The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

October 27, 2012

Goodwin: An explosion of golf arriving in Branson

By Clair Goodwin
The Joplin Globe

— Myrtle Beach, S.C., is one of my favorite vacation spots.

It has golf courses everywhere.

By my estimation there are around 150 within a few miles to the north, south and west. Most of them are high quality layouts capable of giving the average player all the challenges and enjoyment that he wants.

The Grand Strand was built, or so I was told, because golfers flooded into the region by the thousands for the great weather (usually) in the spring and fall and the excellence of the golf courses. Entertainment venues then followed the masses. Today, Myrtle Beach is a vacation mecca, with enough high spots to appease the appetite of just about any golfer.

We have a story the could be similar to that of Myrtle Beach in our own backyard: Branson.

Unlike Myrtle, though, Branson was built on family entertainment. Big-time golf has been a secondary venue until recently. Now it has become a boom.

I have several favorite courses in Myrtle Beach: Arrowhead, Blackmoor, Grand Dunes, Thistle, Pearl, Arnold Palmer’s Myrtle Beach National King’s North, Waterway Hills and Indigo Creek to name a few. A few miles up the road, in North Carolina, are Lion’s Paw, Panther’s Run, Tiger’s Eye and a new, sister course under construction.

My brother-in-law Steve, nephew Stephen and a handful of their friends in Kansas City began our nearly annual sojourn to South Carolina about 12 years ago. Steve and Stephen have made the trip at least 10 times. I’ve been with them on eight or nine occasions.

Every trip we return to two or three of our favorites and then add five or six new courses. By the way, we play 36 holes a day, one course in the morning and a second in the afternoon. It is exhausting, but fun. This is marathon rather than quality golf, at least for me, and my scores gradually go up as the week progresses and my strength ebbs and my swing deteriorates.

But the point of this column is not just Myrtle Beach and golfing venues available there, but how such growth can occur quickly given the right economic conditions and enough golf courses.

In my estimation, Branson appears well on its way to becoming Myrtle Beach Midwest and, perhaps, one day may even surpass that coastal community as the foremost golf destination.

Certainly, Branson has plenty of quality courses: Branson Creek (ranked No. 1 in the state by a national golf magazine), the new and difficult Payne Stewart club, fun and challenging Murder Rock, Ledgestone and the granddaddy of the golf community layouts, Point Royale. I must not overlook the short and thoroughly entertaining Thousand Hills.

An additional ingredient are the celebrities one might see on the first tee at any of the courses or, if one is lucky, get invited to play along with. Passion for golf can be a social leveler. 

Given the interest being shown by golfers in Branson as a vacation destination, I predict that we are seeing only the beginning of the golf explosion there. For instance, I have been told that one developer has purchased enough land in the gorgeous Ozark hills to build at least six courses. That sort of investment doesn’t come without a long-term vision of something big happening in the future.

By the way, Steve, Stephen, our buddies and I are already planning another trip to Myrtle Beach next fall. But not surprisingly, we also are looking at a golfing vacation in the spring to Branson. 

Hall of Fame

The Columbia Golf Foundation will hold a Hall of Fame banquet on Thursday, Nov. 8, at the Peachtree Banquet Center in Columbia. Inductees are Dee Sanders, Bob Martin, Rick Gray and Claudia Bess.

Serving as master of ceremonies will be Jon Sundvold. Keynote speaker will be Rick Grayson, PGA pro at Springfield’s golf learning center, an avid supporter of junior golf and one of Golf magazine’s Top 100 teachers.

Information about tickets for the function is available online.