With advance booking through the Lodge, you can play the Club at Porto Cima, perhaps the finest private golf course built in Missouri since Robert Trent Jones completed his work at Bellerive and Old Warson in St. Louis.
Jack Nicklaus applied a magnificent string of heart-fluttering holes to previously undisturbed shoreline. Fifteen through eighteen hug the water, with the 393-yard par-four seventeenth taking you over the lake twice. The bedeviling length of the par-four closer (461 up-the-slope yards) is almost a relief after so much hydro-drama.
Play early so you have time for lunch in the grand clubhouse, which overlooks the marina. Then cross the Community Bridge for a peaceful, rejuvenating stroll along trails through ancient oaks and hickories at Lake of the Ozarks State Park, a sanctuary of nature that harks back to the undeveloped decades before cigarette boats, parasailing and beachfront condominiums came to the middle of Missouri. If you want to sample the state’s burgeoning wine output instead, drive forty-five minutes to the capital, Jefferson City. Sip the chambourcin at Native Stone Winery, a stop on the Missouri River Wine Trail. That night, dine a short walk from your room on seafood flown in daily at HK’s, named after the Lodge of Four Season’s founder, Harold Koplar.
With no more than three hours to the airport, you have time for one more round. A short drive from the Lodge is the twenty-seven-hole Osage National Golf Resort, which opened in 1992 in the low country under Bagnell Dam. By all means play the original sides: River and Mountain, in that order. Arnold Palmer laid out the meandering River Course along the Osage River and the exhilarating Mountain Course on, over and through the Ozark hills. The latter’s par-five fifth tumbles sharply from a plateau to a remote green you can’t see until you’re safely on a level lie in two. Then, just for fun, see if you can hit the green in regulation on the par-four eighth hole—all 484 yards of it.
None of these courses is so busy that it takes more than four hours to play, so you can budget time to stop at Bagnell Dam for a moment of introspection high above the Osage River. Just think: The half-mile-long relic of Depression-era imagination, engineering and resolve restrains more than six hundred billion gallons of water and electrifies forty-two thousand households.
Who knew, all those years ago, that it would also give rise to golf that’s just as remarkable?