Country Club of St. Albans
(Tavern Creek Course)
St. Albans, MO
The Country Club of St. Albans is part of a development that consists of 5,400 acres of wooded hillsides and meadows near the Missouri River, 30 miles west of St. Louis. It contains the evidence of some 200-year-old Lewis and Clark campsites, and encircles the small town of St. Albans, which housed railroad workers a century ago, but today has only a few homes. In 1990, Tony Novelly, an aggressive and intelligent developer, wanted to preserve what existed, but add a country club and upscale housing. It was ideal, a quiet country lifestyle in a historic setting with easy access to the big city.
The first course, named Lewis & Clark, was designed by Jay Morrish and Tom Weiskopf and opened in November 1992. Hurdzan/Fry was selected to design the second 18-hole course, named Tavern Creek after the largest of four creeks that run through the site. The general topography of the land is broad, flat valleys set between very steep high hills, with a creek in every valley. As you may suspect, when it rains hard, these docile little streams get angry and often flood. When we first walked the land, we found the remains of several homesteads, hard-luck farms and family cemeteries. On our golf course alone, we had to route around several small burial grounds.
Tony has done well in the oil business, and then the Copper Mountain resort in Colorado. When Tony started St. Albans, he brought along an experienced team of planners and project coordinators who'd worked together before. These guys and gals knew their stuff, and they knew Tony, a big strong man who doesn’t just walk into a room, he bursts into it, commanding your full attention. He is fearless when it comes to development, and will tackle and succeed at objectives that more timid developers would avoid. Tony knew what he wanted and where he wanted it. Our job was to figure out how to get it there, at a reasonable cost but a very high quality.
Tavern Creek does not have returning nines. It plays out and back through the four large valleys and over some very high hills. The results are some very dramatic golf holes that derive personal characteristics from whatever dominant natural feature was found on that hole. On the second and fifth, it's one of the creeks. The 11th plays up a dramatic hill, while the 14th plunges straight downhill. The 10th features one of the small cemeteries while the 12th showcases a remodeled studio home. Tavern Creek itself prominently plays a key role on the closing three holes.
In order to make the golf course fit onto some of the ground, a considerable amount of earthmoving was required, which gave us a free hand to work our wizardry at producing dramatic settings. We excel at directing cuts and fills that seem to have neither a starting nor stopping point and simply flow from element to element, tying everything together.
If there's a downside to Tavern Creek, it's that its widespread routing demands the use of a golf cart. But that hasn't made it less worthy of its high ranking among the best courses in the state. It will only get better, for St. Albans is a quality-oriented development that continually re-evaluates itself, then raises its personal standards.