The partnership grew from a vision to connect more people to nature by growing the game of golf and outdoor recreation with premier golf, angling and shooting experiences unlike anywhere else in the world. Beyond the championship course, the expansive partnership includes plans for a future Woods-designed par-3 “short course” on Big Cedar property.
Scheduled to open in 2019 and named in honor of the late Payne Stewart, the new “Payne’s Valley” course will be the first completed fully public-access course in the world designed by TGR Design. Being built to showcase the region’s natural beauty, the championship course will feature an dramatic 19th hole, “The Rock,” that can be used to settle unfinished wagers. The hole was envisioned by nature-loving Morris, and is set in one of the most dramatic geological features imaginable. The challenging but player-friendly walkable course will have an unforgettable finish where golfers will traverse through a breathtaking natural cavern system to return to the clubhouse after completing the 19th hole.
“I couldn’t be more proud to partner with Johnny Morris to debut my first public-access courses at Big Cedar Lodge,” Woods said. “Johnny’s incredible passion for connecting people of all ages and walks of life to nature is truly inspiring. Together we’re tremendously excited to create a publicly accessible world-class golf experience in the center of America.”
The friendship between the noted conservationist and championship golfer began on the water 20 years ago. “Shortly after Tiger won his first Masters Tournament in 1997, Tiger actually ended up buying one of our Bass Tracker fishing boats,” Morris said. “My son and I had the opportunity to deliver his boat and spend the day bass fishing with him… you really get to know a person when you’re able to spend quiet time on the water fishing together. My boy and I were both very impressed by how down to earth and engaging Tiger was, and by how much he loved to fish.”
“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,” Morris added. “It is a truly breathtakingly beautiful place very reminiscent of Augusta National. After spending more time with Tiger and his team, it became apparent to us that Tiger is extremely dedicated to applying his worldly knowledge of golf to develop great courses. His aim is to design and build only a select number of courses that are of extraordinarily high standards, with an emphasis on width and playabilitiy creating a fun and enjoyable experience for all. We quickly became excited about Tiger’s design philosophies and the three of us began to dream together about creating a world-class golf course in our stunning Ozark surroundings. 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 honor the legacy of the late Payne Stewart, a friend of both Morris and Woods as well as an Ozarks native who won 11 PGA Tour events, including three major championships. Stewart and his father Bill Stewart were instrumental in helping to establish golf in the region and nationally. To further honor Stewart’s legacy, 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.
A driving force in the vision behind the partnership with Morris, Woods and the Stewart family in expanding golf amenities is a desire to help families – and especially youth – spend time enjoying nature and the outdoors. In conjunction with the new course, Morris will open a local chapter of The First Tee, a nonprofit youth development organization that provides educational programs to build character, instill values and promote healthy choices through the game of golf. The new chapter will include ongoing youth programming at the course to ensure kids of all ages and skill levels have the opportunity to develop their golf skills while enjoying the outdoors.
Payne’s Valley will be located adjacent to a 13-hole short course designed by golf legend Gary Player (opening in 2017) and “Ozarks National,” an 18-hole championship course designed by Coore and Crenshaw (debuting in 2018). The courses will join Big Cedar Lodge’s existing golf offerings: the nine-hole par-3 course designed by Jack Nicklaus, Top of the Rock, a 16-hole practice facility by the late Arnold Palmer, a 6,000-square-foot Tom Watson “Himalayan” putting complex and the 18-hole Buffalo Ridge course designed by Tom Fazio.