RIDGEDALE, Missouri (July 21, 2020) – Big Cedar Lodge has once again been awarded the “Best Course You Can Play in Missouri” in Golfweek’s 2020 annual rankings list with Ozarks National earning this year’s top spot following its grand opening last year. Directly following Ozarks National on the list is last year’s winner, Buffalo Ridge at Big Cedar Lodge, which is now ranked the second-best course you can play in the magazine’s July issue. The combination of both courses ranking as the best in the state further solidify Big Cedar Lodge as the premier golf destination in the Midwest and America’s next great golf destination.
In addition to ranking as the “Top Courses You Can Play in Missouri,” Ozarks National ranked No. 64 on “Top 100 Courses You Can Play.” Most recently, the course hosted the 113th annual Missouri Amateur Championship in June. Buffalo Ridge ranked No. 83 on “Top 100 Courses You Can Play.” Together, the two courses will host back-to-back PGA TOUR Champions events in August known as The Charles Schwab Series at Bass Bro Shops’ Big Cedar Lodge. All rankings were released in Golfweek’s July issue, which are based on evaluations from more than 850 Golfweek course raters who survey more than 3,600 golf courses annually.
“We are honored to have been recognized by Golfweek, one of the most prominent publications in the game of golf,” said Johnny Morris, noted conservationist and founder of Bass Pro Shops and Big Cedar Lodge. “The entire Big Cedar Lodge team is very passionate about sharing our beautiful Ozarks with the world and I couldn’t be prouder of their commitment to connect more people to nature through these beautiful courses. We hope this recognition brings more people to enjoy the safe, secluded and rejuvenating outdoor experience our nature golf courses offer, particularly at a time when social distancing has never been more important.
Additionally, the wilderness resort is setting its sights on another award-winning course with the opening of Payne’s Valley. Payne’s Valley is the first public access course designed by Tiger Woods and TGR Design and is currently available for preview play with a grand opening slated for this fall.
Redefining Golf in the Ozarks
Morris joined forces with the Coore & Crenshaw firm to announce the Ozarks National project in 2015. Envisioned to redefine the perception of golf in the Ozarks, the new course serves as a gateway to the Ozarks National Forest, aligning with Johnny Morris’ personal mission to inspire more people to connect with the great outdoors.
“This has been an incredible piece of land to work with and the vision behind the entire golf experience at Big Cedar Lodge fits perfectly into our approach to build natural golf courses that connect people to the local landscape,” said Bill Coore, co-principal of Coore & Crenshaw, at the time of the announcement.
Ozarks National showcases golf in the manner in which it was intended, with nods to traditional Scottish-style golf. Measuring 7,036 yards from the back tees, the course represents the terrain of the Ozarks with incredible vistas and beautiful views. Designed to be environmentally friendly with conservation in mind, the 18-hole layout features challenging carries and a variety of visually appealing approach shots that are highlighted by native habitat.
The course also includes several signature creative features Morris is known for, such as a 400-foot wooden beam and plank bridge hand built by Amish craftsmen, which connects the tee box and fairway of the 13th hole that stands 60-feet above a flowing creek. The property used to be a dairy farm, with the “Stone House” greeting golfers at the midway point of their rounds. The house was built in the early 1900s, dating back to the farming days, and has never been moved.
“Believe me, when you get up on some of these plateaus, you can cast your eyes and see 40-50 miles,” Crenshaw said at the time. “You can't do that it in too many places in the United States. This is gorgeous. We want to showcase that beauty, and Johnny Morris has given us an unbelievable opportunity.”
The beauty in the course came from the minimalist approach to the project, with Coore and Crenshaw making several visits with Morris to the site during construction, using the natural beauty of the land and letting the course conform to the property, not the other way around. When Ben Crenshaw came to visit for the official course opening early this year, his fondness for the final product was clear to see.
“Obviously when you look around, you have not only the holes that you’re working on, but also the land around you, which for me is a big part of the atmosphere around you when you look off into the distance,” Crenshaw said. “You know you’re in the Ozarks, and now it was our job to compliment that, with the way that the holes fit together, and the directions they are going. We’re very proud of the final piece here.”
America’s Next Great Golf Destination
The recognition adds to Big Cedar Lodge’s list of growing resort and golf accolades. In September, Golf Magazine named Big Cedar Lodge, America’s premier wilderness resort, as the No. 1 family golf resort in North America, as part of its Top 100 Resorts issue for 2019-2020. It was the most comprehensive review of elite destinations in North America, and the most expansive editorial project the publication has undertaken.
Soon, Morris and Tiger Woods will unveil Big Cedar’s fifth golf course – Payne’s Valley, a 19-hole course built to showcase the region’s natural beauty and to honor late, local golf legend Payne Stewart. It is the first public golf course in the U.S. by Woods and his firm, TGR Design. With Payne’s Valley, Woods and Morris will offer a course where players of all skill levels will be able to enjoy the game with each other in the beautiful Ozark Mountain landscape with kid’s tees located further down the fairways. The course will also feature a spectacular and breathtaking 19th hole affectionately known as Big Rock at Payne’s Valley.
That course will join Ozarks National; Top of the Rock, a Jack Nicklaus-designed par-3 course in nearby Ridgedale, that features a seamless display of nature and golf at its finest, overlooking Table Rock Lake; the Buffalo Ridge Springs Course, designed by renowned architect Tom Fazio and bringing players in close contact with nature, native grasses and free-ranging North American bison from nearby Dogwood Canyon Nature Park; and the 13-hole Mountain Top course, designed by Gary Player and delivering unparalleled thrills for golfers passionate about nature and golf.
Currently, Morris and Big Cedar are working with Audubon to obtain Audubon Signature Sanctuary status, an environmental education and certification program for properties that follow comprehensive sustainable resource management principles. Johnny Morris achieved signature status with the Top of the Rock course 15 years ago, one of fewer than 100 courses in the world to earn the designation at the time. A resort-wide sanctuary status designation would be the only one of its kind to encompass all aspects of golf development and the greater development of Big Cedar Lodge.
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About Big Cedar Lodge
Located in the heart of Missouri’s Ozark Mountains, Big Cedar Lodge is America’s premier wilderness resort. A passion of Bass Pro Shops founder Johnny Morris, the 4,600-acre lakeside retreat connects families to the outdoors with a variety of nature-based experiences including fishing, boating, hiking, spa and wellness offerings, hosting 2.4 million guests annually. Signature attractions include Top of the Rock, home to world-class golf, dining, and entertainment; and Dogwood Canyon Nature Park, a 10,000-acre nonprofit wildlife nature park. Named “Number One Resort in the Midwest” by the readers of Travel + Leisure, the resort offers genuine Ozarks hospitality and a convenient location just south of Branson. Learn more at www.bigcedar.com.