It’s always a two-for-the-price-of-one special for golfers at Payne Stewart Golf Club in Branson, Mo. Not only do we get to play a spectacular, award-winning course, but we also receive a history lesson.
The 7,324-yard, par-72 layout — designed by Chuck Smith with assistance from Bobby Clampett — is a unique tribute course dedicated to the life and legacy of Stewart, a native of nearby Springfield. Plaques on each tee box recall a funny, enlightening story of Stewart’s life and golf experiences. The clubhouse’s sports bar displays images of Stewart’s professional and personal life, with his major-championship and Ryder Cup memorabilia, trademark outfits and golf shoes and photos and paintings also gracing the clubhouse.
A local course rule, “Payne’s Pet Peeve,” even allows balls resting in sand-filled divots in your own fairway to be played as ground under repair, an ode to Stewart’s final-round bad luck in the 1998 U.S. Open when, as the leader, his 12th-hole drive found a sand-filled divot, resulting in a bogey and Lee Janzen’s eventual one-shot win.
The $31 million course, which opened in 2009, was carved through rugged, forested terrain and masterfully utilizes the property’s rolling hills, exposed rock outcroppings, streams, brooks and waterfalls. The numerous elevation changes include several exhilarating drives from skyscraper tee boxes, which provide breathtaking panoramic views of the surrounding Ozarks countryside.
One of my favorite downhill tee shots is on the 344-yard third, the only remotely reachable par 4. The wide fairway narrows considerably as it approaches a green surrounded by natural rock cliffs, water and sand. Among my many other favorites are the beautiful 432-yard ninth, which requires a 220-yard drive over creek shoals, followed by an approach over a greenside creek.
The 225-yard 12th necessitates a carry over a lake and front-left greenside bunker to a very shallow putting surface.
The 434-yard 17th provides an incredible tee-box vista before having to clear water with your drive, then an uphill approach over a stream that must avoid a discrete rock ledge within the right greenside bunker. Fortunately I hit the green, as did my playing partner and cart buddy, Buck Trent, who joined our threesome on the first tee. Amiable Buck — a country-music legend who performs popular daily shows in his own Branson theater — regaled me with fascinating, non-stop showbiz stories.
Buck said many other Branson performers play golf, so if you’re also fortunate enough to be joined by Buck or another star at Payne Stewart Golf Club, you’ll receive an unexpected history lesson. It’s really difficult to beat a three-for-the-price-of-one special.
The Lowdown: Payne Stewart Golf Club
Rates: Through Feb. 29, $59; March 1-31, $59-$69; April 1-30, $59-$79; May 1-Oct. 31, $59-$99; Nov. 1-Dec. 31, $59-$69
Stay-and-play packages: Call 417-337-2963/877-337-2963 or visit http://paynestewartgolfclub.com/payne-stewart-golf-course/Specials.asp