What if I told you that you could play Augusta without actually playing Augusta? In the heart of Mississippi awaits this legendary experience with two beautiful eighteen-hole golf courses designed by Tom Fazio and Jerry Pate. Labeled the “Augusta you can play” starts with a legendary clubhouse setting, where the azaleas steal the show for the first couple weeks of April. The two five-star golf courses, “The Dancing Rabbit” and “The Oaks” sit on an exclusive piece of land where a three and a half mile trek which leads to the clubhouse and with no house in sight…just pure golf and the wilderness. This facility offers a true getaway experience. The course boasts a special stay and play feature along with several other amenities. These limited rooms, located on the second floor of the clubhouse, are equipped with whirlpools, a common room and a personal cart for access on the grounds. The course also has a second option with stay and play packages through the Golden Moon Casino at Pearl River Resort which features some of Mississippi’s finest dining options. They offer cabana rentals, a fully-equipped spa and over five-hundred rooms paying tribute with Choctaw inspired artwork and sculptures throughout the casino.
Not too far from Choctaw is Jackson, Mississippi lives the home of blues music, soul food and the civil rights movement. When you think about Mississippi, people cannot deny the deep historical role it’s played within the civil rights movement. Located in Jackson is the Museum of Mississippi History. The museum features two amazing sides of how Mississippi has developed socially, economically and how it’s triumphed and forged through hardships. One aspect of the museum specializes in the history of the civil rights movement and timeline. This museum creates a very powerful experience, displaying the names of every person lynched in the state’s history. This was a very emotional experience for me. The state did an amazing job putting this museum together. Jackson’s nightlife is also booming, featuring one of the first legal distilleries in the state's history. CatHead Distillery is a big deal in Jackson, considering the state outlawed alcohol in 1907 and again in 1966. Mississippi was the last state to repeal prohibition. It’s taken a long time, but two college friends from Alabama, who shared the same dream, finally rewrote history in Mississippi. CatHead produces Old Soul, which is some of the south’s finest small-batch bourbon that measures in at ninety proof. CatHead is also distributed throughout many territories in the United States. It is a must-see for bourbon lovers. Continuing on, if you plan on visiting the Jackson area for a few days, I highly recommend the Sheraton Flowood Refuge Hotel. The rooftop bar is the perfect place to end an evening after shooting 85 while enjoying one of Mississippi's best sunsets. This beautiful hotel survived covid and is becoming the hot spot to stay in Jackson, Mississippi. Right outside the hotel sits The Refuge Golf Club. It features one of my favorite driving ranges. There is nothing like flushing balls with a 7-iron into a lake of water before teeing off. After a long week of an amazing experience and being worn out, it was nice to visit the pro shop within the hotel. Hotel bed-to-tee-box in less than five minutes.
Looking to visit more of a coastal scene? Take a drive on highway 90 and check out one of the longest man-made beaches in North America. The Biloxi/Gulfport area is filled with many great, top-notch golf courses. Conveniently located between New Orleans and Gulfport/Biloxi, one of my favorite places to play is The Club at Diamondhead. It houses two plush golf eighteen-hole courses, The Cardinal and The Pine. The Cardinal, designed by Earl Stone, features a 72 par course that plays 6,729 yards from the championship tees. The Pine course was built with the 18 hole handicapper in mind. The championship tees max out at 6,784 yards. The giant clubhouse features 30 Patio and Grill or The Oak Room, all newly renovated. Not only does this place deliver a great quality golf course with top-notch greens that hold true lines, but this place should be known for having the friendliest staff with the best golf names. At no other golf course can you visit and meet the academy director, named Hoppy Smith…followed up with a guy working the pro shop named Steve Austin. Apparently, they have also employed a gentleman named Happy Gilmore. This is not a joke. This place is legendary on all ends. Hoppy is one of the best teachers in the south. Their program also has the only two enclosed heated hitting bays you can swing from in the Gulfport lower Mississippi area. Interestingly, Hoppy is also one of very few teachers that teach by the minute. He is one of the region's most sought after instructors and is one of the most respected golf pros in Mississippi. Our group in November looks forward to returning to Diamondhead and getting some one-on-one time with Hoppy.
While enjoying this experience, it’s nice to stay somewhere, maybe overlooking the Gulf of Mexico, perhaps? Nothing says, “treat yourself” like staying at the Island View Casino and Resort. There’s nothing like beach front views, gambling, lights-out food and being thirty minutes or less from The Grand Bear Golf Club, Club at Diamondhead and Windance Country Club. All three of these courses are accessible while staying at Island View Casino and Resort. Islandview Casino and Resort offers stay and play packages as low as $99 with Windance Country Club. Enjoy a steak that melts over your pallet like butter and some of Mississippi's best bread pudding at Carter Greens Steakhouse inside Islandview Casino and Resort after a round at Windance Country Club. It is located off the beach, only ten minutes from the Casino. I might be biased just a little about Windance Country Club. That, however, is only because the general manager was the fire chief in my hometown for twenty plus years. It was a very welcoming environment. I really enjoyed my round from the very beginning–from the lunch the course had prepared for us, to the introduction made to our starter on the first tee box. He opened the introduction with the do’s and don'ts of the course, followed by a short description of the very first hole with a mother and son-in-law joke. The starter dropped dad jokes until it was time to chase down our breakfast balls. The rumor has it there's only one resident gator on the course. I didn’t get to see him but I did see lots and lots of snakes. Being a golfer from the north who refuses to lose a $9 ProV 1 searching for it deep in the woods is probably not the best idea at courses below the Mason-Dixon line. This was an overall great place to visit. It did remind me of playing a few courses in North Carolina. A real Pinehurst vibe. Can you guess how the course got the name Windance Country Club? Tall pine trees dancing in the coastal beach wind. Located a mere thirty minutes from Islandview Resort and Casino, resides the only publicly accessible Jack Nicklaus course in the state of Mississippi. Grand Bear offers a small retreat away from the coast. The course opened in 1999 and was built in the Desoto National Forest. Grand Bear is one of the most private golf experiences as no two holes run parallel to one another and there are no homes located on the golf course. There are also no roads or other distractions within miles. The Grand Bear also plays host to the Senior PGA Champions tour. It has an immaculate practice facility, with one of the most unique stand-out rustic clubhouses overlooking the eighteenth green. This finishing hole experience is memorable. Say Pinehurst and Augusta had a baby…this course would be the outcome.
Visiting Mississippi as a golf destination has never crossed my mind until now due to all of the other golf destinations in the south like Alabama, Tennessee and Louisiana. What was made abundantly clear, though, is that Mississippi is a hidden gem when it comes to golf economically, as well the quality of the courses. Mississippi rates at the top with the rest of North America's golf destinations. Our team anticipates an amazing golf trip returning to Biloxi/Gulfport November 6th-November 11th. If you would like to join our 517Golf group, please message our team below for details.
Thank you to Visit Mississippi for such an amazing experience.
For more information on our visit to Mississippi check out our “Travel with 517Golf'' tab on our home page. Or just click the link below.