No oil here Golf alive and well on Mississippi Gulf Coast

By Erik PetersonNovember 3, 2010, 9:26 pm
preserve golf mississippi
The par 3 16th at The Preserve Golf Club (Courtesy The Preserve)

GULFPORT, Miss. – In the wake of the BP oil spill in April, horrific images of oil-slicked animals and beaches dominated the news. As awareness of the dire circumstances spread, so did the public’s willingness to help.

What the public never saw, however, were golf courses abandoned by tourists who believed that oil somehow made it inland and was flowing across putting greens and tee boxes. The reality is that golf courses in the Gulf Coast region never succumbed to any oil at all, and are in as good of shape now as they’ve been all along.

After checking out the Magnolia State for ourselves, we discovered plenty of lively casinos, delicious food and golf courses that make Mississippi a worthy candidate for your next golf trip – and you’ll feel good taking your golf patronage to an area that could use the lift.

When Jack Nicklaus was hired to design Grand Bear Golf Club in Saucier, he was given 7,500 acres of heavily wooded land surrounded on all sides by the De Soto National forest. Developers had no intention of building houses. His basic instructions were to do whatever he wanted.
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How about that for an architect’s palette?

The result is a course that’s just as scenic as it is playable, with wide fairways and engaging approach shots routed through mature trees and meandering creeks. With five sets of tees it can be played as an inviting course for novice players or an engaging test for the best players.

Despite its beauty, however, the most eye-catching element of Grand Bear might be the price. It can be had for $60-75 in the shoulder season and around $100 in peak season. Not a bad deal for a Jack Nicklaus Signature course that’s only 30 minutes from the airport but has a feeling of seclusion.

In the same vein as Grand Bear, but on a super-sized scale is Fallen Oak Golf Club, regarded by most rankings as the finest golf course in Mississippi, and among the upper echelon of public golf courses in the entire country.

An amenity of the nearby Beau Rivage Casino, Fallen Oak is what you get when Tom Fazio has an unlimited budget. It’s like a private club that’s open to the public. It’s where you go if you’re visiting the Gulf Coast casinos and want to play where the high-rollers play.

Situated on a hilly parcel of land – a rarity in this region – the course is littered with mature trees, some of which were plucked like tulips and transplanted to route Fallen Oak’s golf holes in the best manner possible. Deep bunkers were dug to snare golfers sidetracked by the ambience. Sub-Air systems beneath the greens ensure the playing conditions remain superb even if the course is deluged by rain.

In addition to tough, scenic and well-conditioned, Fallen Oak is also relaxed.

“Tee times are merely a suggestion at Fallen Oak,” says general manager David Stinson.

To begin the experience, you’re escorted to the club via limo from the Beau Rivage. Upon arrival your clubs and golf shoes are whisked away. You’re invited to the main restaurant for a pre-round meal and/or beverage (the homemade Bloody Mary is their specialty). When you’re ready to play, you’ll find your golf shoes in the locker room in your personally engraved locker. Your clubs are on the range being prepped by your caddie who dons a white jumpsuit.

Fallen Oak is one of those “ultimate golf experiences” that every golfer should enjoy at least once in their life.

One of the newest additions to the Mississippi Gulf Coast portfolio is The Preserve Golf Club, a Jerry Pate design that despite opening in 2006 has already earned a reputation as one of the top courses in the region.

Fitting with the theme of Grand Bear and Fallen Oak, The Preserve is natural, with no homes in sight. You’ll want to favor accuracy over distance here, with hazards protecting the periphery of nearly every fairway.

The back nine is especially treacherous, due in part to more water but even more so because holes venture out to an exposed part of the golf course where the wind can blow. No. 16 is a dastardly par 3 that has the rare distinction of being the No. 1 handicap.

No matter what you’ve seen on the news, the Mississippi “Golf” Coast is alive and well.

To book a golf trip to the Mississippi Gulf Coast, visit
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Kelly beats Monty with two-shot swing on final hole

By Associated PressJanuary 21, 2018, 3:21 am

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii – Jerry Kelly made an 18-foot birdie putt on the final hole, Colin Montgomerie missed a 6-footer for par and Kelly turned a one-shot deficit into a victory Saturday in the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

After Kelly drove it well right into lava rocks on the par-4 16th, leading to bogey and giving Montgomerie the lead, Montgomerie made a mistake with his tee shot on the last, finding a fairway bunker. Montgomerie's approach went over the green and after Kelly converted his birdie, the 54-year-old Scot jammed his par putt well past the hole.

Full-field scores from the Mitsubishi Electric Championship

It was the third win on the over-50 tour for the 51-year-old Kelly, who finished tied for 14th last week at the PGA Tour's Sony Open in Honolulu. That gave him confidence as he hopped over to the Big Island for his tournament debut at Hualalai. The limited-field event includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

Kelly closed with a 6-under 66 for a three-day total of 18-under 198. Montgomerie shot 69. David Toms shot 67 and finished two shots back, and Miguel Angel Jimenez was another stroke behind after a 66.

Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, closed with a 70 to finish at 10 under.

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Rahm manages frustration, two back at CareerBuilder

By Randall MellJanuary 21, 2018, 1:21 am

Jon Rahm managed the winds and his frustrations Saturday at the CareerBuilder Challenge to give himself a chance to win his fourth worldwide title in the last year.

Rahm’s 2-under-par 70 on the PGA West Stadium Course left him two shots off the lead going into the final round.

“I wasn’t really dealing with the wind that much,” Rahm said of his frustrations. “I was dealing with not being as fluid as I was the last two days.”

