St. Louis: Gateway City to fine barbecue, beer and a quality daily fee golf scene

Busch Stadium, where the St. Louis Cardinals play, is located downtown.

ST. LOUIS — It's called the Gateway City because it's the "gateway to the west." Perched on the Mississippi River between Missouri and Illinois, for much of America's history, St. Louis was the last vestige of civilization before entering the Wild, Wild West.

Up until 1954, the St. Louis Cardinals were the westernmost team in major league baseball (Kansas City got the A's from Philadelphia in 1954). Bellerive Country Club was five years old when it staged the 1965 U.S. Open.

Of course, modern St. Louis is in the middle of the country, accessible by folks on both coasts and just 300 miles from Chicago, 250 miles from Indianapolis and 250 miles from Kansas City. Like any big city, St. Louis offers up the arts, major sports (the Cardinals and the NHL's Blues) and its own brand of food, entertainment and recreation.

The city may have lost the Rams to Los Angeles in 2016, But in 2018, Bellerive holds the distinction of hosting the 100th PGA Championship.

Part of the recreation, of course, is golf. So if you take a trip to St. Louis to see the Cardinals, experience the blues scene, sample some its famous barbecue, or visit the famous Gateway Arch (it just underwent a $380 renovation), you'll want to know what your golf options are, too. Most of them are at least 20-30 minutes from downtown, but well worth the drive.

Annbriar, Gateway National lead the way

Annbriar Golf Course, Waterloo, Ill.: Find anybody who plays golf in the area and they will speak of Annbriar (which made Golf Advisor's Top 10 courses in 2017) with great reverence, and they should. It's hard to find a more welcoming daily fee operation or one more inspired. The course, designed by Michael Hurdzan, was built by William and Nancy Hobbe to honor their daughter Ann, who was killed in a car accident in 1990. Ann envisioned the golf course on the family farm one day, and the family made good on it, creating a player friendly layout that's both beautiful and challenging by all levels of players. Always in good shape, there are elevated tees, streams, a variety of trees and rolling fairways. Good food in the clubhouse, including a great breakfast, value, as well as nice practice facilities complete the package.

Gateway National Golf Links, Madison, Ill.: Located just five miles or so from downtown, many locals have Gateway National high on their list. Well conditioned, picturesque and well designed by architect Keith Foster, the course has a links feel throughout with fescue accenting the fairways and the option to run the ball up on many greens. You'll also find bridges, wetlands, Scottish-like burns and all the golf course you want if you play it from the back tees. The third hole, for example, is 661 yards from the tips.

The Golf Club at Missouri Bluffs is the only Tom Fazio design open to the public in the St. Louis area.

Missouri Bluffs, the only Tom Fazio design open to the public in the St. Louis area.

The Golf Club at Missouri Bluffs, St. Charles, Mo.: Located in St. Charles County about 30 miles west of St. Louis, Missouri Bluffs is the only Tom Fazio design open to the public in the area. Opened in 1995, the course features great views, terrific conditions and a fun layout.

Tapawingo National, Sunset Hills, Mo.: Also, a little less than 30 miles west of St. Louis, 27-hole hole Tapawingo National is a Gary Player design with plenty to love. The courses are built around hardwood forests, lakes and rivers and designed to accommodate every level of player. Joe Boccardi's Restaurant is also a favorite among golfers and nongolfers alike.

Stonewolf Golf Club, Fairview Heights, Ill.: Another high end public option in the St. Louis area is Stonewolf Golf Club, a Jack Nicklaus Signature Course (meaning he personally took an active hand in the design and development of the course). As you might expect, it's plenty challenging, but with five sets of tees, it does cater to the high handicapper as well. Best of all, it's a gorgeous layout with zoysia grass fairways and tees and bentgrass greens.

Pevely Farms Golf Club is a challenging Arthur Hills design located about a half hour west of St. Louis.

Arthur Hills designed Pevely Farms in Eureka, Mo.

Pevely Farms Golf Club, Eureka, Mo.: Located about a half southwest of St. Louis, Pevely Farms is on a beautiful piece of property. It's also very challenging. Designed by Arthur Hills, it can play nearly 7,200 yards from the tips. The biggest challenge is that even in the fairways, you won't find many level lies. And the rough is well, fairly thick, but fortunately the fairways are pretty wide. It's also worth noting that there are a cluster of golf courses all within a few miles of Pevely Farms, two of them right next door – Crescent Farms Golf Club and Aberdeen Golf Club. Crescent Farms Golf Club has 27 holes (including an executive nine) designed by Gary Kern, while Aberdeen has a scenic links/parkland look to it.

