Bass Pro Shops founder and Big Cedar Lodge resort warden Johnny Morris has some of the most impressive laugh lines of anyone I've seen. Many tremendously wealthy men have an air of untouchable seriousness about them, but Mr. Morris looks genuinely happy ensconced in his native Ozark Mountains.
Why is this man smiling so much? It's probably because Morris, who is not much of a golfer himself, nevertheless knows that the game is an ideal way to recreate in nature, much like his beloved hunting and fishing, the pillars of his retail empire. This point finds new emphasis with the imminent official opening of Ozarks National, Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw's new design on the property 15 minutes south of Branson, Missouri.
Built along several high ridges overlooking the forests and canyons that give the Ozarks their distinctive chiseled-away look, Ozarks National is a convex golf course in the tradition of Pinehurst No. 2 and Shinnecock Hills. In this case, that convexity constantly draws the eye downhill and out over the largely untouched landscape, affording dozen-mile views and more on clear days. Man's presence on the land is seen when one gazes down toward Downtown Branson from the 17th tee, but even at that particular vista, rippling, tree-covered terrain dominates. Faced with the opportunity to see much farther than we normally do, a broad, humbled smile is the natural response. We need to be reminded of how small we are against the natural world every once in a while, and Ozarks National - along with the resort's other courses - is a strong reminder. If we find that sort of landscape often enough, we'll have deep laugh lines of our own someday.