While all 50 states have a nickname, Missouri’s might be the best. For the “Show Me State” is the perfect beginning to the question, “Show me the top new golf destination in the United States!” The answer of course is Missouri, as the state is highlighted by over 400 courses that canvas stunning terrain that was made for golf.
And with the 100th PGA Championship being contested at Belereve Country Club outside of St. Louis this August, there really isn’t a better time to explore what Missouri has to offer. Plus, if you live in the upper-Midwest you know that spring starts sooner and fall lasts longer in Missouri!
Midwest Golfing Magazine is thrilled to now be part of The Show Me State, as our publication will be available at the St. Louis and Kansas City Golf Shows plus at over 100 public courses throughout the year.
We invite you to enjoy the following pages on what makes Missouri so distinctive. Our staff is confident the Show Me State will receive strong consideration for your next golf trip!
Big Cedar Lodge Lights Up Branson as the State’s Emerging Golf Destination
Missouri’s upward climb as a golf power can be credited to Johnny Morris, the man who founded Bass Pro Shops and who has put golf on the map in Branson and nearby Ridgedale, Missouri. The southern MO hamlet is already known as the Live Music Capital of the World, and now thanks to Morris’ vision Branson is on course to become Missouri’s Golf Capital. By 2019, Big Cedar Lodge (Morris’ palatial resort founded originally in 1921) will feature four championship courses, the nation’s finest par-3 course, Top of The Rock, and the 13-hole, par-3 juggernaut Mountain Top Course designed by Gary Player.
Tom Fazio’s Buffalo Ridge Springs started it all, as the course originally opened in 2000 under the name Branson Creek Golf Club. Johnny Morris purchased the state’s top course according to Golf Digest in the fall of 2013 and immediately made sweeping changes for the better. Head Golf Professional Greg Thomas, who has been on site since 2000, details the transformation process.
“Mr. Morris closed the golf course in November 2013 and started with renovations consisting of new and enhanced water features, a complete bunker renovation, exposure of natural rock all throughout the course, four Amish covered bridges and last, but not least, the addition of American Bison to three areas along the golf course. The golf course was already great, but our founder has taken it to a whole new level of enjoyment with the enhancements and beautification,” concluded Thomas.
The famed design team of Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw are putting the finishing touches on newly named Ozark National, which will open to the public in 2018. One year later, Payne’s Valley Golf Course will be the first completed public-access course in the world designed by Tiger Woods’ design firm TGR Design. The course serves as a partnership between Johnny Morris, Tiger Woods, and the Payne Stewart Family, and will showcase the region’s natural beauty through a 19-hole championship course, as well as a family-friendly par-3 short course. MGM was fortunate enough to receive a behind-the-scenes tour of both properties last October, and I was left paging through my thesaurus to find new complementary words to adequately describe them!
In my humble opinion, Big Cedar Lodge is more than a destination, it’s a lifestyle. Hunting, fishing, hiking, and nearly every outdoor activity known to humans is available to explore and enjoy. And a few of their activities are one-of-a-kind, such as a golf cart cave tour that is free with your round at Top of The Rock, and the lighted driving range that is adjacent to the Nicklaus/Palmer/Watson designed course that plays host to the Bass Pro Legends of Golf at Big Cedar Lodge every April.
Steve Friedlander, who serves as Big Cedar Lodge’s Director of Golf, is no stranger to building renowned golf destinations from the ground up. He was a key figure in Destination Kohler’s rise to prominence in the early 2000s and more recently oversaw a renaissance at The Resort at Pelican Hill in California. “In my 42 year career in the golf industry I have never seen anything like what we have here at Big Cedar and the Ozarks,” began Friedlander. “The combination of incredible golf with five courses designed by legends of the game all in one location, fantastic rooms, and activities for every person of every age and the Ozarks hospitality in the entire area is definitely magical. Golfing, fishing, shooting and exploring with each other is the ultimate in social interaction and was quite frankly the social media network before the age of computers, smartphones and apps,” stated Friedlander. To learn more about all that Big Cedar Lodge has to offer and their exceptional stay and play packages, log on to www.bigcedar.com
But Branson isn’t just a great golf destination thanks to Big Cedar Lodge alone, the city also boasts a number of exceptional daily fee properties as well. At the top of that list is Branson Hills, formerly Payne Stewart Golf Club. Golfweek has listed it as Missouri’s number one course every year from 2012 through 2017.
“Our Team here at Branson Hills is extremely proud of the #1 ranking from Golfweek,” explained Dan Davis, Branson Hills’ Director of Golf. “Most of us have worked at other golf courses in the area and we are fully aware of the multi-million dollar improvements that have occurred at some of those facilities. They understand that in order to stay in even the top five courses in the state we are competing with some of the best golf facilities in the nation. We continually look for ways to make the course more playable without sacrificing its integrity and to maximize its conditions without being intrusive to the players. We want tourists and members alike to feel like friends and family, not just customers. I encourage the staff to fill foursomes and play golf with our guests whenever possible,” ended Davis.
