Amidst the music show venues, souvenir stands, go-kart tracks and miniature golf courses in Branson, you'll also find several places where you can tee it up, regulation style. One of the best is the Payne Stewart Golf Club--a newer entry on Branson's list of golf courses.
Located on the north side of Branson off of Branson Hills Parkway, I played the Stewart course for the third time today. And, as before, I walked away thinking that this is a terrific course and club with a few things keeping it from being the best in Ozark/Southwest Missouri country.
The Stewart course, named of course after the late golfer and U.S. Open winner who hailed from Springfield, MO, is cut into the natural terrain of the Branson area. It's up and down with plenty of uneven lies--if you can't handle balls below or above your feet, you're in trouble on this track.
The course is long, by Branson standards, measuring 7,324 yards from the tips. There are five tee markers which provides opportunity for the single digit handicapper, the recreational player, seniors and women. The other lengths measure in at 5,323 yards; 6,299; 6,741 and 7,046. And, if the length wasn't difficult enough, the course is also pretty tight--a ball not kept in the fairway will find the plentiful woods. Many of the tees are elevated and the areas around the green offer plenty of swales, bunkers and tough chips--make sure your short game is in good shape before teeing off.
The clubhouse at Payne Stewart Golf Club is first-rate--dark wood, a spacious grill area, a well-appointed pro shop and a large entryway which is also a display area for Stewart's various trophies, colorful outfits and Ryder Cup memorabilia.
One of the areas where the course is deficient is the practice range--it's about 500 yards from the clubhouse, accessed via a gravel path, and offers up an area where one hits into a valley, making it difficult to gauge distance.
The course was not crowded at all on a Saturday morning in July--we had a threesome in front of us which we didn't catch up to until hole 12. The course meanders away from the clubhouse and does not return back until hole 18--not a problem except for a hot day like today where the refreshment stand at the turn isn't open.
Each hole of the course has a sign at the tee box which provides a story from Payne Stewart's golf career and life. It's a fitting tribute to a player who delighted fans with his colorful golf outfits, engaging manner, and major championship victories. The course designer was Chuck Smith with counsel and assistance from PGA pro Bobby Clampett.
The Payne Stewart Golf Club is a destination course--a place that makes a golf weekend in Branson fun and challenging. And, as much as I like this course, I think that Branson Creek, where we'll play tomorrow, is the better track in this area of southwest Missouri.
Orange = 71.1/123; 5,323 yards
Silver = 70.0/130; 6,299 yards
Blue = 72.4/130; 6,741 yards
Green = 73.9/132; 7,046 yards
Gold = 75.1/135; 7,324 yards
Summary: Potentially the prettiest course in Missouri, the Payne Stewart Golf Club is a tough challenge for any level golfer.