View large image | More photos
|Thousand Hills Golf Resort is short but has some tricky carries onto greens. (Tim McDonald/WorldGolf.com)|
BRANSON, Mo. - The Thousand Hills Golf Resort is the most popular golf course in Branson, and a great deal of that is due to its location - it's right off Highway 76 where all the action is: comedy acts, shopping malls and live country music legends.
"My biggest competition isn't other golf courses," said Head Professional Cliff Easum. "My biggest competition is Mickey Gilley."
There are roughly 19,000 rental units surrounding the area, including the condos on the course itself. Thousand Hills is literally in the middle of the tourist hordes that arrive in Branson daily.
Of course, that isn't the only reason Thousand Hills is so popular. It's a public golf course, for one thing, and for another, it is simply a fun play, particularly if you're short on time.
It's a Bob Cupp design with fairways that dip, swoop and twist, falling off to rocky creeks and canyons. It has excellent elevation changes, despite being in the heart of the Branson strip.
It's a very short course - all the better to hurry through so you can catch Yakov Smirnoff's laugh riot.
It measures only 5,111 yards with a par of 64. That includes nine par 3s.
"When they built it, it didn't have a footprint to put a full-sized golf course on," Easum said. "When you start selling land by the foot, you know what I mean."
The land around these parts is so valuable, in fact, that the driving range was replaced by high-rise condos. Much of the course, in fact, has condos looming over it.
That doesn't mean the course is easy. Some of the par 3s are difficult. No. 4, for example, is a 203-yarder over a valley into a tough green. No. 7 is over water - "This is the only hole the little old ladies bitch at me about," said Easum.
No. 17 is 205 yards from the back tees, over water and a marshy area.
"It's a modern, target-style golf course," Easum said. "People see that par 64 on the scorecard and think they're going to tear this place up. Even the good players will get their ass handed to them. We really try to discourage people from playing from the blue tees. It's just so hard."
The greens are Crenshaw bentgrass, subtle with a lot of tricky breaks.
Thousand Hills is a good golf course to test your short game with all the par 3s. It does have some other testers, like the 13th, where a 220-yard drive is necessary to carry the water, and the third hole, a 350-yard par 4 where they blasted the green out of rock. The elevated green sits atop a rocky cliff and must be approached high and soft.
The land on which the course sits was vacant for many years until it was developed. Back in the 1940s, it was the site of a girl scout camp.
Green fees are $59 in the mornings, $52 for seniors and $35 after noon.
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 6, 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.
... full article »