50 Words or Less
Branson Hills Golf Club, located in Branson, Missouri, is a challenge for even the most skilled golfers. Wonderful variety.
In the world of Branson golf, the new courses at Big Cedar Lodge cast a large shadow, but they’re far from the only game in town. Branson Hills has been offering golfers one of the toughest and best tests in the state since it opened in 2009.
The practice facilities at Branson Hills cover your needs but are not a highlight. There’s an ample practice green near the clubhouse, but that’s a drive from the first tee. Given how quick the greens are, do roll a few putts before you start your round.
Branson Hills’ driving range is a cart-ride from both the clubhouse and the first tee. The range is steeply downhill, so it’s more for warming up than trying to dial in your distances. Alongside the range you’ll find a short game area, but be careful using it if the range is full. The short game area is in the line of fire of shanks and ignorant golfers.
Customer Service & Amenities
Branson Hills is home to a very large clubhouse with all the amenities you would expect. There’s a sports bar and grill, fully stocked pro shop, and large displays featuring Missouri golf legends like Tom Watson and Judy Rankin. The customer service at Branson Hills was excellent in my time there. We dealt with on-and-off rain showers, and the staff was extremely accommodating about helping us finish our round.
My only complaint in this category is that the carts do not have GPS systems. For a course that hosts many tourists – i.e. first time players – I think GPS is a must. If you don’t have your own GPS or laser, make sure to pick up one of the yardage books in the pro shop.
If you’re planning to travel to Branson, consider the stay and play options at Branson Hills and the Hilton Branson Convention Center Hotel. This is the nicest hotel in the area, and it’s across the street from Branson Landing, a dining and entertainment destination. If you want to treat yourself to a nice dinner, I cannot recommend highly enough the Level 2 steakhouse in the Hilton.
Beauty & Scenery
Branson Hills Golf Club plays through a mature forest that, especially in the fall, provides a beautiful backdrop. Throughout the round, there’s constant and varied visual stimulation in the form of waterfalls, creeks, and rock outcroppings. This isn’t a course that smacks you in the mouth with miles-long vistas, but every hole holds your attention and impresses.
Note: As you can see, my round was played under very grey skies, so this review has been supplemented with professional photos courtesy of Branson Hills Golf Club.
There are five sets of tees at Branson Hills ranging from 7,324 to 5,323 yards. Most golfers will likely choose between the set at 6,299 and 6,741, and I would strongly encourage you to play the former. I know that a lot of players will bristle at the notion of playing a course under 6,300 yards, but Branson Hills is a test and you’ll thank me when you’re hitting shorter irons into these greens.
This is a tree-lined course, but the fairways vary in width. In general, they’re about average, but there are a couple wide open drives and some that will make you think hard about hitting a long iron. Most holes do have a meaningful section of rough before the tree line, so you don’t need to worry about tee shots running into trouble. There are sections of the forest that allow for recovery shots, but you’re obviously better off staying out of the trees.
Overall, Branson Hills demands that you have good control of your driver and adequate length for the tees you’ve chosen. There are several holes where a green in regulation is virtually impossible after a mishit drive.
The challenge at Branson Hills doesn’t stop when you’ve hit a good tee shot. With greens that are no more than average in size, this course also puts pressure on your iron play. The shapes of the greens add to the difficulty with many being very shallow or narrow, depending perfect accuracy or distance control.
With gently rolling fairways, most of your approach shots will be played from a fairly flat stance. There are holes with more dramatic movement, but the fairways are fast enough that your ball shouldn’t come to rest dramatically above or below your feet.
Hitting your tee shot into the rough is not much of a penalty in terms of the lie. The rough is wispy – thin and not very long. It might impede perfect contact, but it’s unlikely to create a major issue. The more serious penalties for being in the rough are having a more extreme stance and a compromised view of the green.
Finally, while several holes have some fairway leading up to the green, this is not a course that invites the ground game. You’re going to need to hit high, precise iron shots to score well. Every green is defended by sand or water, and staying out of those hazards is essential to scoring well.
Greens & Surrounds
Despite being a fairly confident bunker player, I wanted little to do with the sand traps at Branson Hills. While there are several “normal” traps, many are situated well below or above the putting surface. Without the ability to play high, soft shots from the sand, you will rack up bogeys and worse from these bunkers.
Most of the surrounds are covered in rough all the way to the fringe. There’s not a great deal of movement in the surrounds, but many of the greens are slightly elevated. As with the bunker shots, your pitches need to be high and soft if you want to save pars. It’s also important to avoid short siding yourself.
The final hurdles to good scoring are the greens themselves. Branson Hills does a very fine job of marrying their undulations with a speed that’s quick but not unplayable. Longer putts have plenty of movement, but you won’t find many roller coaster breaks.
#3 – Par 4 – 344 Yards
Playing sharply downhill, this hole is drivable for most. However, starting at roughly 100 yards from the green, the fairway gets pinched down to almost nothing by a rock outcropping and a bunker. With a nasty bunker left of the green, the only good destinations are on the green or right of it making driver a very high risk play.
#7 – Par 3 – 148 Yards
At just 148 yards from the tips, this is the shortest par 3 at Branson Hills. The challenge comes from the two-tier, hourglass green with a false front. If you don’t hit your tee shot close to the flag, you’ll be working hard for your par.
Despite having a slew of “Best in State” awards to its name, Branson Hills now finds itself in the position of being a sleeper golf course in the area. And that’s just fine, because regardless of hype, this course delivers a fantastic, challenging golf experience. If you’re golfing in Missouri, this course needs to be on your itinerary.