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Branson, Missouri Continues to Evolve as a Golf Destination

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If you think you know Branson, Mo., it’s time to think again. While the live music venues that put the bucolic Ozark Mountains town on the map continue to thrive, its reputation as a top notch golf destination has grown … and continues to evolve.

Heck, golfers who’ve visited just a few years ago will find the scene almost unrecognizable. Sure, the awe-inspiring Top of the Rock — designed by legendary Jack Nicklaus and holding the honor of being the first-ever par-3 course to be included in a professional PGA championship — is as striking as ever, but its sister course, Buffalo Ridge, has undergone a metamorphosis.

No. 15 at Buffalo Ridge

Designed by renowned architect Tom Fazio and originally opened in 1999, Buffalo Ridge has done the unthinkable – make its list of previous accolades pale in comparison to what now graces the land. In conjunction with owner and visionary conservationist Johnny Morris, Fazio has exposed massive limestone formations, enhanced approaches and added water features to make every hole more memorable than the last.

Jack Nicklaus and Tom Fazio masterpieces not enough? Gary Player has stamped his signature in the Ozarks with the recently opened Mountain Top Course. This 13-hole, walking-only short course is unlike anything you’ve ever played.

Strap your bag to a trolley and let your imagination dictate your round. There are stakes in the ground with yardage markers nearby, but they’re merely suggestions. Play it long or play it short. Play it from different angles. The only mandate is to enjoy the course, nature and camaraderie.

No. 10 at Mountain Top

The Mountain Top greens are huge and as smooth as putting on a pool table. Nearly as quick, too. And the bunkers are as pristine as the white sands of an isolated Caribbean beach. Capping off your experience, the finishing hole plays back to the clubhouse and the green boasts multiple hole locations that enhance golfers’ chances at carding an ace. Hard to imagine a better way the end an already unforgettable round.

It shouldn’t take you much longer than two hours to get around Mountain Top Course. If it does, you were likely admiring the stunning panoramas. One notable addition to those views is Tiger Woods’ (TGR Design) first public access design — Payne’s Valley (named to honor Missouri golfing legend Payne Stewart) — which is full speed ahead on construction and scheduled to open in 2019. As a treat, the 19th hole was designed by Morris. Named “The Rock,” it’s a short par-3 that promises to be amazing.

Payne’s Valley will be both family-friendly and challenging. It has wide fairways and ample landing areas along with creative angles and approaches that shotmakers love and expect from a championship course.

If two years is too long to wait for new golf, then Morris and his Big Cedar Lodge have you covered with the yet-to-be-named ridge-top course by the industry’s hottest design team of Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw. With all the heavy lifting complete, the Ozarks is scheduled to be unveiled in 2018.

The Ozark Mountains form the backdrop on No. 5 at Buffalo Ridge.

Once opened, this par-71 (36-35) track will play “firm and fast” and offer multiple avenues into each green. Both Coore and Crenshaw bristle at the notion that there’s only one way to approach the playing surface. Bring it in high or run it along the ground. Considering the exposed nature of the course and propensity for high winds, the latter may be your best option.

There’s more. Tiger won’t be finished with Branson when he wraps up Payne’s Valley. He’s also designing a family-friendly par-3 course on the grounds of Big Cedar Lodge. There isn’t a date attached to this project, so stay tuned.

These new tracks join the likes of Thousand Hills, Branson Hills and Pointe Royale Golf Village to make Branson a powerful player on the golf destination scene. Combine that with world-class fishing and camping, as well as countless museums, restaurants and points of interest and this bustling Ozarks town is a must-visit spot in Middle America.

Learn more or plan your trip at explorebranson.com.

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Rob Thomas is a member of the Golf Writers Association of America and golf course rater. In addition to writing for national and regional golf publications, he has covered topics ranging from health and fitness to travel. Based in Cleveland, Ohio, he is married with three kids.

2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Eric

    Dec 16, 2017 at 9:52 pm

    I live here locally, and have played these courses quite a bit. I have played some Great Courses here in the United States and on the Hawaiian Islands. Branson has got some great golf courses that Rival some of the best in the world. With the two courses that are scheduled to open this next coming year and then in 2019 with the Tiger Woods course, Branson will soon be considered one of the best golf destinations in the United States

  2. Branson Reynolds

    Nov 26, 2017 at 10:05 pm

    I go to Branson every spring to play those courses. It’s a great time and I highly recommend it.

