The Coastal Region
The Coastal Region is an exciting mix of award-winning golf, entertaining nightlife, intriguing history and stunning scenery. Golfers seeking warmer temperatures in winter months have ventured to the Mississippi coast for years, but the area gained lots more attention when casinos and the accompanying world-class golf courses opened. The region is located in the southeastern corner of the state, from Hattiesburg and Laurel to the Gulf Coast cities of Biloxi and Gulfport and the quaint seaside towns of Ocean Springs, Pass Christian and Bay St. Louis.
The historic districts of Hattiesburg and Laurel showcase charming Victorian and turn-of-the-century mansions, and along the coast lies a chain of waterfront casino resorts, beachfront condominiums, convenient hotels and 20 golf courses for your pleasure. The glitz and glitter of the many casinos on the coast - ready for action 24 hours a day, seven days a week – attract excitement-seekers from all over.
The Mississippi Gulf Coast is home to the state’s best collection of golf courses and luxurious casino resorts. The region came back better than ever after Hurricane Katrina in 2005. In fact, the most recent Gulf challenge, the BP oil spill, had very little direct effect on the beaches and no effect on the golf courses. This resiliency could be one reason why two of the hottest designers in the game, Tom Fazio and Jerry Pate, decided to make their mark on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, respectively with Fallen Oak and The Preserve.
Fallen Oak Golf Club is one of the most highly acclaimed courses in the state. It has been named “the second best new upscale course” by Golf Digest; “one of the top 10 new courses you can play” by GOLF® Magazine; Golfweek’s “best course you can play” in the state; and Golfweek’s 2nd “best casino course” in the country. And it will once again
host the Champions Tour in the second Mississippi Gulf Resort Classic tournament in the spring. David Eger won the inaugural event in 2010 by one stroke over Tommy Armour III, but other participants included such champions as Ben Crenshaw, Hale Irwin, Nick Price, Tom Kite, Mark O’Meara and Jerry Pate. The winner’s trophy is a replica of the Biloxi lighthouse, which was recently restored and re-dedicated in February 2010 after suffering extensive damage from Hurricane Katrina in 2005. The iron lighthouse itself dates back to 1847 and stands in the median of Highway 90. The Mississippi Gulf Coast has a long history of exciting professional golf tournaments, with the most well-known being the 1945 PGA TOUR’s Gulfport Open at Great Southern Golf Club. After a dead tie in regulation play, Byron Nelson and Sam Snead went into a play-off. For nineteen holes they battled it out at the Donald Ross-designed course. The championship finally came down to one five-foot putt. If Snead made it, the win was his, but if he missed, the playoff continued. In an act of amazing sportsmanship, Nelson conceded the putt and Snead won. And as good karma would have it, Nelson won an unprecedented 11 tournaments in a row in 1945.
Fallen Oak was built by MGM-Mirage as an added amenity solely for guests of Biloxi’s Beau Rivage Casino Resort, so golfers are guaranteed an amazing on-course experience and five-star service from the moment they arrive. Located just 20 minutes north of Beau Rivage, Fazio chose land that offered a wide variety of trees, marshes, lakes and winding streams, combined with gently rolling hills. The course features dramatic bunkers and undulating greens complimented by the surrounding topography. And it offers surprising changes in elevation for a course so close to the coast. It plays a hefty 7,480 yards from the back tees, but offers five sets of tees for all to enjoy. The course features TifEagle Bermuda greens, 419 Bermuda fairways, Zoysia grass flanking the bunkers and Bahia grass in the native areas. Other unique features of Fallen Oak include the transplanting of more than 1,000 mature pines, oaks, magnolias and other hardwood trees to place them in just the right location, in accordance with Fazio’s vision and a state-of-the art sub air system beneath the greens designed to handle humidity, heat and cold, and keep the greens rolling true.
