50 Words or Less
Top of the Rock is a par 3 course at Big Cedar Lodge in Branson, Missouri that’s unlike any short course you’ve ever seen before. Great views, fun holes, and an unbelievable slate of amenities.
When most golfers think of a par 3 course, they imagine a neighborhood pitch-and-putt. At Big Cedar Lodge, however, a par 3 course means a Jack Nicklaus Signature Course with miles-long views that’s played host to a professional championship. Let’s take a closer look at this gonzo one-shotter.
Customer Service & Amenities
While the golf course is a lot of fun, the extras are what makes Top of the Rock unique. That starts with the numerous buildings at Top of the Rock. You’ll enter into the pro shop, which is packed wall to wall with an incredible range of soft goods. Anything you could want with a Big Cedar Lodge logo, you’ll find here. Pass through the pro shop to find the players lounge. This is a great spot to wait out a rain delay or unwind after your round with poker, a pool table, and a fireplace.
Above the pro shop and players lounge is Arnie’s Barn. This isn’t just a building named after The King, it’s a 150-year old barn that was moved, piece by piece, from Mr. Palmer’s backyard in Latrobe, PA to Top of the Rock. Arnie’s Barn now houses a restaurant that focuses on Mexican cuisine and burgers, two of Mr. Palmer’s favorite foods.
The attractions at Top of the Rock don’t stop there. There’s a chapel on the first hole, a Civil War-era cannon that gets fired every evening, two more restaurants, a wine and whiskey cellar, and the Ancient Ozarks Natural History Museum. Even that massive list is probably missing something, but you get the picture: there’s a lot to do here.
Finally, carts are mandatory at Top of the Rock. The holes are quite spread out, and the drives from green to tee are a big part of the experience. There’s an ivy-covered trellis-like tunnel between the first and second holes, a tunnel after nine, and plenty of up and down in between.
Beauty & Scenery
As the name suggests, Top of the Rock is located on top of a hill which provides the course with long, gorgeous views. On both the first and ninth holes, as well as several in between, you get majestic views of Table Rock Lake.
The course itself has a manicured look. From the bent grass tee boxes and greens to the edges of the bunkers, everything is maintained to perfection. Throughout the course, you’ll also be treated to flourishes like the rock structure on the ninth tee box and colorful flower beds. Top of the Rock does not give your eyes a chance to be bored.
Top of the Rock offers two sets of tees, listed at 1,420 and 885 yards. From the shorter tees (Red), the holes range from 60 to 145 yards. The Black tees offer shots from 114 to 202 yards. Each hole has numerous teeing areas, so the exact yardages can change quite a bit from day to day.
The greens are average to slightly below average in size, varying with the length of the hole. Across the nine tee shots, you get a nice mix of up and downhill shots, holes that prize distance control over accuracy and vice versa. While several holes have “fairways,” Top of the Rock is built for an aerial attack, not the ground game.
Greens & Surrounds
The primary defense at Top of the Rock is the army of large bunkers. If you’re able to make it through nine holes without a single sand shot, you’ve really struck the ball well. While you are likely to make at least one visit to the beach, escaping is not difficult as the traps are shallow. The one source of difficulty is that you can end up with a fairly long bunker shot.
Once you get on the green, your work is largely done. The undulations are very mild, typically just one small tier or thumbprint. Even in the rain, the bent grass greens were quick and true. This is a course that wants to see you convert your good tee shots into birdies.
#5 – Par 3 – 123 Yards
This hole is a pure exercise in distance control. The green is thin, and surrounded by bunkers short and long. However, if you get the distance right, there’s about a mile of green and fairway to the left and right.
#6 – Par 3 – 121 Yards
This island green is particularly beautiful because the bridge is almost completely hidden from the tee. This hole also invites an aggressive shot with its green tilted back-to-front and lone bunker long and right.
A trip around Top of the Rock is an essential part of the Big Cedar Lodge golf experience. The course provides opportunities to hit fun shots and make birdies, and the extras make it unforgettable.