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Mississippi Destinations

News and Notes from Top U.S. Golf Resorts – Part II

Forest Dunes
Forest Dunes


Streamsong Black
Streamsong Black

The Black Course, a Gil Hanse design and the third course at the remote Florida resort, is on schedule. Almost every hole has been seeded and the plan is for a grand opening in the fall of 2017. Select participants and media can expect a comprehensive tour of the new course during the Streamsong Invitational (Jan. 19—22), which leads into the annual PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando. Hanse had access to almost the same amount of land that was used to build both the Red (Coore and Crenshaw) and Blue (Tom Doak) at Streamsong. Having walked it in various stages of development, I can only promise a wide variety and massive expanse to the corridors from beginning to the end.

There continues to be talk of the fourth course at Streamsong being an homage and almost exact replica of C.B. Macdonald’s Lido Course, but no further updates at this time. With the addition of Black, Streamsong will most likely prioritize a clubhouse, potentially more buddies-trip lodging and a short course.

Mossy Oak/Old Waverly

Mossy Oak
Mossy Oak

Congratulations to everyone involved in the building of Mossy Oak, a Gil Hanse design which is owned by George Bryan and Toxey Haas. The second course at Old Waverly and new home to Mississippi State’s golf program, Mossy Oak is a charming and rolling ride through the classic southern countryside, which opened Labor Day Weekend. Green fees are $132 for walkers, $150 includes a cart. The second course allows for extended stay-and-play packages, which will include Prairie Wildlife, the Augusta National of sporting clubs. If you love golf, guns, dogs and the great outdoors, make your way to Mossy Oak.

Forest Dunes

Forest Dunes
Forest Dunes

The Loop, Tom Doak’s reversible routing, has been open all summer for preview play. But owner, Lew Thompson, isn’t stopping there. In addition to building more eight-room cottages and fire pits, Thompson has enough land for another 18-hole course, a short course and a putting course. The putting course should be grassed before the end of the year. And with Rick Smith on site for a teaching academy, Phil Mickelson’s former instructor and architect of Three Tops, the popular par-3 course at neighboring Tree Tops Resort in Gaylord, MI, Smith seems like the obvious choice for the short course at Forest Dunes. “I want nine holes just like the bet-settling hole that we have at the end of the Weiskopf course,” said Thompson. “I have grandchildren that are 9 and 5 and they love to play golf, but they can’t really play the courses I have now. They’d have a blast on a short course.”

Names being considered for the additional 18 holes continue to be Doak, Smith, Mike DeVries and just recently, Thompson mentioned Coore and Crenshaw.

Arcadia Bluffs

Arcadia Bluffs
Arcadia Bluffs

Forest Dunes isn’t the only Michigan property making significant moves. Arcadia Bluffs has purchased over 300 acres of what was mostly an old apple orchard. It’s two miles south of Arcadia Bluffs, inland and more flat than the land they used for the first course, which overlooks Lake Michigan. “We pieced together seven parcels of land,” said Bill Schriver, Chief Operating Officer. “We hope to start pushing dirt around this winter. It will be fun, fast and less expensive than what we already have. But like everything else here, it will be top shelf.”

Michigan natives, Tom Doak and Mike DeVries, are apparently not in the running for the job. Smith was part of the team who built the first course. Schriver isn’t ready to announce the architect, but sources close to the situation are saying Arcadia’s owner has a good relationship with Dana Fry, of Hurdzan and Fry, which, along with Ron Whitten of Golf Digest, built Erin Hills in Wisconsin.

With more golf comes the demand for more lodging. On October 1, Arcadia will be adding a second lodge. It will have four levels, 20 rooms and a workout facility. It will be dropped on what is the 10th tee and will have views across the course and out to the lake.

Sand Valley

All 18 holes of the Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw course opened for preview play September 1. (Green fee is $100.) They’ve opened three cottages (eight beds in each cottage), and the plan is to open a 12-bedroom cottage (24 beds) October 1. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are being served at what they call Craig’s Porch, a scenic spot overlooking the start of the Coore and Crenshaw course. “We’re also offering dinners cooked in the cottage, which is a cool concept for a buddies trip,” said Josh Lesnik, President of Kemper Sports, which also manages Sand Valley.

As for the David McLay Kidd design, six holes have been seeded and the hope is to have nine seeded by the end of the season.

The Official opening of the Coore and Crenshaw course is scheduled for June 12, and at that point, there should be six to nine holes on Kidd’s course open for preview play.

And the idea of a third course? A fourth course? A short course?

