Features Mann Overboard

Into the Ozarks

Courtesy of Big Cedar Lodge

Big Cedar Lodge offers an escape for golfers and families

Located deep within the Ozark Mountains of Missouri lies an unexpected destination that is teed up to be the next big thing in golf. Big Cedar Lodge, a nature enthusiast’s and sportsman’s dream escape, stretches along the shores of Table Rock Lake and has long been hailed as one of America’s premier wilderness resorts.

Johnny Morris, noted conservationist and founder and CEO of Bass Pro Shops, purchased Big Cedar Lodge in 1987 with the intent of creating a place for families to reconnect with nature. Over the years, Big Cedar Lodge has greatly expanded its offerings, but Morris’ vision to create a wilderness resort as a place where conservation and family traditions come together has remained at the heart of the resort’s mission.

Within moments of entering the property, it is easy to see that nature was the muse behind the resort’s design. A winding entry road takes you deep within the forested hills of the Ozarks, calling you to slow down and take in the surrounding beauty as the road travels over trickling water crossings showcasing stunning vistas. As you take your last turn, the scene opens to reveal a hidden oasis: secluded cabins tucked into the hillside, rustic lodges that blend seamlessly into their wooded backdrop, a charming chapel reminiscent of your grandparent’s country church and a collection of restaurants and activities that are thoughtfully placed to not disrupt of the natural splendor of the land.

Over the years, Big Cedar Lodge has further expanded its commitment to connecting people with the great outdoors by redefining golf in the Ozarks. Five distinct courses are a vision of Morris and five of the biggest names in golf: Jack Nicklaus, Tom Fazio, Gary Player, Coore & Crenshaw and Tiger Woods. Through these masterful collaborations, no detail has been spared in creating a multi-course destination that beautifully embraces the natural landscape with exposed rock croppings, waterfalls and Ozark Mountain views. Recently named the No. 1 Golf Resort for Families by Golf Magazine, each of the Big Cedar courses artfully showcases designs to welcome golfers of all different skill levels, providing breathtaking views with every shot.

Top of the Rock by Jack Nicklaus

Top of the Rock, a Jack Nicklaus Signature Course, is the first-ever Par-3 course included in a PGA Tour-sanctioned event and features nature and golf at its finest. Perched high above Table Rock Lake, the peaceful waterfalls, wandering creeks, bass-filled ponds and pristine lakes of Top of the Rock complete a true celebration of nature, the Ozarks and the game of golf.

Buffalo Ridge Springs by Tom Fazio

Matching the beauty of Top of the Rock is the Fazio-designed Buffalo Ridge Springs Course (formerly Branson Creek Golf Club). Acclaimed as one of the region’s top golf courses, Buffalo Ridge has been transformed by Morris and renowned golf course architect Tom Fazio. Adding new approaches, water features and bunkers, Morris and Fazio have redesigned the course layout to bring players in close contact with nature, native grasses and free-ranging bison from nearby Dogwood Canyon Nature Park. The course has been rated the No. 1 Public Course in Missouri by Golf Magazine and holds a Golf Digest rating of 4.5 stars out of 5.

Mountain Top by Gary Player

World Golf Hall-of-Famer Gary Player and Morris teamed up to create a world-class, family-friendly golf course that opened at Big Cedar Lodge in August 2017. The 13-hole course was designed to bring a more accessible experience to families, juniors and golfers who are learning the game as it routes through unforgettable rock formations. The course includes some of the best vistas in the region.

Ozarks National by Coore & Crenshaw

The golf course architect team of Coore & Crenshaw share Morris’ passion and appreciation for nature and conservation, making Ozarks National a striking display for the senses and a fitting tribute to the Ozarks region. Designed to test avid players and golf travelers from around the country, the natural landscape provides a compliment to the existing 18-hole layout at Buffalo Ridge Springs. The course was recently named the Best New Public Course in America by Golf Digest and rated the No. 1 Course you can play in Missouri by Golfweek’s 2020 rankings. It also serves as a gateway to the Ozarks National Forest.

Payne’s Valley by Tiger Woods & TGR Design

Named in honor of the late Payne Stewart, the Payne’s Valley golf course is the first fully-public access course in the world completed by Tiger Woods’ design firm TGR Design. A partnership between Morris, Woods and the Stewart family, the course showcases the region’s natural beauty through a 19-hole championship course. The bonus hole was designed by Morris, which he envisioned as an epic expression of nature golf and a stunning tribute to Payne Stewart. Morris spent hundreds of hours hiking through the untouched property to determine exactly how to maximize the beauty and drama of the site for the perfect golf setting.

Below a massive rock wall, an island green rises from Lunker Lake. If a golfer is skilled enough to land the ball on the green protected by two white sand bunkers from the tee box 140 yards away, they can reach the island by crossing a tiny bridge. But they won’t be alone. In classic Morris fashion, Lunker Lake has been stocked with giant Missouri trout and largemouth bass. Golfers will even have the opportunity to feed the fish.

Once golfers complete the hole, the nature adventure shifts into high gear. Morris’ epic tribute continues on the Cliffhanger Trail, a nearly one-mile nature trail that ascends the sheer rock face before returning to the clubhouse. Missouri is known as the Cave State, and Morris and his team of naturalists discovered and worked for over five years to expose the magnificent karst formations, which were created over 300 million years ago when the oceans receded, creating the Ozark plateau. Golfers travel through a natural, spring-fed cavern system that dates back millions of years as they traverse alongside 250-foot cliffs, across a handcrafted metal bridge that spans a 100-foot-deep gorge and through ancient waterfalls.

“This hole is a tribute to all nature gives us, to great friends and families enjoying happy times together outdoors and to the amazing legacy of Payne Stewart,” Morris said.

Along with all of Big Cedar’s golf offerings, the resort has an numerous leisure activities and attractions, such as nearby Dogwood Canyon Nature Park, the Bass Pro Shops Shooting Academy, Fun Mountain and, of course, Cedar Creek Spa. In addition, Big Cedar Lodge will be opening Angler’s Lodge in Hollister, Missouri to offer additional lodging options for those traveling to the Ozarks. Morris’ Wonders of Wildlife aquarium is also a short drive away.



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