Dream Valley Golf Course’s 18-hole layout unfurls across 6,255 yards of pristine fairways kissed by seven ponds amid a farmland perimeter teeming with lush foliage. Though mostly characterized by forgiving, tree-lined fairways, the course’s inventive layout requires adept course management with many twisting hole designs and flagsticks that double as jousting sticks during golf-cart battles. A dramatic dogleg right on the par-4 fourth forms the course’s hardest-rated hole, wherein golfers must either attack the 365-yard corridor by crushing a forced carry over a large pond or lay up about 160–180 yards for a safer but less rewarding tee shot. Clubbers can careen across the emerald meadows on their own spiky-soled feet or enlist the help of the club’s stock of rental carts, which help loop the links efficiently while insisting on being called a Mars rover-in-training.
Course at a Glance:
Merging golf clubs, gyms, and pools for their exclusive members, GreatLife Golf & Fitness’s collective includes 13 diverse golf courses throughout Kansas and Missouri, from the National Audubon Society–certified River Oaks in Grandview, Missouri, to the 1920-built The Oaks in Leavenworth. Golfers fearing course commitment can opt to play one 18-hole game on any of the well-manicured courses, all a prime lot for testing out swings or attempting a more avant-garde drop-kick method. Covering greens fees for four and two carts (up to $32/person) for one day, quartets can cruise around their chosen orb obstacle anytime during the weekday, while weekend play is limited to after 11 a.m.
Amid the dense woods and dramatic slopes of the Ozarks, the sun rises over an 18-hole golf course, casting 7,324 yards of Tour-worthy fairways and greens in golden hues. A mist rises up from the grass blades, a nearby bird calls out, and it becomes obvious how fitting of a memorial the setting is to the late Payne Stewart. The iconic knickers-clad Missouri native charmed the golf world and won two U.S. Opens and a PGA Championship before his untimely end in 1999. Today, the Chuck Smith–designed Payne Stewart Golf Club carries hole names such as “Payne’s Pit” and “Chelsea’s Kiss”—the latter a reference to Payne’s daughter—in tribute.
A serpentine creek gurgles between two sets of parallel holes—the 9th and 15th, and the 16th and 17th—placing a premium on confident swings and sand wedges that double as snorkels. The most difficult hole on the course, the 9th, boasts tricky shot-making challenges—the tee shot and approach must clear water—and memorable scenery as golfers traverse a footbridge to reach the green, which sits next to a waterfall. In 2012, such features helped the course top Golfweek’s list of best courses in Missouri.
Course at a Glance
Celebrated by Golfweek as one of the 40 Best New Courses of 2010, the site where Civil War–bushwhacker Alfred Bolin and his gang once ambushed unsuspecting travelers is now John Daly’s Murder Rock Golf and Country Club. The 18-hole course plots an oscillating, 6,727-yard path over the foothills of the Ozark Mountains. The first hole sets the tone for the round with an elevated tee box that looks out 363 yards downhill into the mountainous contours that ripple against the horizon. The par 71 course concludes at the daunting 18th hole—the course’s longest par four and most difficult hole—where an aggressive drive can cut off the corner of a dog-leg right on the way to a severely sloped green and portal into Space Jam.
Legs weary from ascending steep hills or squat-thrusting golf carts can take a load off at Glenn’s at Murder Rock. Amid dark-stained wood paneling and leather-upholstered chairs, the eatery serves an inventive grill menu including steak flatbread sandwiches and pitas stuffed with Cajun-seasoned chicken or shrimp.
Course at a Glance:
Valley View Driving Range stretches for 325 yards lengthwise across a 15-acre former rock quarry. At the center of this expanse, situated a laser-confirmed 150 yards from the elevated row of tees, sits the range's most salient characteristic: a large satellite dish painted with a red bullseye. Players rain golf balls down upon the target from 17 stalls with synthetic mats and a 3,000 square-foot Bermuda grass hitting surface that mimics a real fairway, even providing grass stains while practicing the slide tackles of avant-garde golf. After emptying a bucket onto the range, players can hone their putting and chipping finesse on 400 square feet of short game practice area, and then retire to the clubhouse where they'll find a pool table, televisions, and cold beers awaiting their arrival.
Described by Kansas City Golf Tournament & Travel Magazine as "Ozark Mountain golf at its finest," LedgeStone Country Club’s course boasts a satisfying combination of both picturesque scenery and challenging design. The course’s "front and back nines flow seamlessly," and welcome guests during peak golfing season and even during traditional golfer hibernation months, either on the greens or inside the 27,000-square-foot clubhouse. There, visitors will find a pool, tennis courts, and a restaurant.
The ninth hole at Thousand Hills Golf Course lays out the course’s most dramatic tee shot: lined with trees, the contoured fairway doglegs left, challenging players’ accuracy with the threat of a stint in the hole’s inside bunker. It’s one of eight par 4 holes on a course that also features nine par 3 holes, all of which course designer Robert E. Cupp stretched out across immaculate Zoysia fairways. The course has been dubbed a four-star course by Golf Digest and twice named best golf course by Springfield News-Leader readers.
Unique sand traps and natural Ozark hazards infuse the course with a regional lure that follows players as they weave through the surrounding hardwood forests and past rock formations carved by time and generations of abandoned caddies. Every round at Thousand Hills comes complete with a GPS-equipped cart, as well as access to an onsite pro shop and clubhouse.
Course at a Glance: