GolfTrips Destination: Mississippi's Coastal Region
Consider Southern Mississippi's Coastal region for warm-weather, affordable golf
By Katharine Dyson
Looking for an affordable warm-weather destination? Think Mississippi where you get great golf, hearty rib-sticking food, southern charm and casino action.
Mississippi attracts not only people who love to play poker, slots and black jack, but love to play golf as well. More than 150 courses are located throughout the state, many of them in the casino-rich southern Coastal region near Biloxi and Gulfport as well as the defined regions of the Delta, Hills, Pines and Capital/River.
Homeland of the Blues, you'll find plenty of things to do off-course from casinos to visiting gracious antebellum mansions and taking in some great Blues concerts.
Grand Bear Golf Club
It may be but 40 minutes away from Biloxi, but it's world's away from the ching ching of casino slots. Set on 600 acres in the middle of De Soto National Forest, Jack Nicklaus designed the track for Harrah's Grand Biloxi Resort & Casino in Saucier as an amenity for those staying at their hotel.
Grand Bear looks much like a ski resort with its lofty log lodge evoking a rustic appeal not unlike the course itself which spreads out through the massively dense forest while late afternoon shadows of tall trees stretch across the fairways.
Unfettered by land restrictions or real estate requirement, you'll find no houses lining the fairways. Grand Bear sits landlocked in a pristine environment while holes are set apart from one another and natural features like trees, wildlife, hills and wetlands along with wide landing zones, big bail-out areas and pine-carpeted roughs set the tone.
The outgoing nine flirts with the Little Biloxi River which peeks beyond bordering trees while the back nine skirts the Big Biloxi River providing some dramatic finishing holes.
Named the "Best Public-Access Course" in Mississippi by Golfweek Magazine (2006-07) and listed in the magazine's Top Casino Courses (#23/2010), Grand Bear was also included Golf Magazine's "Top Ten New Places You Can Play" (1999).
In addition to the expansive clubhouse with pro shop, there is a 400-yard driving range, chipping area, beverage cart service, and dining room.
7,204 - 4,801 yards
75.5/143 - 68.4/120
Green fees: $53 to $109 including a cart ($50-$65 summer)
12040 Grand Way Blvd, Saucier, MS 39574; 228-539-7806; 888-5-BILOXI; golfgranbear.com
Fallen Oak Golf Club
Extra amenities at Fallen Oak Golf Club such as caddy service, shoe cleaning, swing tips on the practice range and well-appointed locker rooms - marble counters, all kinds of toiletries, even a basket of health bars and candy - are unusual for a semi-private track.
But Fallen Oak is exceptional. Host to The Mississippi Gulf Resort Classic, a Champions Tour event that debuted in 2010 and due for a repeat March 28-April 3, 2011, the course was named #2 on Golf week's "50 Best Casino Courses" list (2010) was named 2nd "Best new Upscale Course" by Golf Digest; and "one of the top ten new courses you can play" by GOLF Magazine.
Just 20 minutes south of Biloxi, Fallen Oak was built by MGM Resorts International (2006) as an exclusive place to play for its guests staying at their upscale Beau Rivage Resort & Casino and is the sister course to the solid Shadow Creek track in Las Vegas.
A Tom Fazio design, the rolling track set on 510 acres, winds through oaks, pecan groves, pines, marshes, lakes and streams. To enhance the natural landscape, Fazio brought in about 1,000 more mature trees and created impressive bunker complexes with beautifully sculptured grass banks and mounds carpeted with dense Zoysia grass.
Sizable elevations add to the continuing drama. From the tees on the number one handicap fifth hole, a par 4, take time to appreciate the splendid views of the next four holes including the par 4, 493 yard 18th, a strong finishing hole playing down the right side of a ravine.
Many of the Tif Eagle Bermuda greens are rollup and all putting surfaces are immaculate, a reflection of the entire course.
In addition to a handsome 12,000 square foot Acadian-style clubhouse with a stylistic glass bar looking out over the 18th green and fairways, the clubhouse contains a restaurant, patio, locker rooms and pro shop.
7,487 to 5,362 yards
76.5/142 to 71.1/127
Green fees: $200 (must be a registered guest at Beau Rivage)
Fallen Oak Golf Club, 24400 Highway 15 North, Saucier, Mississippi 39574; 877-805-4657; fallenoak.com
Windance Country Club
Windance Country Club has several holes which appear to be fairly straight forward and not overly difficult, but as you play, you realize the course has plenty of head-scratching gravitas.