The other most recent addition to the coast is The Preserve Golf Club, also just northeast of Biloxi. It’s the home course of The Palace Casino Resort, but it’s open to public play. This exciting Jerry Pate design is a 6,774-yard beauty that borders the pristine Mississippi Sandhill Crane National Wildlife Refuge. Deer, hawks and cranes are commonly seen on the property that routes through cypress swamps, longleaf pines and live oaks. Five sets of tees offer everyone a chance to enjoy the game in a natural environment. In fact, The Preserve has been granted membership into the very prestigious Audubon International Signature Program. The primary goal was to design and build an extraordinary golf course, while at the same time protecting and maintaining the natural essence of the property. The critics agree. The course was named a top new course when it opened by both Golf Digest and Golfweek.
The Bridges Golf Club at Hollywood Casino in Bay St. Louis features more than 100 acres of beautiful Tifway Bermuda sod from tee to green. There are 21 bridges for your viewing pleasure of 17 lakes, numerous creeks and scenic marshland. The Bridges plays just under 7,000 yards from the back tees and is a stiff challenge. Obviously, water comes into play throughout, so accuracy, not distance, is your primary concern. The course was recently re-designed by its original architect, the legendary Arnold Palmer, and is thus one of the most demanding on the coast. Additionally, The Bridges was the first resort course in the world to be granted Audubon International’s Silver Signature status, a symbol of active stewardship of the land.
Located in the western part of the coastline, Diamondhead Country Club features two courses, the Pine and the Cardinal, designed by renowned regional architects Earl Stone and John LaFoy. The major challenge on these courses is the narrow tree-lined fairways. The Pine has newly-renovated greens and offers numerous water hazards and bunkers. Add a constantly blowing wind and they combine to make this course quite demanding. The Cardinal is more heavily wooded; therefore, the wind isn’t much of a factor. It features more sand and gently rolling terrain. There are no parallel fairways on the Cardinal, thus creating a pristine experience.
In Pass Christian, the Oaks Golf Club was designed by Landmark National of PGA West and Kiawah fame. The course is built around an affluent residential community, yet has a very natural and isolated feel nestled among the majestic timberlands and native wetlands of the area. It’s a par-72 layout highlighted by strategic bunkering, demanding greens and a circuitous routing that creates a unique and serene experience. The Oaks has received numerous honors since it opened in 1998, including one of the Top Ten Courses in Mississippi by Golf Digest and the Best Course on the Coast by the readers of Coast Magazine.
Built on rolling terrain a short distance from the Gulf of Mexico, Windance Country Club, located in Gulfport, is one of the gems on the Mississippi coast. The layout, designed by Mark McCumber, is fairly flat, with tree-lined fairways, a moderate amount of water and bunkering, along with some of the most challenging greens in the area. Numerous professional tour events have been held at and many honors have also been given to Windance Country Club, including being selected by Golf Digest and Southern Journal of Golf as one of the state’s top courses.
Known for its playability, strategic routing, and unspoiled setting amid the dense pines of the DeSoto National Forest, Grand Bear Golf Club is truly a classic in every sense of the word. Designed by Jack Nicklaus for Harrah’s Grand Casino, it’s located north of Gulfport in Saucier. As with other casino-owned courses, the on and off course amenities and service are second-to-none. To wit, Grand Bear was named the Best Public course in Mississippi by Golfweek. It’s also rated a distinguishing 4 1/2 out of 5 stars by Golf Digest’s Places to Play. This survey of subscribers has become a well-regarded rating system, since it’s average players who are providing the feedback. Towering pines and natural cypress wetlands are in abundance at Grand Bear, as are the secluded fairways and impeccable greens. The outgoing nine skirts the Little Biloxi River, while the back is filled with live oaks, gum trees and ancient magnolias along the Big Biloxi River. Jack Nicklaus stated, “With its packed needle rough, championship greens and deep bunkers, Grand Bear has the feel and excitement of Pinehurst, with a touch of Augusta National.”
