Over the course of five decades, there has been plenty to celebrate, too, as the area became a lifeblood of the community where people have, and still continue, to get together for a round of golf and enjoy other social activities.

It began on a 135-acre farm in Camdenton near Highway 54.

The site, which would become known as Lake Valley Golf and Country Club, was born and the club is currently celebrating its 50th Anniversary.

Over the course of five decades, there has been plenty to celebrate, too, as the area became a lifeblood of the community where people have, and still continue, to get together for a round of golf and enjoy other social activities.

“Camdenton is a pretty small town so it was the social hub, so to speak, of the community,” PGA Pro and Lake Valley General Manager Todd Nicklas said of the early years. “Everyone was a member out here and I think that is probably the root of its success is the membership. Everyone came out here and not only played golf together, but had great parties and great social events that tied everybody together. A lot of those members are still here and have helped Lake Valley grow and continue to be successful.”

Without the dedication and support of its membership, Lake Valley might not be here today for it was not always smooth sailing for the Camdenton course.

According to an historical account put together by Dennis Jones and the club’s first president C.C. Blair approximately 30 years after its founding, the golf club faced several obstacles but managed to overcome each endeavor.

In the beginning was the “Camdenton Golf Club,” which was established in 1950 and reached an agreement with the city to construct a 9-hole course near the Camdenton Municipal Airport. For 15 years, golf was played there on the sand greens course, but the 75-or-so members dreamed of a better facility and nine more holes to challenge golfers.

At that same time in 1965, a Farmer Home Administration (FHA) loan program was available to assist communities of 5,000 or fewer to establish recreational programs and a path towards that dream suddenly became reality.

Still, there was doubt.

“In 1966, when the idea of organizing a new club to build an 18-hole, grass greens golf course was first considered, there was initial skepticism of the project’s viability, given the relatively low population and economic base of that time,” wrote Blair. “Soon, however, it was generally realized that a primary reason to build the project was to provide a much needed recreation facility for visitors to the area; and that a large share of operating costs would flow from the same source.”

Blair went on to say that enthusiasm grew and the idea of a clubhouse being available for community activities, a swimming pool, tennis courts and golf course did not sound like too bad of an idea. Financing on a $350,000 loan was approved in early 1967 and according to Jones it was one of the largest loans made by the FHA for building a golf course.

However, what some may not know is that the property across Highway 54, known as Empire Ranch where Old Kinderhook Golf Club currently exists, was also being considered. A deal was nearly struck, but the owner died of a heart attack the day the transaction was to be made. Old Kinderhook was completed in 1998.

Nationally renowned golf course architect Floyd Farley of Oklahoma City, who designed more than 100 courses during his career, was called upon to design Lake Valley and in mid 1967 construction got underway. Being part way through the growing season, final growth was not completed before a rainy fall season set in and a five-inch rainfall damaged the fairways and roughs of 10 holes. Play opened in 1968 with a temporary 9-hole layout and the “official” opening did not take place until approximately April of 1969.

“With the dedication and generosity of the founding members and the support by key leaders of the community, the project was completed and has fulfilled the vision of those who worked so hard to make it a reality,” wrote Blair.

That was not the end of the struggle, however. According to Jones, money was a constant battle and just keeping the course open for play was the major concern each day. At the time, the club was attempting to service a $350,000 debt with a gross revenue figure budgeted at $66,398 in 1970. Despite the uncertainty of the club’s viability, the early members of Lake Valley never let go of their vision and stepped up when their help was needed most.

“The only thing that allowed the club to survive those early years was the dedication of the leaders and the club members, and their persistent attitude that this club was not going to fail,” wrote Jones.

Member work days were held for various projects such as painting the clubhouse, construction of maintenance buildings, picking up rocks, cleaning out brush and so on. Some members also paid another year’s dues in advance, some offered monetary loans and others offered material loans as well. Over time, the course of the tide changed and the club saw increased growth and revenue.

Perhaps it was more than just the idea of holding on to their vision for those members. Perhaps there was something greater at work that still exists at Lake Valley today. The bonds that were formed would not easily be broken and the course has gone on to thrive.

“I think there is an effect that Lake Valley has on people. We are family friendly, fun and people who participate in the activities we put on really enjoy themselves,” Nicklas stated. “I think that might be the essence of it all. When you join here you become family and everybody knows everybody that is a member.”

The course has also seen its fair share of more well-known people tee off on the links. According to Jones, LPGA Hall of Famer and U.S. Open winner Patty Berg was at the “grand opening.”

Since then, the club has seen Kansas City Royals manager Whitey Herzog, Missouri Gov. Warren Hearns, Kansas City Chiefs quarterbacks Len Dawson and Mike Livingston, Missouri football coach Don Faurot, Vince Coleman of the St. Louis Cardinals, Rick Sutcliffe of the Chicago Cubs and PGA Professionals Payne Stewart and John Daly who played a high school district golf tournament there in 1985 for Helias Catholic.

However, the staff at Lake Valley has also not forgotten how vital its members have been and, according to Nicklas, there are approximately 220 members at this time. The staff is appreciative of all the work and events the members continue to put on and a few weekends ago, Nicklas recalled one event where members fed 120 people pancakes that required no effort from the staff itself.

“We do not lack for manpower,” Nicklas said with a smile.

Moving forward, the hope is to grow the Lake Valley family and reach out to those who may be interested in becoming members.

“Membership is the heart of any organization. Good, active members really help keep the place alive and help us do activities and social events that not only help financially, but it makes them want to come out here,” Nicklas pointed out.

“Our membership is older and a lot of them have been around since the early 70s when we first got started so they are not playing as much golf and participating in quite as many things as they were. So we are trying to reach out to the younger group that has kids to keep this place alive.”

Of course, the golf course has always been open to the public as well. Today, the club hosts three to four invitationals every year that involve 100-plus teams and it also hosts other major events such as its Fourth Of July celebration that includes a member tournament, fireworks and featured a live band this year.

A 50th Anniversary Scramble was also held by the Men’s Golf Association to raise money for other celebrations and a charter member dinner was hosted earlier this year to commemorate the anniversary as well.

A lot can happen over the course of 50 years, but the mission of Lake Valley and what it stands for has never changed.

“One of our mission statements is to be the lake’s fun, family friendly and affordable golf course. I think that is probably our overall goal, to keep Lake Valley thriving and make it a fun place for families to join and be a part of,” Nicklas said. “Obviously we would love to have as many members as we could get, just to have a place where people can come, have fun and enjoy each other’s company.”

It seems Lake Valley has successfully accomplished just that over the past five decades. As the old saying goes, “Time flies when you are having fun.”