At 7,330 yards, the Fox Run Golf Club near St. Louis is no pushover. But, if you’re the one-in-ten-thousand golfer who needs more challenge than that to keep you interested, the club can also flex an additional 800 yards to create a behemoth.
If you’re not playing in the PGA Championship this year, do yourself a favor and start from the 7,300-yard tees (or less), as Gary Kern’s layout will provide plenty of trouble even without the superhuman distances. The architect enjoys creating bunkers in triplicate to create tougher escapes than just one big bunker, and when he does rely on just the one, its amoeboid shape makes a forward escape no sure thing.
Tree-lined fairways and the occasional water hazard continue to add to your suffering, unless your accuracy is spot-on. Playing from the correct tees helps as well.
Many in the St. Louis area consider Fox Run to be Gary Kern’s best design. It certainly has the pedigree, having hosted a number of top events from the LPGA’s Michelob Light Classic to the U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur and all the way down to dozens of regional and local championships and USGA qualifiers. Call me a contrarian, but I disagree with the assessment. The land it’s on is hardly top quality for a golf course; half of the holes venture into the soggy Big River floodplain, and a few others awkwardly wander through a subdivision adjacent to the course that remains mostly vacant to this day. Kern did an admirable job of creating some pretty good holes in parts of that area, but despite that, some of the holes on the better parts of the property seem somewhat uninspired and the whole routing doesn’t feel as cohesive as much of his other work.
Hole #3 at Fox Run is a prime example of this lack of cohesiveness, in my opinion. After two solid opening par fours, the course transitions from the rolling terrain adjacent to the clubhouse to the floodplain area. To get there, the third hole is required. The tee shot goes down a hill towards a creek that requires a forced layup, but the layup area is still ~175 yards from the green and unless you really brave the creek by hitting into the very small area of level ground, you’re faced with a long iron into a green guarded by water off a severe downhill stance. It’s the worst kind of hole: no strategic options and arbitrarily and unnecessarily difficult.
That’s not to say there aren’t some good holes out there. #6 is an excellent long dogleg left par five that requires a long and precise drive and can vary wildly in difficulty depending on the wind. #7 is one of my favorite short par fours in St. Louis; despite being uphill, the tiny and narrow green is driveable, but with trouble all over the place – the prudent play is the layup, but it’s oh-so-tempting to go for it. #14 is a solid long bunkerless (!) par four which is hampered somewhat by its proximity to the river and the softness of its fairway, but the green complex is imaginative and excellent. Finally, #16 is a fantastic par five which doglegs left but features a heavily sloping fairway the opposite direction; it can be reached in two shots without a lot of length, but requiring incredible precision. Sadly, these holes don’t tell the whole story. #8-#13 is a particularly bland stretch.
Based on my experience here, I think I’d prefer Kern’s work other places in the area, such as Lake Forest, Aberdeen, Crown Pointe, or even Wolf Hollow over Fox Run. Fox Run is more challenging, but artificially so, and that makes for a less enjoyable round than many other courses in his portfolio.
Played May 8 & 13, 2019
Fox Run is one of the more scenic clubs in the St Louis area and it is worth playing due to the serenity of the round if nothing else. There are no houses. The holes are carved out of the woods and the property is gorgeous. It is always in pretty good shape and the greens roll great.
The one thing that you need to be aware of with Fox Run is it can be an extremely difficult golf course. Probably one of the hardest in all of St Louis along with Lake Forest CC. Disclaimer: there is truly no need to play it all the way back unless you are a plus.
It is also of note that this is a modern course for sure. Designed by Gary Kern in 1993, the holes are built as many in the era were. Lots of land was moved and it has a very 80's 90's feel to it. That is not to say its a bad design at all. Its a great golf course and worth playing. Enjoy.