By Erik Matuszewski
Big Cedar Lodge’s Mountain Top clubhouse first comes into view on the winding drive up to the resort’s newest golf course, Payne’s Valley. At a distance, it looks small atop a massive ridge and limestone wall almost 200 feet high—the highest point on the property in southwest Missouri. It’s just over 10 miles north of the Arkansas border and, once on the clubhouse’s back deck, it seems you can see several other states.
The vistas are the start of the fun in store for golfers at the first public golf course in the U.S. built by Tiger Woods and his team. A tribute to the late Missouri native Payne Stewart, Payne’s Valley sits on a dramatic piece of land close to three other Big Cedar courses: Ozarks National (Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw), Buffalo Ridge Springs (Tom Fazio), and the 13-hole Mountain Top layout (Gary Player). The picturesque nine-hole, par-3 Top of the Rock course is 15 minutes away at Big Cedar Lodge’s main property.
The first 13 holes at Payne’s Valley are rollicking and ready to play, a lineup of seven par fours, three par threes, and three par fives. The full 19 will open later this fall. (Yes, 19: An extra par three sits at the base of the wall below the clubhouse and a waterfall.)
The first few holes take players into the scenic valley, showing o dramatic exposed rock outcroppings, elevation changes, ponds, and man-made waterfalls. Wide playing corridors make the course forgiving, but scoring well demands more strategic lines for the best plan of attack around Tiger’s challenging green complexes and surrounds.
If Big Cedar hasn’t yet made your golf bucket list, Payne’s Valley offers another compelling reason to add it.