Oklahoma’s Lakefront Shangri-La Resort – Golf Tips Magazine

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Oklahoma’s Lakefront Shangri-La Resort - Golf Tips Magazine

If I didn’t know better, I could assume my playing partner might be having an existential crisis right here in the ninth fairway. “I know where we are. It’s Shangri-La. But, seriously, where are we, exactly?” he asks without a speck of irony.

I try to be helpful. “We’re in Northeast Oklahoma. Picture the edge of the Southeast meeting the edge of Midwest.”

Like in Ozark?

“Not far off. A guy in the clubhouse said we’re three hours from Branson and Big Cedar Lodge by car or 17 minutes by private plane. You saw how it’s an easy 90 minutes from Tulsa, and we’re also not far from Bentonville, Arkansas and Springfield, Missouri.”

I feel like we’re explorers who found some hidden treasure or secret land.

I totally get his curiosity and sudden sense of wonder. Afton, Oklahoma’s Shangri-La Resort, nestled along the shores of vast Grand Lake O’ the Cherokees, in a nook called Monkey Island, northeast Oklahoma is a hidden gem that might just be America’s next great golf destination.

For more than a decade, owner Eddy Gibbs has been breathing new life and vision into this lush lakefront find, first opened in 1969, and has transformed the property into a must-visit vacation attraction for golfers, lake lovers, and fun seekers from anywhere in the country. The setting is serene and rapturous with the Grand Lake all around, and now with Gibbs’ commitment and project-after-project to make Shangri-La a premier resort destination, this place is ready for its close-up and droves of bookings for buddies trips, bachelorette parties, weddings, family getaways and semi-large business groups.

Gibbs and his team have transformed the resort into the pride of Northeast Oklahoma and put the lakefront vacation oasis on the map nationally with an investment of more than $100 million into the property’s accommodations and upscale leisure amenities since taking it over in 2010.

In addition to the brand-new 119-room resort hotel, an indoor pool, 6,500 square-foot outdoor resort pool with splash pad and tanning ledge, luxury spa, full-service marina on gleaming, 46,500-acre Grand Lake O’ The Cherokees, and six distinct dining and cocktails venues culminate in an unforgettable getaway for golfers, families, groups, corporate and association retreats, and weddings.

Surrounded by the waters of Grand Lake O’ The Cherokees on three sides, the revered 27-hole championship Shangri-La golf course meanders through rolling parkland landscapes with elevated Bentgrass greens and clever bunkering along with more open, flowing fairways accented by ponds, streams and the breathtaking lakefront. Frequently ranked among the state’s Top Five golf courses – Shangri-La’s 27 holes and is made up of the Legends, Champions, and Heritage nines. The course challenges golfers of any skill level, with five tee boxes on each hole. The signature hole is Legends Nine, which features two separate greens complexes separated by a dramatic and spectacular waterfall. Known as “The Mickey Mantle Hole,” it’s named after the New York Yankees legend who hosted his Mickey Mantle Golf Classic charity tournament at Shangri-La from 1991 until his death in 1995. Mickey once holed an albatross on the challenging par five. The third hole on the Champions Course plays right along the edge of the vast lake and is one of the most dramatic holes on the property. In all, the golf experience here is satisfying and cerebral with plentiful natural beauty.

The addition of the dazzling par-54 short course, The Battlefield in June 2023 makes Shangri-La one of the few golf resorts offering 45 holes to members, guests and the general public in a lakefront setting. Built in honor of WWII veterans, each hole at The Battlefield is named after an Oklahoma WWII hero. Additional veterans are honored with weekly displays in The Battlefield Clubhouse.

The Tom Clark and Kevin Atkinson-designed, 3,000-yard Battlefield layout is a short course of creative, articulated scale and vision, constructed on an exceptional piece of land that features more than 100 feet of elevation change across its acreage. The scenic, strategic course was completed for $15 million with each hole named in honor of an Oklahoma veteran of WWII.

It’s a memorable, immersive playing experience from any of the five sets of tee boxes, plus up-close “Felix Tees” for beginners, youngsters or those wanting to work on their short game. This short course also has a 165-yard warm-up area and 10,000-square-foot putting green, and there’s also a practice range and short-game facility at the main clubhouse. Calling The Battlefield a par-3 course doesn’t really do it justice. The shot values are tremendous. Each green complex and hole design is an intriguing puzzle unto itself. Then there’s the natural beauty. It’s the kind of setting you don’t want to leave. The first thought the crosses your mind when you putt out on the 18th is going back around this course, maybe from another set of tees. The Battlefield sets new standards in short course experiences. It sounds grandiose, but, in time, people might just start booking trips to Shangri-La just to play The Battlefield. That’s no knock on the excellent championship golf. The Battlefield is just that special.

This enjoyable, accessible par-54 course which features holes from 110 to 245 yards, joins the acclaimed 27 championship holes at Shangri-La, the Legends, Heritage and Champions courses (framed elegantly on the shores of the expansive Grand Lake O’ The Cherokees) to present an extraordinary 45-hole golfer’s paradise that buddies’ trip groups and golf aficionados from all over the country will want to add to their bucket list.

The Anchor, a two-year-old, six-acre indoor/outdoor activity park has basketball, tennis, pickleball, cornhole, and a unique “Mini-Fenway” WIFFLE®Ball park, as well as a catch-and-release fishing pond for children under 12. The Anchor’s 11,000 square-foot indoor space offers traditional arcade games plus virtual reality games, a LaserShot shooting simulator, and Trackman Golf simulators.

A popular spot for drinks and dining, the Sports Bar at The Anchor features dozens of sports screens including two giant video walls, along with ping-pong, pool, shuffleboard, darts, and foosball.


Shangri-La offers various dining rooms, ranging from the fine dining of The Summit Restaurant in the main clubhouse, to Eddy’s Lakeside Bar offering seasonal al fresco dining and cocktails at Shangri-La Marina. Doc’s Bar & Grill, in the hotel, offers food service for all three meals, 365 days a year. The Canteen at The Battlefield Clubhouse and the Pool Bar at the resort pool also offer food and beverage service. The staff is personable and fun – and many are solid karaoke singers. They make the stay extra special.

The resort’s full-service marina offers permanent rental slips and courtesy docks for those who visit the resort by water and is replete with a ship store that even sells gasoline and diesel. Boat and personal watercraft rentals are available, along with yacht charters and Oklahoma’s only parasailing adventures.

There’s always something new at Shangri-La. If a day of golf, followed by an evening of boating and great food and maybe a little karaoke thrown in sounds like the perfect getaway, you’re starting to see why Shangri-La is now on the map of essential golf resorts to include in your upcoming travel planning. Learn more at https://shangrilaok.com.



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