I know. Many golfers brag and talk about playing the RTJ Alabama Golf Trail but those who have played on the Alabama coast wouldn’t have it any other way. I was recently on a tour of coastal golf courses and came away with the impression that some of the public access courses on Alabama’s Gulf Coast are as good as any I’ve played and better than most.
Located in the prestigious resort area of Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, Alabama, Peninsula Golf& Racquet, Kiva Dunes, Lost Key, Gulf Shores Golf Club and the two courses at Craft Farms are some of golf travels best kept secrets. These aren’t your run of the mill daily-fee courses. Thereis no intent toward imparting radical punishment when you play and they’re not too long, too hard, or difficult to maintain. Wide fairways, generous greens, and exposed avenues leading to the greens afford even the most discriminating golfer the ability to score equal to or better than his or her handicap. These are courses you could play every day and never tire of what they have to offer. They’re also very affordable. Rates in the prime spring and fall seasons are well under $100 including cart, unlimited range balls, greens fees,and a couple of apples. Surprisingly enough, summer rates are even lower. And by the way, these aren’t “no name” courses.
Peninsula Golf and Racquet Club was designed by the little-known but extremely talented Earl Stone to protect the Bon Secour Wildlife Reserve and the pristine beaches that bound the course and property. Stone built the Peninsula course with the average handicapper in mind. There are no blind shots, forced carries or cavernous bunkers. The fairways are wide, doglegged, and require strategic shot-making. Peninsula is a well-conditioned 27-hole layout that meanders through fairways lined with live oaks, cypress trees, and unspoiled natural terrain. But, beware, there are more than thirty lakes to consider. You can manage your game according to your proficiency by playing some 7,200 yards from the back tees or somewhere between 5,000-6700 yards from the optional and forward tees.
There are three nines to pick from; the Marsh, Lakes and Cypress. We only had time to play two but that was plenty. The large sized greens, grassed with Champion Ultra Dwarf, rolled quite briskly if you catch my drift. Stone named Peninsula his favorite of the 40 courses he designed “because people like to play it and return time and again”. Managed by the prestigious Honours Golf management company, a division of Troon, Peninsula Golf & Racquet Club offers more than just great golf packages. Its clubhouse features both a restaurant and grill where you can order meals ranging from fine cuisine to the simplest of fare.
Kiva Dunes, a Jerry Pate design and true shoreline golf course, was built in 1995 and restored in 2017. Positioned among an array of existing sand dunes and coastal vegetation, Kiva Dunes is included as one of Alabama’s top public play courses by Golf Digest and Golfweek magazines. It’s also regarded by many to be Pate’s finest work. The golf course is both challenging and beautiful, and because it’s only a few shots away from the Gulf of Mexico, it kindles a great seaside feel because of its windswept dunes, curious gators, intimidating marshes, and plenty of fittingly-placed bunkers. Playing anywhere from 7100 -5000 yards depending on your choice of tees, Kiva Dunes exposes a stunning variety of picturesque seascapes and combines both schools of strategic and penal shot making. By the way, a kiva is a Hopi Indian word for a holy chamber or a sanctuary and a fitting description for what you’ll experience.
I think the courses at Craft Farms are the real sleepers. With Arnold Palmer’s reputation and vision, what had been a substantial farm enterprise was transformed into Cotton Creek and Cypress Bend, two golfing masterpieces. Each of the courses has its own unique personality and characteristics but common to both are lush eco-friendly conditions, immaculate greens, and a fantastic plantation style clubhouse that houses a wonderful restaurant and well-stocked
pro shop offering first class service. Cypress Bend is a scenically-designed course with wide fairways and receptive landing areas. While it is a true player friendly course, the 50+ sand bunkers, numerous picturesque, but lurking water hazards, and large undulating greens require you to stay focused. Cotton Creek, on the other hand, is longer and a more traditional and straightforward 18 holes. ”If you can’t putt, you can’t play” as the saying goes and that requires knowing what to expect from the greens. Cypress Bend greens were in near perfect condition, quite large, and sporting a variety of different shapes. They were soft, true and rolled at a reasonable speed.
The reviews for the Lost Key golf course were so good, I had to play it to believe it. Designed by Arnold Palmer, Lost Key features the new paspalum salt tolerant grass throughout the entire course. Each golf hole includes five sets of tees and offers players of varying skill levels an interesting playing experience if they’ve chosen the appropriate tees. The golf course is a daunting test for even the best of golfers. The greens are large and undulating and the flat fairways are lined with trees. You don’t want to miss the fairway unless you’ve brought a lot of balls. No two holes look the same and it is, by no means, a boring course. I loved it!
The Gulf Shores Golf Club is without a doubt the best course for the money. It’s not difficult yet has some great holes. If I lived in in this area, this would be the course I’d join.
There are only a handful of areas in this country that can offer top quality golf at such reasonable prices. The courses of Orange Beach and Gulf Shores provide both. Whether you’re a golfing group or a golfing couple searching for the perfect yet affordable destination to hone your game, discover some of the best golf you’ll ever experience on the Alabama Gulf Coast.
Peninsula Golf & Racquet Club
20 Peninsula Boulevard
Gulf Shores, Alabama 36547
Kiva Dunes Golf Resort
815 Plantation Rd
Gulf Shores, Alabama 36542
Craft Farms Golf Resort
3840 Cotton Creek Circle
Gulf Shores, Alabama 36542
Lost Key Golf Club
625 Lost Key Drive
Pensacola, Florida 32507
Gulf Shores Golf Course
520 Clubhouse Drive
Gul Shores, Alabama 36542
John Mooshie, a freelance journalist fromWakulla Springs, Florida has unquenchable curiosity for almost everything andwrites on a broad range of golf, travel, and golf fashion for various magazines,newspapers, e-zines, and websites. Formerly an ad agency and billboardcopywriter, he switched careers, co-designed an 18 hole golf course, and nowwrites reviews on both golf course resorts and destination spas. He iscurrently conducting research to write biographical sketches about individualsand businesses that fly below the radar and will soon publish a golf bookpromising to cure the five bad shots in golf. www.johnsmooshie.com