Mississippi Gulf Coast offers variety for the casino golfer

By Erik PetersonOctober 21, 2009, 1:05 am
fallen oak no 3
The par-3 third hole at Fallen Oak is one of the toughest one-shotters in Mississippi.

BILOXI, Miss. – When it comes to golf and gambling, there’s no doubt Las Vegas is No. 1. But if you’re looking for a change of pace, know that Mississippi’s Gulf Coast won’t fold easily. In fact, after Vegas and Atlantic City, Mississippi’s Gulf Coast is the largest gaming locale in America. And while Vegas and Atlantic City cater mostly to the high-rolling golfer, Mississippi’s most attractive feature is its value.

For starters, the MGM-owned Beau Rivage Resort & Casino has the look and feel of Vegas’ Bellagio, only smaller and more affordable – rooms here start in the low $100s. And while you’re more likely to shoot in the 60s than find a $10 blackjack table at the Bellagio, at “The Beau” they’re commonplace. Beyond that you’ll find more than 2,000 slot machines, a poker room, all the table games, and a high-rollers room for those of you with cash to burn.
It's Casino Month in the Courses & Travel section, where we'll uncover the best casino/golf experiences from around the U.S.

- Verona, N.Y.
- Las Vegas
- Biloxi, Miss.

The Beau has 1,740 guest rooms and suites, with contemporary décor including original artwork, cherry-wood furniture and views of the Mississippi gulf coast that would make Vegas jealous.

If you’re craving a little rock ‘n roll, the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Biloxi is located next door and won’t bore you a bit. From the moment you walk in the door you’ll be mesmerized by all the memorabilia from the Beatles and the Boss to ZZ Top and Tom Petty. A hip room key and carry case is accompanied by a free CD that contains a genre of music based on the floor on which you are staying.  Each floor is designed with a different Hard Rock theme.

At the casino floor you’ll find plenty of slots and every table game, some of which have a rock ‘n roll twist to them. Connected to the casino is the Hard Rock Live concert hall, which despite its intimate setting has big ticket acts like Darius Rucker, 3 Doors Down and Barenaked Ladies on its upcoming schedule.

But don’t get too distracted by all the fanfare, the best golf course in the state is calling your name.

Fallen Oak Golf Club, designed by Tom Fazio and opened in 2006, is not only Mississippi’s best track, but is also one of the two best casino courses in the entire country (it’s sister course, Shadow Creek, in Las Vegas, is the other).

Perhaps the highest praise a golf course can receive is that it feels old but plays modern, and Fallen Oak fits that bill. Despite opening less than three years ago, the course is graced with centuries-old oak trees – including its namesake at No. 18. At 7,487 yards from the tips, it’s long enough to challenge even the heaviest of hitters.

'When we opened Fallen Oak,' says general manager David Stinson, 'our goal was to have it look as if it had been open for many years.' When you stroll the fairways here, you'll find they accomplished that goal.

But what’s earned Fallen Oak its place as the best public golf course in Mississippi is its commitment to the experience.

Intended as an amenity to the The Beau, the only way you can play the course is if you stay at the hotel. Your golf experience begins with a limo ride to the course, where you’re greeted by golf course management. Talk about a good first impression!

From the bag drop you’re escorted into the locker room where your personally-engraved locker awaits you. Before you know it, those golf shoes you thought you left in the limo are handed to you, all shiny and new. As you leave the locker room for the driving range, feel free to grab a snack from the tray by the door. Feel like a Kit-Kat and a bag of peanuts? Help yourself.

When you arrive at the practice area you’ll meet your caddie, who has probably looped for a professional golfer, or is good friends with someone who has. Even if you’re a terrible golfer, the men and women in the white jumpsuits will make you feel like a pro.

The course itself is very challenging, but if you play from the proper set of tees it can be a lot of fun. True to Fazio form, the holes are visually intimidating but susceptible to birdies if you play to the right spots.

After your round, be sure to enjoy the clubhouse bar that overlooks the 18th hole. It’ll make your list of top-5 19th holes, guaranteed.

