For the 50+ Traveler

Missouri golf is about to get a massive shot in the arm. The first-ever course designed by Tiger Woods, Payne’s Valley, is set to open outside Branson in the fall of 2020. Combined with the other golf courses in that area (courses designed by Coore and Crenshaw, Tom Fazio, and Jack Nicklaus), Branson is quickly becoming a golf destination.

But those courses will not be cheap. Tiger’s course, Payne’s Valley, opened for “preview play” (13 holes were complete) in March, and a preview round of just 13 holes ran $195. I’d be willing to pay that for a once-in-a-lifetime golf experience, but when looking for a golf trip, I’m more looking for great value courses. I’ll pay for a Coore and Crenshaw round when I feel like splurging, and I’ll toss down 20 bucks for a quick round at my local muni if I just want to get out there and play a quick round, but other than that, I’m looking for value. Great golf for the money.

That can include a lot of things. This is not a “golf courses under $40 per round” list. It can mean a course that costs you $70, but you feel like you just played a $200 round, or it can mean a course that runs you $28 on the weekend, but you feel like you should have paid three times that. You golfers know what I’m talking about. Where can I get a great round and feel like I got away with something?

Here are eight such options in Missouri. Note: I rate the cost of each course (for 18 holes, in most cases) in dollar signs from $ to $$$$.

  • $: $35 or less
  • $$: $35 to $65
  • $$$: $65 to $100
  • $$$$: $100 and up

1. Crown Pointe Golf Club, Farmington

Cost: $$

Let’s begin with a “resort” golf course. I’ve played many resort courses in other states. Many are familiar with the resort course at places like Hilton Head Island with lodging right next to the clubhouse and such. This is similar to that, just at around a quarter of the price.

Crown Pointe Golf Club is located in Farmington, Missouri, about an hour south of St. Louis. You can stay there if you like -- they have lodging and golf packages -- or you can just play the course. It’s a very challenging but open layout and is always in incredible condition. This is a great course for Missourians to take a friend from out of state for a golf trip. The reaction is certain to be “You get to play this kind of course for HOW MUCH?” It’s a course where I’d expect to pay over $100 per round.

2. Stone Canyon, Independence

Cost: $$$

I like a golf course that has a good fee structure. Sometimes I’m looking for cheap golf and don’t mind playing twilight. Sometimes I’m trying to avoid the morning rush and don’t mind taking a 12:30 tee time to save some money. These are the kinds of options you’ll find at Stone Canyon in Independence.

Stone Canyon is located just off I-70, so it’s very easy to get to from anywhere in the Kansas City area. In fact, you’ll see the interstate from a few of the holes. Designed by Greg Norman, this course sits in an old rock quarry, and you’ll see plenty of rock outcroppings as you make your way around the layout. It’s only 11 years old, but it has already made its way onto several “best courses in Missouri” lists. And the tiered pricing makes it all the more attractive.

3. Eagle Knoll, Hartsburg

Cost: $

This one is probably the best value on this list. It’s a really great course in a very small town, and because of that, you can sometimes get a tee time for $20 (with cart). The last time I was there, I believe the fee (for a Saturday morning tee time) was $32. During the week, I believe it’s $20.

Designed by Gary Kern, this course sits on a beautiful piece of property between Jefferson City and Columbia. If you like courses with lots of hills (stand on the elevated tee box to see the entire fairway below), then this is your course. Their website appears to be down at the moment, but some information, including a good phone number, is available on their Facebook page. And just trust me -- if you’re in mid-Missouri, make your way to Eagle Knoll and thank me later.

4. The Golf Club At Deer Chase, Lake Of The Ozarks

Cost: $$

For residents of Missouri, when you talk about golf at the Lake of the Ozarks, many picture courses overflowing with golfers on the weekends. And it’s true that the 13 golf courses at the lake are all quite busy in the summer (as are the roads, packed with vacationers). But there’s one golf course tucked away in a valley where you won’t even feel like you’re at the lake. That’s The Golf Club at Deer Chase.

