If Elvis Presley was a golfer and alive today he would be proud of the state he was born in some seventy years ago. Despite having a population of only 2.5 million, the state of Mississippi is home to more than 140 golf courses. Many have been designed by the best in the business (Jerry Pate, Tom Fazio, Arnold Palmer, Mark McCumber, Hale Irwin, Jack Nicklaus, and Davis Love) making Mississippi as good a golf destination as you will find anywhere in the United States.

This past May I had the privilege of joining a group of fellow golf journalists to explore the southern regions of the state and experience some of the finest golf courses Mississippi has to offer. After arriving in Gulfport (via Memphis) we quickly departed for the Oaks Golf Club, a 6885-yard design that was a former tour stop on the Buy.Com tour. The course was opened in 1998 and has matured into one of the best courses in the state. In 1999 and 2000 the Oaks was host of the Mississippi Gulf Coast Open and in 2004 held the first stage of the PGA’s qualifying school.

In order to become a great golf destination, a city, province or state has to be able to provide an exciting and diverse golf vacation that extends beyond the golf courses themselves. In the Gulfport – Biloxi area an exciting nightlife awaits as great restaurants and casinos are commonplace throughout the area. Two casinos of note are the Isle of Capri and the Imperial Palace, both of which warmly welcomed our group providing us with a real taste of southern Mississippi hospitality.

Another excellent golf course in the Gulfport-Biloxi area worthy of mention is Shell Landing, a 6978-yard layout designed by PGA Tour veteran Davis Love III. Recently ranked the 5th best public golf course in the state by Golf Digest, Shell Landing features five sets of tees, a 25-acre practice facility, and a truly enjoyable layout that was thoughtfully carved through the many indigenous marshes and bayous that adorn the landscape.

6th Hole at Shell Landing

After departing the Gulf Coast area, we headed north along Interstate 59 to the quiet town of Hattiesburg. With 13 golf courses in the surrounding area, Hattiesburg itself could easily satisfy the desires of any golf enthusiast. The golf course that started it all and put Hattiesburg on the golf-destination map is the Timberton Golf Club. Designed in the early 1990’s by PGA tour player Mark Mccumber, Timberton was ranked by Golf Digest as one of the best new public golf courses in the U.S. For over a decade Timberton has continued to receive national acclaim including a 4-½ star rating for four consecutive years by Golf Digest. Measuring 7020 yards, Timberton is a pleasure to play and provides golfers of all skill levels with a memorable golfing experience.

Canebrake is another golf course in Hattiesburg that should be played by anyone visiting the area. Designed by former PGA tour player Jerry Pate, this par 71, championship design was rated the 3rd best public golf course in the state by Golf Digest in 2002. What makes these two golf courses especially appealing is that they can be played for under $50. In the GTA, the cost to play a comparable golf course would be $125-$175. Stay and play packages are available throughout the year and provide as good a value as you will find anywhere.

After departing Hattiesburg, our group headed west to the small town of Macomb where we visited the Quail Hollow Golf Club, a state-owned golf course carved through the towering pine forests common throughout most of the southern regions of the state. From Macomb we continued west to the historic town of Natchez, home of the Beau Pre Golf Club and the final stop on our tour. Measuring 6935 yards, Beau Pre recently received a 4-½ star rating from Golf Digest and provides a challenging test of golf for players of all skill levels. For those interested in U.S history, be sure to tour the downtown area of Natchez as many of the magnificent plantations built by cotton magnates in the 1850’s remain today and appear as stately as they did 150 years ago.

Getting to and from Mississippi is straightforward as flights depart daily from either Gulfport or Jackson. To find out more about these and other fantastic golf venues in the state, contact Mississippi Tourism at 1-888-669-7662. Regardless of when you decide to visit you’ll have a golf vacation of a lifetime!