before glitzy casinos dotted the Mississippi coastline and the golf
boom produced brand-new daily-fee treasures, there was a historic
match that just might have caused folks in these parts to re-think
the game of golf.
That's the weekend Byron Nelson and Sam Snead came to town in
1943. The site was the 1908 Donald Ross-designed Great Southern
Golf Club, host to the PGA Tour's Gulfport Open and the oldest course
in the state.
"I really think this historic match defined golf on the Mississippi
Gulf Coast," said Kevin Drum, executive director of the Mississippi
Gulf Coast Golf Association.
"Nelson and Snead battled it out in a 19-hole playoff and the match
ended after Mr. Nelson showed incredible sportsmanship by conceding
Mr. Snead's putt to make him that year's champion," Drum said. "Two
years later, in 1945, Nelson went on his string of 11 consecutive
victories that is still a PGA record." The same Great Southern Golf
Club recently completed a $1.2-million facelift that gave this fun,
6,238-yard classic a new look. It's a shotmaker's track with several
Gulf of Mexico backdrops and even a lighthouse photo opportunity.
Today the Gulf Coast is resplendent -- it's the Riviera of the
South. The historic drive down Highway 90, including 26 miles of
Gulf of Mexico shoreline, gives way to views of ante-bellum homes
including Beauvoir, the retirement home of the Confederacy's only
president, Jefferson Davis. And now the view includes 12 Las Vegas-styled
The ritzy new golf layouts include Arnold Palmer's The Bridges at Casino
Magic in Bay St. Louis, a Davis Love III signature course named Shell
Landing Golf Club in Gautier and The Oaks Golf Club in nearby Pass Christian.
You might also want to check Grand Casino's Jack Nicklaus-designed Grand
Bear in Biloxi. But Drum says not everyone comes to the Mississippi Golf
Coast to play the newest layouts.
"Bob Murphy, the Senior PGA Tour player, was here recently and
he played St. Andrews Golf Club in Ocean Springs, which was built
in 1968," Drum said. "Murphy said the course reminded him of courses
he grew up on in Florida. It's a fun layout with no bunkers, but
has great views -- its signature 13th hole is right on the Gulf
Mississippi golf is also gaining notice for Dancing Rabbit Golf
Club's Azaleas Course, inland and east of Jackson. Part of a 36-hole
complex designed by Tom Fazio and Jerry Pate in Philadelphia, it
has just been named No. 35 on Golf Magazine's Top 100 You Can Play
List. Golf Digest ranks it No. 2 in the state and The Oaks Course
at Dancing Rabbit No. 7.
Here's a capsule look at some choices for golf vacations on the
Mississippi Gulf Coast and also a look at Dancing Rabbit. Log on
to golfcoast.com for package information and remember that most
of the larger hotel and casinos offer golf packages.
Shell Landing Golf Club, Gautier The bayous and marshes
of Shell Landing serve as home for so many native turtles that they
named the tees after the species -- Snapping, Leatherback, Hawksbill
and Gopher. The golf course is named for an area where fishermen
dumped their oyster shells after harvesting.
Just don't snap one into the tall pines and rolling landscape
here on this Davis Love III signature layout because the 6,978-yard,
par 72 layout is demanding. Wayward shots might also find the countless
can't really see it, but just beyond the far side of the par-3,
194-yard signature No. 17 is the Gulf of Mexico," said Kenny Hughes,
Director of Golf. "I think the travel golfers like this course because
of the over-seeding in winter, our packages and service and the
fact we are close to the major hotels and casinos." The Bridges
Golf Club at Casino Magic, Bay St. Louis.
This Arnold Palmer-designed track, the only one in the state,
is named for the 21 wooden bridges that extend almost one mile over
17 lakes and 14 acres of marsh, wetlands and emerald over-seeded
fairways. In its original state, upland island areas dotted the
wet acreage -- bridges were needed to connect the dots.
The King's Tees, on this Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary course,
measure 6,841 yards at par 72 spread out over 600 acres that includes
the brand-new 291-room luxury hotel and casino. And it's only 50
miles from New Orleans.
Opened in 1997, the golfer will find water or wetlands everywhere,
but the tee landing areas are generous. Watch for deep cross bunkers,
no recovery marshland, and bold carries on many holes from the tips.
The Bridges is a 4-star Golf Digest Places to Play winner. The course
has hosted many prestigious tournaments including The Brett Favre
Celebrity Golf Tournament, Mike Ditka Celebrity Tournament, Bridges
All-American Intercollegiate Invitation, PGA Tour's Buy.com Pro-Am
and the Gulf Coast Open.
Mississippi Golf Destinations