On a map, Kansas City, Missouri and Little Rock, Arkansas are not that far apart— it’s just a quick weekend trip away. At least that’s what I told my folks when my wife and I moved to Kansas City for work. But when the map becomes overlaid with obstacles like a full time job, weekend plans with the wife and friends, and everyday life obligations, the distance tends to stretch. We were starting to feel even further apart with news that my grandfather was starting to slow down a bit. I grew up fishing and golfing with him and my dad almost every weekend, and I couldn’t let any more of those memories pass us by while he still had the energy to join in.
“Let’s meet at Table Rock Lake,” I told my dad over the phone. We had been to Branson on a family trip when I was younger, and I remember loving it, “It’s smack dab between us, so it’ll be easy. You can drive grandpa and the boat up and I’ll snag us a few tee times.”
“Haven’t seen any fishing pictures from you lately. Do you still remember how to tie on your own lure?” my dad joked back. He wasn’t wrong; it had been a while since I’d gotten out of the city for some time on the lake. My fingers itched to cast that first line.
My dad had just slipped the boat into the water when I pulled into the Edgewater Villa Resort. My grandfather stood nearby, calmly directing my dad’s steering from shore as he pulled it into our spot at the resort’s dock. Once parked, we headed into the cabin to check out our sleeping arrangements. The Edgewater Villa was a perfect choice. Not only was it tucked into a quieter arm of Table Rock Lake; but with cabins that can accommodate up to 12 people, they didn’t even blink when we asked for an option with 3 beds. After unpacking and settling in, we headed out for an early dinner with plans to hit the lake afterwards.
The Catfish Hole was only a quick drive down the road in Kimberling City. We all ordered ourselves a cold pint and my grandpa raised his signature toast, “To a weekend full of hooks and slices! May our hooks find the water, and our slices the dry land.” We enjoyed our meals, especially my dad who could have probably eaten the fried catfish and hushpuppies until closing time. Filled well past the gills, we headed back to start our weekend of fishing and golfing.
I’ll be honest, growing up taking the boat out onto smaller lakes than Table Rock, I was a bit nervous to see how crowded and loud it would be. After all, Table Rock is a mecca for the world of watersports. But, I quickly learned most of it was quieter than my favorite lakes back home. This lake was big enough for all the wake boarders and wave runners to have room to play, with bends and arms remote enough for fisherman to feel like they’re worlds away.
We pulled in some real lunkers throughout the trip. Largemouth bass was the target, and we caught our fair share, but we also caught a few spunky bluegill and smallmouth around some fallen logs near shore. Grandpa had his heart set on finding some walleye, so we headed out towards the James River Arm, just north of us, where there had been some reports of 19” to 23” getting hooked and tried our luck. Grandpa caught a few, so did my dad, but I struck out. Not the worst thing in the world, since earlier I had pulled in the largemouth of the trip.
We played two rounds of golf during our stay in Table Rock Lake. I asked a good friend of mine who had played countless rounds around Table Rock Lake and Branson where we should play, and he assured me that you really can’t go wrong with any of them. But, he did say Ledgestone Country Club was one of his favorites. After playing it, I could see why. It made for a fantastic challenge—you really need every shot shape in the book—while remaining friendly enough as to not feel like it was beating you up. Climbing in and out of the beautiful Ozark Mountains, the course was as dramatic as it was fun to play.
The next course we played was Branson Hills Golf Club. It has been voted as the number one course in Missouri since 2012 by Golfweek, so it felt like a must play.
My grandpa has played courses all over the world, and he couldn’t stop talking about how much of a hidden gem the Table Rock Lake golf scene is. He was right, while we only played two courses, we had to pass up on a bunch of other spectacular options like Ozark National, and the courses around Big Cedar. We won’t talk about who took home the victory this weekend—mainly because my dad is a sore loser.
On the last afternoon, grandpa decided he’d had enough excitement and wanted to lay low until dinner. Dad and I still had some energy left, so we headed over to Shepherd of the Hills to check out one of the adventures I had seen combing through Table Rock Lake’s website—UTV racing.
These four wheelers felt like they’re cut straight out of the X-Games. Think dune buggies, but designed to cut through narrow, mud-covered backwoods tracks. And when I say cut through, I mean it. Maybe it was coming off of the calmness of the lake, or the methodic focus on the course…but at first the Ozark forest was just a blur of green and brown whizzing past our protective cage. Soon, my senses caught up to my adrenaline and we settled into the rhythm of the engine and track. Couldn’t have drawn up a bigger exclamation mark to what had already been a great trip.
The three of us really needed this getaway. I had missed getting out on the course and the lake with these guys. Family vacations might usually take place when the kids are younger, but I wouldn’t trade this time for anything. Being old enough to truly cherish my time with my dad and grandpa sure beats half remembering a trip to Disneyland or the beach. Getting together for the holidays is one thing, but getting away without the obligations and crowded family events felt entirely different. It felt intentional, it felt like we all meant it.
With a solid weekend in the books, we loaded up all our gear and gave our farewells. Thanksgiving wasn’t all that far away, and my wife and I would be traveling down to Little Rock for it this year. But, with how quick the trip was out to Table Rock, the quality of golf courses and how easy the resort/marina combo made our visit, I had a feeling that it wouldn’t be long before the three of us were here once more, catching lunkers and making memories.Find out just how great a Table Rock Lake vacation can be for your family