Mississippi Gulf Coast Golf
The Mississippi Gulf Coast received far too much unwanted publicity from the BP oil spill in 2010, but it is gaining much more positive buzz as one of the fastest-growing golf destinations in the United States.
Blessed with the warm breezes from the Gulf of Mexico, the Gulfport/Biloxi has much to offer the traveling golfer. It all starts with name-brand courses by the likes of Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Davis Love III and Mark McCumber. There are 22 courses in the general area that share a common thread: conditioning is well above what you’d expect for the price you pay to play them.
As you’d expect in an area that boasts of being a golf destination, there are courses to fit budgets of all sizes. For less than $100 during prime time, you can play the Nicklaus-designed Grand Bear, complete with a number of his signature right-to-left doglegs. A great bargain.
The Jerry Pate-designed The Preserve Golf Club would best be described as a pure golf experience. Get out on this pristine piece of property and get the feeling of being just you and the course and your golf ball. The Preserve is a bit more pricey but is a wonderful golf experience.
The acknowledged centerpiece of golf in the area is Fallen Oak, a Tom Fazio design that is top-notch and features those requisite Fazio penal bunkers. The course hosts a Champions Tour event, the Mississippi Gulf Resort Classic, April 1-3. Fazio’s layout is a beast that requires your undivided attention from tee to green, despite being relatively open off the tee. It’s a beautiful test in a rough sort of way and the best advice you could get on the first tee is: do your best to stay out of the bunkers.
The only way to play Fallen Oak (the fallen oak lays as a guardian along the right side of the fairway) is to stay at the spectacular Beau Rivage hotel and casino in Biloxi, a combination that highlights two of the strongest draws to the area: golf and casinos. It’s pricey, to be sure, but one of the amenities of staying at the Beau is the stretch limousine ride that takes you from the hotel to Fallen Oak. A little taste of how the other half lives.
The Gulf Coast is the area that never sleeps, golfwise. Courses are open year-round and the climate there is very much like Tampa, Fla. The folks there are proud of their golf, but their also proud of their fresh seafood and southern hospitality. Both of which, by the way, are plentiful. Over 50 hotels, casino resort, condos or golf travel provides travelers looking for quality, value with a large side order of southern hospitality. Golf gets a great deal of attention, of course, but the folks on the Gulf Coast think of themselves as a tourist destination, a gaming-entity, with top-notch entertainment and rich historical and cultural value. Great restaurants abound throughout the area. If you’re looking for a touch of good old southern cooking, ask someone for directions to The Shed. And when you get there, remember that old saying: Don’t judge a book by its cover!
Residents of Mississippi’s Gulf Coast area – which suffered much more damage from Hurricane Katrina than it did from the oil spill – quickly answer when asked the most popular reaction from visitors once they’ve experienced the area. “We had no idea.”
Our Funny Experience from the Fallen Oak Golf Course
We reached the 18th tee at Fallen Oak Golf Club a bit beaten, a bit weary. That’s a normal feeling when playing a particularly penal Tom Fazio masterpiece and Fallen Oak is definitely one of those.
The assistant pro we played with warned us to stay away from the bunkers on the left that guard the slight dogleg left. So, of course, two of us put our drives on a line toward the deepest part of the yawning bunker. After my playing partner did so, the pro told him he’d give him $100 if he made par from there. My partner accepted, but was both pleased and disappointed when we arrived at the bunkers and he discovered his ball was short of the sand. I, however, was in and asked if that bet was good for me as well. The pro laughed and said, “Absolutely.”
Facing a shot of over 200 yards to the green, with water on the left and bunkers on the right, I formulated a plan that, if executed, could give me a shot par. I had a flat stance in the bottom of the bunker with the lowest part of the lip straight ahead. I took my 4-hybrid and aimed for an area short of the green. Much to my surprise, I hit the shot and that’s exactly where it went. I was left with a chip of about 40 feet and put it three feet below the hole. I knocked that in for par and smile broadly each time I wear that expensive Fallen Oak shirt!Written by Mike Dudurich
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