Branson is a Golf Destination

I never really pictured myself going to Branson, Missouri. In fact, I knew very little about it and had no idea that the Branson/Lakes Area is a golf destination. I only heard that it was a place for older people with a lot of country music shows. I also met a guy on my Pitcairn Island expedition that was a major benefactor of the Titanic Museum in Branson. So I didn’t know much, but when the opportunity came to travel there I was quick to jump at the chance. Branson is a golf destination, I was told. I didn’t need to hear much else.

Branson is a Golf Destination, Branson, Missouri, Ozarks, golf

Branson is a golf destination with so much else to offer

I flew into the Springfield-Branson Airport (SGF) in Springfield, a 45-minute drive to Branson. There is a small airport in Branson (BKG), with limited commercial service from Via Airlines and direct flights to/from Dallas, Houston, Chicago, Denver and Austin, Texas. Destination representatives indicated that there would be expanded service coming soon. I arrived late on my first night and checked into Thousand Hills Golf Resort; which has several lodging options, including condos and cabins, with a new cottages under construction. The condo I stayed in was nice – a 2-bedroom, 2-bath unit with full kitchen, across the street from the well-regarded Bob Cupp-designed golf course.

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Photo opp with the lads and the stars of Raiding the Country Vault after the show

Branson is in the heart of the Bible Belt and you’ll see dozens of churches along the highway leading to Branson. It’s very conservative Middle America and very pleasant. Everyone I met was extremely nice, and I enjoyed it very much, as it’s quite different than New York City.

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Raiding the Country Vault theatre

Branson is in a beautiful Missouri Ozarks setting and has much to offer. It’s best known for its live entertainment shows and theatres. There are many country music shows, including a Dixie Stampede from Dolly Parton. Our group attended “Raiding the Country Vault”, which had top musicians and songwriters from Nashville performing iconic songs from the genre.  Country’s not really my thing, but it was enjoyable, and there are many other genres at nearly 50 theaters, so there’s something for everyone.

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The Hollywood Wax Museum in Branson

Branson has a hodgepodge of family attractions like Titanic Museum, historic downtown with Dick’s 5 & 10, a 105-year-old diner, waterfront Branson Landing Town Center, zip lines, three lakes, Silver Dollar City Amusement Park, and much more. It’s fun and much cooler and less hokey than a place like Pigeon Forge or Gatlinburg, Tennessee. But what brought me to Southwest Missouri was the golf – I played 5 courses in 3 days!

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Excavating the Earth to expose amazing rocks on the golf courses

The Branson/Lakes Area has received a tremendous amount of investment in recent years from Bass Pro Shops founder Johnny Morris. A Springfield native and noted conservationist, Morris is on a quest to ensure that people will marvel at the natural grandeur of his beloved Ozarks for generations to come. Known to go all-in when he undertakes a project, Morris is building golf course amenities for his Big Cedar Lodge at an astonishing pace.

Branson is a Golf Destination, Branson, Missouri, Ozarks, golf

Branson has several amazing courses already with several more to come

Morris has two Tiger Woods signature courses coming – an 18-holer called Payne’s Valley under construction, and a short course planned thereafter. A Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw course is scheduled to open in 2018, and the Gary Player-designed Mountain Top Course debuted on August 31, 2017. It’s not an overstatement to say that the Branson/Lakes Area is an incredible, emerging golf destination. I will be back to see the new courses!

Buffalo Ridge Springs Golf Course

Buffalo Ridge Springs was the first course I played, and it happened to be on the windiest day of the year. There were gusts up to 50 mph. It felt like the Old Course at St. Andrews. It was difficult to play well. However, I didn’t need to break par to see how gorgeous the course was and how much detail went into the Tom Fazio design. The course is played along with Top of the Rock in the PGA TOUR Champions Legends of Golf each spring.

Branson is a Golf Destination, Branson, Missouri, Ozarks, golf

The view off the tee on the first at Buffalo Ridge Springs Golf Course

The course is as gorgeous as it was challenging. We were constantly taking photos and looking at the dramatic design features. It is immaculately kept, a recurring theme at the Branson courses.

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I loved the buffalo head tee boxes at Buffalo Ridge Springs Golf Course

I look forward to playing this course again . . . on a calm day!  I highly recommend this course to anyone who loves golf.

Top of the Rock

This golf course comes by its name honestly, perched gloriously above Table Rock Lake, and it has to be seen to be believed. It’s a 9-hole, par-3 layout by Jack Nicklaus, one of the most beautiful golf courses I’ve ever seen, and I’ve played many of the world’s greatest courses.

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Some view from the tee at Top of the Rock

The course is like a fairy tale, with flowers, stunning rock formations, trees of all types, and fluffy white sand bunkers so perfect that I wanted to lie down in them. Par-3 courses are always fun, but this was far and away the best one I’ve ever played.

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Yet another amazing Par 3 view at Top of the Rock Golf Course

The eye-candy views of the water features are spectacular, and while it gets windy up there, it won’t diminish your experience. Make sure the battery on your camera is fully charged!

Branson Hills Golf Club

We teed off early at Branson Hills and it was very cold which is unseasonal for this time of year. I’m never a fan of playing golf in the cold but it warmed up by about 10am.

