As we celebrate Bagnell Dam’s 90th anniversary this summer, let’s take a closer look at the history of golf in the Lake area. How has the construction of the dam affected the area over the years and, in particular, the construction of the route courses?
As the water filled and the Lake of the Ozarks formed, the communities around the newly formed lake began to grow, and with it, golf came to the area.
Three years after the dam was completed, the Eldon Township opened first course in 1934. A 9-hole sand green course, which has since been expanded to include 18-hole and regulation grass green complexes. Golf was slow to take off in the area, but in 1950 a second 9-hole sand green golf course called Camdenton Golf Club opened in Camdenton next to the airport. The pace of construction accelerated when the city of Versailles built the third and final sand-green 9-hole course, Rolling Hills, in 1955.
In 1962, Turkey Bend Poultry Farm in Osage Beach was converted into the Dogwood Hills Golf Course. It was the first 18-hole course and the first with regular grass greens and began the three decades of golf course construction in the area. Dogwood Hills ran for a 52-year term but closed in 2014 to make way for development.
By 1969 two new courses were built and ready to play. The Camdenton Golf Club has been replaced by the Lake Valley Country Club, a private 18-hole course, and the Hidden Lakes Golf Course, now the 9-hole course at Margaritaville Lake Resort, opened at Tan-Tar-A Resort in Preparation for the 1970 National Governors’ Conference, which was held at the resort.
Golf construction slowed in the 1970s with the economic downturn, but two new 18-hole courses opened in the area in 1980 with designers Robert Trent Jones Sr., Bruce Devlin and Robert Von Hagge. The Trent Jones Cove Course opened in 1979 at the Lodge of Four Seasons. In 1980 the Tan-Tar-A ski slopes were gone and the Oaks Golf Course designed by Devlin / Von Hagge opened. These two courses have changed the golf landscape on the lake and were the jewels of the area in the 80s. Each course hosted many college tournaments and other regional events that brought the lake to the Midwestern golfing landscape. At the end of the decade, the west side of the lake opened a new 9-hole course called Indian Rock, which was later expanded to 18 holes in the mid-1990s.
The 1990s marked the nationwide golf boom decade, and five new courses opened and three more expanded in the Lake area. In 1991 the 9-hole golf course called Bay View debuted on Y Road in Linn Creek, but closed in 2010. The Lodge of Four Seasons opened its second 18-hole championship course, the Ridge. In 1992, North Port National, now known as Osage National, opened its original Arnold Palmer-designed 18-hole course to rave reviews and a skins game starring Arnold, Lee Trevino and Missouri-born Payne Stewart and Tom Watson to experience. By 1999, Sycamore Creek had opened its original 9-hole course and expanded it to 18. In 2016, Sycamore Creek closed its doors after 21 years. Indian Rock and Osage National were also expanded to 18 and 27 holes by the turn of the century. In 1999 the Club at Old Kinderhook also opened the Tom Weiskoph 18-hole golf course. The club sits on land once known as the Empire Ranch, which 30 years earlier was only days away from being the location of the Lake Valley Country Club before its existing location was secured.
The turn of the century brought the last expansion of the course to the Lake of the Ozarks. Bear Creek Valley opened in 2001 on land that was once a 250-acre Oak and Hickory farm. The Redfield Golf Club opened in Eugene in 2001 and was the first in the area with Bent Grass fairways. The Jack Nicklaus Signature Course, the Club at Porto Cima, was also opened in 2001 with Jack himself here for the grand opening. The club in Porto Cima has been the gold standard in the sea area ever since. The final stretch was The Club at Deer Chase, which opened in 2004 to round off the golf courses on the Lake of the Ozarks.
Golf has played an important role in the lake’s nearly 90-year history, but without the construction of the Bagnell Dam, its growth and success would not have been possible. We wish Bagnell Dam the best Damn 90th birthday party this summer!