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.

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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.