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Teeing off or swinging a bat on Branson Hills Golf Club on a cold morning

Branson Hills is a nice course, ranked No. 1 in Missouri by Golfweek. The greens are challenging and in superb condition.  While this course is not as memorable as Buffalo Ridge Springs or Top of the Rock, few are, and it was still a great morning. We played a scramble format which always livens things up a bit if you’re with a group on a golf outing.

Mountain Top Golf Course

Mountain Top Golf Course is one of the most unique courses I’ve ever played. In fact, it is the most unique golf course I’ve played. There are 13 holes, all par-3’s. You can choose where to tee off from. Yes that’s right, you can choose where you hit from, as there are no designated “stations”. Where the hole begins is left to the golfer’s imagination. It’s great fun.

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The 9th hole looking back toward the clubhouse on Mountain Top

Mountain Top is beyond beautiful. I was floored by how challenging and pretty it is. The 9th hole had exposed natural limestone lining the hole and surrounding the green. Every hole was unique and a test due to the high winds atop the mountain.

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The second green up to the sky at Mountain Top

Mountain Top also had the nicest greens I’ve ever played and, again, I’ve played some top courses all over the world. Putting on them was like hitting a shot on a felt pool table and getting a perfect, true roll. You have to play them to understand their greatness.

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Cave before playing Mountain Top

I forgot to mention that Top of the Rock Golf Course comes with caves. Yes, you can tour the Lost Canyon Cave and Nature Trail in your golf cart before or after your round. The cave system has underground waterfalls and a bar! Johnny Morris’ imagination and the Ozarks combine to present an experience that transcends golf.

Pointe Royale Golf Course

Pointe Royale is a nice course that was built in the mid 1980’s. Many of the old-school entertainers who put Branson on the map, like Andy Williams, lived or still live at The Pointe. The course is nice, an enjoyable round on a relatively short layout. It is not the best course I’ve ever played, but it makes for a pleasant round, and the greens, like all others we encountered in the Branson area, are in wonderful condition.

Branson is a Golf Destination, Branson, Missouri, Ozarks, golf, Pointe Royale

A green on Pointe Royale in the early morning dew

I like to check out the houses surrounding golf courses, and Pointe Royale has an array of diversity among those along the course. We only played 9 holes, so I didn’t get to see the whole thing; however, I liked what I saw, and the bacon-and-egg breakfast sandwiches at the 19th Hole Grill are off the charts!

Branson is a Golf Destination, Branson, Missouri, Ozarks, golf

Just another amazing view from a Branson Golf Course

Branson is a golf destination and so much more. The food, for example, is amazing. I enjoyed the Devil’s Pool Restaurant at Big Cedar Lodge. The bacon and waffles were to die for. Lunch at Arnie’s Barn, as in Arnold Palmer, was tremendous too, and the Mexican cuisine is scrumptious. I recommend the queso and quesadillas.

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Dessert at Level 2 was off the charts

Perhaps my favorite meal was dinner at the Level 2 Steakhouse in the Branson Hilton Convention Center Hotel. The food was outstanding, with great service in a trendy restaurant where you get to choose your steak knife from an array of options. But the gooey butter cake dessert is so good that it will bring a tear to your eye. Trust me, I don’t gush about stuff unless it’s legit!

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BBQ and sides at Getting Basted

Downtown, check out the Farmhouse Restaurant for breakfast and Getting’ Basted for dinner.  The blackberry cobbler at the Farmhouse is so good three of our group ordered it for breakfast.  Try the ribs and brisket at Getting’ Basted, a tasty BBQ joint where the servings are large and the flavors fantastic. It’s making my mouth water just typing this! You will not lose weight in Branson, but you will be on Cloud Nine about the food.

Branson is a Golf Destination, Branson, Missouri, Ozarks, golf

Enjoy the beautiful Ozarks

As you’ve learned, my trip to Southwest Missouri was an eye-opener. I find the Ozarks and Branson/Lakes Area to be a compelling golf destination already, and a lot more to come. Off the course, Branson is investing heavily on infrastructure upgrades and preparing for the next chapter in it’s fascinating history. It’s not a big nightlife place, there are no casinos, and Faith, Family and Flag are at the core of its identity. But it appeals to many, as approximately eight million people visited the little town in 2016, a place with less than 15,000 year-round residents.  The golf destination holds its own with most places already, and with the high-profile course soon to come, I think it will be of the premier golf destinations in the country.

Disclaimer: I was invited and hosted during my trip to Branson. Everything here was written by me based on my experience and has not been influenced in any way.

Comments

  1. I used to go to Branson with my grandparents and it wasn’t much for golf not that I played much. I just remember eating a lot and seeing strange things and yes a lot of churches. Maybe that’s why I moved to Los Angeles!

  2. I love the Branson and the Ozarks and so happy you had a chance to visit my home. It’s a beautiful part of the country with nice people and fresh air. Hope you come back soon!

  3. I’m a golfer and never had Branson on my radar for golf or anything else. Thanks for he heads up!

  4. Thanks for sharing this great post! I really like it! keep up the great work! well done!

  5. Good destination you suggested to play golf course. its looking so awesome and have so many good things to enjoy. Stunning photos you shared of that place.

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