Gulfport’s Great Southern Golf Club is steeped in rich golfing tradition. It was designed in 1908 by one of the greatest golf course architects of all time, Donald Ross. Great Southern is the oldest golf course in the state. The course was re-modeled in 1999 by Brian Curly, who kept the traditional Ross style of small, undulating and severely sloping greens. The greens are Tif-Dwarf Bermuda and the tees, fairways and rough are 419 Bermuda. The new design plays 6,236 yards from the tips to a par of 71. The signature hole is really not a particular hole at all, but rather a location between the 8th green and the 9th tee that still features a railroad track running through the course. You must look both ways before crossing, like Bobby Jones, Ben Hogan, Sam Snead, Gene Sarazen, Babe Zaharias and President Woodrow Wilson did when they played this course.
Sunkist Country Club, located in the heart of Biloxi, is one of the most popular golf courses in the area. This beautifully manicured course measures up to 6,400 yards with three sets of tees. New Champion Bermuda greens roll true. Water comes in to play on four holes, and strategic sand bunkers are on 12 holes, ensuring a challenging and pleasant round.
Another historic golf course on the coast is east of Biloxi in Ocean Springs. Offering lush fairways and small well-manicured greens, Gulf Hills Golf Club has been an integral part of the golfing landscape on the Mississippi coast since 1927. Its on-site quaint hotel is a favorite for golf groups. The history of Gulf Hills is legendary. After investors from Chicago acquired and developed the property, it reportedly became a frequented hangout of Al Capone; then in the 50s and 60s when it was a Dude Ranch, it was popular with Hollywood celebrities. Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis were often guests as was Elvis Presley. Meanwhile, the golf course remained the center of attention, and it still thrives today. The par-71 course stretches to 6,266 yards along rolling terrain and boasts new TifEagle greens.
Moving east of Ocean Springs, Shell Landing Golf Club, in Gautier, was designed by Davis Love III. This 18-hole, par-72 layout takes advantage of all the natural resources available to it. Named for the rare gopher turtles that thrive throughout the property, Shell Landing uses tall pines and generous marshes and wetlands to create a fun and memorable layout. When the course opened in 2002, it was promptly named the 5th best new upscale course in America by Golf Digest. The honors keep rolling in for Shell Landing. Recently, this course was named the 3rd Best Public Access Course in the state by Golfweek and is continually rated 4 1/2 stars by Golf Digest’s Places to Play. Shell Landing plays to just over 7,000 yards from the back tees down to a friendly 5,047 yards from the forward tees. The facility also features a 25-acre full-service practice complex.
Architect Earl Stone designed a splendid golfing experience at Mississippi National Golf Club. Also located in Gautier, it covers beautiful terrain. It’s a favorite of locals, as well as the many visitors to the area. Water comes into play on 10 holes of this 6,983-yard layout. Many high-profile events have visited Mississippi National, including the former Nike (now Nationwide) Tour. Strict attention to detail is required, placement off the tee can be critical and approach shots demand unerring accuracy. You must always be aware of the water at Mississippi National.
An hour north of the Mississippi coastline is the college and military town of Hattiesburg. For golfers visiting the area, Timberton Golf Club is one of the finest tracts in the state. Designed by former PGA TOUR player Mark McCumber, Timberton has hosted many highly-regarded events, including PGA TOUR Qualifiers, the Mississippi State Open and the Mississippi State Men’s Amateur. Timberton features 18 holes of wide rolling fairways and plush greens that are always in excellent condition. Small lakes and streams meander throughout the challenging course, and numerous bunkers come into play often. Timberton is rated a prestigious 4 1/2 stars, and has consistently been ranked in the “top ten Mississippi courses” by Golf Digest.
Also located in Hattiesburg is Shadow Ridge Golf Club. The 18-hole residential course offers many changes in elevation, a scenic layout and oversized, receptive Ultra Dwarf Bermuda greens. Shadow Ridge is a par-72, playing 6,845 yards from the tips. The entire course features a nice combination of distances, requiring players to use just about every golf club in their bag.
Thrilling casino action and renowned golf courses come together along Mississippi’s unforgettable Gulf Coast to offer more than just a great golf vacation. Combined with moderate annual temperatures, lots of lodging options, unique and historical attractions, exciting entertainment and dining hotspots and a variety of musical outlets to enliven the senses, the region is unlike any other. And with nonstop air service into the Gulfport/Biloxi International Airport continuing to expand each year, the area is more accessible than ever.