While it is a visual treat with its old oaks, pines, water, and wetlands, challenges are subtle Although not overly hilly, there are some good downhill and uphill holes along with mounding like on hole #14 which can kick your ball from the right back onto the fairway.
Designed by Mark McCumber (1986), Windance is a mature track, with tall trees and thick grasses. There are no sharp dog legs, but several slight bends which become interesting when you try to shave off yardage like hole #3, a par five quasi dog leg left over a creek. Continuing to the hole, the fairway narrows.
Here we're talking choices. For example on hole #7, a par 5 playing 500 yards (393 from the forward), a creek cuts across the fairway and may catch your drive if you nail it. You may decide to back off your driver.
The pars threes are fun to play with some surprises. The second hole, the hardest of the par 3s plays 231 from the tips and 167 from the forward tees. Miss your drive and you'll be in the trees or bunkers and water comes into play on holes #4, 8 and 15.
Ross-like roll-up greens run true and fast, even slippery. It is not unusual to hit the green on a pitch or chip, then watch with dismay as your ball keeps rolling and rolling, running off the back or side. Helpful are some strategic bailout areas. For example go long on hole #15, a par 3, 170 yard test and you'll have a fairly generous bit of grass to catch your ball before it rolls into the trees.
Windance has a gracious southern-style clubhouse with a pro shop and The View at 19 Bar & Grill along with a practice range, putting green and swimming pool.
6,659 - 5,056 yards
72.3/129 - 70.1/120
Green fees: $50 with player's club card. inc. cart & range balls.
19385 Champion Circle, Gulfport, Mississippi 39503; 228-832-4871; 877-774-VIEW; windancecc.com
The Oaks Golf Club
Except for the roughs which can be vicious, The Oaks Golf Club in Pass Christian, west of Biloxi, is a delight to play and has to be one of the better deals around this part of the state.
Designed by Landmark National (1998), architects of PGA West and Kiawah, The Oaks is part of a 400-acre residential community but celebrates the outdoors with tall hardwoods, native wetlands and ponds. Both nines return to the clubhouse.
This is not one of Mississippi's longer courses, especially from the forward tees which are but 4,691 yards. This does not mean it is easy. Fairways are often narrow and water and wetlands along with close to 50 bunkers require accurate placement. Hole nine calls for a must-carry over wetlands (except from Reds) to the landing area.
The par 3s are reasonable tests from all but the forward Reds which are just plain silly. For example hole #5 which plays a sensible 182 from the back, is but 61 yards from the Reds.
And the par 3 sixth hole at 67 yards is pretty much a walk in the park from the Reds - might want to play at least one tee back where you can have some fun catching a shot over a pond with only 124 yards to reach the green.
Several holes offer makeable birdie opportunities. Hole #4 for example, a short par 4 at 414 yards (305 from the Reds) is just one place where a good drive can leave you with an easy pitch in. The par 4, 432 yard 13th hole, a dogleg right, gives you another good shot at a birdie for those who successfully carry the marsh. At 225 yards from the Reds, long-hitting women might hit the green on their drive setting up an eagle opportunity.
The Oaks is one of the better, pretty courses of the 20 or so in Mississippi's coastal region and user-friendly for women and target shooters.
The Oaks achieved 4 1/2 stars in Golf Digest "Best Places to Play" (2008-2009) and was named "Best New Course on the Mississippi Gulf Coast" by Coastal Living Magazine.
There is a nice clubhouse, practice range and restaurant. And adding a titillating perk are the Hooters Beverage Cart Girls wearing their signature orange shorts, white sleeveless tops with the orange Hooters' logo and white socks and sneakers. Do they get tons of tips? Don't ask. Just bring cash..
6,885 - 4,691 yards
72.5/131 - 66.4/107
Green fees $49 to $79 including cart. Ask about The Oaks Card which gives you preferred green fees and special perks.
The Oaks Golf Club, 24384 Clubhouse Drive, Pass Christian, MS 39571; 228-452-0909; theoaksgolfclub
Southern Mississippi has a lot of Southern mojo going for it from sizzling casino action to The Blues Trail and Antebellum Era mansions."
