Payne’s Valley – Sneak Preview
by M. James Ward
In the final week in October, during a media visit, I was able to tour the planned Payne's Valley 18-hole course. The design by Tiger Woods and Johnny Morris will be the first totally accessible to the public. The layout is planned to open in 2020, joining other golf course offerings at Big Cedar Lodge, located near Branson, Missouri.
The Payne’s Valley course will feature the following distances from the championship tees:
Payne’s Valley Back Tees
#1 – 483 Yards – Par 4
#2 – 266 Yards – Par 3
#3 – 332 Yards – Par 4
#4 – 533 Yards – Par 5
#5 – 186 Yards – Par 3
#6 – 442 Yards – Par 4
#7 – 366 Yards – Par 4
#8 – 570 Yards – Par 5
#9 – 430 Yards – Par 4
#10 – 185 Yards – Par 3
#11 – 437 Yards – Par 4
#12 – 341 Yards – Par 4
#13 – 651 Yards – Par 5
#14 – 422 Yards – Par 4
#15 – 457 Yards – Par 4
#16 – 227 Yards – Par 3
#17 – 487 Yards – Par 4
#18 – 560 Yards – Par 5
TOTAL – 7375 Yards – Par 72
#19 – 100 yards – Par 3
The course is named in honor of Payne Stewart. The Missouri native grew up in nearby Springfield and was a three-time major champion. Tragically, Stewart lost his life in a plane accident that happened just over 20 years ago.
The tour of the property took place over much of the front nine, which is nearly finished in terms of course preparation. Grass for the tees and fairways will be zoysia with bent grass on the greens.
The property for the course is truly expansive and is located just below the main clubhouse building. Needless to say, the views of the course from the clubhouse are truly an eyeful with the Ozarks in plain site.
There are also plans to construct a mega-sized practice area located near the clubhouse and providing a downhill launch pad with a number of practice targets provided. Also being built is a 19th "betting hole" which has become a staple for other facilities to provide. The hole will be located near the 18th green.
The opening hole is a very strong long par-4—descending abruptly downhill and showcasing the finely manicured turf. Payne's Valley will include 85 acres of fairway which is truly enormous. The recently opened Ozarks National has 70.
Big Cedar Lodge - Payne's Valley course 1st hole
The course shows Tiger’s approach to golf design in having extremely wide fairways. I hesitate to say the course is akin to Augusta National but it clearly shows a desire to provide width in the driving areas with enormous putting surfaces featuring a range of internal contours.
Big Cedar Lodge - Payne's Valley course 2nd hole
The 2nd hole descends downhill as well but this time in the opposite direction. Listed at 266 yards the hole will play a bit shorter because of the elevation drop and often with the prevailing wind from the southwest assisting.
The routing for the remainder of the front nine follows an east/west, west/east direction. The short par-4 3rd provides an opportunity for stronger players to attempt a bold play from the tee. The par-5 4th is clearly reachable for strong players and features a fairway area as you near the green that is nearly a football field wide.
Big Cedar Lodge - Payne's Valley course 3rd hole
The par-3 5th plays to an island green and at Tiger's insistence a back teeing area was included.
Big Cedar Lodge - Payne's Valley course 5th hole
The final four holes on the outward side are a mixed bag and clearly meant to include a range of club selections.
The final hole we could see is the par-3 10th which plays from an elevated teeing area to a green that's very well defended with various bunkers.
The inward side could only be viewed from a distance. The course superintendent pointed out where the holes go and how they provide a varying level of challenges with the planned 651-yard 13th truly being a test. Initially, the 17th and 18th holes were to be a par-5 and par-4 sequence. That has now been flipped with the par-5 18th being a last opportunity for heroic play.
Big Cedar Lodge - Payne's Valley course 18th and 19th hole
The key unanswered question is how the strategic elements will be brought to fruition. All will need to wait on that until the course opens in 2020.All photos courtesy of Evan Schiller