especially early in their architectural careers, follow their golfing strengths.

Such is the case at the The Club at Old Kinderhook, a 1999 Weiskopf layout. It ranks as one of his earlier solo efforts, and it's clear that Weiskopf expects players here to control their golf ball, especially off the tee.

Measuring 6,833 yards from the Championship tees, just 6,310 yards from the Club tees and 5,764 from the Member tees, The Club at Old Kinderhook somehow feels shorter than the scorecard reads. As head pro Christopher Buescher noted at the start of my visit: "The course is not long, so if your driver isn't working, keep it in the bag."

Buescher was right on the money. Few chances exist for a big hitter to rear back and blast the driver. Although the fairways are relatively wide, a number of blind landing areas pose trouble off the tee.

Buescher also described the rough as "thick and lush." Additionally, there isn't much of it; just a few yards of the thick rough border most fairways. Beyond the rough, you'll find dense, ball-eating underbrush.

The result, at least during a first encounter with Old Kinderhook, is a round of golf marked by shorter clubs and several surprises off the tee -- and, at least in my case, a number of ball offerings to the golf gods in the woods.

How The Club at Old Kinderhook plays

The facilities at Old Kinderhook are exceptional, arguably the best in the Lake of the Ozarks area. The practice range, included in greens fees, is especially enjoyable, hilly and woodsy with tucked pins to hone the precision you'll need to score well.

After the tee shot on the first hole -- forget the driver unless playing from the 430-yard tips -- first-time visitors notice the impeccably conditioned zoysia fairways. The blades of this strain are so stiff that the starter warns golfers that their carts feel like they're fish-tailing on the fairways -- and they really do.

The benefit: Your ball sits in the fairway like it's on a tee. The drawback, according to one member, comes when an Old Kinderhook regular plays a golf course with bentgrass fairways; it feels like the ball is sitting in a divot all day.

The 446-yard fifth and the 416-yard eighth rank as the highlights of the front nine. The fifth and the par-5 ninth set up well for a driver, and that's it before the turn. The fairway on the fifth is very wide, but trouble awaits on all sides as soon as you leave the verdant zoysia. The green complex is also memorable, perched over a partial rock wall and guarded on the front-left side by wetlands.

The greens are tough, too.

"People struggle with the greens," Buescher said. "There are a lot of subtleties, and you need to pay attention to your surroundings."

The speed of the greens account for much of challenge. On my visit, they were very slow, and it was hard to get myself to hit the ball hard enough to reach the hole.

The par-4 eighth hole, perhaps the prettiest and most fun spot on the golf course, features a tee shot that travels some 70 feet downhill to a dogleg-left fairway with a creek along the far side. Between the elevation change and the hazard, driver is out again for many, but even a 5-wood struck from such a height makes for a great memory.

The back nine is not as picturesque, and it contains more blind tee shots at the 13th and 14th. The most enjoyable hole on the back, the 408-yard 12th, much like the eighth, includes a tee shot that sails 80 feet down to the fairway. In addition, there's a tall tree in the fairway that's fun to clear and likely leads to lot of manly grunting at the tee box.

The Club at Old Kinderhook: The verdict

Visitors to Lake of the Ozarks have 13 courses from which to choose, and The Club at Old Kinderhook should rank among the top flight of any list. The golf course is conditioned better than most -- or any other -- on the lake. The service and facilities are tops, reflected in $55 to $85 green fees, the area's highest, including cart and range balls.

The extremely penal rough rates as only serious knock on the Weiskopf design -- and even more, what lies beyond the rough, especially on the holes that feel somewhat shoehorned into narrow valleys.

The bluegrass rough itself, especially around the greens, is wiry and thick, almost like crabgrass, making it nearly impossible to play flop shots or high touch shots around the greens. Savvy golfers will play lots of bump-and-run shots that trundle to the hole.

As long as you can keep your 6-irons and above in play, you can score here. But if your shots go awry, you might end up as hot-headed as Weiskopf back in the days of psychedelic slacks and muscle-back 1-irons.

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Old Kinderhook golf course - hole 7The Club at Old Kinderhook - hole 8Old Kinderhook G.C. - hole 12

Kiel Christianson has lived, worked, traveled and golfed extensively on three continents. As senior writer and equipment editor for WorldGolf.com, he has reviewed courses, resorts, and golf academies from California to Ireland, including his home course, Lake of the Woods G.C. in Mahomet, Ill. Read his golf blog here and follow him on Twitter @GolfWriterKiel.

Any opinions expressed above are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of the management.

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