To learn more about America's musical heritage, look for the new Blues Trail markers located at key sites. 866-801-8551; visitmississippi.org
The Island View Casino Resort's 562 rooms have high-end luxuries like fine linens, upgraded mattresses and plasma TVs. Located on the water in Gulfport, it also has an 83,000 square foot casino, several places to eat and drink, entertainment, and the helpful and friendly staff make you feel totally welcome. 877-774-VIEW; islandviewcasino.com
Beau Rivage Resort & Casino in Biloxi (an MGM Resorts International destination resort) is the place to stay if you want to play Fallen Oak Country Club. As one of the "top 100 hotels in the Continental U.S" (Conde Nast Travel + Leisure) the 1,740 room, 32 story hotel has top-of-the-line amenities including an expansive pool, spa, shopping promenade, 85,000 square foot casino, four nightclubs and bars along with headliner shows. (888) 567-6667; fallenoak.com; beaurivage.com
Stay at the Grand Biloxi Casino, Hotel & Spa and play golf at Grand Bear Golf Club, a Jack Nicklaus-designed course surrounded by the De Soto National Forest. This 500-room hotel features upscale amenities like plasma TVs, pillow top beds and high-speed Internet access along with a16,000-square-foot spa, outdoor pool with luxury cabanas, and LB's Steakhouse. 800-522-4700; grandcasinobiloxi.com
The Hilton Garden Inn in Gulfport, offers convenient and comfortable accommodations in Gulfport 877-782-9444; gulfport.hgi.com
In and around Gulfport, enjoy Southern hospitality and dig into some of the best pulled pork and beef barbecue in the country. For starters, check out the casino hotels and associated golf clubs where there are several places to eat and drink.
For example at Beau Rivage Resort & Casino, find10 restaurants including BR Prime for perfectly prepared steaks and seafood and Jia serving contemporary Asia cuisine. beaurivage.com
The Island View Casino Resort's places to eat and drink include the famed Emeril's Gulf Coast Fish House - you'll love their huge barbecued shrimp and andouille and the banana cream pie is outstanding. 877-774-VIEW; islandviewcasino.com
At Fallen Oak Golf Club order one of the best Bloody Marys you'll ever have - it comes with a string bean draped over the top of the glass. Also try their prime sliders. In the Beau Rivage Resort, steaks and yes, sushi at BR Prime in the Beau Rivage, are also outstanding. 877-805-4657; fallenoak.com
When you crave fun and funky along with your pulled pork, beans and rib-sticking barbecue, go to the Shed BBQ & Blues Joint. Cobbled together with bits and pieces of old structures - galvanized metal, old barn siding, tons of dumpster-style junk, twinky lights you get the picture, this super casual restaurant serves up one great barbecue along with live foot-stompin' entertainment. . 228-875-9590; www.theshedbbq.com
Fly into Gulfport-Biloxi International Airport. 866-4GP-TBLX; flygpt.com
Best Time To Go
For best weather: spring, fall, winter; for value: summer
A Grand Bear Play & Stay package with golf at Grand Bear and lodging at Harrah's Grand Biloxi Resort & Casino starts at $79.50. GrandCasinoBiloxi.com
Island View Resort and Windance Country Club team up with an "Unlimited Golf" Play & Stay Package starting at $99 per person, per night with unlimited golf, range balls, buffet at Island View, one accommodations, free drink and $10 free slot view play. Unlimited Golf" Package starting at $99. 877-774-VIEW (8439); islandviewcasino.com
Great values on top-ranked courses; casinos juxtapositioned with nature; got to love the Southern hospitality and great food - biscuits & gravy; ribs; fried catfish.
Summers can be sticky going.
866-801-8551; visitmississippi.org to receive a free Golf Travel Guide.
Article Tags: Mississippi's Coastal Region, Biloxi Golf
Revised: 01/05/2011 - Article Viewed 24,970 Times
Written By: Katharine Dyson
Katharine Dyson is a freelance golf and travel writer, author, and columnist for several national & international publications and websites as well as guidebook author and blogger. Realizing that a golf and travel writer is the most underpaid, over privileged profession on the planet, she embraces the life style traveling all over the world to play golf and check out resorts. She is a member of the Golf Writers Association of American, Golf Travel Writers of America, the Society of American Travel Writers, and Metropolitan Golf Writers Association.