Most of the best private clubs around St. Louis are clustered in a small circle inside the I-270 loop west of the city. There you’ll find St. Louis Country Club, Old Warson, Bellerive (just barely on the other side of I-270), Algonquin, and finally Westwood. The oldest traditionally Jewish club in the area, Westwood sits on a particularly rolling bit of terrain for the area, a feature that is used delightfully by the course’s design. Originally intended as thirty-six holes routed by American architect Harold Paddock, the club now maintains its main 18-hole layout along with a 9-hole par three course. Uniquely, the club is located in essentially its own municipality, naturally also named Westwood, which comprises the golf course and around a hundred households; the village’s population is under 300.
Westwood’s routing is the highlight of one’s experience. The course meanders all over the property with very few holes running alongside the previous or subsequent hole; players find themselves playing all sorts of different types of shots throughout their round. My first loops around Westwood took place in a tournament during the early 2000s, but I did not remember the course particularly well; thankfully, I was invited to return following Art Schaupeter’s recent bunker work. As one of the very few clubs in the area to feature Bermuda fairways overseeded with ryegrass in the winter, the conditions greatly vary depending on the time of year you play. As my most recent round there took place following the overseed, the nearly divotless bright green fairways in late October were strikingly beautiful, but not particularly firm as the overseeding process requires a fair bit of watering. The greens, however, were delightfully firm and fast, with just the right amount of undulation to play fairly at the higher speeds.
If this golf course were a symphony, the overarching theme behind it would be the uphill approach. I counted no fewer than eight long holes where little to none of the green can be seen on the approach: #3, #4, #5, #8, #9, #10, #17, and #18, with possibly #15 thrown in for good measure depending on location. #7, a par three, also fits that mold. The lack of visual understanding of what surrounds one’s target is both intimidating and jarring while also feeling somewhat delightfully out of the ordinary – in a modern Americanized world of golf architecture where everything is typically spread out before you, this type of shot requirement is a rarity and should be embraced.
I called attention to the longer holes at Westwood, but the short holes are also a highlight; from a variety standpoint alone, they cover nearly the entire spectrum. The second is a mid-iron over a ravine, the seventh is an uphill short iron, the twelfth is a downhill wedge, and the sixteenth is a beast of a long iron into a heavily bunkered green. The most notable other holes are the fifth, a picturesque par five that plays up a valley to a green built up atop a thirty-foot ridge, and the seventeenth, a long par four with a spectacularly wide fairway that is nonetheless bisected by a meandering creek with concrete bulkheads, requiring a difficult choice off the tee regarding how to prepare oneself for – you guessed it – another difficult uphill approach.
In the St. Louis area, there are the “Big Four” clubs – St. Louis CC, Bellerive, Old Warson, and Westwood – and then there are the rest. These four clubs are generally tied to the most connected and wealthy individuals in the area, and rightly so. With all of the other three typically showing up among the top ten courses in the state of Missouri, one would think that somehow Westwood would be a less desirable invitation for some reason; I am here to assure you it is not. Westwood is a delight, from start to finish, and worthy of its place among the elites and should not be passed up if you have the opportunity to play it when visiting St. Louis.
Played August 5, 8, & 9, 2002, and October 16, 2020
Date: August 01, 2021