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Courses

Hidden Gem of the Day: Swope Memorial Golf Course in Kansas City

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These aren’t the traditional “top-100” golf courses in America, or the ultra-private golf clubs you can’t get onto. These are the hidden gems; they’re accessible to the public, they cost less than $50, but they’re unique, beautiful and fun to play in their own right. We recently asked our GolfWRX Members to help us find these “hidden gems.” We’re treating this as a bucket list of golf courses to play across the country, and the world. If you have a personal favorite hidden gem, submit it here! 

Today’s Hidden Gem was submitted by GolfWRX member CVC (with a +1 from sabram), and it’s called Swope Memorial Golf Course in Kansas City. Here’s why it was submitted, according to CVC:

“This A.W. Tillinghast design sits on hills in the middle of Swope Park in Kansas City. A municipal course managed by Orion Management Systems, it offers amazing view of the Kansas City skyline, typical Tillinghast guarded greens that reward good shots by funneling the ball toward the hole. Opened in 1935, it features mature trees and elevation changes that make it a pleasure to play.”

According to the Swope Memorial website, prices range from $17 during Twilight hours, to $50 during peak hours on the weekends.

Check out more photos of the course below (provided by GolfWRX user sabram), and click here to enter your favorite local hidden gem!

Click here to enter your favorite local hidden gem!

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Hidden Gem of the Day: Sand Creek Station in Newton, Kansas

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These aren’t the traditional “top-100” golf courses in America, or the ultra-private golf clubs you can’t get onto. These are the hidden gems; they’re accessible to the public, they cost less than $50, but they’re unique, beautiful and fun to play in their own right. We recently asked our GolfWRX Members to help us find these “hidden gems.” We’re treating this as a bucket list of golf courses to play across the country, and the world. If you have a personal favorite hidden gem, submit it here! 

Today’s Hidden Gem is called Sand Creek Station located in Newton, Kansas, and it was submitted by GolfWRX Member grandslambound. Here’s why the course was submitted…

“This place is pure. Host of the 2014 U.S. Pub Links Championship, and last years NJCAA Jayhawk conference championship. Played it a couple weeks ago for $28 bucks with a cart and 2 drink tickets. It is a big 7359 from the tips and the wind is always whipping. The 10th hole is with out a doubt the signature hole, a 640 yard par 5 with water left and OB right on the tee shot and the water right and OB left on any lay-up or approach. This hole is so cocky they give you a free tee shirt if you birdie it. (Doug Ghim eagled it in the 2014 US Pub Links final round) It includes many great architecture elements including a redan green on the par 5 4th. Not to mention how great of condition it was in when I played it as well. This place is a steal.”

He’s not kidding. According to Sand Creek Station’s website, the course ranges from $24 to $49, and those prices include cart and range balls.

Check out more photos of the course below, and if you have a Hidden Gem (under $50) you think belongs on our list, submit it here!

Submit your favorite local course under $50 here!

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Hidden Gem of the Day: Cedar Crest, home of the 1927 PGA Championship

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These aren’t the traditional “top-100” golf courses in America, or the ultra-private golf clubs you can’t get onto. These are the hidden gems; they’re accessible to the public, they cost less than $50, but they’re unique, beautiful and fun to play in their own right. We recently asked our GolfWRX Members to help us find these “hidden gems.” We’re treating this as a bucket list of golf courses to play across the country, and the world. If you have a personal favorite hidden gem, submit it here! 

Today’s hidden gem, submitted by GolfWRX Member Simp, is called Cedar Crest Golf Course in Dallas, Texas. If you’re a golf historian, you may recognize the course (formerly known as Cedar Crest Country Club) as the host of the 1927 PGA Championship. That was back when the PGA Championship was a match play event, and in the 1927 competition, Walter Hagen defeated Joe Turnesa 1up.

Today, according to Cedar Crest’s website, rates range from $13 to $48 dollars depending on time of day and the season, which has to make it one of the most affordable major championship venues to play in the world.

Check out more photos of the course, submitted by GolfWRX Member Simp, below, And if you have a Hidden Gem (under $50) you want to submit, click here.

Submit your favorite local Hidden Gem here.

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