When golf is not enough Gulf Shores Alabama diversions

By Mike BaileyNovember 23, 2010, 2:05 am
golf not enough alabama
Ft. Morgan, Blue Angels and The Hangout are three excellent off-the-course activities

GULF SHORES, Ala. – It's no secret that the Gulf Coast area of Alabama offers plenty of good golf, but if you're spending all your time on the course, you could be cheating yourself out of the full experience.

By combining such excursions as fishing, parasailing and dolphin cruises with golf at venues like
Kiva Dunes Golf Course, Craft Farms and Peninsula Golf & Racquet Club, traveling golfers can put together a well-rounded itinerary. There are plenty of great restaurants – especially seafood places – and a good bit of Southern nightlife as well.
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'We are not your typical golf destination with all there is to do here,' said Duncan Millar, executive director of Golf Gulf Shores. 'The best way to experience the destination is to take about a week to visit and play a round every other day and then mix in the other great things there are to do on the non golfing day. Fishing and golf work great together for your typical buddy trip.'

With that said, here are few suggestions on your next trip to the Gulf Shores area.

Fishing on the Gulf

Golf and fishing go together like shrimp and grits, and you would be hard-pressed to find many locations that combine the two better than the Gulf Shores/Pensacola, Fla., area. By most accounts, recreational deep-sea fishing in the Gulf of Mexico is back after the Gulf oil disaster April, and charter companies are anxious to get your business.

If you have a group, the cost of a fishing charter, complete with a guide, equipment and plenty of refreshments, is comparable to a round of golf – about $50-$80 per participant for a half day. The area boasts one of, if not, the largest charter fishing fleets in the world, and there are a variety of options and sizes of boats to help you catch fish such as red snapper, mackerel, cobia, amberjack, grouper, tuna, marlin, or sailfish. From novices to experts, there's a fishing experience for everyone. Just make sure to take a dose of Dramamine if you're not use to the chop.

Restaurants and nightlife

Down on the Gulf Coast, they have a different way of entertaining – few limits and no pretentions – and the venues reflect that philosophy.

Perhaps no club personifies the area better than the famed Flora-Bama, a beachfront lounge that straddles the Florida-Alabama state line. Opened in 1964, the bar is especially popular during holidays such as Labor Day, Memorial Day and the Fourth of July. Celebrities, bikers, millionaires, nearby Navy personnel and plain folks go to hear bands, celebrate festivals and kick back. Having survived Hurricane Ivan from a few years ago, the establishment (simply referred to by locals as the Bama) has multiple bars and stages, serves drinks like the 'Bushwacker' and is known for its annual Interstate Mullet Toss, an event where people throw fish from Alabama to Florida. Jimmy Buffett wrote a song ('Bama Breeze') about the bar.
Speaking of Buffett, Jimmy's sister, Lucy, owns another favorite establishment in the area – Lulu's at Homeport marina on the Intercoastal Waterway in Gulf Shores. It's actually Lucy Buffett's second location for the restaurant, which was physically transported by barge from its original location on Weeks Bay five years earlier. The restaurant/bar has a very casual, relaxed atmosphere and plenty of favorites on the menu, including local seafood, sandwiches, burgers, appetizers and, of course, desserts. There's also plenty of good live entertainment.

Another popular hangout in the area is The Hangout, located on the beach in Gulf Shores. The Hangout oozes history with hundreds of photographs depicting fun on the beaches going back to the 1950s. You'll also find plenty of vintage lunch pails, signs and other artifacts littered throughout the place. With live entertainment on most nights of the week, it's a great spot to enjoy and outdoor concert. There's also dozens of big screens for sporting events, great food and beer and a souvenir shop. The back of the establishment opens up to the Gulf of Mexico, making The Hangout a great summer spot both in the daytime and at night. There's even a giant bubble machine that produces foam large enough to hide the entire Brady Bunch.

Other fun things to do in the Gulf Shores/Pensacola area

Just a few miles east of Mobile, Ala., near Warrington, Fla., is the Naval Air Station-Pensacola. The base is home to the Blue Angels, which not only perform around the world, but locally as well. It's also home of the National Museum of Naval Aviation, a military and aerospace museum that opened in 1962. It chronicles the history of aviation from the U.S. Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard with more than 150 aircraft on display. Open 9 a.m.-5 p.m. most days, admission is free.

