HOLLISTER, Mo. -- Murder Rock Golf and Country Club combines two styles not usually found together: a links-style course on a mountaintop.
A warm, rich clubhouse dominates at its 1,300-foot peak, offering a 360-degree view of the Ozarks. The golf course's intimidating name is not about the golf (though it could be), but its history as a favored spot for stagecoach robber Alfred Bolin, who killed a few of his victims.
Fast forward to today. Murder Rock incorporates the famous with the infamous. Its charter members include Glen Campbell, Fabian, the Gatlin Brothers, Mickey Gilley, Bill Medley, Jim Stafford, Ray Stevens, Mel Tillis and Andy Williams.
On the golf course you'll find wide-open fairways and tricky approaches to greens with breaks that are seemingly invisible to the naked eye. The greens are immense -- many exceeding 40 yards -- and often are sandwiched between mounds on one side and recessed bunkers on the other.
"Big, fast greens are really what the highlight is," said Chris Meade, Murder Rock Golf and Country Club's general manager and director of golf. "There are not a lot of carries and it has generous fairways and lots of run-ups. It's a perfect resort course."
Few holes on the par-71 course are straight, most bending one way or another, and no fairway is level. They rise, drop or bank.
Murder Rock begins a ways down the mountain, requiring a bit of a cart ride to the first tee. No. 1 is a par 4 that turns left off an elevated tee to a wildly undulating green.
The second hole is a sharp dogleg right to an elevated green with a one-two punch of a false front and a drop-leaf green.
The third hole is a straight par 5 that declines gently to the green, but as one nears the green, the fairway drops off sharply on the left side into tall grass.
Pity those playing the tips on No. 4. They are below the middle tees, keeping the fairway out of sight. The fairway then turns left around a vegetation-choked gully, creating a possible carry to a green. Adding insult to injury for shots left and short, a steep turf wall has a bunker at its base on the front side of the green.
Most of the trouble for the par-5 fifth hole comes on the green, which has insane undulations. On your way there, you have to sneak past a couple of fairway bunkers with your drive and second shot.
Murder Rock Golf and Country Club's par-4 sixth hole has a few renegade bunkers, one that pushes its way onto the fairway from the right, another farther up coming in from the left. The elevated green hides its putting surface from view, so you have to depend on the distance to put your shot in the middle.
The eighth hole, a par 4, has a severely slanted fairway that guarantees a side-hill lie, no matter where you land on it. Beware of the gully on the left, made more dangerous by the fairway's tilt in that direction.
The ninth hole, a par 3, is laden with Scottish-style bunkers, giving the hole a links-style aura but with a twist in the form of elevated tees to an elevated green.
The back nine continues along the same theme, with banked fairways, gullies and elevation changes.
A couple of holes have unique features, such as No. 13, a par 3 with water near it --the first time liquid appears on the course that isn't in a bottle.
Nos. 14 and 15 are both par 5s, both left doglegs, both running along gullies that can suck down any shot that flies and bounces in. No. 15 is one of the toughest holes on the course because the gully infringes and retreats.
The 17th is one of the course's most dramatic holes, a long par 3 with a green situated past recessed bunkers. Between the green and tees is a grass-choked gully. To the right, a majestic mountaintop view.
The closing hole is a par 4 that turns right to the green. It's pockmarked with bunkers right, center, then left before reaching the elevated green with a couple more bunkers for good measure.
Murder Rock Golf and Country Club is an interesting blend of a links course on a mountainside. It's best played at least twice to get the lay of the land, given a few blind shots over hills or around trees. For example, you can't see the 15th green until you're almost to it. The views are breathtaking, the greens flawless but frustrating and the fairways expansive. The course is impeccably maintained and the service is great.
Oh, and if you're hungry, definitely stay for lunch. The food is delicious and the menu inventive, from tilapia sandwiches to strawberry-dotted salads. Just the name alone, Murder Rock, is intriguing. The course, clubhouse and staff live up to lofty expectations.
May 19, 2011