Missouri's Lake of the Ozarks: Golf in the heart of the Show Me State

Missouri's Lake of the Ozarks is the largest man-made lake in the Midwest.

Dotting the surrounding countryside are some 15 golf courses and more than three-dozen resort and vacation properties collaborating on various stay-and-play packages. Taken all together, the Lake of the Ozarks is one of America's great, unheralded golf meccas.

Most of the courses surrounding the lake are included in the Lake of the Ozarks Golf Trail. The member courses in this impressively accessible and affordable trail are: Bear Creek Valley Golf Club, The Golf Club at Deer Chase, Osage National Golf Resort, Dogwood Hills Golf Resort, Eldon Golf Club, Hidden Lakes at Tan-Tar-A Resort, Indian Rock Golf Course, Lake Valley Golf & Country Club, Old Kinderhook, Rolling Hills Country Club, The Ridge Golf Course, Sycamore Creek Golf Club and The Oaks at Tan-Tar-A Resort.

The Oaks Course at Tan-Tar-A Resort

The Oaks at Tan-Tar-A Resort is a 6,432-yard, par-71 layout on the grounds of the most historic resort on the lake. Designed by Bruce Devlin and Robert Von Hagge, The Oaks has plenty of challenges off the tee, including some long carries over water and elevation changes. Add to this many approach shots that must navigate almost omnipresent water hazards, and you have yourself a memorable and enjoyable course you'll probably want to play several times.

Bear Creek Valley Golf Club

Bear Creek Valley Golf Club is an excellent value, and probably the most underrated course in the area. Measuring 6,796 yards from the tips, and just more than 6,100 yards from the regular tees, this superbly conditioned layout won't overwhelm players with length, but it will test every bit of their imaginations. Dramatic elevation changes make club selection a huge challenge. The entrance to the course looks like it's right behind a strip mall, but don't let first appearances fool you. Yard-for-yard, dollar-for-dollar and shot-for-shot, it may be the best deal on the lake.

Old Kinderhook G.C.

Old Kinderhook may have the area's highest greens fees, but the service and conditioning lend a private country club feel to the facility. The 6,833-yard Tom Weiskopf design features winding fairways lined with dense brush and demands accuracy and control from the elevated tees to the undulating greens. Trouble abounds off the tee (including the entirely blind first hole), with little room for error if you stray beyond the fairway. The course plays and feels shorter than the scorecard would lead you to believe, and if your driver isn't working, it's best to just leave it in the bag.

Osage National Golf Resort

Osage National Golf Resort boasts 27 holes, 18 of which were designed by Arnold Palmer. The 7,200-yard track is the longest in the area from the tips, but five sets of tees make it playable for all skill levels. The practice facilities are also the best in the area. They include two short-game facilities that, along with the driving range, are included in your green fees. So get there early for a pro-quality warm-up. As an added bonus, Osage National also has a large outdoor swimming pool complex that any non-golfers in your party can use at no extra charge while you play.

Besides golf -- and Osage National's pool complex -- there are plenty of off-course family activities on and around the Lake of the Ozarks, especially if you stay at one of the aforementioned resort properties. Fishing and boating on the lake are huge draws, of course, and sightseeing and dinner cruises are also available during peak season. Helicopter tours provide a bird's-eye view of the lake. Alternatively, you could go underground in either Bridal Cave or Jacob's Cave.

Lots of casual, pub-style restaurants are scattered around the lake shore, many of which can be accessed more easily by boat than by car.

We've always wondered what Missouri's state nickname (Show Me State) means, exactly. But at least in the Lake of the Ozarks, it seems to be short for "Show me the golf!

Kiel Christianson has lived, worked, traveled and golfed extensively on three continents. As senior writer and equipment editor for WorldGolf.com, he has reviewed courses, resorts, and golf academies from California to Ireland, including his home course, Lake of the Woods G.C. in Mahomet, Ill. Read his golf blog here and follow him on Twitter @GolfWriterKiel.
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Missouri's Lake of the Ozarks: Golf in the heart of the Show Me State