The Legends Country Club's RTJ course is a testament to the signature style of its creator, Robert Trent Jones. If you consider Jones a legend, you’ll recognize the challenging penal aspects of the course, including tight, tree-lined fairways and large bunkers.
You’ll also notice his tendency toward the adventurous: Your first par three during the round will be a 140-yard carry over a pond to a large green. If that doesn’t do enough to get your adrenaline flowing, you can wait until No. 8 a few holes down the line, where the best players will be required to make a similar shot across 210 yards of water.
The longest tees combine for a final yardage just longer than 7,000 yards. The club features another nine, “The Ridge,” which was designed by Gary Kern.
When the Country Club at the Legends opened in the late 1980s, there was talk of it hosting a men’s professional major someday. That sort of wishful thinking is a bit laughable today, but in the era of long, narrow, penal architecture and persimmon-headed woods this Robert Trent Jones Sr. design was as big and burly as they come. Jones did an admirable job routing the layout by the standards of that era, but as time has passed, the course is held back by the severe limitations of its site as well as advancing club and ball technology; 7,000 yards just isn’t that much anymore.
First, the property on which The Legends is built is simply an awful site for golf. That’s not Jones’s fault as much as the developers, but it’s hard to justify building what was originally marketed as a high-end course here. (If I had to guess, Jones probably lost out on the more exciting portions of the property to the adjacent subdivision. Ironically enough, some of that area was used to build a third nine designed by Gary Kern in the early 1990s.) Most of the property sits in the floodplain of a tributary of the nearby Meramec River, and only four or five holes feature any serious elevation change. Moreover, the course is wedged between a railroad track – right behind which is the busy Interstate 44 – and a subdivision on the hill behind the clubhouse, but the worst part is the incredibly loud cement plant that sits behind #13 green and #14 tee. You can hear the trucks coming in and out of that thing across the entire back nine, which detracts significantly from many of the better holes on the course.
That said, it’s not all bad. As I mentioned, Jones’s work here is surprisingly good considering the limitations he had. Despite its narrowness and heavy bunkering, it’s actually an extremely enjoyable course to play. My favorite holes included: #1, a surprisingly creative par five that’s very short but narrow enough that aggressive plays that aren’t executed perfectly will be punished; #5, a short par three whose green juts out into a pond; #14, a cool par five playing up a massive hill; #16, a long, downhill par four with one of the most incredible speed slots I’ve seen; and #18, the best par four on the course which is long, narrow, and slightly uphill to a fun green with a surprisingly deadly little collection area to the bailout side.
Courses of this era are dying in record numbers around here, but this one lives on. Credit goes to the membership for rescuing it from recent financial difficulties, and to Jones for making something decent out of nothing.