“We need to make sure the first two courses are a viable business. If that’s the case,” said Lesnik, “the sky’s the limit out there.”

Summer Golf Camps for Kids


On a recent trip to Morocco, I was introduced to a grow-the-game initiative that the program’s mentors referred to as “Birdies.” Formally known as Birdies de Mogador, it’s made up of 70 kids, carefully screened as potential leadership in the country’s budding golf industry. For eight hours a week, these kids are being taught to not only play the game, but also manage the game, which includes language lessons and classes on the business of golf.

To #GrowTheGame in the United States has become a popular hashtag. And with the microscope literally and figuratively revealing the dangers of tackle football, combined with successful programs such as First Tee, Youth on Course, Drive, Chip and Putt and other evolving trends, such as TopGolf and short courses, the game’s forecast seems to be improving for decades and future generations.

And as the cloud cover lifts, it brings us to summer golf camps for kids. Where do they fit in? What are your options? And what should you, as a parent or guardian, look for?

Kate Tempesta’s Urban Golf Academy
Kate Tempesta’s Urban Golf Academy

“It starts with understanding your child,” says Kate Tempesta, founder and co-owner of Kate Tempesta’s Urban Golf Academy in New York. “I hear people say, ‘Make it fun.’ But what’s ‘fun’ is different for each age. What might be fun for an 8-year-old might not be fun for a 5-year-old.”

Tempesta started a junior camp at Montauk Downs on the eastern tip of Long Island five years ago, which ran for one week. Last year it was up to nine weeks. And this summer it will be 11 weeks. Between camps in Montauk and various locations throughout New York, Tempesta estimates her and her staff will see 1,000 kids this summer.

“I’m thrilled with the evolution of the program. Our mission statement is to empower the children and let them discover the game at their own pace.”

Kate Tempesta’s Urban Golf Academy
Kate Tempesta’s Urban Golf Academy

Urban Golf Academy works with kids, ages 4 and up. Weekly summer camps run from 9—2pm, which includes golf, and/or tennis and swimming and prices range from $145 to $180 per kid, per day, depending on when you sign up.

“We aim for joy first, then we might get technical. Which isn’t to say we can’t get to the competitive side of the golf, it’s just not our point of entry.”

Tempesta also offers “Evening Eagles,” which is two days a week, 5—8pm, and it’s $300 per child.

Kate Tempesta’s Urban Golf Academy
Kate Tempesta’s Urban Golf Academy

“In the end, do we want better golfers or better human beings? The answer is human beings, and golf is a great vehicle to get that done. That’s just me and that’s the way I teach.”

For more on Urban Golf Academy: www.ktuga.com




After speaking to Tempesta, I also solicited feedback on junior golf camps from my Twitter followers. Some notable names and brands chimed in:

David Leadbetter ‏‪@DavidLeadbetter
I heard @LGAOrlando has great junior camps.

Students ages 12-18 will be immersed in a week-long program based on Leadbetter’s famed “Holistic Approach” to golf instruction, utilizing 30+ years experience coaching juniors around the world. Leadbetter’s Holistic Approach to the golf swing has helped countless tour professionals and aspiring junior golfers reach the pinnacle of the sport, including 21 Major winners and 7 World No. 1s.” ($2,950 per student.) For more: http://davidleadbetter.com/summercamps/


Arron Oberholser ‏‪@ArronOberholser
Stanford’s camp is incredible. Been going on for years. I coached at it when I was in college.

Stanford offers half day and full day golf camps, with a focus on “introducing the game to juniors between the ages of 5 and 12 with either no experience or a couple years of instruction.”

They also offer “Traditional Camp” which is designed to cater to junior golfers (ages 8—18) from beginner to advanced. Instructors include the Stanford coaching staff and other DI/DII coaches and players. ($650—$1,800) For more, go to: stanfordgolf.activesb.net/2016_Summer_Camps.htm


@Pinehurst Resort We humbly nominate the Pinehurst Golf Academy Junior & Parent/Child Schools.

‪@thejcruz89 When he was 13, my son loved every second of the Pinehurst Golf Camp. Best $1,600 for a week you can spend.

Pinehurst junior golf school runs through July, and includes golfers ages 11 to 17. It’s six days and nights and prices range from $1,769 to $1,869. For more: www.pinehurst.com/golf/pinehurst-golf-academy/our-schools/junior-school/


Michael Hankinson ‏‪@MPHankinson
Hi Matt! The @NTPGAJuniorTour has some of the best camps in Texas and include a starter set of clubs! For my son- it started.

