The Branson Missouri Ozarks and Big Cedar Lodge have emerged as a must-visit Midwest golf destination that doesn’t rest on its laurels.
MGM has covered Big Cedar Lodge near Branson in the SW Missouri Ozarks on several occasions. Each time we visit, we’re greeted by something new to experience.
That held true during our latest trip in October 2023. We stayed in the Payne’s Valley Cottages, adjacent to Payne’s Valley Golf Course, the Tiger Woods creation rated one of the country’s Top 100 public courses.
Woods and Big Cedar Founder Johnny Morris dedicated the course and its moving essence to Payne Stewart, who hailed from nearby Springfield.
Perched along a ridge facing the heaving Ozarks terrain, the new 1-, 2-, and 4-bedroom cottages are like everything else under the vast Big Cedar umbrella – impeccable, tasteful, rustically elegant, luxuriant. The wood, glass, and stone buildings have comfortable beds, kitchenettes, cathedral ceilings, porches with rocking chairs, and BBQs. They boast views of several thrilling holes at Payne’s Valley along with other remarkable vistas.
With five courses in play to date – designed by Woods, Nicklaus, Fazio, Player, and Coore-Crenshaw (all certified by Audubon International for their enviro and sustainability best practices) – Big Cedar continues to level up.
A sixth course (Cliffhangers) is currently under construction. It’s an 18-hole, par-3 design located adjacent to Payne’s Valley. It may be 2025 before it’s completed, according to Big Cedar.
A new halfway house has been built at Payne’s Valley serving free sizzling bison dogs and other snacks in a stunning structure that oozes a refined Ozarks décor and, again, serves up panoramic views.
The three regulation 18-holers at Big Cedar – Payne’s Valley, Buffalo Ridge, and Ozarks National – are all ranked among the country’s best. They combine with two non-Big Cedar championship layouts – Branson Hills and LedgeStone – to place five of Branson’s golf destination courses in Missouri’s top public list, including the top four (Source: “Golfweek’s Best Courses You Can Play by State, 2023”).
The two Big Cedar short courses (9-hole Top of the Rock and 13-hole, walking-only Mountain Top), combine with 18-holers Thousand Hills (Bob Cupp design), The Pointe, and Holiday Hills to provide 10 destination mix-and-match choices that give golfers with an array of playing options. The addition of Cliffhangers will only add to that.
For a new après golf option, Big Cedar recently opened Harry’s Cocktail Lounge and Bar in the historic Worman House. This new lounge provides an upscale experience for guests featuring live jazz, fine cigars, craft cocktails and sunsets over Table Rock Lake.
A recently opened MetaGolf in Branson provides indoor hitting bays and golf simulators through which customers can play famous courses in the comfort of the new venue.
Where to Lodge?
You can stay at any number of lodging types at Big Cedar during golf trips – from glamping and cottages to traditional lodges and hotel rooms – but book early because the resort sells out fast. One need not ever step foot off Big Cedar to enjoy a remarkable golf getaway (and otherwise given its marinas, nature trails, family amenities, and shops).
For those who want a more varied experience – and less pricey as Big Cedar commands top dollar for its world-class products and services – Hiltons of Branson beckons. Two Hilton hotel options – Convention Center and Promenade – are conveniently located between modern, waterfront Branson Landing Town Center (with retail shops, bars, restaurants, and family friendly venues) and historic downtown Branson (with Dick’s 5 & 10 and the 110-year-old Branson Diner).
Whether you stay at the Hilton Branson Convention Center Hotel or not, consider having a meal at Level 2, its upscale steak restaurant. A bountiful breakfast buffet is offered daily.
From November 1st to January 7th, Branson celebrates Christmas with plenty of holiday magic. America’s Christmas Tree City is a perfect place to experience an authentic Ozark holiday.
You can’t discuss Branson and not bring up its live entertainment, with 100 shows playing in 37 theatres. And Silver Dollar City continues to be rated as one of the country’s finest theme parks.
Convenience and Transportation
Branson is located with an 8-hour drive from one-third of the U.S. population. Its central location is within a 12-hour drive for a whopping 50% of U.S. residents.
For those who prefer flying, Springfield-Branson International Airport (SGF) welcomes a variety of commercial airlines and flights (American, Delta, United, Allegiant) and is roughly 50 minutes away, while Branson Airport (BKG) primarily services private flights (a significant number of visitors fly into BKG for golf) and Sun Country Airlines to/from Minneapolis-St. Paul.
For more information: www.explorebranson.com, Facebook (@bransongolf), and/or Instagram (@explorebransongolf.com)