The Takeaway: Host of Ben Hogan’s 1948 PGA Championship, Norwood Hills’ West course features some of the best green complexes in the country. The underrated layout has compelling terrain, sloping putting surfaces, and a brutal six hole finishing stretch. Grade B+
Designer: Wayne Stiles 1921
Phone Number: (314) 521-4802
Course Website: Official Website - Visit Norwood Hills Country Club (West)'s official website by clicking on the link provided.
Directions: Get here! - 1 Norwood Hills Country Club Dr, St. Louis, Missouri 63121 – UNITED STATES
What to Expect: The West course at Norwood Hills is perhaps the most underrated course in Missouri and certainly a hidden gem in the Midwest. Whether you are playing the back tees or forward tees, or hitting from the fairway or the rough, the one place that everyone will end up at is on the greens. Those green complexes at Norwood Hills are the course's best feature and some of the best ones I’ve encountered in some time. The sloping putting surfaces yield very few straight putts so getting the pace and line right is a constant challenge. In addition, there is a lot of movement throughout the property which reminded me quite a bit of NCR in Dayton, OH. Those rolling hills help create a lot of engaging shots and hole designs to enjoy, and you certainly never lose your interest in playing all the way to the finish. That being said, the front nine is certainly better than the back nine, but the back nine is more difficult with a brutal six hole final stretch that will test the best of players. In fact, the back nine is 103 yards longer than the front but players have one less par stroke to get it done in. A half dozen water hazards come into play and conditioning isn't really the course's strong suit. From a walking perspective it is a tough track to hoof it on both in terms of terrain and due to a bit of an awkward routing, but it wasn't enough to keep Ben Hogan from winning the PGA Championship in 1948. Ultimately, Norwood Hill's West course enjoys some of the best terrain for golf in Missouri and green complexes that are top shelf; an underrated track indeed.
By the Numbers
Individual Hole Analysis
Signature Hole: 5th Hole – 429 Yard Par 4 – The most testing tee shot at Norwood Hills awaits on the 5th hole where water sits in front of the tee box and flows into a creek that runs the right side of the fairway. The left side of the driving zone is protected by bunkers, so there is no bailing out there, and then the approach shot features water crossing in front of the green and flanking the left side of the putting surface. Every shot here is exacting and taking anything for granted can pencil an "other" on your scorecard awfully quick.
Best Par 3: 4th Hole – 197 Yards – An attractive one-shotter over water, the 4th instills fear in players that lack any level of confidence. The water and a bunker front the putting surface while a second bunker flanks the rear. While there is some safety short left, a flag tucked in the back right is a suckers pin if there ever was one and you'd need PGA Tour level iron play or a lot of luck to get close to the hole with your tee shot. It is the first of a three hole stretch that is as testing as it is enjoyable to take on.
Best Par 4: 6th Hole – 400 Yards – The most attractive fairway on the course is found on the 6th as it serpentines through a recessed valley and around a bunker flanking the right side of the driving zone. The approach shot plays nearly a club uphill to a greensite set in an amphitheater setting with the back left of the putting surface offering the most challenging pin positions to attack. The use of the natural terrain here makes the 6th one of the most enjoyable holes to play each time around.
Best Par 5: 2nd Hole – 524 Yards – After a mundane opening hole, Norwood Hills' West course wastes no time bouncing back with a strong offering with this par five that plays 25 feet downhill off the tee before ascending 60 feet uphill to the green. The fairway features no bunkers but a series of five sand pits are found on the right side of the hole leading up to the green while a single bunker protects the front left corner. A swath of long grass separates the first fairway from the second fairway 120 yards from the green as players must decide whether to carry their second shot to the end of the first fairway or get it on top of the second. The two-tier green delivers the final challenge on this roller coaster hole and can turn an eagle putt into a tap-in for bogey without the right touch.
Birdie Time: 11th Hole – 301 Yard Par 4 – Though the green is blind from the tee, this short par four begs players to take a rip at reaching the putting surface with the driver. A pair of bunkers front the putting surface but leaving your tee ball in the sand isn't a terrible leave as a smooth up and down will still yield a birdie. If you layup off the tee then it will give you an opportunity to wedge a shot close to the flag, so whether you bust out your driver or play it conservative off the tee, you have a great chance to card a three. It was here that Ben Hogan sealed the 1948 PGA Championship.
Bogey Beware: 13th Hole – 465 Yard Par 4 – The back nine is tough . . . real tough; and the 13th hole is a strong example of why. The tee shot plays enough uphill that the ideal landing zone is blind from the tee which is always disconcerting to golfers. While the start to this hole is a challenge, it is the way it finishes that makes this really tough. The long approach plays to a triple tiered green where three-putts are far more common than one-putts. Bunkers are found on each side of the green so there is no where to bail out, you just have to man up and take this hole on shot by shot and hope you execute nearly perfectly to avoid a bogey; or worse.