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

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The world’s No. 3 ranked player opened with a 62 at La Quinta Country Club on Thursday and followed it up with a 67 on Friday at PGA West. He made six birdies and four bogeys on the Stadium Course on Saturday.

“The first day, everything was outstanding,” Rahm said. “Yesterday, my driver was a little shaky but my irons shots were perfect. Today, my driver was shaky and my irons shots were shaky. On a course like this, it’s punishing, but luckily on the holes where I found the fairway I was able to make birdies.”

Rahm is projected to move to No. 2 in the world rankings with a finish of sixth or better on Sunday.

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Cook leads by one entering final round at CareerBuilder

By Associated PressJanuary 21, 2018, 12:51 am

LA QUINTA, Calif. – Austin Cook hit a hybrid into the fairway bunker on the par-4 18th on a breezy Saturday afternoon at La Quinta Country Club, then chunked a wedge and raced a chip 20 feet past the hole.

Kip Henley, the longtime PGA Tour caddie who guided Cook to a breakthrough victory at Sea Island in November, stepped in to give the 26-year-old former Arkansas star a quick pep talk.

''Kip said, 'Let's finish this like we did on the first day at the Nicklaus Course.' We made a big par putt on 18 there and he said, 'Let's just do the same thing. Let's get this line right and if you get the line right it's going in.'''

It did, giving Cook an 8-under 64 and a one-stroke lead in the CareerBuilder Challenge going into the final round on the Stadium Course at PGA West. Fellow former Razorback Andrew Landry and Martin Piller were tied for second, and Jon Rahm and Scott Piercy were a another stroke back after a tricky day in wind that didn't get close to the predicted gusts of 40 mph.

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

''I know that I wouldn't have wanted to play the Stadium today,'' Cook said. ''I think we got a great draw with the courses that we got to play on the days that we got to play them.''

Cook played the final six holes on the front nine in 6 under with an eagle and four birdies.

''Starting on my fourth hole, I was able to make a birdie and kind of get the ball rolling and it never really stopped rolling,'' Cook said. ''Kip and I were doing really good at seeing the line on the greens.''

After a bogey on 10, he birdied 11, 12 and 15 and parred the final three to get to 19-under 197.

''I think that tonight the nerves, the butterflies, all that will kind of be a little less,'' Cook said. ''I've been in the situation before and I was able to finish the job on Sunday. I think it would be a little different if I didn't play like I did on Sunday at Sea Island.''

He's making his first start in the event.

''I came in from Hawaii on Monday, so I only had two days to prepare for three courses,'' Cook said.

Landry, the second-round leader, had a 70 at the Stadium. Piller, the husband of LPGA tour player Gerina Piller, shot a 67 at La Quinta. Winless on the PGA Tour, they will join Cook in the final threesome.

''Piller's a good guy and we have played a lot together and same with Cookie,'' said Landry, the only player without a bogey after 54 holes. ''Hope the Hogs are going to come out on top.''

Rahm had a 70 at the Stadium to reach 17 under. The third-ranked Rahm beat up the par 5s again, but had four bogeys – three on par 3s. He has played the 12 par 5s in 13 under with an eagle and 11 birdies.

''A little bit of a survival day,'' Rahm said.

The wind was more of a factor on the more exposed and tighter Stadium Course.

''The course is firming up,'' Rahm said. ''I know if we have similar wind to today, if we shoot something under par, you'll be way up there contesting it over the last few holes.''

Piercy had a 66 at the Stadium.

''I controlled my ball really well today,'' he said.

Adam Hadwin had a 67 at La Quinta a year after shooting a third-round 59 on the course. The Canadian was 16 under along with Grayson Murray and Brandon Harkins. Murray had a 67 on the Nicklaus Course, and Harkins shot 68 at the Stadium.

Phil Mickelson missed the cut in his first tournament of the year for the second time in his career, shooting a 74 on the Stadium to finish at 4 under – four strokes from a Sunday tee time. The 47-year-old Hall of Famer was playing for the first time since late October. He also missed the cut in the Phoenix Open in his 2009 opener.

Charlie Reiter, the Palm Desert High School senior playing on the first sponsor exemption the event has given to an amateur, also missed the cut. He had three early straight double bogeys in a 77 on the Stadium that left him 1 over.

John Daly had an 80 at La Quinta. He opened with a triple bogey and had six bogeys – four in a row to start his second nine - and only one birdie. The 51-year-old Daly opened with a 69 on the Nicklaus layout and had a 71 on Friday at the Stadium.

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Phil misses CareerBuilder cut for first time in 24 years

By Randall MellJanuary 21, 2018, 12:48 am

Phil Mickelson missed the cut Saturday at the CareerBuilder Challenge. It’s a rare occurrence in his Hall of Fame career.

He has played the event 15 times, going back to when it was known as the Bob Hope Classic. He has won it twice.

How rare is his missing the cut there?

The last time he did so, there was no such thing as a DVD, Wi-Fi, iPods, Xbox, DVR capability or YouTube.

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

The PGA Tour’s Jon Rahm didn’t exist, either.

The last time Mickelson missed a cut in this event was 1994, nine months before Rahm was born.

Mickelson struggled to a 2-over-par 74 in the heavy winds Saturday on the PGA West Stadium Course, missing the 54-hole cut by four shots. He hit just four of 14 fairways, just nine of 18 greens. He took a double bogey at the 15th after requiring two shots to escape the steep-walled bunker on the left side of the green.

Mickelson won’t have to wait long to try to get back in the hunt. He’s scheduled to play the Farmers Insurance Open next week at Torrey Pines in La Jolla, Calif.