Branson Hills is also home to The Missouri Golfers Museum, as beautiful glass encased displays honor Missouri legends such as Tom Watson, Payne Stewart, and Hale Irwin. Legendary players deserve to play legendary holes, and Branson Hills is filled with them. In fact, the 130 foot drop from tee to green on the very first hole gives you a stunning preview of what to expect during your four hour thrill ride. For more information on Branson Hills, visit www.bransonhillsgolfclub.com
Lake of The Ozarks Region Boasts High End Courses, Resorts, and Water Sports
If golf destinations gave Christmas cards to each other Branson would have to send one to the Lake of The Ozarks from now until eternity. For The Lake of The Ozarks area put golf on the Show Me State map thanks to a litany of top end resort courses and public daily-fee gems.
It started in 1960 with the advent of Tan-Tar-A Resort in Osage Beach. When Tan-Tar-A opened its doors it resided on only 70 acres. Today, Tan-Tar-A is comprised of 420 acres and features a host of amenities that allow their guests to truly get away from it all. The resort boasts of 27 holes and the championship Oaks Course is highlighted by stunning water features, sweeping elevation changes, and memorable shot values.
Five years later in 1965, The Lodge of Four Seasons opened to guests, but it wasn’t until 1973 that golf became part of the mix. Legendary designer Robert Trent Jones completed The Cove that year, while The Ridge was finished by Ken Kavanaugh in 1990.
Arnold Palmer’s Osage National bolstered the region’s profile like only The King could do in 1992, and Tom Weiskopf’s brilliant creation at Old Kinderhook Resort in 1999 solidified Lake of The Ozarks as a golf destination worthy of national praise.
To that end, The Lake is home to two of the top five public courses in Missouri, according to GOLF Magazine. Old Kinderhook and The Ridge at The Lodge of Four Seasons have consecutively been named the second best and fifth best, respectively.
According to Paul Leahy, president of the Lake of the Ozarks Golf Council and director of golf at Tan-Tar-A Resort, the Lake of the Ozarks rivals any golf destination in the country. “When you consider that we have 13 outstanding courses crafted by some legendary golfers and designers, all within 30 miles from one another, and at some of the most affordable rates you’ll find, it’s hard to beat what the Lake area has to offer for golfers and their families,” Leahy began. “It’s the quality, convenience and affordability that make the Lake of the Ozarks the go-to place for golf.”
I have always contented the perfect golf destination is one that is not overwhelmed by golf, but one that is enhanced by it! “The Lake of The Ozarks region is an outdoor playground where people love to escape to in order to take a break from the big cities and enjoy ‘the Lake life,’” discussed Steve Walker, Executive Director of the Lake of The Ozarks Golf Council. “The Lake was recently voted the ‘Best Recreational Lake in the Nation’ by readers of USA Today and that has everything to do with the fact that there is so much to do at the Lake area. Many people come to the Lake to spend time with their families, spend time on the water (fishing, boating, kayaking, paddle boarding, wave boarding, etc.), go hiking, go shopping and, of course, play golf. But, given the wide variety of recreational activities available at the lake, it’s no wonder why over 5 million annual visitors make the Lake of the Ozarks their vacation destination,” explained Walker.
For a complete list of Lake of The Ozarks 13 area courses and resort lodging options, visit www.golfingatlakeoftheozarks.com or call 1-800-490-8474.
More Top-Rated Courses in Missouri
Shoal Creek Golf Course – One of the top courses in the Kansas City area since opening in 2001. The Steve Wolfard design is highlighted by large landing area and exceptional elevation changes. www.shoalcreekgolf.com
Swope Memorial Golf Course – The 1934 A.W. Tillinghast gem once hosted a PGA TOUR event in 1949, The Kansas City Open. The tree-lined layout features stunning views of downtown Kansas City and was recently named one of The Best You Can Play by Golfweek. www.swoopememorialgolfcourse.com
Winterstone Golf Course– Located in Independence, Missouri, Winterstone GC is built next to a limestone mine on a piece of land that must be seen to be believed! Wild elevation changes are juxtaposed by towering trees and a bevy of creeks and streams that impact play throughout. www.winterstonegolf.com
Eagle Knoll Golf Club – Located between Columbus and Jefferson City, Eagle Knoll was recently ranked the #1 rated course in Missouri by Golf Advisor. This classic Ozark style layout also boasts of the best greens in Mid-Missouri. www.eagleknoll.com
Great Life Courses – Great Life Golf is comprised of 18 courses across Missouri, with most of them in and around the Kansas City metro area. Their mission: “To enrich the lives of families through golf, fitness, and healthy lifestyles. www.greatlifekc.com
Crown Pointe Golf Club – One hour south of St. Louis in Farmington, MO is a property with an extremely bright future. An 18 hole championship golf course, a beautiful lodge, and a nearby winery and brewery combine to form the making of a perfect long weekend! www.crownpointegolfclub.com