Mississippi – The Unexpected Golf Destination

Fallen Oak Golf Club (Photo: Scott MacLeod)
Fallen Oak Golf Club (Photo: Scott MacLeod)
Fallen Oak Golf Club (Photo: Scott MacLeod)

“Just take a right at the Dollar General and follow the dirt road.”

It seems like odd instructions for a golf trip but here we are, searching for an original “Juke Joint” in the fields near Merigold, Mississippi – population 428.

Looking for places where one of the great gifts of Mississippi, Blues music, was born is one of the many side-trips you can enjoy on a visit to this dynamic state.

Those who have never visited Mississippi can’t begin to realize what this place offers, from natural beauty and a lively culture, to golf that runs that length and width of its varied terrain.  As the motto for the Mississippi Gulf Coast says, “Stay Awhile. You’ll Get it.”

To me that says a lot about this place. The more time you spend in the state the more you realize it’s depth, one far beyond the stereotypes burdened upon it through the years.

Just weeks ago I returned to the Magnolia State and it once again affirmed to me that it was a legitimate golf destination. From the fairways of Tunica to the bunkers near the beaches of Biloxi, golf has been played here for more than a century. Modern times have brought with it more world class designs, some rated amongst the best in America, and here you can enjoy them in an unassuming and peaceful atmosphere,  framed by the natural beauty the state is known for.

There are a number of distinct regions in Mississippi that are worth visiting but all my words on that are window dressing for what you need to know. The golf here is compelling; the state annually hosts events on the PGA and Champions Tour, and there is plenty to do away from the fairways with world-class gambling, live music everywhere you turn,  stunning beaches along the Gulf of Mexico. Best of all it comes with residents who appreciate you as a visitor and go out of their way to make you feel welcome.

So what is a “Can’t Miss” in Mississippi? That’s a tough call and very subjective but I’ll give you a few of my highlights from personal experience.

The Golf

The first golf course that I ever played in the Biloxi area (Gulfport) was the very first course in the state.  Opening in 1908, Great Southern is a mid-length 18-holer that once hosted the PGA and LPGA Tour. It has a number of square-faced greens where you can actually “catch a corner” and be sure to bring your camera for the last hole. The final green uses the Gulf of Mexico as a backdrop and makes for a perfect photo opp.

If you want to get a taste for what Champions Tour players face each year during the Mississippi Gulf Coast Resort Classic then the Fallen Oak Golf Club has to be on your radar.

Available to guests of the Beau Rivage Resort and Casino, Fallen Oak is a dreamy Tom Fazio design found about 25 minutes north of Biloxi near the Desoto National Forest at Saucier.  It is consistently mentioned as the best golf the state has to offer.  Within its enclave you will find nearly 7,500 yards of fairways draped over hundreds of acres of wetlands, stately orchards, and tumbling turf.

Far more accessible for continuing to please customers year after year is Shell Landing Golf Club in Gautier, east of Biloxi.

Consistently recognized as among the best layouts in the state, the Davis Love III design is affordable, accessible, and has a full range of amenities including an extensive 15-acre practice facility.

The latter characteristics – the access and pricing, is where Mississippi Golf excels. The dozens of top notch courses can be played for less than what you might find in bigger markets and rarely are you not able to secure a tee time.

Whether you choose to play a course among the several dozen in the coastal area, those in the Jackson region, or the upper regions of the state you’ll be pleased at what you find both on and off the fairways in Mississippi. More than 30 casino properties and an endless number of top restaurants and music venues rounds it into quite a destination.

It may not be first to mind when people talk about golf hot spots in America…but that’s slowly changing.

For good reason.

Fast Facts

State of Mississippi

www.visitmississippi.org

Visit Mississippi Gulf Coast

www.gulfcoast.org 

Beau Rivage Casino

www.beaurivage.com

Fallen Oak Golf Course

www.fallenoak.com

Great Southern Golf Course

www.greatsoutherngolf.com

Shell Landing Golf Course

www.shelllandinggolf.com