Woods firm to design Stewart tribute course at Big Cedar Lodge

Woods firm to design Stewart tribute course at Big Cedar Lodge
Adam Lawrence
By Adam Lawrence

Bass Pro Shops founder Johnny Morris, the developer of the Big Cedar Lodge resort in the Ozark mountains in the US state of Missouri, has announced plans to build a new golf course designed by Tiger Woods’ firm. It will be the first public access course by TGR Design. The scheme includes plans for a future Woods par three course on Big Cedar property.

Scheduled to open in 2019 and named in honour of the late Payne Stewart, the new Payne’s Valley Golf Course will be the first completed fully public-access course in the world designed by TGR Design. The course will feature a dramatic 19th hole, The Rock, that can be used to settle unfinished wagers. The hole was envisioned by Morris, and is set in a dramatic geological feature. The walkable course will finish with golfers traversing through a natural cavern system to return to the clubhouse after completing the 19th hole.

It all started on a fishing trip in 1997. Tiger Woods, Johnny Morris, his son John Paul and their buddy Big Al spent the day fishing together. “Shortly after Tiger won his first Masters in 1997, he bought one of our Bass Tracker fishing boats. My son and I had the opportunity to deliver his boat and spend the day fishing with him. You really get to know a person when you’re able to spend quiet time on the water fishing together,” said Morris.

“When we contemplated building another golf course at Big Cedar last year, my son John and I visited Tiger’s new Bluejack National course in Texas and we were both blown away. It is a truly breathtakingly beautiful place, very reminiscent of Augusta National. We are very proud to align with Tiger to create an unforgettable golf experience that players of all abilities will be able to enjoy again and again.”

The Payne’s Valley course will pay tribute to the legacy of the late Payne Stewart, a friend of both Morris and Woods as well as an Ozarks native. Morris, with the help of Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw, is also creating The Payne Stewart Learning Facility, an extraordinary practice facility that will contain a tribute museum displaying Stewart’s personal trophies, scorecards, apparel, equipment, photos and more.

In conjunction with the new course, Morris will open a local chapter of The First Tee, a non-profit youth development organisation that provides educational programmes to build character, instil values and promote healthy choices through the game of golf.

Payne’s Valley Course will complement the overall golf, angling and shooting experience at Big Cedar Lodge. The new course will be located adjacent to a new 13-hole short course designed by Gary Player Design, which opens later this year and Ozarks National, an 18-hole course designed by Coore & Crenshaw, which will debut in 2018. The courses will join Big Cedar Lodge’s existing golf offerings, the nine hole par three course designed by Jack Nicklaus’s firm, Top of the Rock, a 16-hole practice facility by Arnold Palmer Design, a 6,000-square-foot Himalayas putting complex, and the 18-hole championship course designed by Tom Fazio, Buffalo Ridge.

At a press conference launching the project, Woods said: “We’re talking about how to expedite rounds, how do we get kids more interested, how do we get amateurs to play golf and to enjoy being away from the cell phones, all these different things. It’s just time consumption. The easiest way is never lose a ball. One, they’re expensive, except for us as pros, and it’s frustrating, right? It’s time-consuming looking for a golf ball. That’s one of the reasons I like contouring, clearing out the brush under trees so that you can play a round of golf and not lose a golf ball.

“There will be ample room to run the ball up. I want this golf course playing fast. That’s what I tell all my teams, I don’t care if it’s brown, brown’s okay, brown’s good, it doesn’t always have to be perfectly green. I want the ball running, I want it travelling, I want it moving on the ground, and this golf course allows us to do that. We have some amazing elevation changes, some amazing slopes, and I think that we can create some interesting options for a lot of the players and enjoyment for everyone to come out here and just have a good time.

“The only continent I didn’t play is Antarctica, but I’ve played everywhere around the world. I’ve seen all the different types of styles of golf, how they’re played, different levels of play from extremely difficult to things that are, you know, very simplistic, but also then again things that just nature’s just done its course. Look at St Andrews, it’s a great course but it’s flat and it’s out there and it’s right in front of you. It’s still one of the hardest golf courses you’ll play based on the weather. I’ve always wanted to be able to play that golf course backwards like it was designed to be able to do that. I’ve never had the chance, but hopefully one day I will.”