Big Cedar Lodge, the Missouri wilderness resort founded by Bass Pro Shops owner Johnny Morris, has become the first golf destination to have all five of its golf courses designated as Audubon International Signature Sanctuary locations – a designation that ensures they all meet the highest standard of sustainable operation and conservation-minded design.
The Jack Nicklaus-designed Top of the Rock par 3 course at Big Cedar first received Signature Sanctuary status 15 years ago, at the time making it one of fewer than 100 courses worldwide to earn the distinction. The resort has since added Buffalo Ridge, Ozarks National, Mountain Top and its newest course — Tiger Woods-designed Payne’s Valley – all the while maintaining a steadfast commitment to conservation at its golf courses and other amenities in showcasing the natural beauty of the Ozarks.
Morris has long been one of the nation’s foremost conservation leaders and created Big Cedar as a way for people, particularly families, to better connect with the outdoors. Although he preferred hunting and fishing to golf, Morris recognized the escape-to-nature allure the game has for millions of golfers and has grown Big Cedar into one of the country’s fastest-growing golf destinations.
“We hold conservation close to our hearts and feel an obligation to protect the land and surrounding wildlife for future generations to enjoy,” said Morris, who in 2019 received the National Audubon Society’s prestigious Audubon Medal for efforts to protect wildlife habitats. “All of us at Big Cedar are very grateful to the experts at Audubon International for their time and commitment to help lead us and others to the very highest standards.”
The certification process is a rigorous one. It includes a comprehensive evaluation to ensure sound land management practices and appropriate land use based on scientific management.
The Big Cedar team was required to implement a site-specific Natural Resource Management Plan (NRMP) that addressed the following:
- wildlife conservation
- habitat enhancement
- water quality monitoring and management
- integrated pest management
- water conservation
- energy efficiency
- waste reduction and management
- green building products and procedures
After those conditions are met and an environmental audit is passed, Audubon International conducts multiple site visits and provides supplemental training and education to operational personnel to ensure the natural resource management plan is followed appropriately. At Big Cedar’s golf courses, almost 80% of fertilization is done organically, an environmentally-friendly method that grows exceptional turf grass while utilizing natural carbons. They also use a special water recirculation system to help reduce unwanted chemical run-off during cleaning, and moisture meters on the industrial spray and irrigation rigs to control how much water is used.
“Attaining certification for every course is an unprecedented achievement that speaks to the strong commitment to conservation from Johnny Morris and the entire Big Cedar team,” said Audubon International CEO Christine Kane.