For another history lesson, you can visit Ft. Morgan, located on the mouth of Mobile Bay. Named in honor of the Revolutionary War here Daniel Morgan, the post was completed in 1834. In 1861 it was seized by the Confederates and was the site of the Battle of Mobile Bay leading to its recapture by Union forces during the latter stages of the Civil War. Today, the fort has a museum as well as battle re-enactments open to the public.

And finally, for the kid in everyone, there's The Track Family Recreation Center, located on Gulf Shores Boulevard in Gulf Shores. Kids and adults can enjoy mini golf, go-carts, bumper boats, arcade and more daring adventures like the SkyCoaster, which straps willing participants into a harness only to freefall from distances up to 110 feet. After surviving the SkyCoaster, those three-foot putts for bogey should be no-sweat.

Move over Lydia, a new Ko is coming to LPGA

By Randall MellNovember 22, 2017, 5:11 pm

Another gifted young South Korean will be joining the LPGA ranks next year.

Jin Young Ko, the Korean LPGA Tour star, informed the American-based LPGA on Sunday night that she will be taking up membership next year. Ko earned the right by winning the LPGA’s KEB Hana Bank Championship as a nonmember in South Korea in October.

Ko, 22, no relation to Lydia Ko, first burst on to the international spotlight with her run into contention at the Ricoh Women’s British Open at Turnberry two years ago. She led there through 54 holes, with Inbee Park overtaking her in the final round to win.

With 10 KLPGA Tour titles, three in each of the last two seasons, Ko has risen to No. 19 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings.

Ko told GolfChannel.com Sunday afternoon that she was struggling over the decision, with a Monday deadline looming.

“It’s a difficult decision to leave home,” Ko said after the final round of the CME Group Tour Championship in Naples, when she was still undecided. “The travelling far away, on my own, the loneliness, that’s what is difficult.”

Ko will be the favorite to win the LPGA’s Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year Award next year. South Koreans have won that award the last three years. Sung Hyun Park won it this year, In Gee Chun last year and Sei Young Kim in 2015. South Korean-born players have won the last four, with New Zealand’s Lydia Ko winning it in 2014. Ko was born in South Korea and moved to New Zealand when she was 6.

Piller pregnant, no timetable for LPGA return

By Randall MellNovember 22, 2017, 4:22 pm

Gerina Piller, the American Olympian golfer and three-time Solheim Cup veteran, is pregnant and will not be rejoining the LPGA when the 2018 season opens, the New York Times reported following the season-ending CME Group Tour Championship.

Piller, 32, who is married to PGA Tour pro Martin Piller, is due with the couple’s first child in May, Golf Channel’s Jerry Foltz reported.

Piller declined an interview request when GolfChannel.com sought comment going into the CME Group Tour Championship.

Piller told the New York Times she has no timetable for her return but that she isn’t done with competitive golf.

“I’m not just giving everything up,” Piller said.

As parity reigns, LPGA searching for a superstar

By Randall MellNovember 22, 2017, 4:00 pm

Apologies to the LPGA’s golden eras, but women’s golf has never been deeper.

With the game going global, with the unrelenting wave of Asian talent continuing to slam the tour’s shores, with Thailand and China promising to add to what South Korea is delivering, it’s more difficult than ever to win.

That’s a beautiful and perplexing thing for the women’s game.

That’s because it is more difficult than ever to dominate.

And that’s a magic word in golf.

There is no more powerful elixir in the sport.

Domination gets you on the cover of Sports Illustrated, on ESPN SportsCenter, maybe even on NBC Nightly News if the “D” in domination is dynamic enough.

The women’s best chance of moving their sport to another stratosphere is riding the back of a superstar.

Or maybe a pair of superstar rivals.

Photos: 2017 LPGA winners gallery

A constellation of stars may be great for the devoted regular supporters of the women’s game, but it will take a charismatic superstar to make casual fans care.

The LPGA needs a Serena Williams.

Or the reincarnation of Babe Zaharias.

For those of us who regularly follow the LPGA, this constellation of stars makes for compelling stories, a variety of scripting to feature.

The reality, however, is that it takes one colossal story told over and over again to burst out of a sports niche.

The late, great CBS sports director Frank Chirkinian knew what he had sitting in a TV production truck the first time he saw one of his cameras bring a certain young star into focus at the Masters.

