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The 6 best golf holes and courses – Lake of the Ozarks

At first glance, with 1,150 miles of shoreline, the Lake of the Ozarks in central Missouri is obviously a boating and water mecca. Most potential visitors don’t know that the area boasts a golf trail with 12 courses that meander along the shoreline and up and down the adjacent hills. The result is golf worth the trip.

The Cove

The Cove Golf Course is part of the Lodge of the Four Seasons, so dining and lodging are literally a short walk. The Robert Trent Jones design has 72 bunkers and 9 holes with water in some form. Getting the ball in play off the tee is paramount, with both the correct distance and placement key. With plenty of attention-getting holes, the par 3, second hole gets your focus off the bat. No way to run the ball up except for a narrow corridor on the right. Your short iron shot needs precision, with sand and a creek running along most of the left side

Bear Creek Valley

Bear Creek Valley was built on two adjoining farms, one owned by the Color Guard of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. No houses or development, just great golf that meanders up, down, and around the natural features. Number 5 is a 426-yard par 4 with a tricky shot to a pitched downhill landing area which, if successful, gives a clear shot to the green. And, to start your day, the head pro is also the chef of the fabulous restaurant, so a breakfast to fuel your round will be tasty and satisfying.


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Osage National

Osage National is a combination of three, 9-hole courses. The River, Mountain, and Links play as described by the name. Designed by Arnold Palmer, the last 9 were added in 1997. The golfer can play one, two, or all three nines. While the Mountain course has the most notable holes, the other two have unique individual layouts. The River Course #2 is a 445-yard par 4 requiring a long tee shot with the river down the left and bunkers down the right. If that wasn’t enough challenge, the green is slightly elevated and requires a laser second shot around the bunkers.

The Oaks

The Oaks is across the road from the Margaritaville Resort, and while passing, you get a glimpse of just a few holes. That provides a visual tone of tree-lined fairways, ups and downs, and a bevy of oak trees. The Oaks wander through wooded areas with only a few holes bordering homes. Most of the holes provide views of the lake. The challenge is the wooded borders and well-placed bunkers. Number 13 is a medium-length par 4 where the tree-lined edges of the tee shot play havoc with the mind and might distract focus from a fair green once you get in position.

Old Kinderhook

Old Kinderhook is a resort course with generous fairways, big greens, and overall playability. The trail meanders through the property with almost no adjacent holes. One of the most exciting holes is the par 4, 15th, adjacent to the clubhouse. At nearly 300 yards with a creek in the middle, this hole is just begging for you to drive the green. This can be done despite a slight elevation rise to the green, yet it requires a herculean drive. The Hook Cafe has extensive grab-and-go options for any time of day. Great for those dash and play times early in the morning.

Lake Valley Golf Club

Lake Valley Golf Club is a what you see is what you get course with no hidden surprises. That tends to lull the golfer to a sense of easy shots, yet the layout boasts ups, downs, bends, and most greens guarded by bunkers. From the blue tees, it is 6373 yards, but likely one of the most fun and challenging courses of that length. The 16th hole is a moderate length par 5 where water with the lake on the left, the creek in the fairway, and an elevated green await. If the wind blows towards the tee box, add 50+ yards to your needed tee and second shots. And then, there is the uphill approach to the green for added challenge.

Neil Wolkodoff

Neil Wolkodoff is a golf and travel writer from Denver, Colorado. He covers golf, dining, activities and accommodations from the luxury and unique perspective. He has even been golfing with goats.

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  1. Golf courses with 9 hole courses are good. The flexibility is useful. I frequent some courses where we play 9 and recover over a leisurely lunch. Then play another 9 in the afternoon.

    1. We often have an early morning 4 ball over 18 holes and then do brunch afterwards, see how we feel, there’s usually at least a 2 ball that goes out for another 9 holes. It’s amazing how much a good brunch can recharge the batteries.

    2. Jim and Julia, the one course where this is likely possible is Osage National with their three 9s. The others are really set up for 18 holes, or just 9 and not a re-start after the break. However, I was told when they are in low-season, they are a bit more flexible on tee times and this sort of schedule.

    1. Pete, definitely more golf than you can reasonably do each day, even if 7 days. After my first trip, my take is play 9 or a slightly easier layout the first day. They two full days on. So many other activities like the Lake, that really takes a full day and makes for a good recovery. Then two or three on the backside. I found they were pretty much as advertised and described, so an easy means to see what fits your golf preferences.

  2. I like to walk my home course, yet it appears the courses have quite a bit of hills, and they probably don’t suite walking in a reasonable amount of time. I am used to the fact most resort courses like this require carts, and I just walk sections of a hole for a bit more exercise. I have never been to a location where golf combines with water activities like this, so I am enticed to plan a trip.

    1. Niles, correct you are about walking these courses over the 18. Just too much distance between greens and tee boxes, and the hills are substantial in various parts. My guess is a 4.5 hour round would be 5.5-6.0 if walking, and that is if the person is in better aerobic shape than average. Yes, the Lake is a great blend of golf, water and other activities. if you want to hike, plenty of hiking trails around the Lake and within the close by state parks.

    1. Mary, I liked them all for different reasons. Many places you go are variations on a theme. For example, desert golf in the southwest seems similar from course to course. At the Lake, the one constant is trees, otherwise they have very different character and nuances from course to course. That is what made the six very golf fun, they were different day to day.

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