The Takeaway: The newest course at Big Cedar Lodge, and my favorite, Payne’s Valley features impressive elevation changes, wide fairways, and fun greens. The scenery is dramatic while the 18th and 19th holes are as memorable as a finish gets in the Show Me State. Grade A-
Designer: Tiger Woods in 2020
Cost: $200 - $325 Click for current rates
Phone Number: (417) 339-5420
Course Website: Official Website - Visit Paynes Valley Golf Course's official website by clicking on the link provided.
Directions: Get here! - 1250 Golf Club Dr, Hollister, Missouri 65672 – UNITED STATES
What to Expect: Tiger Woods was employed to design a course that could handle the magnitude of the expansive and dramatic property at Big Cedar Lodge while still making the course playable for a resort setting, and the GOAT delivered. In typical Tiger fashion, the fairways are really wide and little rough is afforded; a trademark adopted from Augusta National and was seen in his design at Bluejack National. While the width offers plenty of playability, the greens are masterfully crafted so that it can make Payne’s Valley play pretty tame or really amp up the challenge with some skillful pin placements. The shaping of the greens as a whole are fun and the variety of hole lengths is excellent. From the Tiger tees the course is a strong challenge considering the overall length, but the slope is fairly tame in relation to the rating due to the playing widths. The course traverses up and down the natural terrain much more than Ozarks National which tends to play solely on the ridge tops. This variety adds to the shot making options at the course and requires more precise calculation on approach shots. While some of the course may feel manufactured, the natural stone in Missouri helps make the waterfalls and rock features fit in better than most locations that would employ similar scenery. The zoysia turf conditions are maintained great and adds to the overall enjoyment of the experience. Speaking of the experience, the turn house can be accessed at the 8th and 10th holes and features the resort's famous complimentary bison dogs, chips, and soda. Perhaps the feature that visitors will talk about the most though is the island green 19th hole with a towering waterfall forming the backdrop and where an ace earns you a $1,000 gift card to Bass Pro Shops. A 10-15 minute drive awaits after the final hole as players go through a Disneyland-like drive in their carts through the rock formations and water features designed by the owner. Overall, Payne’s Valley delivers a great golf experience. The resort has a family friendly vibe and everything is done with no expense spared.
By the Numbers
Individual Hole Analysis
Signature Hole: 18th Hole – 552 Yard Par 5 – The closing hole at Payne's Valley plays into "The Big Rock" that the clubhouse is perched on top of. A pond rests between the tee box and fairway and is easily cleared with a tee ball that ideally goes up the right half of the fairway to shorten the overall length of the hole. A pair of bunkers frame the sides of the green but the opening through the center is generous for a ground or aerial shot, so taking a rip at reaching this green in two has little downside and plenty of space to land shot in if you don't quite have the juice to get there. Behind the green is a second pond that separates it from the famous 19th hole while a series of waterfalls tumble in the background. It looks like something straight out of Bass Pro Shops, which is no shock since resort owner and fishing store guru Johnny Morris designed the feature.
Best Par 3: 10th Hole – 183 Yards – The back nine starts with a dramatic downhill one-shotter with halfway house onlookers waiting to see if you'll stick the green and dunk your ball in the water. A single bunker on the right and a pair of bunkers on the left frame the greensite while a large pond further left will drown any balls that veer off their intended path. Another waterfall over rocks creates the background for one of Payne Valley's most attractive holes.
Best Par 4: 1st Hole – 483 Yards – Probably the biggest downside to Payne's Valley is that the par fours aren't as exciting as one would expect in comparison to the threes and fives. However, the opening hole is a solid way to start the round with a 483 yarder that sets the tone for the length players will face from the tips. This two-shotter plays downhill so the effective yardage isn't as intimidating as the written mileage, but it is certainly no warmup hole to get started on. With the Ozark Mountains creating the backdrop, players would be wise to avoid the fairway bunker on the right side before attacking this green that features a pair of bunkers fronting the right side of the putting surface. Convince yourself to stay left on the tee and with your approach and you'll be in position to start things off well on your round.
Best Par 5: 4th Hole – 544 Yards – A fun risk/reward par five awaits on the 4th hole that bends right before turning back left to the green. A big tee shot that splits the fairway bunkers will open the door to attacking this green in two, but you better feel plenty dialed in considering the putting surface is fronted by a creek that flows into a pond. Players that stay up the right side will have a larger landing area to hit to beyond the creek while players going straight at the green will either find the putting surface, the greenside bunker, or dunk their ball in the water. The exposed rock formations create an attractive and consistent theme to a course that feels like you've taken your ball to Thunder Mountain at Disneyland.
Birdie Time: 12th Hole – 341 Yard Par 4 – This sporty par four is a great opportunity to take a stroke back from Old Man Par before embarking on the longest hole found at Big Cedar Lodge. The right edge of the fairway bunker on the left is a great line to use with your tee shot to avoid any trouble and to contend with this right-to-left sloping fairway. The green runs from front to back with the right side marking the high point of the putting surface, so an approach from the left will be the most effective way to contend with the slope and get your ball to finish near the hole. This is a gettable hole, so take advantage of it.
Bogey Beware: 13th Hole – 653 Yard Par 5 – This hole is a monster, that is all there is to it. But if 653 yards didn't seem like a big enough challenge, add in the fact that this hole plays uphill into the prevailing wind and you have to start thinking that Tiger has it out for you. There are some bunkers to contend with along the way but the fairway width is more than ample to play with. It is just sheer length that makes this hole so hard, and your ability to keep your head in the game trudging up the fairway hoping to eventually reach the green without putting too big of a number on the card.