Located deep within the Ozark Mountains of Missouri lies an unexpected destination that just might be the next big thing in golf.
Big Cedar Lodge is a premier wilderness resort, stretching along the shores of Table Rock Lake, which has long been hailed as a world-class resort. Johnny Morris, the founder of Bass Pro Shops, created Big Cedar Lodge to encourage visitors and their families to connect with the great outdoors.
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 lush hills of the Ozarks, calling you to slow down and take in the beauty that surrounds, as the road travels over trickling water crossings and showcases stunning vistas. The scene opens to reveal the hidden oasis: secluded cabins tucked into the hillside, Adirondack-style lodges that blend into their wooded backdrop, a chapel reminiscent of your grandparent’s country church and a collection of restaurants and activities placed to not disrupt of the natural splendor of the land.
The captivating setting is only the beginning of what makes this luxury, rustic retreat so inviting. The amenities and attractions at Big Cedar Lodge have been designed to ignite an excitement for nature within guests of all types. Every restaurant uses the lake views as its backdrop, and every attraction incorporates natural elements, like birch trees that line the entrance of the resort’s 18,000-square-foot spa. You will enjoy natural touches like a real wood-burning fireplace in your cabin and rustic decor. Some of the premier accommodations offer custom details like a glass floor with a trickling stream below or an outdoor shower that, while private, showcases views of the lake.
But what does all of this have to do with golf? Morris, along with some of the most legendary names in golf, spared no detail in creating a multi-course destination at Big Cedar Lodge that masterfully incorporates the spectacular Ozark Mountain beauty into four (soon to be five) distinctive courses.
The first course, Top of the Rock, is a Jack Nicklaus design and holds the honor of being the first-ever par-3 course to be included in an official PGA Tour-sanctioned event, hosting the Bass Pro Shops Legends of Golf from 2014 to 2019. Each of the carefully crafted nine holes showcases unique elements, including an island green on the sixth hole.
The Arnold Palmer-designed driving range features 10 fully lit target greens ranging from 55 to 285 yards. While at the driving range, you will be surrounded by views of the “Cathedral of Nature,” a canyon with towering rock formations that was unearthed after a sinkhole opened in 2015, revealing a true natural wonder. A round of golf at Top of the Rock includes an experience you truly can’t get anywhere else. Each golfer receives a pass for the Lost Canyon Cave and Nature Trail.
Buffalo Ridge is an 18-hole, Tom Fazio-designed course that is intended to bring you in close contact with nature. Native prairie grasses line the course, and as you play, you will travel over many streams via Amish-built bridges and take in views of waterfalls, lakes and caves. The championship course gets its namesake from the North American Bison that roam the ridge. This par-71 course was rated the No. 1 course in Missouri by Golf Magazine and holds a Golf Digest rating of 4.5 out of 5.
For the Mountain Top course, Morris teamed up with World Golf Hall of Fame legend Gary Player to create a 13-hole, par-3 short course that delivers an unparalleled experience for golfers. Holes range from 66 to 221 yards, giving players the opportunity to hit a variety of shots using different clubs. The course routes through some of the most dramatic and unforgettable views in the Ozarks.
Continuing the theme of nature-inspired courses with incredible views, Ozarks National is a breathtaking, 18-hole championship course designed by architect duo Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw. The course measures 7,036 yards from the back tees and features challenging carries and a variety of visually appealing approach shots that are highlighted by the native habitat. One of the course’s most interesting features includes a 400-foot wooden beam and plank bridge, which connects the tee box and fairway of the 13th hole and stands 60 feet above a flowing creek.
Rounding out Big Cedar’s collection of bucket-list-worthy courses is Payne’s Valley, the first public-access course designed by 81-time PGA Tour winner Tiger Woods. Set to open in 2020, Payne’s Valley pays tribute to Ozarks native and World Golf Hall of Fame member Payne Stewart. The championship course offers a style of play that will allow golfers of all skill levels to fall in love with the game as well as the beauty of the region. Payne’s Valley will showcase features like a dramatic bridge gliding over the water on hole 5 and the bet-settling hole 19 known as “The Big Rock."
Beyond the game of golf, Big Cedar is home to countless restaurants and attractions. Two marinas, a 10,000-acre nature park, expansive shooting facility, world-class spa, natural history museum and a 50,000-square-foot activity center are just a few of the activities to keep you entertained when you’re not on the links.
For more information, visit BigCedar.com.