Some other courses worth considering: Forest Park's Norman K. Probstein Golf Course, which goes back to 1913, has 27 holes just minutes from downtown. Bear Creek Golf Clubis another solid 27-hole Kern design and a good value ($25 on a Friday, for example,) in St. Charles County. And Far Oaks Golf Club (Caseyville, Ill.) is a fun, well-conditioned layout designed by Belleville, Ill., native Bob Goalby, who won the 1968 Masters after Roberto De Vincenzo signed an incorrect scorecard.

St. Louis beyond golf

If you've never been to the Gateway Arch (and even if you have since it just received a makeover), that's definitely something you should find a little time for. You can take a tram to the top for magnificent views of the city and river, visit the new museum or take a riverboat cruise from there.

You'll also want to sample the barbecue in St. Louis while you're there, and St. Louis, of course, has its own style. Known for its St. Louis ribs, the brisket is pretty good, too, which you'll find out if visit one of the Sugarfire locations throughout the city. Sugarfire sources everything locally, including its beverages.

Sugarfire is a popular barbecue spot with several locations around St. Louis.

Sugarfire's downtown St. Louis location.

Among the best known barbecue spots, though, are Pappy's Smokehouse (3106 Olive St.) and Salt & Smoke (6525 Delmar Blvd.). Pappy's, which smokes its meats over apple and cherry wood, is Memphis style, offering several different sweet sauces. Salt & Smoke is a little more of a sit-down restaurant than most BBQ places, offering a full menu of not only meats and sides but craft beer and bourbon as well.

Speaking of beer, St. Louis is, of course, is the home of Anheuser Busch, and you might want to consider taking a tour there (1200 Lynch St.). But St. Louis has an impressive craft scene as well, which includes Urban Chestnut (4501 Manchester Ave., and 3229 Washington Ave.), Schlafly Beer (2100 Locust St.), 4 Hands Brewery (1220 S 8th St), and O'Fallon Brewery (45 Progress Pkwy, Maryland Heights, Mo.) Many of these breweries also offer tours.

St. Louis is also known for its terrific Italian restaurants. If you head out to a section of town called "The Hill," you'll have plenty of choices, like Cunettos House of Pasta. Or visit the Delmar Loop, an entertainment and dining hub with a mix of noodle bars, barbecue, Korean and Mexican eateries, cocktail lounges and pubs.

The city offers all sorts of entertainment venues, of course, and is famous for its blues scene. You could visit the National Blues Museum (615 Washington Ave.), then can eat the Broadway Oyster Bar or check out shows at Beale on Broadway or BB's Jazz Blue Soups.

Comedy clubs are also big in St. Louis (the Helium books some of the biggest standup acts in the nation), and there's also The Peabody and Fox Theatre that offer big-name entertainment.

If you have the family in tow, the St. Louis Zoo offers free admission and features 18,000 animals from 700 species. It makes up 90 acres of the urban, 1,371-acre Forest Park. The park includes two public golf courses good for all levels: Forest Park, as well as and The Highlands Golf & Tennis, a nine-holer opened in 2010.

Then there's this latest craze – axe throwing. That's right; they've got leagues and events dedicated to this (sort of) new sport and it's catching on in the St. Louis area (as well as other parts of the country). Yep, you do this for a couple of hours, throwing real axes at big wood targets with a group at places like STL Axe Throwing in St. Charles. Does it complement your golf swing? Who cares? Sounds like a lot of fun.

Mike Bailey is a former Golf Advisor senior staff writer based in Houston. Focusing primarily on golf in the United States, Canada, the Caribbean and Latin America with an occasional trip to Europe and beyond, he contributes course reviews, travel stories and features as well as the occasional equipment review. An award-winning writer and past president of Texas Golf Writers Association, he has more than 25 years in the golf industry. He has also been on staff at PGA Magazine, The Golfweek Group and AvidGolfer Magazine. Follow Mike on Twitter at @MikeBaileyGA and Instagram at @MikeStefanBailey.
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St. Louis: Gateway City to fine barbecue, beer and a quality daily fee golf scene