New Golf Course Opening Gives Branson a Dozen Places to Play a Round

Branson, Missouri, is quickly becoming one of the most popular golf destinations in the United States. The Branson/Lakes Area now boasts more than a dozen courses for golfers of every caliber, and there’s not a better way to enjoy the magnificent scenery of the Ozark Mountains. After a round of golf, Branson offers over 100 live shows with many choices of music, comedy, magic, acrobats, and Broadway-style productions. And these wonderful golf courses are all “within driving range” of the great shows.

Branson has been welcoming guests to this beautiful area of the Ozarks in southwest Missouri for more than 100 years. Early visitors enjoyed fishing and floating the White River. Then, Lake Taneycomo and Table Rock Lake lured the fishermen. Golfing in these gorgeous Ozarks settings is just a natural.

John Daly”s Murder Rock Golf and Country Club (6727 yards) is the newest course to open in Branson. Located in Branson Creek, this 18-hole championship course has been described as “playing two different courses,” because of the elevation difference; the front nine is 300 feet below the back nine: one plays the valley, one plays the ridge. The designers, Landmark National (Oak Tree, La Quinta, PGA West), worked with natural topography and built the course into some challenging terrain. With a creek crossing, water on two holes and 35 well-placed bunkers, players will find it demanding. Murder Rock is open for public and private play and will be an affordable game.

Branson Creek has been named one of the “best places to retire” and is also home to the Tom Fazio-designed Branson Creek Golf Club (7012 yards), named by Golf Digest the #1 public course in Missouri and #56 in the United States. Branson Creek is four miles south of Branson on U.S. Hwy. 65 and just a couple of miles from Branson’s new regional airport, scheduled to open in 2009.

Golf Digest calls the LedgeStone Golf Course (6724 yards) at StoneBridge Village, “a masterpiece of mountain golf architecture.” StoneBridge Village is nestled into 3000 acres of gorgeous Ozark woodlands. Dense forests border most of the narrow Zoysia fairways. Bunkers surround speedy bentgrass greens and water comes into play on ten holes…and beautiful birds, occasional wildlife and lush scenery come into play on every hole! LedgeStone also offers a driving range and putting green as well as an area for short game and bunker practice. Play is limited to residents and the village’s nightly rental guests.

Thousand Hills Golf Club (5111 yards) is set in the heart of Branson, just off Green Mountain Drive. It has hilly terrain, with lakes and creeks coming into play on 16 holes. Thousand Hills has a 3-1/2 star rating from Golf Digest. Local entertainer Mickey Gilley is a golfer you’re likely to see when you play Thousand Hills. Gilley plays as often as he can, “Every day that ends in ‘y’,” he says, with that trademark grin. “The Thousand Hills course is just great fun.” And if you want to get a hole-in-one, Thousand Hills is a good bet. Gilley has had four at this popular Branson course! The course features USGA bentgrass greens with Zoysia fairways and tees.

Gilley also brags about the other courses in Branson and says “Golfing is great in Branson, and there’s so much else to do: shopping, shows—a great variety of shows, not just country music!”

Rudy Gatlin is another musician who loves golfing in Branson. Rudy and his brothers, Steve and Larry, will be performing at Dick Clark’s American Bandstand Theater in 2008. Rudy and his brothers recently ranked high on Golf Digest’s list of “Top 100 Golfers in Music”, its first ranking of top musicians who play golf. Rudy was ranked #6, Larry #7 and Steve #8. How does Rudy feel about being the #1 Gatlin golfer? “Sweet! There is nothing sweeter on this earth than seeing your brother take his money, out of his pocket and put it in your pocket!” Rudy says they love the Branson courses and are looking forward to playing the new Murder Rock course. “The topography is wonderful. There’s a 360° view from the clubhouse!”

Two other musicians who “play Branson” are in that prestigious Top 100. Glen Campbell and Charley Pride both made the cut. Visitors often ask, where do the entertainers go “late night?” Answer: Most go home to get a good night’s sleep so they can be up early for a round of golf!

Ladies love golfing in Branson, too. Several of the courses are shorter, and many are designed for all skill levels, including forward tees, greens with open fronts, few forced carries and multiple tee boxes.

Pointe Royale Golf Course (6067 yards) is another popular course with residents, entertainers and visitors. Pointe Royale, a resort and residential neighborhood and home to many Branson entertainers, is on Hwy. 165 across from the Welk Resort. This 18-hole course has a short layout; but the Bermuda fairways are narrow and tree-lined. There is water on nine holes and a bunker on every hole, making it not only fun, but also a challenge for all players.

The Payne Stewart Golf Club is scheduled to open in summer 2008. The 18-hole course, designed by Bobby Clampett, is named for the late, great golf professional Payne Stewart. Stewart was from Springfield, Missouri, and the course honors his character with plaques at every hole. A 13,800 sq. ft. clubhouse is also under construction. Branson Hills, a 1200-acre residential and commercial development, wraps around the course, which is just five minutes north of Branson on Hwy. 65.

Holiday Hills Golf Resort (5771 yards) is located about three miles east of Branson and is a very “user friendly” course. It offers flat to rolling terrain with a variety of holes to challenge both low and high handicappers. Wide, open fairways, large greens…40 bunkers and water on 16 holes. The Holiday Hills course was built in 1938 and totally rebuilt just a few years ago.

Top of the Rock Golf Course (1330 yards) is owned by Big Cedar Lodge and located just three miles east of the elegantly rustic resort. The nine-hole par three course is a Jack Nicklaus signature golf course and is also a member of the Audubon Signature Cooperative Sanctuary Program. From forest-lined fairways to spectacular views of Table Rock Lake, the course has retained native plants, which in turn allow native bird and mammal populations to thrive. Top of the Rock is currently undergoing major renovation and is scheduled to open in the spring of 2008.

Executive Timbers Golf Course is a nine-hole, par 36 private course that offers guests a scenic golf experience. Executive Timbers is in Ridgedale, Missouri, on Hwy. 86, just minutes south of Branson off Hwy. 65. In and around Branson, visitors can find several other (public) courses to enjoy: Kimberling Golf Course in Kimberling City; Kings River Golf Course in Shell Knob; Oak Tree Golf Club in Forsyth; and Don Gardner’s Pitch ‘n’ Putt in Branson.

Mickey Gilley was right when he said, “There’s so much to do in Branson!” Great golfing, wonderful shows and attractions, shopping, a wide variety of restaurants, breathtaking scenery… and a choice of accommodations from motel rooms and cabins to elegant lake resorts, from condos to world-class hotels.

Pack up the golf gear, round up your golfing friends and make plans to have a marvelous golfing vacation in Branson. Golfing weather lasts late into the fall and it’s not unusual to have nice golf days during the winter months. And that wonderful Ozarks hospitality is always in season. Golfing in Branson is definitely above par!

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