Missouri Golf Post

Big Cedar Lodge Is As Good As It Gets


We’ve all been to those places, those uninspiring and forgettable places, most of us too many times to count. Even if they leave the lights on for you.

It’s a nice place to visit, but …you know the routine.

Then there’s the flip-side — have you been to Big Cedar Lodge? If you have, you haven’t experienced it nearly enough.

It’s a nice place to visit, but wow — would I LOVE to live there.

Big Cedar Lodge isn’t just a place a few minutes south of Branson, it is it’s own inspiring entity, it’s own memorable community, it’s very own beautiful setting shielded from the outside world, almost like it’s on a different planet.

It’s as good as it gets. Take it from the man who built it.

“Big Cedar Lodge is a tribute to the magnificence of nature, the solidarity of history and the joy of family,” owner Johnny Morris says on the resort’s webpage. “We are a one-of-a-kind resort dedicated not only to preserving the soul of the wilderness, but restoring your soul, as well.”

Big Cedar was the dreamchild of Morris, who’s the founder and CEO of Bass Pro Shops. Founded in 1972, his first “shop” in his now Bass Pro empire was an eight-foot square space in the back of his father’s liquor store. That’s where it stayed for 12 years, but look where it is today — 500,000 square feet of inspiration, and that’s just at the main store in Springfield, Mo., which is one of 70 Bass Pro Shops across the country.

Morris purchased the land for Big Cedar in 1987, with the original intent of making it a glorified fishing hole for his Bass Pro employees and Tracker Boat customers. There were some primitive structures on the land — some dating back to 1920 — when it was used as wilderness and ranch resort, but certainly on a much smaller and more primitive basis than  it is today.

The vision of Morris has turned this into one of the nation’s premier resorts. Two of the original structures were restored to their original prominence — the Worman and Simmons buildings — while Morris did the rest. Big Cedar now has nearly 250 pristine, yet homey, rooms available in three different lodges, private cottages and log cabins.

Along with four dining options— all are vacation friendly, casual and relaxed, the only way Morris would have it  — there’s plenty to do:

* Miniature golf and other kids and family activities, including bonfires and scavenger hunts.

* A fitness center, sand volleyball court, horseshoes and a playground

* Hiking trails spanning nearly three miles.

* One indoor and two outdoor swimming pools, hot tubs, and ice skating in the winter.

* Boat cruises, guided fishing trips, water skiing, and paddle boat, canoe and kayak rentals.

* A small market (again, why leave?)

* If that weren’t enough, coming in 2017 is the Ultimate Fun Center, which will include a 16-lane bowling alley, laser tag and a Go-Kart track.

And of course golf, world class-caliber golf, at The Top of the Rock and Buffalo Ridge, courses that serve as hosts for a stop on The Champions Tour each April, The Legends.

“It’s a whole lot of fun and the venues are just spectacular,” Tom Watson told us in April, 2016. “Johnny Morris and Jack Nicklaus have done a fantastic job with this property, it’s first-class all the way.”

Nicklaus is the course designer of Top of the Rock, a breathtaking 462-acre spread that overlooks Table Rock Lake with jaw-dropping views that make even the most hardened souls shake their heads. It’s unique beyond that — not only is Top of the Rock a nine-hole course, it’s a nine-hole par-3 course. It’s the first of its kind to host a PGA Tour-sanctioned event.

“If there was ever a par-3 course worthy of PGA Tour tournament play,” Gary Player says, “Top of the Rock is it. It is truly an outstanding venue and a wonderful complement to the newly redesigned Buffalo Ridge course (which has been named the No. 1 public course in Missouri by Golf magazine).”

Top of the Rock had an “unfortunate” occurrence in May, 2015, when a massive sinkhole opened up next to the driving range and putting green — a sinkhole that was 70 feet wide and 40 feet deep. While most would consider this a calamity, Morris saw an opportunity — a tourist attraction and geological treasure hunt, as the sinkhole is now more than 100 feet deep after more than 25,000 truckloads of dirt and rock were removed.

It’s that vision that’s made Morris, who’s as down-to-earth as a bowl of homemade soup, worth a cool $4.3 billion. And it’s all part of the package deal that has become Big Cedar.

“Our team has a genuine focus on creating unforgettable memories for you, while you’re surrounded by the beauty of the Ozarks and true Ozarks’ hospitality,” Morris says. “Whether it’s a family vacation, romantic getaway, special event or corporate retreat, we promise an experience that you’ll never forget.”

You won’t want to leave, that’s for sure

Randy Minchew

The Missouri Golf Post


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The Missouri Golf Post is a monthly digital magazine that “celebrates the people who play the game.” Each monthly issue contains several “feature” stories on golfers, golf courses, and/or major tournaments of interest statewide. Each issue contains a number of regular departments on topics such as Tournament Summaries, Fitness, “The Superintendent’s Corner,” Instruction, and Rules.


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