When you drive onto the property, it has the feel of some $100 or $130 courses that I’ve played -- a river valley tucked into the forest with elevated tee boxes and water everywhere. It’s the kind of property where you’d build that great private course just outside of town. But it’s not private, and it’s not $100. Their highest rate (weekend, summer, before 11 a.m.) is $65, but everything else is less than that. Play the course on a Monday morning for $49 or even set up a twilight tee time at 2 p.m. for $35. Again, we’re going after bang for our buck here, and even at $65 for a Saturday morning tee time, this kind of course feels like a steal.

5. The Highlands In Forest Park, St. Louis

Cost: $$

There has to be at least one 9-hole course on this list. And I can’t think of a better one (with better value) than the one I used to be able to walk to: The Highlands in world-famous Forest Park in St. Louis. There are two golf courses in Forest Park -- a 27-hole course on the west end and a 9-hole course on the east. This is the “small one”, known to the locals by its old name, Triple A, and it’s a gem.

Renovated in 2010, it’s now in much better condition than it used to be. The bike trail that ran down the center of the course is gone now, too, so you don’t have to worry about a long iron shot interrupting a bike ride. It’s just nine holes, but on days that weren’t too busy, I would play nine holes from the white tees and then loop back through and play nine holes from the blue tees.

Pro Tip: If you’re just playing the nine holes, walk it. Yes, you can get a cart, but The Highlands is the kind of community course where everyone who lives around Forest Park is out there in the evening walking nine holes. It’s not going to be a fast loop -- this is more of a slow-paced, really-enjoy-all-nine-holes-while-walking kind of place -- but I sometimes enjoy that. Driving up to tee boxes with the group behind you right on your tail can get annoying, and I welcome a good change of pace.

6. Shoal Creek, Kansas City

Cost: $$$

My friend in Kansas City has one piece of advice for Shoal Creek: Call ahead for a tee time. He’s not kidding -- I just looked online for this upcoming weekend and the first available Saturday tee time is 3 p.m. and Sunday only has one open spot at 12:40; then it’s all 5 o’clock and later.

Why so much demand? Location, great course, great price. I seem to be really focused on “$100 golf for $50” with this list, and Shoal Creek is no exception. Outstanding layout, challenging greens, great condition, and a noon tee time on a weekday will run you exactly $50.

7. Tanglewood, Fulton

Cost: $

I have a confession. I used to work for the man who designed this course (Jerry Loomis). I have no ties to the course -- I don’t work at that company anymore, and he passed on in 1998 -- but it remains one of my favorites in Missouri, made a little more special because I knew the way the designer would lay out a course, so I can see what he was envisioning when I stand on the tee box. I just wish he wouldn’t have made that pond so deceptive on #8. Or made that “I think I can clear the water -- I’ll go for it” second shot on #17 so tantalizing.

I played Tanglewood last year and I have to say, it was in great shape. You could tell they had redone several fairways recently, so they’ve been pouring money into the course. This course is located right off Highway 54 in Fulton, so it’s a popular Friday afternoon spot for people in St. Louis who are heading to the Lake of the Ozarks for the weekend.

8. Ozarks National, Hollister

Cost: $$$$

I know what you’re going to say. “A course that’s nearly $100 per round on a ‘best golf for the money’ list?” Yes, that’s how I see it. This is a $400 round of golf. Here, I will sell you on it.

Ozarks National was designed by Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw, perhaps the most sought-after golf course designers in the world. Their courses dot “best golf courses in the United States” and even “best golf courses in the world” lists. Playing the Coore and Crenshaw courses has become a bucket-list item for many golfers.

But it usually costs you. Just going by published “peak” tee times (summer rates in the north, winter rates in Florida), a round at Bandon Trails in Oregon will run you $345, a round at Sand Valley in Wisconsin will be $245, Streamsong Red in Florida will run you $285, and Kapalua (Plantation Course) in Hawaii is a whopping $329 per round. And these all book out weeks in advance.

The current peak tee time at Ozarks National outside Branson? $195 during peak season (April through October) and $150 in the offseason. That may sound like a lot, but $195 to play the golf course that Golf Digest chose as the best new public golf course in America for 2019 is truly an incredible value. This is a course certain to find its way onto many of those top 100 lists, and in its first few years of existence, you can play it for less than $200.