Carved out of the Ozarks, Central Missouri’s Lake of the Ozarks Golf Trail is a family-oriented golf getaway, known as the Midwest’s premier golf destination.
Tagged as the “Best Recreational Lake in the Nation,” there are 13 pristine, tree-lined golf courses, some overlooking stunning views of the lake.
The courses will challenge every level of golfer, from beginners to pros, and have been designed by world-class golfers, including Arnold Palmer, Robert Trent Jones Sr., Tom Weiskopf, Bruce Devlin and Robert Von Hagge.
On the lake, fun, food and recreation all within easy reach. More than 200 restaurants and bars for dining and nightlife, along with festivals and events throughout the year, are what make this area an exciting destination.
Bagnell Dam, the 148-foot tall concrete gravity dam that holds the Osage River, created the man-made Lake of the Ozarks. Construction on the dam began in 1929 and was completed in 1931. It was built by the Union Electric Light and Power Company for the hydroelectric-power-generating Osage Power Plant. Also contributing to the lake are smaller tributaries to the Osage: the Niangua River, Little Niangua, Grandglaize Creek and Gravois Creek.
The Lake of the Ozarks has more shoreline than the state of California, providing lake communities with beaches, boating, fishing and more, including several streams and lower water areas that are great for canoeing and kayaking. There are hundreds of miles of trails that range from easy to moderate. Several show caves entice those who seek to explore the world underground: Bridal Cave, Fantasy World Caverns, Jacob’s Cave, Ozark Caverns and Windermere Cave.
What kind of golf paradise lies in central Missouri? Well, show me!
The Old Kinderhook Golf Resort was our base over a long weekend as we played (well, I rode along on the cart and took notes) four courses out of 13 on The Lake of the Ozarks Golf Trail.
After a breakfast buffet, we played our first round of the golf trail at Osage National’s The River Course. There is a dramatic entry to the club, where we found very reasonable rates: $3,950 membership for family; $1,950 individual membership. The course is lush and verdant, with no humidity, and cool and sunny during our round.
Osage National Golf Resort, Lake Ozark – This 27-hole course features three unique 18-hole combinations, with its original 18 holes designed by Arnold Palmer. Laid out on beautifully forested rolling terrain, surrounded by lakes, creeks and the imposing bluffs of the Osage River, golfers find a challenging, enjoyable golfing experience in a tranquil setting. Osage National remains the “Must Play Course at the Lake.”
This course is named for The Osage River, gloriously green, which runs alongside the course. Homes overlook expansive stone bluffs onto the river and course.
As the first morning wore on, I’m wondering: Is golf really an exercise in self-flagellation? On every hole what I heard from the group is “Ugh!” “Geez” or “I should have done better.” We finished holes six to nine, and then broke for lunch at the clubhouse.
The afternoon brought a round across the street, at Osage National’s Mountain Course. Don’t be deceived by the more laid-back-look of the first hole. It’s a real kicker! This course is older and tighter, with forest vegetation right up to the cart path.
The golfers mentioned the lack of information throughout the course. There is no course layout on the back of the score cards and no pictures on the signs either. They approached each hole without knowing if it went left or right, or what was beyond the drop-off. They were up to the challenge, however; laughter and jokes filled the afternoon.
Our next golfing adventure took us to The Cove at The Lodge of Four Seasons, which was designed by Robert Trent Jones Sr. The Cove is The Lodge of Four Season’s much-celebrated flagship course. Featuring 72 bunkers, rolling hills and water coming into play on nine of the 18 holes, The Cove is anything but tame. Breathtaking views of the Lake of the Ozarks and a classic design leave golfers wanting another shot at this legendary course.
The Lodge of Four Seasons Resort, Marina and Spa offers a connection to the convention center, and main attractions such as the Gran Rally Karts and Osage Beach Premium Outlets are close by. Choose from four restaurants for dining.
We played nine holes on The Cove Course, where starting at hole 18 we were playing along a busy street with a wide spread of grass. This course is not as manicured as some – it’s neat and clean, but not detailed. Hole number four is the signature hole on The Cove Course with a view of the lake included. You pop the ball over the lake inlet! The golf carts have GPS and digital messaging, giving distance to the green, among other bits of information, including a warning of when players are still on the next hole.
