Springfield Surprises! Then on to Lights, Camera, Action in Branson
Springfield, Missouri will always have a special place in my heart being the home of my one and only golf heroe from the PGA Tour, Payne Stewart. But I will be honest with you, in the past I would have never thought in a million years that would I need to visit Springfield. Now I have been twice in one year, and I look forward to my next visit.
Initially it was the Wonders of Wildlife National Museum & Aquarium and the tie into Johnny Morris and Bass Pro Shop, also owner of the Big Cedar golf kingdom, our primary reason for making Springfield part of our itinerary. To make it more appealing for our golf tour operators coming, and sending their clients, to Missouri we asked about the possibility of adding some golf to our visit.
Boy, did they deliver! We were lead to the Rivercut Golf Club just outside of Springfield. While considered a municipal golf course, Golf Digest has ranked it as the #1 Municipal Course in the State – I can tell you that it is anything but a muni in quality, conditioning and playability!
You are eased into your round on the first three or four holes. It is not until the 4th hole that you begin to catch a glimpse of the James River that will outline your fairway routing on the next couple of holes. The par 3, 6th is one of the most scenic holes with a tee ball over the river to a well-protected two-tier green.
Rivercut has its own version of Amen Corner in holes eight through 10. There was plenty of pretty blue water to deal with on our day. Eight has water right off the tee and then again for stray approaches to the green. Left is gnarly rough. Number nine is a great finishing par 4, the longest on the course. The large bunker on the right saves a few shots from the enormous water hazard lining the entire right side. Beware that right side near the green – a magnet for stray shots – not so pretty down there.
The 10th hole is an awesome start to the back nine, the longest hole (611 yards) on the course offers up water down the entire left side and also intersects at about 130 yards from the green. You can make a big number on this hole that is one of the most notorious and written about in the Midwest!
The back nine brings some elevation into play, the par 3, 15th being a great little downhill hole. The 18th is a demanding par 5, a risk reward finishing hole where if you cut the corner off the tee it may make dealing with the meandering creek about 140 out and the water left of the green a little less diabolical.
This is a course that you do not want to miss, and if I recall only $55 at the top end – cart included!
For those of us that came in early there just happened to be a couple of festivals to check out adjacent to the University Plaza Hotel. If you don’t know…. Springfield is considered the gateway to the Ozarks and the Birthplace of Route 66. Of course all the kid in me could think of was “Get your kicks on Route 66.” Route 66, known as the Will Rogers Hwy, was one of the original highways in America. A visit to the Springfield Welcome Center will give you a little feel for history, nostalgia and of course Rock’n Roll!
Dinner tip – Gilardi’s Ristorante – awesome authentic Italian!
Car buffs you won’t want to miss a classic just off Route 66 – Route 66 Car Museum, a unique collection from brass era to the Classics, Sports cars and a few Celebrity. Batman and Ghost Busters are a couple of my favorites…Who ya gonna call???
Unfortunately it was a short visit to the Wonders of Wildlife National Museum & Aquarium, about 2.5 hours. That is enough to get you a good look at what the attraction has to offer but personally I would have no problem spending the better part of a day there.
Timing though was perfect to get us moving on to Branson for an afternoon round at what is labeled as “The Toughest Par 64 in the World” – Thousand Hills Golf Resort. Springfield to Branson is only a 45 minute drive.
It is only Par 64, so it is not going to take as long to play as a Par 72…right??? Well maybe, this course is no pitch and put by any means. This is one solid test of golf that even Golf Digest rates as a 4 star experience! Right in Branson with some pretty impressive accommodations right on site!
Being in Branson does has its advantages with so much to see and do. More shows that even Vegas can produce in one year.
Lights Camera, Action!!!
There is a reason why over 9 million people a year come to Branson. For us, after golf at Thousand Hills, we would be moving on to Big Cedar Lodge for a few days of world class golf after a gorgeous sunset dinner at Top of the Rock.
Shows and attractions in Branson are around every corner, and did I say food, food, food?!? Plus another collection of world class independent golf courses such as Branson Hills Golf Club and The Pointe @ Pointe Royale that we would be playing but if in the area Ledgestone Golf Club is another must play!
There is something to be said for staying in a luxurious lodge overlooking Table Rock Lake and just as much to be said for having your next few days at one of the two Hiltons in Downtown Branson. I am one that is all for driving to the golf course during the day but love the option of being able to walk to a selection of bars and restaurants in the evening. If you are looking for what might just be the best steak in Branson you have probably just found it in Hilton’s Level 2 Steakhouse.
Golf aside here are some of the things we did and you might want to as well!
- Crown Valley Distillery – You can’t ever go too far wrong with a visit to a distillery – of course there is tasting!
- Titanic Museum – don’t even think about not doing this! You will be impressed.
- Ferris Wheel – can’t miss it! If it’s not your thing go, at night, grab some of Andy’s world famous Custard and watch and listen to the Ferris Wheel light show!
- Chateau on the Lake Grille – fantastic food and setting for a sunset – looks like a great place to stay too!
- Florentin’s Ristorante – Grandma Maria and Uncle Antonio will provide you a wonderful Italian feast.
- Big D’s BBQ – a Branson original – Angus Brisket and baby back Ribs!
- Branson Landing and old downtown are within walking distance from Hilton – unique stuff!
- Silver Dollar City – Over 100 crafters in a unique event setting – check their schedule, there’s always something going on.
- Million Dollar Quartet – relive the most electrifying jam session at the iconic Sun Studios – 4 guys you might remember – Elvis, Jerry Lee, Johnny Cash and Carl Perkins – Tony Award winner!
- Raiding the Country Vault – a journey through the greatest Country hits!
- The Haygoods – “WOW!!!!” is probably the only way to describe this dynamic family and musical presentation covering all genres. They have set the SOLD OUT record for shows in Branson.
For more information on visiting Springfield – https://www.springfieldmo.org/
For more information on visiting Branson – www.explorebranson.com