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|The Payne Stewart Golf Club is scheduled to open in the fall of 2008. (Tim McDonald/WorldGolf.com)|
The Payne Stewart Golf Club will add to the collection of Branson golf courses when it opens this fall.
BRANSON, Mo. - Bob Allen rides around the unfinished golf course that will eventually be named after his life-long buddy and makes a little gesture, tapping his right shoulder.
"I feel like there's an angel on my shoulder every day," says the head professional who is also helping supervise the construction. "This is a special place. It's a job for me, but it's also a passion."
It's a rough ride because the Payne Stewart Golf Club is still being built, due to be finished sometime in the fall, and it is being routed through some ruggedly beautiful terrain. But you can see from the contours and outlines that it will indeed be a special place.
First of all, it has great elevation, up here in the Ozarks, a high plateau that covers much of the southern half of Missouri. There is one hole, the 18th, where it looks like you're hitting your tee shot straight up the face of a mountain - and this is after they raised the tee some 20 feet.
It will have a lot of risk/reward to it and make that cliché "using every club in the bag" ring true.
"Payne would have loved it," said Allen, who grew up with Stewart in nearby Springfield. "It's going to require power and patience. You're going to have to strategize, and you're going to have to hit a lot of different shots. That's what Payne was good at."
Some of the holes are modeled after holes where Stewart or one of his buddies did something memorable, or one of his favorite places. No. 6 has a two-tiered green behind a small, deep-lipped bunker that duplicates the shot Paul Azinger holed in the 1993 Memorial tournament to beat his friend, Stewart.
No. 5 is the "road hole," and No. 7 is a rough approximation of the postage stamp green at Royal Troon in Scotland, which Stewart loved so much. The front nine doesn't end at the clubhouse, and the halfway house is named the "House of Payne."
The golf course, which is being designed to lure premier tournaments, has an excellent closing stretch.
"Numbers 15 through 18 are about as good a stretch of finishing holes as I've seen anywhere," Allen said.
The fairways are zoysia, the rough is fescue and the greens will be fast, A-4 bentgrass with wildflowers adorning the hills and slopes off the fairways. The tees will be named after different tartan plaids, which of course is what Stewart liked to wear.
The idea behind the $27 million course, a touch over 7,400 yards, originally came from Bobby Clampett, the former player turned TV commentator. He and Charles Smith are designing it, with heavy input from Allen.
"The most interesting thing about the site that I saw the first few times I visited were all these features that are natural to the Ozarks," Smith is quoted as saying in a club brochure. "We are trying to keep the natural waterfalls, the rock outcroppings and to take what occurs there naturally and celebrate it."
Stewart won 11 PGA Tour events, including the '89 PGA Championship and the U.S. Open in '91 and '99. He also played on five Ryder Cup teams. Stewart was killed in a plane crash in 1999. He was 42 years old.
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, fax and Internet access.
It can also provide meeting facilities for up to 4,500 people.
[Editor's Note: In June 2015, Payne Stewart G.C. changed its name to Branson Hills Golf Club]
April 23, 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.
Having boarded the luxurious MV Europa 2 in Lisbon, Clive Agran had five days of golf cruising ahead. For those unfamiliar with the concept, golf cruising is a glorious combination of golf and cruising where a sedate sail is punctuated with the occasional round of golf.
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