Essential Golf: A passion for the Game

An Ozark Experience: Payne’s Valley, Missouri

Payne's Valley
Various photos of Payne’s Valley Golf Course in Hollister, MO, designed by Tiger Woods with Johnny Morris Monday, September 21, 2020. Photo by Matt Suess

Tiger Woods shared a dream with noted conservationist and Bass Pro Shops founder, Johnny Morris. The result is the new Payne’s Valley course, built as a tribute to golf legend and Ozarks native Payne Stewart.

“Tiger Woods and I have been fishing and golfing friends for 20 years,” says Johnny Morris, “and we have long dreamed of designing and building a truly special experience for golf and conservation right here in the Ozarks. Payne’s Valley fulfills that dream and doing it with Tiger in honor of our late friend Payne makes it deeply special to me.”

Morris’s golf course vision included a unique bonus—a 19th hole as a grand finish.

The 19th hole is where Morris let his imagination run wild and it shows why he’s earned the reputation as “The Walt Disney of the Great Outdoors.” Morris envisioned this bonus hole as an epic expression of his vision to combine nature and golf as a fitting tribute to Payne Stewart.

Morris spent hundreds of hours hiking through the untouched landscape to determine exactly how to maximize the beauty and drama of a site deemed perfect for a golf course.

Below a massive rock wall, an island green rises from Lunker Lake. If a player is skilled enough to land the ball on a green protected by two white sand bunkers from the tee box 140 yards away, the player can access the island by crossing a small bridge.

Once golfers complete the hole, Morris’ epic tribute continues on the “Cliffhanger Trail,” a mile-long nature trail that ascends a sheer rock face before returning to the clubhouse.

Missouri is known as the “Cave State” and the Morris nature trail makes the most of the magnificent Karst formations created more than 300 million years ago when the oceans receded, establishing the Ozark Plateau. Golfers pass through a natural spring-fed cavern system that dates back millions of years, traversing alongside 250-foot cliffs, across a bridge that spans a 100-foot-deep gorge, and through ancient waterfalls.

Payne’s Valley is designated as Audubon International Signature Sanctuary Course, and the remarkable vision of Morris and Woods to foster a deeper connection between the game of golf and nature combines to bring conservation to the forefront of course design.

Big Cedar Lodge is a family-friendly wilderness resort and a world-class golf destination. The resort includes not only a bucket-list course in Payne’s Valley, but also challenging courses at Top of the Rock, Buffalo Ridges, Mountain Top and Ozarks National.

Big Cedar Lodge offers the complete golf vacation package: great courses to play, high-end accommodations, casual and fine dining, and numerous activities.