“We’ve built hundreds of courses over the years, but never one as drastically stunning as this. The transitions between wonderful rock formations and magnificent views make this a true national treasure.”
- Gary Player
Missouri’s Ozark Plateau seems an unlikely place to escape for a unique golf experience, yet the sprawling Big Cedar Golf portfolio houses some of our game’s more interesting modern creations. Among them is the 13-hole par three Mountain Top course, designed by Gary Player’s company and built atop a rocky tableland between the full Ozarks National and Payne’s Valley courses.
-- This course review of Mountain Top at Big Cedar appears in the new edition of Planet Golf USA (2020) --
Different from the pitch and putt style layouts that have become popular in recent times, Mountain Top features a number of full-length par threes that wouldn’t seem out of place on a more conventional Gary Player Design. Examples include the 220-yard 2nd hole with its cruel skyline green, and the 200-yard 10th and 11th holes that follow the rim of the plateau and enjoy long views across the mountain range.
The 10th tees actually emerge from atop an exposed section of limestone said to be 300-million years old. These rock formations are interwoven regularly into the layout and dominate the overall experience at Mountain Top. The 9th hole, for example, is played to a green nestled within a stunning rock amphitheatre while the final par three plays less than a hundred yards but uphill to a green built in front of an abrupt stone wall. Away from the rock, the most pleasant holes are those with outlooks across the region, such as the short 7th with its beautiful infinity green.
Johnny Morris has continually pushed the development envelope at Big Cedar Golf, and spoiled his guests for choice when it comes to course size, course length and signature design. His first foray into par three golf was the nine-hole Top of the Rock by Nicklaus Design, which differs from Mountain Top but offers a similarly singular experience as it looks down spectacularly upon Table Rock Lake.