194: Golf’s Most Incredible Destination with Steve Friedlander | Big Cedar Golf

Today we are chatting with Steve Friedlander from Big Cedar Golf, which very well could be the next most sought-after golf destination in the US, if not the world.

Recently I had my 40th birthday and took a golf trip with 3 of my best friends to Big Cedar Golf in Branson, Missouri. And I know what you’re probably thinking, “A golf trip in Missouri? That doesn’t sound very exciting!”  Well, things are changing quickly in Branson, and after this episode, you just might change your mind about taking a golf trip to the Midwest.

Big Cedar Golf was the vision of Johnny Morris, the founder of Bass Pro, and if you haven’t heard or seen this complex, yet you’re in for a treat.  I believe it very well could become the top golf destination in the U.S.

With courses designed by the likes of  Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods, Gary Player, Coore and Crenshaw, a driving range designed by Arnold Palmer, and a cast of other greats that have had their hands in the design, it is bound for greatness.

After seeing the place in person, I had to bring on Steve Friedlander, the man in charge of everything golf related at Big Cedar, to give us all the details and what we can expect in the future from Big Cedar Golf, where, as Steve puts it, “Nothing we do here is normal!”

Steve Friedlander and Big Cedar Golf’s Background

  • Big Cedar GolfSteve started in the golf industry teaching golf as a Faculty Associate while earning a Master of Science in Exercise Physiology at Arizona State University, where he also served as an assistant coach on the university’s baseball team.
  • Highlights of Steves Career includes:
    • Steve has been the Director of Golf at Ventana Canyon, Tucson, AZ with Two Tom Fazio designed golf courses, the Director of Golf Doral five courses at Doral (including the famed Blue Monster), as well as Doral’s three sister courses at Grand Traverse Resort in Traverse City Michigan.
    • Group Director of Golf & General Manager of Whistling Straits, and Blackwolf Run which hosted the 2004 PGA Championship. In addition to his duties as Group Director of Golf & General Manager of the Kohler, WI courses, Steve managed, from across the Atlantic Ocean, The Duke’s Golf Course as part of The Old Course Hotel and (Kohler owned properties) in St Andrews, Scotland.
    • Vice President of Golf and General Manager of Pelican Hill Golf Club at the Resort at Pelican Hill Newport Coast, CA and Oak Creek Golf Club, Irvine CA. Three Tom Fazio designed golf courses, two on the coast of the Pacific Ocean
  • Steve is currently Vice President of Golf for Big Cedar Lodge Responsible for Bass Pro Shops founder Johnny Morris’ golf department and golf courses.
  • Already a top-travel destination, Big Cedar Lodge has made a name for itself in the golf world with the 2014 re-opening of Top of the Rock, a Jack Nicklaus Signature design, and the renovation of Buffalo Ridge Springs, redesigned by Tom Fazio and Johnny Morris and recently named the “Best Golf Course You Can Play in Missouri” by Golf Magazine. The Mountain Top course designed by Gary Player opened in August 2017.
  • The resort is advancing Morris’ vision for a world-class outdoor resort that combines a shared appreciation for nature conservation and a premier golf experience. Top of the Rock, Buffalo Ridge, and Mountain Top will soon be joined by two additional world-class golf experiences. A new 18-hole layout devised by the renowned design team of Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw is scheduled to open in September 2018.
  • In 2019, projects crafted by Morris and 79-time PGA Tour winner Tiger Woods will be unveiled at Big Cedar Lodge. Payne’s Valley, a 19-hole course built to showcase the region’s natural beauty and to honor the late, local golf legend Payne Stewart, is the first public golf course in the United States by Woods’ TGR Design.

Highlights from this Episode

  • Steve talks on his background that led him to Big Cedar and the many attractions Big Cedar Lodge offers that affirm to him that this will be the top destination in the U.S. very soon. These include state of the art signature golf courses, the beautiful and hospitable region, and full service lodging.
  • How, by design, they make their courses to appeal to all golfers from amateur to pro as well as designing them to be very laid back in terms of enjoying the game in a relaxing setting.
  • What we can expect to see from Big Cedar in the next 3-5 years, from the Coore Crenshaw signature course later this year, the Tiger Woods course coming out next year, and other attractions to look forward to, as well as attractions and traditions that keep people coming from all around, like the 240-foot sinkhole called the “Cathedral of Nature.”
  • What the creative process looks like when designing a course with some golf greats: How often they come to the course, what they add to the design of what goes where, how the collaboration comes together beautifully to make a state of the art course, and working with John Morrison’s vision.


Parting Questions 

Caddy Shack or Happy Gilmore?  Caddy Shack

What would be your walk-up song?  Bruce Springsteen’s “Born to Run”

18 holes with anyone, who and where?  My dad at Augusta National

What’s one last thing you want the audience to know about Big Cedar?   You simply have to come and experience it for yourself, words and pictures don’t do it justice.

Find out more and Follow Steve Friedlander and Big Cedar Golf on:


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Pictures from my trip to Branson:

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