Lynyrd Skynyrd released this famed rock hit in response to Canada’s own Neil Young’s controversial song “Southern Man”. Sweet Home Alabama has now become the state motto and unofficial anthem of Alabama. I could not agree more after returning from the Gulf Shores of southern Alabama. The topography ranges from scenic shorelines with unspoiled wetlands to majestic tree lined courses with rolling hills. Very relaxing and not too overcrowded, I’ll be coming back to you.
Our trip began in the Gulf Shores/Orange Beach region that overlooks the northern-most coast of the Gulf of Mexico and boasts more than over 32 miles of sugar white beaches. It’s also family-friendly with plenty of shopping, a variety of locally-owned restaurants, happening bars and some great off-shore fishing. There are nine championship golf courses within a short drive of each other and more than available 16,000 rental units ranging from campgrounds, cottages, motels, hotels and condominiums so you’re guaranteed to find the accommodations that will suit your life-style and budget. We stayed in a fully-equipped condo at the Turquoise Place, an amazing Spectrum Resorts property right on the Gulf of Mexico. Magnificent views of the beach and a hot tub right on your balcony! How good is that?
During our stay we played three of local courses:
Gulf Shores Golf Club (formerly known as The Golf Club of the Wharf) opened in the 1960’s as the first golf course in the area. In 2005, Jay and Carter Morrish redesigned and lengthened it to almost 7,000 yards on this par 71 and added the new Dwarf Miniverte Bermuda grass which keeps it green all year round and in great shape. Gulf Shores is relatively flat but the addition of more water hazards and bunkering helps define the fairways. Holes #3 and #6 are great par threes with wooden retaining walls but they left the last three holes as the toughest. 18 holes with cart is $69USD.
Peninsula Golf & Racquet Club was delicately designed by Earl Stone to protect the Bon Secour Wildlife Reserve and the pristine beaches of Mobile Bay that bound this property. His well-conditioned 27-hole layout meanders through fairways lined with live oaks, cypress and unspoiled natural terrain with more than thirty lakes to contend with. You can play almost 7,200 yards from the tips or under 5,000 yards from the forward tees. With a slope of 133 and a course rating of 74.7 pick one that best suits your game to escape without being beaten up. There are three nines to pick from – the Marsh, Lakes and Cypress. We only had time to play the Marsh and must admit I got my ass kicked. Target golf at its finest! Bring you ‘A’ game or braggarts beware!
Thanks to the Champion Ultra Dwarf grass, the greens are big and fast and don’t need over-seeding. The cost for 18 holes with range balls and a GPS equipped cart is $69USD plus 10% sales tax.
Kiva Dunes is former US Open Champion, Jerry Pate design and quite possibly the most decorated course in the region. There scenery is comprised of sand dunes, lakes and natural wildlife areas is splendid but don’t be lulled into a false sense of serenity as it is always breezy here so wind will be factor.
The 12th hole reminds me of one of my favourite golf courses, Greg Norman’s El Camaleon on the Riviera Maya in Mexico. This lengthy par 4 has a sandy beached lagoon that runs down the entire left side all the way to a well-protected green.
Make sure your flat stick is working when you arrive on the 18th since it has the largest green in the state at 14,500 sq. ft. This is a great track and not to be missed.
18 holes with cart and range balls vary from $65 to $93USD plus tax depending on the season and time of day. Stay and Play packages start at $129USD including breakfast.
Other championship courses in the Gulf Shores area include:
Sweet Home Alabama…Lord I’m coming home to you.
If you want to sun on the beach or near one and would like a more laid back golf vacation without all the all-you-can-hold down buffets, busy roads, long drives and lost tourists then the southern coastal region of Alabama is definitely right for you. Their mild climate ensures that you can golf all year round and you’ll remember their genuine southern hospitality for years to come.
For immediate pricing on golf packages in the Gulf Shores and Lower Alabama, visit their website at www.Golf.GulfShores.com
By Dave Finn (dave @ golfinn.com)