There’s only one public 18-hole (actually 19) golf course in this country designed by Tiger Woods, and it’s awesome. Now the destination-worthy course has a new, over-the-top accommodation to match.
I was fortunate to be among the first reporters in the nation to get a glimpse of the course from Payne’s Valley, Wood to the Big Cedar resort in the Missouri Ozarks. It’s amazing, fun and incredibly scenic, instantly a favorite of mine, and I’ve been writing about the best golf courses in the world for 25 years (read more about Payne’s Valley here). More recently, I was the very first reporter to step into the new Buffalo Ridge Cottages, which immediately joined the top end of the many varied and unique lodging options at the sprawling 4,600-acre resort. The Cottages opened a little over a month ago.
The timing couldn’t be better. Golf has seen a huge revival since the start of the pandemic, attracting anyone looking for camaraderie and outdoor activity, and many resorts, including Big Cedar, experienced banner years in 2020. This has in turn sparked a continuing wave of post-vaccination golf trips, and Big Cedar is heading for another banner year in 2021.
At the same time, travelers are desperate for self-contained accommodation over traditional hotel rooms, preferring privacy and outdoor living space over the crowds and the lobby, elevator, hallway experience, prioritizing resorts with cabins, cottages, villas, even glamping units. I previously did a feature on the 10 best golf resorts with private chalets or cabins, and Big Cedar made the cut thanks to its many lakeside chalets, some of them more like homes with full kitchens. . They even have a full-fledged glamping resort, Camp Long Creek, with luxury safari-style tents and cabins (learn more here). But while Big Cedar has long been known as one of the best family resorts in the country, this new addition is golf-centric and the first on-course accommodation on the property (with five golf courses by famous architects, including Missouri’s top-ranked duo, Big Cedar is one of the nation’s premier golf resorts).
Because of these two converging travel trends, Big Cedar was already selling more tee times than it had guest accommodations and had to open another hotel nearby, the new mid-tier Anglers Inn. , just to meet golf demand. While the Angler’s Inn is all about value, these cottages are a luxury proposition, and before they opened they were completely sold out for several months, even the fanciest ones, which cost upwards of five thousand dollars a night.
The new Buffalo Ridge Cottages are 18 self-contained units near the Mountain Top Clubhouse, overlooking Payne’s Valley, Woods Course. Immediately outside the clubhouse, which features a full-service restaurant, is Mountain Top, a breathtaking 13-hole short course on the resort’s tallest property with sweeping views of the Ozark and exposed limestone cliffs, designed by legend Gary Player. Just down the road are two acclaimed 18-hole courses by Tom Fazio and Bill Coore/Ben Crenshaw, Buffalo Ridge and Ozarks National, a top 100 US course. It’s 67 holes of excellent golf just minutes from the cottages. Oh, and just outside the Mountaintop clubhouse is a grass putting course designed by Tom Watson.
This entire complex is considered “off-site” from the main Big Cedar complex, which sits on a 46,000 acre lake, with a world-class fishing port (Big Cedar is part of the retail empires of outdoor and fishing from Bass Pro Shops and Cabela), every water sport imaginable, several restaurants including a brand new upscale French restaurant (the Worman House Bistro), bars, activities, a huge amusement park for children, a large spa and the Top of the Rock golf course designed by Jack Nicklaus. Due to its location, the chalets are geared towards golfers who prefer to be closer to the tee than the family resort, but free shuttles are available to use all restaurants and facilities, which also include a second off-marina from the site, world-class shooting facility nearby, and the resort’s truly unique 10,000-acre private nature preserve, Dogwood Canyon.
Cottages range from one to four bedrooms, and regardless of configuration, each bedroom is en-suite with its own private bathroom. One-bedroom cottages have kitchenettes, while larger units have full kitchens and living rooms. All have towering, hand-built wood-burning fireplaces, river stone fireplaces, and expansive decks with stunning views and gas grills. Initial demand for golfers enjoying post-round sunsets on their patios while sipping fine whiskey and smoking cigars was so high that they had to run out and buy a new humidor and stock up on scotch and finer bourbon just to provide room service to the chalets. Another signature touch is that just as ski lodges typically have plenty of hooks and storage for gear at the entrance, these golf lodges all have full-sized lockers for sets of clubs, evoking a touch of clubhouse. But otherwise, these are Big Cedar-style Ozarks cabins, with exposed beams, lots of hand-hammered copper, and rustic furniture with lots of leather. Decor is mostly animal mounts mixed with antique golf equipment, while creature comforts aren’t overlooked, and bathrooms have huge walk-in showers and often oversized tubs.
All cabins are ideal for two or more golfers, couples or friends, but the crème de la crème is John’s Cabin, named after resort owner and Bass Pro Shops founder Johnny Morris. Morris is known for his practice and opinions, and has personally selected details ranging from wall finishes to custom wrought iron deck railings, truly making it his namesake cabin (although he’s equally involved in the rest of the cabins). units). This four bedroom monster has impossibly high ceilings (like 30 +/- feet), high enough for an entire flock of soaring geese to “fly” above the living room, there is a large commercial style kitchen and a huge bar, all with lots of custom brass, a massive rock fireplace all over the wall, even tree bark wallpaper. The patio is enormous, with access from the living room, contains its own swimming pool, and the chalet has a private putting green complete with bunkers.
There are two more of these huge John’s Cabins opening August 1, both located below the rest of the cottages, near the tee of the iconic island/waterfall 19and hole on the Payne’s Valley course. That’s a total of 20 units, which in high season (April-October) cost between $620-$725 for one-bedroom cottages, $1,220-$1,450 for 2-bedrooms, and $4,235-5,080. $ for the 4 bedrooms. Off-peak fares are $420-$620, $490-$1,220, and $2,100-$4,235, respectively.
Big Cedar is a day’s drive from about one-third of the US population, and for most other visitors, the closest airport is Branson Springfield, MO, an hour away with commercial service on several major airlines . Springfield is also home to the Wonders of Wildlife National Museum & Aquarium, which has 1.5 miles of interactive trails through 350,000 square feet and was just named the nation’s best aquarium by USA Today (an award it has won multiple times previously). The Big Cedar Resort is just outside of Branson, an extremely popular entertainment and vacation destination known for its live entertainment, country music, theme parks, restaurants and other high quality public golf courses .
But for Tiger Woods, the John’s Cabin crowd, as well as those in the Rockies, there’s a much closer option, Branson Airport, which handles both private aviation and scheduled Frontier flights, with a nonstop service from Denver, also a global airport. United hub. Amazingly, the discreet and hassle-free airport is about a mile from the Cottages. Fly Frontier or Private and there is no luxury golf destination in the country easier to get to.
Known as “America’s First Wilderness Resort,” Big Cedar is a sprawling, full-service outdoor resort that has won numerous awards, including being named the number one Family Golf Resort in North America by golf review – before the opening of the Woods course – and Number One Resort in the Midwest by Travel + Leisure Magazine. The Cottages at Buffalo Ridge are quite simply the most remarkable luxury golf accommodation to open recently anywhere.