Golf Town USA: Branson and the Southwest Missouri Ozarks


In its “Golf Town USA” series, is highlighting the cities and towns across the U.S. in which golf is a way of life. We’ll feature must-play daily fee and resort courses, premier private clubs and other indelible connections to the golf industry.

Veteran golf writer and marketer Dan Shepherd reports on Branson, Missouri, this week.

Bucket-list golf destinations must have a variety of exceptional golf courses that are close to one another, hold critical acclaim, and offer great restaurants, lodging, and after-golf diversions. Branson Golf checks all those boxes but has something nowhere else does – Tiger Woods’ first public course, new courses opening virtually every year for the past five years, and an ever-growing collection of high-profile competitions that have legendary players raving about the destination.

Top of the Rock

Two PGA TOUR Champions events were played here in 2020, including one at which Phil Mickelson made his tour debut and won in mesmerizing fashion at Big Cedar Lodge’s Ozarks National, the Bill Coore-Ben Crenshaw design that earned “America’s Best New Public Course 2019” by Golf Digest.

Next came a match-up of epic proportion last fall when Americans Tiger Woods and Justin Thomas battled European standouts Rory McIlroy and Justin Rose in the Payne’s Valley Cup. It served as the official debut of Payne’s Valley, the first public-access course in the U.S. designed by Tiger Woods’ TGR Design.

There are 10 golf courses in Branson, all open to the public, and each course is close to one another. There are lodging choices of all types, live entertainment theaters, three lakes, and much more make the destination a place where the golf is great and the post-round options abound.

Must Plays: Whenever Woods is involved in anything, the golf world takes notice. And his partnership with Big Cedar Lodge Founder Johnny Morris has resulted in the scintillating Payne’s Valley that pays tribute to Payne Stewart, a friend of Woods and Morris who grew up in nearby Springfield. Payne’s Valley is as beautiful as it is dramatically designed.

Payne’s Valley

Anyone who knows Morris, the noted conservationist and Bass Pro Shops Founder, knows anything he does, he does to an astounding degree. And always illuminating the geological wonder of his beloved Ozarks. That’s on display at all five Big Cedar Lodge golf courses, which also include Top of the Rock (Jack Nicklaus design), Mountain Top (Gary Player), and Buffalo Ridge (Tom Fazio and Morris).


Value and Options: As if what Morris is doing isn’t enough to command attention, accolades for Branson Golf courses this year have illuminated that it’s not just Big Cedar Lodge that makes the destination a must-experience place. Four Branson courses were rated among the top 10 in Missouri – Ozarks National (No. 1), Buffalo Ridge (No. 2), Branson Hills (No. 3), and LedgeStone (No. 7).

Branson Hills Golf Club

Additionally, Ozarks National and Buffalo Ridge were honored as “Top 100 Courses You Can Play in America,” ranking nos. 64 and 83, respectively (out of roughly 13,500 U.S. playing venues). Thousand Hills (Bob Cupp design), The Pointe, and Holiday Hills complete Branson Golf’s roster of 10 courses, and each has earned appreciation for their playability and value.

411: Accessing the area is easy with dozens of direct and connecting flights available into Branson-Springfield International Airport (SGF), an easy, scenic drive to Branson (45 minutes). Those who prefer driving are many, as Branson is within an 8-hour drive for nearly one-third of the country.

For more information about Branson Golf, visit or

The Rundown

Ozarks National, 800.225.6343

Mountain Top, 800.225.6343

The Pointe, 417.334.4477

Thousand Hills, 800.487.0769, 417.334.4553

Buffalo Ridge, 800.225.6343

LedgeStone, 417.335.8187

Top of the Rock, 800.225.6343

Branson Hills, 417.337.2963

Payne’s Valley, 800.225.6343

Holiday Hills, 417.334.4838

Branson is a one-of-a-kind family vacation destination nestled in the lakeside beauty of the Ozark Mountains — and an incredible value — with dozens of live performance theaters, three pristine lakes, an international award-winning theme park, dozens of attractions and museums, a Historic Downtown district, a Town Center-style shopping complex, a full range of dining options, and a host of hotels, motels, resorts, RV parks, campgrounds and meeting and conference facilities.

Call 1-800-296-0463 for help planning your next vacation, convention or reunion. See more at:

Shane Sharp

Shane Sharp is a longtime golf writer based in Greenville, S.C. In addition to running his content marketing business, Southbound 4, he's a regular contributor to GOLF Magazine, Golf Inc., Club Management and other golf magazines and websites.

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