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.
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. I have played all but 3 of Macdonald’s original designs, so needless to say I was sincerely interested to play St. Louis. Weather aside, I walked off St. Louis Country Club feeling underwhelmed.
The course is frequently document as one of Macdonald’s greatest courses. While the green complexes are world-class and are as impressive as the surfaces at Chicago GC, the biggest disappointment for me was the bunkering. I’m typically blown away by Macdonald/Raynor bunkering on their signature templates which create such unique visuals – but not at STLCC. Many of the bunkers look tired, poorly designed and somewhat insignificant. This is a terrible shame as they are normally part of the highlight reel. I’m much more used to “seeing” the bunkers while walking down the fairway and having them influence the strategy. I was hoping for the bunkers to influence my shot-making and strategy. Enough said.
The club is blessed with fabulous rolling topology and the routing is superb. I loved the land, loved the greens and continued to be impressed with the template holes. I just wish the walk down each fairway was a lot more inspirational and strategic. At 6,400 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!