2021 Golf Development of the Year Winners: Third Place and Honorable Mentions

Editor's note: This is the second part of a two-part series. Winners were selected and featured in the Spring issue of Golf Inc. magazine.
  • Hole 3 at Payne’s Valley Golf Course in Hollister, Mo.
    Hole 3 at Payne’s Valley Golf Course in Hollister, Mo.

Each year, the Development of the Year competition seeks to identify the best new golf developments around the globe, and this years’ second place, third place and three honorable mentions also showcase just that.

See here for First Place and Second Place winners.

Payne’s Valley Golf Course at Big Cedar Lodge in Hollister, Mo., took third place. It is the first public-access course designed by Tiger Woods and his design firm, TGR Design. Rock outcroppings and the Ozark Mountains create a backdrop for the 18-hole course.

All three honorable-mentions winners are outside the U.S. They are: Rancho San Lucas Golf Club in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico; PGA National Czech Republic in Popovičky, Czechia; and Siam Country Club’s Rolling Hills course in Pattaya, Thailand.


Third Place

Payne’s Valley Golf Course in Hollister, Mo.

Owner: Johnny Morris

Developer: Johnny Morris

Architect: Tiger Woods and TGR Design

Contractor: N/A

Construction Cost: Undisclosed

Payne’s Valley at Big Cedar Lodge in Hollister, Mo., near Branson, was a collaborative vision of Tiger Woods and Johnny Morris, founder of Bass Pro Shops and a noted conservationist. They wanted to create a 19-hole layout that fostered a deep connection between the game of golf and nature.

Named in honor of golf legend Payne Stewart, Payne’s Valley opened in September 2020 after more than three years of construction. Woods and his design firm, TGR Design, created a championship caliber, family friendly golf course that allows individuals of all skill levels to enjoy the game in a beautiful natural setting.

The course runs alongside dramatically exposed rock outcroppings, bold mountain ridges, sweeping valleys, pristine streams and beautiful mature trees, all of which help to create a memorable backdrop. The walkable course is challenging yet player friendly and includes a one-of-a-kind, mile-long finish where golfers travel through a spring-fed natural cavern system over bridges alongside 250-foot cliffs, and through ancient waterfalls before returning to the clubhouse.

The bonus 19th hole, designed by Morris himself, was built to showcase the beauty of the Ozarks while serving as a bet-settling hole for players.

Judge Jason Sloan: “This development thoughtfully utilized the topography of the site to create strategic golf holes, which are fun for golfers of all abilities.”


Honorable Mentions

Rancho San Lucas Golf Club in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico

Owner: Centro Promociones Los Cabos San Lucas S.A. de C.V.

Developer: Francisco Bulnes

Architect: Greg Norman

Contractor: GSR S.A. de S.V.

Construction Cost: $9 million

Another course along a coastline is the one at Rancho San Lucas Golf Club in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. Set in rolling desert foothills that slope to 1.2 miles of pristine  Pacific Ocean beachfront, Rancho San Lucas is 30 minutes from an international airport and 15 minutes from downtown Cabo San Lucas.

This exclusive, gated enclave occupies a privileged location that offers a level of serenity rarely found in Los Cabos. Francisco Bulnes said it had always been his dream to develop the 834-acre parcel of land on the Pacific Ocean.

More than 100 acres of the development’s 834 total acreage has been left untouched. An additional 186 acres is dedicated to the resort’s centerpiece, its signature golf course.

Known for his ‘least disturbance’ design approach, Greg Norman created a low-profile, links-style layout with sweeping ocean views from every hole. Along with its dramatic 300-foot elevation change, the layout is known for its riveted pot bunkers. These steep-walled sandy pits were constructed from recycled artificial turf and are nearly identical to the natural sod-walled bunkers found on British seaside links courses. Resistant to washouts, these distinctive bunkers are a first in Mexico.

Judge Casey Paulson: “Visually beautiful, quality desert golf provides vivid imagery with the changes in color and texture. Golf seems to meander through real estate offerings successfully.”


PGA National Czech Republic in Popovičky, Czechia

Owner: Arendon a.s.

Developer: Arendon a.s.

Architect: Kyle Phillips

Contractor: Engelmann Czech s.r.o.

Construction Cost: Undisclosed

The PGA National Czech Republic course at the Oaks Prague residential village has achieved a balance between nature and residential development with a green community which golfers, residents and guests can all enjoy.

“The opportunity was not only to create a world class golf experience but also to revive and restore the old chateau and its surrounding landscape and forest areas,” said golf course architect Kyle Phillips. “Where there were only open farm fields, the golf course design has provided hundreds of thousands of square meters of new nature, including bio corridors, native trees and grasses.”

Opened in August 2020, the course creates a golf experience that flows seamlessly through nature. The short-cut turf starts at the first tee and guides you through the 18 holes and back to the chateau, a feature found on many links golf courses. The course is maintained using contoured mowing patterns, which call attention to the natural features of the land. Gnarly bunker edges create a feeling that the course was carved out of the original landscape. 

Meadows and fish ponds contribute to sustainability and water management, and 100% of the sand and construction materials were sourced locally, reducing the carbon footprint.

Judge Jason Sloan: “The developers and designers were able to masterfully create a distinct sense of place that not only appeals to all the senses but is also sensitive to the natural landscape.”


Rolling Hills in Pattaya, Thailand

Owner: Thaworn Country Club & Resort Co. Ltd, Ms. Phornpun Phornprapha

Developer: Thongthaworn Pattana Co. Ltd.

Architect: Brian Curley

Contractor: GolfEast Co. Ltd.

Construction Cost: $9.8 million

Last but certainly not least deserving of honorable mention is Rolling Hills in Thailand, designed by golf course architect Brian Curley.

The course is the fourth to be built at the project site. Sitting at the bottom of the property, it is able to capture runoff from the other three courses. This, along with a large reservoir system, helps ensure that the property will have adequate water for years to come, Curley said.

In an effort to create a course that stood out, many elements of modern design were incorporated, from strong and obvious angles of attack, to a slightly irregular and transitional bunkering, to speed slots in fairways, to punchbowl and fall-away green designs.

There are also some quirks, from a drivable par-4 with alternate greens to a massive, triple overhead, double tie wall, deep bunker at the par-5 15th hole. Named the Wall of Death, this hole has become a must-play feature for resort visitors.

Curley said the course was designed with a “find your ball” philosophy to ensure play without excessive delays  or frustration. There is also less water in play than at the majority of courses in the region. But, he adds, the course does offer plenty of challenge for elite players.

Judge Mike Nuzzo: “While the lake excavation was a tremendous amount of work, catching that much water provides an enormous benefit to the entire site.” 


*See the full spread in the Spring issue of Golf Inc. magazine



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