At $200-plus, Fallen Oak is pricey for some, but it’s well worth cashing your chips in for. If you hit a few hands at the blackjack table, save it for Fallen Oak. You’ll be glad you did.

Besides Fallen Oak, there are three other courses at three different price points that you should take a look at: Shell Landing ($39-109), The Preserve ($90-135) and Grand Bear ($50-109).

At the Davis Love-designed Shell Landing in Gautier, you’ll find a playable layout with wide fairways. From the tips it’s a bomber's paradise, but a few holes will command your attention off the tee. The 412-yard, par-4 sixth is the most difficult hole, and also one of the most picturesque. Four distinct landing areas are surrounded by wetlands, where abandoned boats lay stuck in the mud, serving as eerie reminders of the damaging high waters from Hurricane Katrina.

Just a 12-minute drive from Shell Landing is The Preserve Golf Club, a fantastic Jerry Pate design that boasts fast, undulating greens. The short, dogleg-right third hole is a fairly simple little par 4, but with a wall-lined lake guarding the green your knees will be knocking if the pin is front-right and you have a 70-yard shot on your hands.

No. 17 is also a treat for the simple fact that although it’s a par 3, it’s the No. 1 handicap hole. (When’s the last time you played one of those?) Having a birdie putt at this 225-yarder is no small feat, but considering the green is massive, you’d better be on the right tier for a realistic chance at par.

Grand Bear Golf Club
, a Jack Nicklaus Signature Design, is off the beaten path (Saucier, Miss.) and can be played for low, mid-week prices, but don’t let that lead you to believe it’s second-tier. In fact, Grand Bear is arguably the second-best public track in the state.

Tall pines border every hole, and there are no houses, giving golfers that peaceful, isolated feeling rarely found at a new golf course development.  Both of the par 5s on the front are tough as nails – just the way Jack wants it – but are susceptible to birdie if you can put your second shot in the right place.

While the casinos haven’t proven to be any luckier in Mississippi than anywhere else, it’s a sure bet that the golf is some of America’s best.

For more info about golf in Mississippi visit: http://www.biloxigolf.com or http://www.visitmississippi.org/golf/.
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Fleetwood flawless en route to Abu Dhabi lead

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 2:06 pm

New year, same results for Tommy Fleetwood.

The reigning Race to Dubai champ picked up where he left off in the opening round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, carding a bogey-free 66 during which the Englishman found all 18 greens in regulation. At 6 under, he shares the lead with Japan's Hideto Tanihara and sits one shot clear of five other players.

"Very stress-free. Played really well from start to finish," Fleetwood said. "Felt like I did what you need to do around this golf course, which is drive it well, hit your irons solid. You can't really be too greedy a lot of the time, and then sort of my pace putting was really good. So basically just did what you need to do to get a good score around this golf course, and I got one."

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

Fleetwood shined in a marquee grouping that included world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy, as he birdied three holes on each nine. This is his first worldwide start since a T-3 finish at the Hero World Challenge.

It was at this event a year ago that Fleetwood sparked a career campaign, edging Johnson and Pablo Larrazabal for the win. He added another win at the French Open in the summer to go along with a pair of runner-up results and a T-4 finish at the U.S. Open, all of which helped him capture the European Tour's season-long title.

Fleetwood's sudden success in Abu Dhabi serves as a microcosm for his career resurgence. Prior to last year's victory, he had missed the cut in four of his five other trips to this event.

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Sergio starts season with 66 in Singapore

By Associated PressJanuary 18, 2018, 12:56 pm

SINGAPORE – Sergio Garcia opened his season with a 5-under 66 and a share of the clubhouse lead on Thursday in the first round of the weather-interrupted Singapore Open.

Playing his first tournament of the year, the Masters champion rebounded after making an early bogey to collect four birdies and an eagle at the Sentosa Golf Club.

He was later joined by American qualifier Kurt Kitayama in the clubhouse lead. Still on the course, Tirawat Kaewsiribandit was at 6 under through 16 holes when play was suspended for the day because of the threat of lightning.

