Let Nature Take Its Course

The Ridge Golf COurse at Lodge of the Four Seasons in Lake of the Ozarks A father and future son-in-law bond over golf in Lake of the Ozarks, Missouri

By Jackie Tucker

“Have fun,” my daughter said to me nervously over the phone. “And don’t judge his golf game, Dad. Be nice.” I smiled at my future son-in-law, standing across from me, and reassured my only daughter that her fiancé and I were going to have a great time. Sarah and Chris had been dating for more than a year, but because we live three hours apart—they’re in St. Louis—I hadn’t been able to spend as much time with her future husband as I would like. He and I both enjoy golf. So, I invited him on a weekend golf trip to Lake of the Ozarks in an effort to get to know him better. 

Lake of the Ozarks boasts 14 golf courses, all of them great. But my two favorite courses, both of which have consecutively ranked in the top five courses in Missouri, are Old Kinderhook and The Ridge at The Lodge of Four Seasons. We had a 2 p.m. tee time at The Ridge, and as we stepped out of the car and walked up to the clubhouse, Chris said, “Wow! The pictures don’t do it justice.”

The Ridge Golf Course at Lodge of the Four Seasons in Lake of the Ozarks Missouri Tee up

I nodded as the cart attendants picked up our bags to load onto our golf cart and agreed, “It really is a gorgeous course.” The golf course architect, Ken Kavanaugh, did a phenomenal job incorporating the natural terrain. It’s a par-72 course that offers views of the surrounding hills and valleys, rock formations, native wildflowers and, of course, the lake. The layout is challenging enough for a highly skilled golfer, but its generous landing areas make it player-friendly enough for a novice. The verdict was still out on what kind of player Chris was going to be. 

I motioned for him to tee up first, and as he did so he said, “Sarah told me that you hold your family’s record of two holes-in-one.” 

I put on my best stern competitor face and replied, “Is that a challenge?”

After watching him squirm for a few seconds, I laughed and clapped him on the shoulder. “Just giving you a hard time. Come on, let’s see what you’ve got.”

Smile for the birdie

Old Kinderhook Golf Resort in Lake of the Ozarks What he had was a pretty darn good golf game. He reeled off birdies on the first three holes, and I quickly realized I was going to have to play hard for this win. He went over par once, and we both struggled on the sixth green, but at the end of the day I barely eked out a win. If Chris was trying to earn my respect, he was doing a great job, at least where his golf game was concerned. With my only daughter, well, that was another matter altogether. 

When Chris first started dating Sarah, I had, on principle as a father, wanted to not like this kid—but his personality was even better than his golf game. We had dinner at the hotel’s restaurant, HK’s, and maybe it was the high of a great afternoon of golfing or the panoramic views of the lake or the delicious food and wine, but I was sincerely enjoying Chris’s company. He was just as good of a guy as Sarah had claimed.

A hole-in-one

The next morning, refreshed after a great night’s sleep at The Lodge of Four Seasons, we fueled up with hearty breakfast sandwiches and coffee at Soleil Café before heading over to the course at Old Kinderhook. According to AAA Midwest Traveler’s “Best of the Midwest” issue, The Lake of the Ozarks Golf Trail is The Best Golf Weekend in the Midwest, and if our second day turned out to be anything like the first, I could understand why.  

Old Kinderhook Golf Resort in Lake of the Ozarks Missouri In our conversation, I had learned that Chris and I shared both a love of golf and a great appreciation for the outdoors, which is why I think we both were so enamored with the course at Old Kinderhook. It’s a spectacular par-72 course designed by Tom Weiskopf that makes the most of the surrounding nature’s beauty. The breathtaking backdrop of rolling hills, rock waterfalls and flowering tree lines turn a morning round of golf into a stunning nature hike.

Holes 8 and 18, in particular, are my favorites with especially scenic vistas. But the most memorable hole on this course for both Chris and I will forever be Hole 3. I got hung up in a huge bunker, while Chris got his first ever hole-in-one. I couldn’t believe it, and neither could he. 

Welcome to the family

We celebrated with a round of drinks on the balcony of The Hearth Room, and I could tell Chris was trying his best not to gloat. To make sure he stayed humble I teased him and said, “I still have one more than you, son.” We both paused as the word son hung in the air between us. After a moment I held out my hand. Chris reached out and shook it. With a slow smile I said, “Welcome to the family.” 

For all of the celebration, the weekend golf trip to Lake of the Ozarks gave Chris and me something far more valuable than bragging rights of a hole-in-one. It gave us a bonding experience over a shared adventure. The rough may have been long, the bunkers challenging, the scores high, but the memories—those were just the first of many more to come.

Learn more about golf in Lake of the Ozarks and pack your clubs.

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