For more: www.ntpgajuniorgolf.com


Chad Anderson ‏‪@KnoxAreaGolf
@Tennesseepga Jr Golf Academy – great value! Overnight camp for a week, dorm rooms, catering, par 3 course, instruction.

For more: golfhousetennessee.uschedule.com/TPGAJuniorAcademy/AbouttheAcademy.aspx


Francis O’Hara ‏‪@FOSDGLF
Can’t go wrong with @TheFirstTee

For more: www.thefirsttee.org/club/scripts/section/section.asp?NS=FL


Rollins Golf ‏‪@RollinsGolf
@PineNeedlesGolf Has a great camp. @PeggyKirkBell is in attendance!

For more: www.pineneedles-midpines.com/youth-golfari/


Inge Beeker ‏‪@ingewood
Check out @OldWaverlyGC for world class instruction from @VTROLIO and @timyelverton.  They have junior cottage setup for camp.

For more: www.hailstate.com/ViewArticle.dbml?ATCLID=205389018


Troon @Troon
We like the Summer Jr Camps at ‪@TroonNorthGC. ‪#GrowTheGame

For more: www.troonnorthgolf.com/tnjrcamp.html


Tunica, Mississippi

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It’s safe to say that twenty years ago not one in a thousand people had ever heard of Tunica, Mississippi. Unless you were a riverboat captain or a native of nearby Memphis, Tennessee, there was no reason you would have.

Before legalized gaming was introduced in the early‘90s, Tunica County was the single poorest county in the United States. The town itself made Mayberry look like Monte Carlo, so slow and sleepy was the pace. The featureless landscape, bordered by the broad expanse of the Mississippi River to the west, and the city of Memphis some twenty miles to the north, was little more than a sea of cotton fields, and flatter than a Scrabble board. But times have changed.

Now Tunica welcomes more than ten million visitors a year. It’s the largest casino resort between Atlantic City and Las Vegas, and while it’s lacking the history of the former and the glitz of the latter, it definitely has some allure of its own. Besides a mild climate, a down-home southern charm and close proximity to the fun and funky city of Memphis, the casinos that have sprung from the landscape insure a non-stop slate of gaming, entertainment and dining options. Where liberally-spending vacationers go, golf is sure to follow.

Tunica National
Image via Tunica Travel

Tunica National is the most estimable of the area’s courses. Designed by ten-time PGA Tour winner Mark McCumber, who is one of very few players-turned-course-designers that also happens to be an accredited member of the American Society of Golf Course Architects. His wind-whipped Mississippi masterpiece is a sturdy test of the game. The rolling terrain is rife with strategically-placed water hazards and bunkers, which are balanced with generous landing areas. Big, fast, undulating greens await golfers after they negotiate the trouble tee-to-green.  Fortunately, a 360 degree circular range allows all players the comprehensive warm-up necessary to negotiate one of northern Mississippi’s staunchest golf challenges.

Image via http://www.tunicatravel.com/
Image via Tunica Travel

River Bend Links was born of an unusual alliance of three casinos, normally fierce competitors, who saw the need for alternative entertainment for their guests and the public. Sam’s Town, Hollywood and Harrah’s Casino joined forces to build this user-friendly facility, slightly less ferocious in its playing demands than its area siblings. Architect Clyde Johnston describes his creation as “a field of dunes.” It’s as good a description as any, because the 18 holes are comfortably nestled in a bend of the Mississippi River. The 6,900 yard track offers a range of sand and grass bunkers, mounds, and treeless, wind-swept landscapes to facilitate a traditional feel. Located in the adjacent town of Robinsonville, and further removed from the burgeoning population center of Tunica itself, wildlife still inhabits the area. Golfers may well encounter deer, fox, or wild turkey as they seek out their birdies.

Hollywood Café
Image via Tunica Travel

This area of the country isn’t famous for ‘spa cuisine.’ So any visitor hankering for fried pickles, catfish, hush puppies, country fried steak, peach cobbler, sweet tea and the like should check out the Hollywood Café, which is colorful, eclectic and will afford plenty of change from a $20 bill. It’s also been immortalized in the enduringly haunting Marc Cohn ballad ‘Walking in Memphis.’ (The exact lyric: “Now Muriel plays piano every Friday at the Hollywood.”)

Blue & White Restaurant
Image via Tunica Travel

The same country gestalt is found at the Blue & White Restaurant, where breakfast is served anytime. Popular items for a midday meal also include fried green tomatoes, fried green beans, chicken and dumplings, frog’s legs and pork chops. (Vegetarians can survive in these parts, but it’s slim pickings.)

