MONKEY ISLAND, Oklahoma – In the book classic Lost Horizons, Shangri-La is described as a fictional, mystical, harmonious valley, full of wonder and mystery.
Thankfully, for the traveling golfer, the
is a very real place, with 27 holes of championship golf, a spectacular new par 3, The Battleground, hotel, and activity center all befitting a $100 million dollar-plus renovation which has produced a place full of wonder and mystery, wonderful scenery and laid back luxury. “I’ve been here long enough to see the good, the bad and now the very, very good,” said longtime condo owner Mike Williams, who now serves as VP-Communications and Government Affairs. Indeed, like many storied resorts, Shangri-La, located 90 minutes Northeast of Tulsa, Ok. on Grand Lake, has seen plenty of ups and downs in its nearly 50-year history.
Once the favorite hangout for Oklahoma native, New York Yankees legend Mickey Mantle who played hundreds of rounds of golf here and still has a golf bag with his name on it in the pro shop, the resort hosted the 1982 National Governors’ Conference to bring in people from all over the country to see the resort. But there was a slow and steady decline after that through a series of owners which left Shangri-La more of a ghost town than a scenic resort. But all that changed in 2010 when Oklahoma’s Eddy Gibbs, who lives outside of Tulsa, bought the property and poured more than $100 million into the resort to restore the place to new heights of golfing grandeur.
“When Eddy took over he was determined to do it right, not cut any corners and put out a spectacular resort product which appeals to the entire family,” said Shangri-La President & CEO Barry Willingham. Consider it mission accomplished when you see the latest version of the resort up close and personal.
The old hotel was knocked down and a new modern multi-story facility was put in its place. There is a two-story modern stone golf clubhouse with the always hopping Buffalo Bar at the top. A new, very cold, Resort Pool came with a three-million dollar price tag along with a watery outdoor playground.
The latest family attraction is The Anchor activities building which sits almost directly in front of the resort. It contains just about every kind of indoor and outdoor family attraction you could ask for. There are outdoor tennis and pickleball courts along with a large indoor sports bar, every kind of arcade and computer reality games including, Trackman, you could ask for, plus old school pop a shot and even Ping-Pong tables, the kind I begged my parents (with no success) to get when I was a kid.
There is even an outdoor mini-Fenway Park Wiffle ball field, complete with its own green monster outfield wall and a LOVE’S outfield sign in tribute to the Oklahoma truck stop and convenience store company whose founding family has several places here.
But golf was and still is the main attraction here. What was once 36 tired golf holes has been turned into 27 spectacular and scenic championship holes routed along the Oklahoma landscape with views of the lake and the rolling hills by architect Tom Clark.
The newest attraction and one of the best anywhere is the Battlefield Par 3 Course. It covers 45 acres of very hilly and rugged territory with plenty of trees and water and 18 challenging short holes on the 3,000 yard course“I always thought this would be a great spot for a motocross track or a short par 3 golf course,” said Williams.
Thankfully, the golf course won out, designed by Clark, and the grand opening this summer provided the golf exclamation point to a full links experience. “I can promise your game will get better by coming over here and playing and practicing,” said Battlefield assistant head pro Chad Dalton, who hit the pin, not once, but twice during our round together. You could walk The Battlefield, but the terrain is so steep at parts, a cart is the preferred method to soak up the full experience. There are five sets of tees plus the Felix set of tees named for Felix the Cat in the fairways and close to the greens to allow more short game practice. Each of the tee markers features a different Oklahoma War Hero. In addition, Gibbs has collected WWII vehicles from all over the world and displays them here. An armored personnel carrier is his latest addition on a special site on the Heritage golf course with a WWII tank next!
The Championship golf features 3 nine hole layouts, Heritage, Legends and Champions. Each featuring plenty of elevation changes, lots of trees, views of the lake and pure white sand in the greenside bunkers. The Champions has the most views of Grand Lake with some of the early holes on the nine hole layout routed against the water. It might be the shortest from the back tees, but has more water and traps. The Legends Nine features the par 5 closing hole known as the Mickey Mantle Hole where the longtime member once made a double eagle here on one of his final rounds in the early 1990s. Willingham came within three feet of equaling the Mantle feat during our round.
Food includes Doc’s inside the resort, Eddy’s where Oklahoma legendary singer Toby Keith has been known to come by and sing a few tunes, the Monkey Grind for an early morning coffee, The Anchor for pizza and burgers and The Summit in the clubhouse, as well as The Canteen at The Battlefield clubhouse. One other feature is the large on-site marina. If you didn’t happen to bring your boat on a visit to Shangri-La you can always rent one to see the lake. But it begs the question. When you discover this special Sooner State site, why would you ever want to sail away?
The good times are back at Shangri-La and longtime visitors and members will tell you, they were never this good or this modern before. For more information, go to www.shangrilaok.com or call 918-257-4204.