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McKenzie Robinson | SBJ

2022 12 People: Jeff Steen

Running His Course(s) 

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Jeff Steen’s official title is director of agronomy for Big Cedar Lodge – which means he oversees maintenance and construction of the five famous golf courses for the Branson resort.

When Steen started at Big Cedar in August 2021, he brought with him two and a half decades of experience managing premier golf resorts – including 13 years as superintendent of one of the world’s most famous golf resorts, the Pebble Beach Co.

With its rich history, Pebble Beach is thought to set the standard in golf, but Steen says Big Cedar needs to be seen and experienced.

“Big Cedar is America’s next great golf destination,” he says.

The resort features five courses, all with designs by household names in golf: Tiger Woods, Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Tom Watson, Gary Player, Tom Fazio, Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw.

“When the opportunity at Big Cedar presented itself, I was humbled to be part of it,” he says.

He understands that for many, golfing at one of Big Cedar’s five courses is special.

“Maybe they’re a regular and they come in all the time, or maybe it’s the dream trip and folks have been saving for years,” he says.

Steen says his job goes much deeper than the turf science his title suggests. He is indeed an agronomist, with the education and experience to back it up. But Steen also must understand what goes on below the surface of the grass, so he is an active soil scientist – even participating in a decade-long nematology study at Pebble Beach. Besides soil science, superintendents must be meteorologists, plant pathologists, arborists, equipment technicians, project managers with all aspects of construction, financial managers, event planners and the list goes on.

However, Steen says his most important role is that of leading a team and keeping his associates safe. During peak season, about 100 people report to him.

“I steer the ship, but my team makes it all happen,” he says. He notes some exciting additions are planned, with announcements to come, and construction is underway.

Big Cedar Lodge is a creation of Johnny Morris, a conservationist and the founder of Bass Pro Shops. The resort and Bass Pro are part of the Great American Outdoors Group, which also includes Cabela’s and Tracker Marine. Forbes places the group’s revenue at $7 billion and pegs it at No. 56 among the nation’s largest private companies.

“It’s awesome to be part of Big Cedar and play a small part in Johnny Morris’ vision,” he says. “To see that come to life is really special.”

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