Burgeoning Vacation Destination is Heating Up
By Chris Duthie
But look at it now. Suddenly, Branson is popping up on national “best of” rankings, including a newly published New York Times ranking of the world’s “52 Places to Go in 2018.” Get this: Branson clocked in at a spectacular and wonderfully enlightening No. 21.
Branson has grown up and become a phenomenally popular family destination that’s underscored by Vegas-quality entertainment (without the R- or X-rated red flags, mind you), 121 holes of superlative golf, sumptuous dining, luxurious accommodations and one world-class sporting event that from day one has been a can’t-miss date for Champions Tour golf aficionados.
What makes this somewhat demure destination so amazing? Let’s begin with a golf collection of scrumptious fairways and greens that is growing so stupefying fast that Branson is now being regarded in the same golf-haven breath as Palm Springs, San Antonio, Gaylord, Myrtle Beach, Los Cabos and Alabama’s Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail.
It still has a ways to go before we start putting it up against the Pebbles, Bandons, Pinehursts and Whistlers of the world, but hey, give it time. If you love golf, get to Branson while the getting’s good — this spring would be ideal — and check out these six exquisite experiences:
1) Overnight your vacation at Big Cedar Lodge (pictured atop). Owned by Bass Pro Shop owner Johnny Morris, the top-ranked vacation property overlooks 43,000-acre Table Rock Lake and features a rustic but elegant collection of lodges, cottages and cabins indelibly complemented by four restaurants, spa, marina, five swimming pools, 40,000 square feet of meeting space and a just-opened shooting academy. In fact, readers of Travel + Leisure magazine have named it the last two years as the No. 1 resort in the Midwest.
2) Also on property: the 10,000-acre Dogwood Canyon Nature Park, the Ancient Ozarks Natural History Museum, and Big Cedar Lodge’s new Fun Mountain with 50,000 square feet of adventure and activities like bowling, billiards, climbing wall, laser tag, bumper cars, arcade and more.
3) Just up-mountain from Big Cedar Lodge is what can only be described as a gorgeously orchestrated and massive golf course park, similar to what might be experienced at Pinehurst, Pebble or Bandon. The Morris-owned layouts include the Tom Fazio-designed Buffalo Ridge Golf Course — named the best public course in Missouri by Golf Magazine — and the Jack Nicklaus-crafted Top of the Rock, both of which host a glorious PGA Tour Champions event every March.
4) In the same general vicinity are three new Morris-owned courses, including the Gary Player-designed 13-hole Mountain Top layout that opened in 2017; a 7,000-yard Bill Coore/Ben Crenshaw course that will debut sometime this year; and a championship-length Tiger Woods creation that is slated for 2019. Still planned is a Tiger-crafted par-3 short course that is to be built adjacent to Big Cedar Lodge.
5) A few miles down-mountain in historic Branson is a 50-count daily smorgasbord of live musical shows and Broadway-caliber theatrical performances including the Bible-based March premier of “Sampson,” the Showboat Branson Belle lunch and dinner show cruises on Table Rock Lake, and the must-see live music at Raiding the Country Vault.
6) Perhaps even more exhilarating is Silver Dollar City’s 10-story Time Traveler, billed as “the world fastest, steepest and tallest complete-circuit roller coaster.” The premier theme park’s just-opened attraction is also described as a no-two-rides-alike thriller that offers a 360-degree controlled spin and bird’s-eye views of the surrounding countryside. For even more heart-thumping adventures, buy a ticket for the new Branson Coaster, a bobsled-like hillside coaster that opened last summer.
For more about vacationing in Branson, go online to ExploreBranson.com.
Colorado AvidGolfer Magazine is the state’s leading resource for golf and the lifestyle that surrounds it, publishing eight issues annually and proudly delivering daily content via coloradoavidgolfer.com.