It’s this player coming up over the brow of the hill at the 15th hole to play his second shot,” Chirkinian once told me over lunch at a golf course he owned in South Florida.  “He studies his shot, then flips his cigarette, hitches up his trousers and takes this mighty swipe and knocks the shot on the green. It was my first experience with Arnold Palmer, and I remember thinking, ‘Wow, who is this guy?’

“The thing about golf, more than any other sport, it’s always looking for a star. It’s the only sport where people will root against the underdog. They don’t want the stars to lose. They’re OK with some unknown rising up to be the story on Thursday or Friday, but they always want to see the stars win.”

And they go gaga when it’s one star so radiant that he or she dominates attention.

“It didn’t matter if Arnold was leading, or where he was, you had to show him,” Chirkinian said. “You never knew when he might do something spectacular.”

The LPGA is in a healthy place again, with a big upside globally, with so much emerging talent sharing the spotlight.

Take Sunday at the CME Group Tour Championship.

The back nine started with Lexi Thompson and Michelle Wie making the turn tied for the lead. There is no more powerful pairing to sell in the women’s game today, but there would be no duel. It would have been too far off script as the final chapter to this season.

Parity was the story this year.

Sunday in Naples started with 18 players within two shots of the lead.

Entering that back nine, almost a dozen players were in the mix, including Ariya Jutanugarn.

The day ended with Jutanugarn beating Thompson with a dramatic birdie-birdie finish after Thompson stunned viewers missing a 2-foot putt for par at the last.

The day encapsulated the expanding LPGA universe.

“I’ve never seen such crazy, brilliant golf from these ladies,” said Gary Gilchrist, who coaches Jutanugarn, Lydia Ko and Rolex world No. 1 Shanshan Feng. “It was unbelievable out there. It was just like birdie after birdie after birdie, and the scoreboard went up and down. And that’s why it’s so hard to be No. 1 on this tour. There’s not one person who can peak. It’s all of them at a phenomenal level of golf.”

If Thompson had made that last 2-footer and gone on to win the CME, she would have become the sixth different world No. 1 this year. Before this year, there had never been more than three different No. 1s in a single LPGA season.

Parity was the theme from the year’s start.

There were 15 different winners to open the season, something that hadn’t happened in 26 years. There were five different major championship winners.

This year’s Rolex Player of the Year Award was presented Sunday to So Yeon Ryu and Sung Hyun Park. It’s the first time the award has been shared since its inception in 1966.

Thompson won twice this year, with six second-place finishes, with three of those playoff losses, one of them in a major championship. She was close to putting together a spectacular year. She was close to dominating and maybe becoming the tour’s one true rock star.

Ultimately, Thompson showed us how hard that is to do now.

She’s in a constellation we’re all watching, to see if maybe one star breaks out, somebody able to take the game into living rooms it has never been, to a level of popularity it’s never been.

The game won’t get there with another golden era. It will get there with a golden player.

Love's hip surgery a success; eyes Florida swing return

By Rex HoggardNovember 22, 2017, 3:31 pm

Within hours of having hip replacement surgery on Tuesday Davis Love III was back doing what he does best – keeping busy.

“I’ve been up and walking, cheated in the night and stood up by the bed, but I’m cruising around my room,” he laughed early Wednesday from Andrews Sports Medicine and Orthopedic Center in Birmingham, Ala., where he underwent surgery to replace his left hip. “[Dr. James Flanagan, who performed the surgery] wants me up. They don’t want me sitting for more than an hour.”

Love, 53, planned to begin more intensive therapy and rehabilitation on Wednesday and is scheduled to be released from the hospital later this afternoon.

According to Love’s doctors, there were no complications during the surgery and his recovery time is estimated around three to four months.

Love, who was initially hesitant to have the surgery, said he can start putting almost immediately and should be able to start hitting wedges in a few weeks.

Dr. Tom Boers – a physical therapist at the Hughston Orthopedic Clinic in Columbus, Ga., who has treated Fred Couples, Phil Mickelson, Greg Norman and Brad Faxon – will oversee Love’s recovery and ultimately decide when he’s ready to resume normal golf activity.

“He understands motion and gait and swing speeds that people really don’t understand. He’s had all of us in there studying us,” Love said. “So we’ll see him in a couple of weeks and slowly get into the swing part of it.”

Although Love said he plans to temper his expectations for this most recent recovery, his goal is to be ready to play by the Florida swing next March.