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Golf is Stocked at Lake of the Ozarks

By: Steve Habel


Missouri's Lake of the Ozarks, located some 180 miles from St. Louis, 170 miles from Kansas City and 90 miles from Springfield, is not the easiest place to get to. But it is that remoteness, along with the lake's reputation as the Midwest's premier lake resort destination, that send vacationers - especially golfers, boaters and fishermen - scurrying here year-round.

A Waterfall and Fall Colors Enhance Old Kinderhook

Then there's the shopping, variety of lodgings, restaurants, state parks and sundry outdoor activities to suit any budget and taste. Lake of the Ozarks vacations are also defined by the lake and its many waterfront accommodations, eateries and entertainment venues.

Lake of the Ozarks has more than 1,100 miles of shoreline in four different Missouri counties. The massive water body is the largest manmade lake in the Midwest and has made it a popular vacation spot for visitors from all over the world.

A big part of the allure is that the region boasts 279 holes of golf, with many featuring water and elevation changes created by the area's endemic rolling hills. During a recent trip to the area, we played six courses over a three-day period. That's a lot of golf.

This is the first of three reports resulting from that excursion, which was enjoyable despite intermittent rains that kept us on cart paths for the majority of the trip and tested the drainage capabilities of the courses.

The 7th green at Old Kinderhook

Old Kinderhook Flaunts Weiskopf's Best Qualities

Set among the valleys surrounding the lake and offering spectacular vistas, the Club at Old Kinderhook in Camdenton was the best of the six-pack of courses we played in the area. Designed by Tom Weiskopf and opened in 1999, the track meanders through the Ozark Hills and optimizes undulating topography, rock waterfalls and flowering trees. Each hole seems to capture a special aspect of the terrain and create a delightful experience.

With few forced carries, reasonable width and no tricked-up design elements, Old Kinderhook is fair but demanding. The 6,855-yard, par-71 layout features zoysia tees and fairways, and large bentgrass greens. From the tips, it carries a 72.7 rating and 137 slope.

With a 430-yard start and back-to-back two-shotters at the 432-yard fourth and the 446-yard fifth, Old Kinderhook's front side is defined by its par-4s. Water is prevalent on Nos. 4, 5 and 8 (another testy par-4 that plays over a creek and involves a greenside pond), but not enough of a problem for low handicappers. Meanwhile, Nos. 4, 6 and 9, the later of which is the front's lone par-5 and - at 514-yards, can be reached by two long and accurate shots.

Though the par-4 10th is a force to be reckoned with, the back nine switches tack with two par-3s and pair of par-5s. At 202 yards, the 11th has a shallow green flanked by sand. The back side's other one-shotter is the 206-yard 16th, which can be a bear if the cup is cut back-right behind a bunker next to the oval-shaped putting surface.

The 559-yard 14th brings four huge bunkers and two smaller ones into play on the second shot and approach, and the closer, a 516-yard par-5, turns slightly right off the tee and is lined by lakes on both sides.

Golf Digest gave Old Kinderhook a 4-star rating, while Golfweek ranks it as one of the top semiprivate tracks in Missouri. Though challenging for the serious golfer, Old Kinderhook has a player-friendly personality. The contours and elevation changes are subtle, and there are level landing areas, a rare characteristic in this part of the country.

The course serves as the centerpiece of the 700-plus-acre Old Kinderhook community. Along with the two practice greens, an 11-acre practice facility, short-game and bunker practice areas, the facility features a golf shop, member clubhouse with locker rooms, two restaurants and banquet space.

For more details, visit www.oldkinderhook.com.

Sycamore Creek's 3d Hole & Adjoining Hatcheries

Sycamore Creek Tempts Swinging from the Heels

The short but challenging Sycamore Creek Golf Club in Osage Beach is a fine companion to Old Kinderhook. Designed by Pete Kahrs and build around fish hatchery ponds owned for more than 50 years by his family, the layout utilizes every inch of natural elevation to tempt big hitters off the tee.

Opened as a nine-hole facility in 1995 and expanded to 18 in 1999, the course features zoysia teeing areas, Bermuda fairways and Crenshaw bentgrass greens. Beautiful native trees engird most fairways, giving the layout a mature look. Water, provided by the hatchery's ponds and runoff from the Ozark Hills, adds appeal to the course, which has been voted one of the two most popular layouts in the area for the past eight years.

The plethora of water lends much charm to Sycamore Creek. Care has been taken to keep the hatchery and course in balance, with golf course chemicals carefully managed to keep irrigation and pond water habitat-safe. This is a tricky balancing act, but one the Kahrs family takes seriously.

In the spring, when the area experiences its share of sudden showers, some golfers may take shelter in the hatchery building, enabling them to observe fish at the height of their spawning season. The most talked-about fish in the hatchery is the paddlefish, or spoonbill. These large creatures, 4 to 5 feet in length, are held in tanks until it's time for them to spawn.

The par-72, 6,279-yard layout tempts players with a series of short par-4s that seemingly can be taken advantage of. Its longest two-shotter is the dogleg-left 418-yard 13th, the only par-4 in excess of 400 yards.

The hatchery ponds are most evident on the front side, and you will play over and around them on the 358-yard par-4 second and the 377-yard, par-4 third, making accurate drives on these holes a must. On the 320-yard, par-4 eighth, a creek enters play but can be avoided with a decent drive.

The back side starts with a downhill, 628-yard par-5 with a shallow green guarded by one of the few bunkers on the course. Your next tests come when approaching the shallow, two-tiered green at the 375-yard, par-4 11th; the tee shot at the 318-yard, par-4 15th (which runs downhill to a pond-fronted green); and the 331-yard 16th, which turns slightly right before rising to an elevated putting surface.

You can get a shot back on the closer, a 458-yard downhill-then-back-uphill par-5 that requires a lot more club than indicated by the yardage.

Sycamore Creek is one of the best "homegrown" courses you may play, yet, with a rating of 68.6 and 123 slope from the tips you should be able to score here. For more information or a tee time, visit www.sycamorecreekgolfclub.com.

Steve Habel is one of Cybergolf's national correspondents, contributing news stories, features, equipment and book reviews and personality profiles from his base in Central Texas. He is also the managing editor for Business District magazine in Austin and works as a contributing editor for Horns Illustrated magazine, a publication focusing on University of Texas sports. He also writes a blog (www.shotoverthegreen.blogspot.com), which features news on golf and the Longhorns.