Any worthwhile casino destination has a dozen shows, a hundred restaurants and a thousand hotel rooms, minimum. But Tunica is distinguished in a way that Vegas, the Bahamas and Atlantic City are not. The reason comes down to three words: The Mighty Mississippi. Visitors would do well to tear themselves away from both the buffet and the baccarat tables and head down to Tunica Riverpark & Museum.

Tunica Queen
Image via Tunica Travel

In fact, by complementing the RiverPark tour with a quick cruise on the “Big Muddy” itself on the Tunica Queen, a visitor can obtain a working education as to why the Mississippi River has been such a vital conduit in our nation’s history. The interactive nature of the museum displays, the dynamic, state-of-the-art video monitors, and the wall-sized illustrations all combine to provide a “you are there” atmosphere that will appeal to both kids and adults. Besides, once you board the Queen, enjoying a spicy Bloody Mary or ice-cold beer, listening to the live banjo music as you cruise the river, the fun really begins.

Grab your National rental car at the Louis Armstrong Airport in New Orleans, and take the easy drive towards the Mississippi gulf coast. You’ll be in the Magnolia State in little more than an hour, and able to indulge in the delta blues, barbecue, and down home hospitality. There are also some fine golf courses to be enjoyed, from Bay St. Louis to Biloxi, and points in between.

The Bridges Golf Course

The Bridges is a fine Arnold Palmer design located on the grounds of the Hollywood Casino in Bay St. Louis. The course takes its name from the more than twenty wooden bridges that dot the property, winding over wetlands and marsh. This is one of the prettiest courses in the region, albeit fraught with danger at every dogleg. It’s set among six hundred acres of moss-draped live oaks, stately pines, magnolias and sweeping vistas of saltwater marsh. It isn’t particularly lengthy, but there’s plenty of trouble to be found in the wetlands, water and yawning bunkers. The Bridges is the first resort golf course in the world to obtain Audubon International’s Certified Silver Signature status which displays one of Palmer’s greatest design strengths of working in harmony with nature.

Grand Bear Golf Course
Grand Bear Golf Course

Speaking of nature, be sure to visit the Grand Bear Golf Course, a remote joy located a full six miles off of the highway in the Desoto National Forest in the town of Saucier. While the aforementioned Bridges keeps you within a driver’s distance of civilization, here the feeling is of rusticity and remove. There are natural cypress wetlands and towering pines, with packed pine needle rough, championship greens and deep bunkers set over six hundred and fifty acres of rolling land in piney woods. Though the Jack Nicklaus designed course is just fifteen years old, it looks like it’s been sitting there for fifty, so naturally do the holes fall upon the landscape.

Windance Golf Course
Windance Country Club

Windance is a tough little Mark McCumber design in Gulfport. The course, which debuted in 1986, is less than 6,700 yards from the tips, but has at least incidental water on all but three holes. The architect has chosen to crown virtually every putting surface, so only a well-struck and accurate approach shot will hold the green. Balls that hit the green but are tailing, fading or hooking will bounce into either the collection areas, or the ever-present hazards. Owing to its status as a former Nike Tour stop, Windance has been conquered by some of the biggest names is professional golf, including Jim Furyk, Tom Lehman and Loren Roberts.

Fallen Oak Golf Course

Finally, a visit to Fallen Oak, associated with the mega-glitzy Beau Rivage casino, is a must. Hardwoods abound throughout, but the tree cover would have been thicker had Hurricane Katrina not leveled the landscape during latter stages of construction a decade ago, uprooting or knocking over a minimum of four thousand trees before crews lost count. Consequently, most any tee ball can be played and advanced, and though stymied lies are still possible, they are a rarity. While the original plan called for wall-to-wall hardwoods obscuring adjacent fairways, now golfers can catch a glimpse of other players on adjoining holes, not necessarily a bad thing. Fallen Oak is also the site of a popular Champions Tour event, with a roster of champions that includes Fred Couples, Jeff Maggert and Tom Lehman.

There are as many great dining spots in the area as there are blades of grass on a Fallen Oak fairway, so consider this list cursory at best. BR Prime, in the Beau Rivage, is a steakhouse that would hold its own in New York or Chicago. The Reef Biloxi features an excellent array of seafood options. Finally, the Shed, with locations in both Ocean Springs and Gulfport, is synonymous with astonishingly good ribs. Their motto says it all: “Adam was willing to give up a rib to get a woman. Clearly, he didn’t try ours.”