400 Barnes Road,
Missouri (MO) 63124,
- +1 314 994 0017
10 miles W of St Louis city centre
Telephone in advance
Opened in 1914, the course at Saint Louis Country Club sits on a tight parcel of land in the suburb of Ladue, ten miles west of St Louis city centre, with housing on the periphery providing little opportunity to extend the present length of 6,500 yards.
Not that the members of this private club should be concerned about keeping up with the modern day monster courses that measure over 7,000 yards as the layout at St Louis – where the US Open was won by Lew Worsham in 1947 – has more than its fair share of interesting and captivating golf holes that owe nothing to length and everything to strategy.
The architects of this Midwest masterpiece back in the early 1910s were none other than Charles Blair Macdonald and Seth Raynor, the team who designed the National Golf Links of America, and they would go on to collaborate on around a dozen top drawer courses, including Piping Rock and Yale.
Macdonald, founder member of the USGA, inaugural US Amateur champion and generally recognised as the Father of American golf course architecture first worked with Raynor in 1907 during the construction of the National course and the flair of Macdonald and engineering skills of Raynor are found in many of the holes at St Louis.
Macdonald incorporated many of the natural features at holes discovered on a trip to Scotland in the layout of his courses – like the blind approach to the 17th at Prestwick, North Berwick’s famous par three “Redan” and the 11th on the Old Course at St Andrews – and it’s fascinating to see so many of these design concepts used at St Louis.
The modern day course owes much to the club’s former green keeper, Jack Litvay, an employee at St Louis from 1977 to 2005, and Brian Silva, who had just restored a Seth Raynor course at Lookout Mountain in Georgia when he was engaged in 2000 to return the course to its former glory.
STLCC is the most exclusive and private course in the region and is one of the very few CB MacDonald and Seth Raynor courses in existence. The course maxs out at about 6600 yards and meanders across a very mature and beautiful rolling terrain in the middle of St. Louis' most expensive neighborhood.
St. Louis has all the examples of MacDonald's templates which very naturally sit in the terrain. The highlight of STLCC is without a doubt the greens. For me, they are the best designed greens I have played on, and with the exclusivity of the course, they are always in fantastic shape and rolling pure.
I will detail my favorite holes below:
3. Although 2 is the Biarritz, I think the Eden 3rd is the better hole. The hole is around 200 yards long with a green the sits very well into a hill side and slopes heavily from back to front. The green is protected on all sides with deep bunkers, and if you are above the hole here, you will be lucky to not chip or putt into one of the bunkers on the front of the green. My first time playing this hole, I hit it long into the Eden bunker and was pretty happy to walk off with a 6.
5. Is the punchbowl. It plays as a short par 5 with bunkers protecting the landing area on both sides of the fairway. If you hit a good drive you can and should happily take on the green in two. The punchbowl green is set far below the level of the fairway, with a big opening on the right side. If you play it through the opening it will gather your ball up and bring it in towards the middle of the green to give you a great opportunity and eagle or birdie.
7. Is a beautiful rendition of the short with a thumb print green. The green is large, with very deep bunkers protecting all sides of the green. Short iron accuracy is obviously key here, and if the pin is in the thumb print, you may have the chance to make an ace with the ball funneling in from all sides. I could play this hole all day and it would never become less fun.
8. Is probably the best hole on the course and easily my favorite. It measures about 350 yards from the tips and is the cape template. A creek runs the whole way up the right hand side of the fairway and cuts around behind the green, there is no point on this hole that the creek is not in your mind. Long hitters can try to cut the corner and hit it up near the front of the green, or a simple long iron or wood down the left side can open up a great angle to the green. The green sits in the far corner of the property with mature trees around it providing shade, and to me is probably the most serene part of the property.
16. Is a reverse redan that slopes from left to right. It measures around 180 yards playing downhill with deep deep bunkers both left and right. As someone who draws/hooks the ball, this hole lives deep within my head and someday I hope to be able to fade the ball into this hole and use the slopes to give me a short birdie putt.
18. Is a fantastic finishing hole using the Alps template. The hole plays very uphill on both the tee shot and approach. You really need to find the fairway that plays with a slight dogleg and slope from right to left, and then you play a completely blind second over the top of the hill into a green that slopes right to left. A poorly struck shock will come up short in the sahara bunker which may and probably will destroy your round.
STLCC is easily one of my favorite courses I have played and I will always jump at any chance to play it as should you. My only criticism of STLCC is that they have chosen to use bent grass for both the fairways and greens. Due to the heat and humidity in St. Louis during the summer, they have to constantly water both of them to keep them healthy. I don't think this changes how the greens play, but it greatly affects the fairways where during the summer you are often needing to play lift, clean and place due to your ball plugging. If you are ever lucky enough to play St. Louis, hopefully you get to do it in the fall when the weather cools down and the course plays hard and fast as it was designed.
St. Louis Country Club is easily the most prestigious golf course in the state of Missouri. This is one of the toughest invites in the Midwest, and I've played it once in May a few years back.
Pros: A classic layout that showcases C.B. Macdonald's full arsenal of template holes: Biarritz, Eden, Cape, Short, Double Plateau, and Alps are all featured in one 18 hole routing. St. Louis C.C. features great variety as well; everything is unique and still congruent.
Cons: The course isn't a pushover, but is too short for championship golf in 2019. I've heard from a few others that the wall-to-wall bentgrass turf struggles in the summer months.
Have played here 8-10 times in the past. Every time the conditions were perfect. The course is a beautiful reminder of how golf was played in the past. Think yourself around, just don't pull out driver and swing, think if you want to score well. Greens fast and firm, rough moderate. The staff treats everyone like they are members and takes care of everything.
There was blistering heat during the time I was in St. Louis mid-July. I may have been the only golfer on the course as the temperature touched 39 Celsius. The club had no choice but to heavily water the course for obvious reasons. The sprinklers were saturating the fairways resulting in the course playing very “heavy” with absolutely no run or release.
The club is blessed with fabulous rolling topology and the routing is superb. I’ve no doubt in cooler temperatures that the course has a much firmer personality. I loved the land, loved the greens and continued to be impressed with the template holes. At 6400 yards from the tips, it’s easy to overpower most of the course and miss the subtleties, however the golfer must remember the golden rule on a Macdonald course……. look backwards after each hole!