Louis Oosthuizen, the 2010 Open champion, was at 5 under through 16 holes when he also had to stop his round because of the weather.

Of the players who did finish their opening rounds, only three were within two strokes of Garcia and Kitayama. One of them was Casey O'Toole, who aced the par-3 second with a 7-iron.

The 38-year-old Garcia dropped his only shot of the day on the par-4 15th, his sixth hole after teeing off on the back nine, when he missed the fairway and was unable to make par. But he made amends when he birdied the par-3 17th and then eagled the par-5 18th to go out in 33.

''I was 1 over after (the) seventh but it didn't feel like I was playing badly,'' said Garcia, who made birdies on each of the two par 5s and one of the par 3s on the second nine. ''But then I hit two greats in a row for holes 17 and 18. I got a birdie-eagle there, so that settled me a little bit and I could play solid in the back nine and it was a great round.''

Garcia made the shortlist for the Laureus Sports Awards in the Breakthrough of the Year category after claiming his first major at Augusta National last year and is hoping for more success this season.

He credits the Singapore Open as having played a part in toughening him up for his Masters win because he opted to start his 2017 campaign in the stifling humidity of Southeast Asia to prepare himself for the bigger tournaments ahead.

Although he finished tied for 11th in Singapore, Garcia won the Dubai Desert Classic the next week and was in peak form when he won the Masters two months later.

Kitayama only secured his place in the $1 million event on Monday by finishing at the top of the qualifying competition, but he made a strong start with birdies on three of his first five holes. The 25-year-old Thai was 6 under through 13 holes but spoiled his otherwise flawless round with a bogey on his last.

''I started with a birdie and I just let it roll from there. I had some good tee shots, which I think, is the biggest thing for this course,'' Kitayama said. ''I'm a little tired, but I'm hanging in there. Whenever I have time off, I'll try not to think too much about golf.''

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13-year-old beats DJ in closest-to-the-pin contest

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:26 pm

Dustin Johnson didn’t just get beat by Tommy Fleetwood and Rory McIlroy on Day 1 of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Even a 13-year-old got the best of the world No. 1.

Oscar Murphy teed off on the 177-yard 15th hole as part of the tournament’s Beat the Pro challenge during the opening round. The Northern Irishman, one of the HSBC’s Future Falcons, carved a 3-wood toward a back-right pin, about 25 feet away, closer than both Johnson and Fleetwood.

“An unbelievable shot,” Fleetwood said afterward, “and me and Rory both said, ‘We don’t have that in our locker.’”

Johnson still made par on the hole, but he mixed four birdies with four bogeys Thursday for an even-par 72 that left him six shots back of Fleetwood and Hideto Tanihara after the opening round.

Johnson, who tied for second here a year ago, is coming off a dominant performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, where he won by eight shots to strengthen his lead atop the world rankings. 

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McIlroy 'really pleased' with opening 69 in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:10 pm

It was an auspicious 2018 debut for Rory McIlroy.

Playing alongside world No. 1 Dustin Johnson for his first round since October, McIlroy missed only one green and shot a bogey-free 69 at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. McIlroy is three shots back of reigning Race to Dubai champion Tommy Fleetwood, who played in the same group as McIlroy and Johnson, and Hideto Tanihara.

Starting on the back nine at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, McIlroy began with 11 consecutive pars before birdies on Nos. 3, 7 and 8.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

“I was excited to get going,” he told reporters afterward. “The last couple of months have been really nice in terms of being able to concentrate on things I needed to work on in my game and health-wise. I feel like I’m the most prepared for a season that I’ve ever been, but it was nice to get back out there.”

Fleetwood, the defending champion, raced out to another lead while McIlroy and Johnson, who shot 72, just tried to keep pace.

“Tommy played very well and I was just trying to hang onto his coattails for most of the round, so really pleased – bogey-free 69, I can’t really complain,” McIlroy said.

This was his first competitive round in more than three months, since a tie for 63rd at the Dunhill Links. He is outside the top 10 in the world ranking for the first time since 2014.