The Oaks at Tan-Tar-A Resort, at Osage Beach, was designed by Bruce Devlin and Robert Von Hagge. This championship layout is carved out of the natural Ozark hills and places a premium on accurate shots and course management. Its undulating bent grass greens, breathtaking elevation changes and scenic views of the Lake of the Ozarks make this course a “can’t-miss” for golfers visiting the area. Tan-Tar-A Resort sits directly on the lake and offers boat slips, indoor/outdoor pools, a childrens’ pool with slide and lazy river, and Windjammer Spa. Choose dining in the Windrose or Black Bear Lodge and relax in posh rooms with rich colors.
We enjoyed a scenic cruise from Tan-Tar-A Resort on Lake Truman at the Harry S Truman Dam and Reservoir. Lake Truman is the largest man-made lake in Missouri, encompassing more than 55,600 acres and offers 958 miles of coastline, with a diverse wildlife and area rich in the history of Osage Indians, explorers, fur trappers, traders and settlers. The reservoir is fed by four rivers and several small streams, which creates a diverse fishing experience. The lake often hosts major fishing tournaments and power-boat races. Of all the houses we saw along this lake, 80 to 85 percent are second homes.
The Old Kinderhook Golf Resort course in Camdenton, with spectacular vistas, elevations and a championship layout, meanders through the Ozark hills at this Tom Weiskopf-designed masterpiece. Each hole captures a special aspect of the terrain and offers an experience to delight all golfers. The rolling topography, rock waterfalls and flowering trees are all trademarks of this course, which was voted the second best in Missouri by readers of “Golf Magazine.”
With an 84-room lodge (all with balconies), cottages, villas, patio homes or estate homes to choose from, Old Kinderhook offers something for everyone. Amenities include more than 11,000 square feet of flexible meeting and conference space – both indoor and outdoor; a boutique spa; tennis courts, boat slips, Lake of the Ozark’s only ice rink, fire pits all around and more – Old Kinderhook Resort is great!
The Old Kinderhook Golf Resort brings out fireworks and music festivals during the summer holidays, as well as other summer activities, including a sand volleyball court with leagues, indoor/outdoor pools and live music. Also hot are yard games like pond hockey and broomball. They provide ice skating and hot chocolate during the winter, and create an entire Christmas Village including a Santa breakfast, carriage rides and ice skating. The whole place is decorated with lights! There are carolers, dance troops, Santa and Mrs. Claus, gingerbread decorating, Christmas movies, elf storytelling and Christmas scavenger hunts.
It’s a great place to host weddings, reunions and special events. Guests may get married on the golf course or in the Hearth Room, too. Guided fishing trips, water recreation and marina facilities are here for outdoor enthusiasts. Play Date Charters provide a variety of cruises, including sunset cruise, harbor hop cruise, wedding cruise or proposal cruise.
Old Kinderhook is also a gated residential community, where there are more than 700 acres and 100 homes, including condos, which are a weekend luxury retreat just moments from the lake. There are fabulous home sites, amenities, views and terrific golf. The goal of the lodge is to get folks to fall in love with the area and build a home or retire there.
Old Kinderhook Resort rates are amazing, plus they include a round of golf, which is an unheard-of bargain. The most recent rate was $129 per night. This golf resort is surrounded by such beauty and mountains, and it’s located only 10 minutes from the lake.
Old Kinderhook Golf Resort Marketing Coordinator Heather Brown met with us, and gave an update on the resort and gated community.
“We have a sustainable garden here,” said Brown. “Our kitchen and homeowners share. Local farmers bring their crops every Friday from 1 to 6 p.m. at the side of the building. Farmers can their own jellies, and bring homemade cookies and pies. Our produce comes from them until the garden comes in.”
According to Brown everything on the property, although gated, is open to the public and is very safe. Thousands attend the free Memorial Day Festival.
A little afternoon shower brought the golfers indoors prematurely, so the next morning, before flights out, they headed back to the course for a few more holes. Stunning views, challenging holes of golf at 13 courses, affordable homes, villas and bungalows in master-planned communities and a rela vacation-attitude lake adds up to a perfect score!
There are 13 golf courses on the The Lake of the Ozarks Golf Trail: More information for Central Missouri Lake of the Ozark’s Golf Trail is available at and .