Sunday, January 1, 2006
Follow the course - Rich trails of Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi
When fall begins and cooler weather starts rolling in, things really heat up in the Gulf States. Yes, it’s time for Southeastern Conference football, and for pigskin fanatics; it doesn’t get any better, unless you supplement your football weekend with a round or two of golf. Now, that’s living!
For some, golf will always take a backseat to the gridiron exploits of LSU, Alabama, Auburn, Mississippi State and Old Miss. Savvy golfers, however, know there’s nothing better than combining pigskin and putts on fall weekends.
Challenging courses can be found near the various campuses within the distance of a screen pass or a last-second, game-winning Hail Mary bomb. When the weekend is over, you won’t just be yelling “Go, Tigers!” (or whomever you’re rooting for). You’ll just be going back for more.
In the campus’ hometown of Tuscaloosa, Ol’ Colony (www.tcpara.org) is a hidden gem that was one of the first courses designed by native Alabama son Jerry Pate. Large lakes come into play on five holes of the 7,066-yard, par-72 layout. Tall pines and oaks provide the feel of the Old South. The 435-yard, par-4 18th hole is entirely guarded by water on the right and woods on the left. If that’s not enough, the front left of the green is elevated and the back is tiered.
Stay local and go to Grand National (www.rtjgolf.com) in Opelika, Ala., where the scenic Lake Course, featuring 12 holes that run along the shore of Lake Saugahatchee, may do the impossible and take your mind off the gridiron. Here’s the skinny on the 7,149-yard, par-72 layout, which is part of the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail: Bring extra golf balls because the 230-yard, par-3 15th hole—complete with island green—is likely to diminish your supply.
Ready for a 7,151-yard, par-72 course with a slope of 150 and a rating of 75.3? Then travel 45 minutes from Baton Rouge to The Bluffs on Thompson Creek (www.thebluffs.com), in St. Francisville. This Arnold Palmer design is both a beauty and a beast. “It combines beauty and a challenge,” says Patrick Meehan, men’s golf sports information director for LSU. “There’s no easy hole.” The ’04 NCAA Women’s Championship and the ’00 NCAA Men’s Championship were held on the Lakes Course.
It may seem like a “hare” long to travel more than an hour from Starkville to Dancing Rabbit Golf Club (www.dancingrabbitgolf.com) in Philadelphia, Miss., but architects Jerry Pate and Tom Fazio have teamed up to create two 18-hole courses full of par-72 diversity. The Azaleas Course is 7,128 yards from the tips, while the Oaks is a mere 7,076 yards. The mega-resort, located on the land of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, also features casino gambling.
Kirkwood National Golf Club (www.kirkwoodgolf.com) in Holly Springs, Miss., about 30 minutes from the Ole Miss campus in Oxford, is a true outdoor adventure from start to finish. Kirkwood’s key holes are the back-to-back 188-yard 4th hole, where the green is completely bunkered in front, with water in the back, and the 614-yard 5th hole, which doglegs toward a green elevated 30 feet above the fairway.
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