Golf on Mississippi’s Gulf Coast – The Secret is Out!

By: David Wood

Call me greedy, but whenever I discover a new golfing Mecca not yet on the radar screen of the traveling golfer I try to keep it to myself. Why would I want to share with others my detective work of finding uncrowded courses surrounded by nothing but glorious nature with its full regalia of lush flora, teeming wildlife, and meandering waterways? Upon making these discoveries, I get as tight-lipped as a stool-pigeon Gambino in the Federal Witness Protection Program. Selfishly, I want their exquisitely designed layouts complete with rolling emerald green fairways, billiard table putting surfaces, and cawing birds to just myself and my poorly executed shots.

Of course, this is a serious shortfall in my character, but for once I’m going to break my longstanding rule as I discuss the wonderful golf on the Gulf Coast of Mississippi. After all the turmoil those nice folks have been through recently, it’s the least I can do.

Yes, you heard me right – the Gulf Course of Mississippi of Hurricane Katrina fame. A little over a year ago that once-in-a-century storm rammed into the flat-as-a-pancake scenic coast like a bowling ball smacking into the headpin. Mile after mile of Antebellum homes, casinos, neighborhoods, schools, condominiums, Waffle Huts, and virtually everything in its destructive path are now gone – and I mean totally gone!

With the clean-up finally about ninety-percent complete, the rebuilding has started with gusto as new hotels, casinos, restaurants, and businesses are sprouting up like poppies. Two lavish hotels – the Grand Casino Biloxi and Beau Rivage Resort and Casino are both going full steam ahead as if the hurricane never happened. While the storm may have destroyed the region’s physical structures, it didn’t damage the kindness of the locals who are as glad to see you visit their area as Barney is at a five-year-old’s birthday party.

Because most of the golf courses are a bit inland from the coast and usually surrounded by a protective ring of dense foliage, they escaped the wrath of the gales and water-surge and are well-groomed, ready for players, and first-rate to boot. Here are a few in the “Don’t Miss Category”:

The Jack Nicklaus designed “Grand Bear” is flat-out as good as it gets for folks who like to put a little white ball into an old rabbit hole. Mr. Nicklaus took a piece of secluded swamp land resting between the Big Biloxi and Little Biloxi Rivers (which look more like creeks to my Yankee eyes) and sculpted an undulating playground that is all the golf you’ll ever need.

From the stately log-cabin clubhouse that would make Ben Cartwright and his three boys feel right at home, the holes flow serenely through the protected cypress wetlands and towering pines. With five sets of tees running the Bear family gamut from Grizzly to Teddy, Mr. Nicklaus has given golfers of all abilities wide landing areas for their drives. However, in order to enjoy your day, stay out of the cavernous bunkers lurking thuggishly throughout – which are more penal than Guantanamo Bay. With green fees at $55 weekdays and $65 on the weekends, Grand Bear has to be one of the best golfing deals in the country.

Just down the road a piece, The Preserve – a brand-spanking-new Jerry Pate designed lay-out – is first-rate as well. Though the course plays to only 6,774 yards from the tips, it’s trickier than taking the SAT test in Mandarin. Mr. Pate’s love of the game is evident as his holes wind through bogs, swamps, savannahs, and live oaks with some of the fastest greens this side of Augusta. My advice is to put chewing gum on your putter-head if you’re above the hole on any green because those putts are faster than NASCAR on the final lap.

Be forewarned about the back of the 16th green of the 225-yard par-3 as the green swoops down six-feet plus from its middle to the bottom and is as audacious as anything you’ll find on the Old Course at St. Andrews. You’ll need a mighty wallop with your putter and a trail of breadcrumbs to find your way back to the hole. You can play the Preserve for $90 in primetime, but if you have a late night at the casinos and don’t wake-up until noon, you can wander out and play for $70 after 2 PM.

Davis Love III has thrown his name into the mix of big-time golfers becoming big-time-course designers with Shell Landing – a tranquil property built around a 16-acre protected habitat for the endangered gopher tortoise. The holes steer around the ubiquitous pines of the area with bayous, marshes, and wetlands providing plenty of places for the gopher tortoise to add to their constantly growing collection of lost golf balls.

Similar to The Preserve and Grand Bear, there’s ample room to pound your drive through the sweet southern air, but par is also an endangered species with Mr. Love’s well thought out hazards swallowing up any approach shot hit off-line. Shell Landing’s green fees range from $45-$65.

Okay, the secret is out! These terrific courses would be at least double the cost anywhere else in the country. Plus, the people are friendly, the weather is warm, the iced tea is syrupy sweet, and you’ll feel good about helping the local economy. C’mon down y’all!

David Wood
– writer, corporate speaker, and humorist – is the author of the soon-to-be published book “Around the World in Eighty Rounds.” With several appearances on “Late Night with David Letterman,” Wood combines humor with his love for golf and adventurous travel. For comments or inquiries on having him speak to your group, contact David at His website address is