With a handful of that world-famous southern hospitality, the birthplace of Elvis not far away, tremendous restaurants and casinos nearby, plus another must-play golf courses on the way, Mississippi’s Pines Region is a travel destination worth a visit.
The state of Mississippi has plenty going for it and the Pines Region is a big part of it.
“It’s a beautiful, beautiful area with the tall pines,” said Janet Leach, Program Manager, Golf and Sports at the Mississippi Development Authority. “Mississippi is very rural; there aren’t a lot of people here. There are 2.9 million people in the whole state. You won’t have a lot of traffic. Beautiful countryside is mainly what you will see.
“What we hear all the time is that people are pleased when they get here and experience the people that live here. They see that Southern hospitality is the real thing. You hear about it, but until you experience it, you really don’t know what it means.”
With wonderful golf already available at the Azaleas and Oaks courses at Dancing Rabbit Golf Resort in Choctaw, you need to play another beautiful course, Old Waverly Golf Club in West Point, about an hour north. With a scheduled “soft” opening in the fall of 2016 and a likely regular opening in the spring of 2017, Mossy Oak is sprouting up adjacent to Old Waverly. Architect Gil Hanse, the designer of the 2016 Rio Olympics golf course, was brought on board to provide the direction for Mossy Oak.
“The literal mission statement of our entire enterprise is connecting human beings with the outdoors and nature; the golf course is literally nature,” said Mossy Oak founder Toxey Haas. “Our goal is to create a truly unique golf experience and to develop it into not only one of the finest golf courses in the country, but in the world.”
Old Waverly and the Dancing Rabbit courses have been ringing up accolades for years. Old Waverly hosted the Women’s U.S. Open in 1999 and the 2014 ISPS Handa Cup. U.S. Open winner Jerry Pate and course designer Bob Cupp were enlisted to trim away from the undeveloped nature of 360 acres of pasture and prairie, and add to its history, beauty and success. Old Waverly has been named to Golfweek’s Top 100, Golf Digest’s Top Course in Mississippi for many years and Golf Digest’s Top 100 courses. Seven thousand, eighteen yards of undulating fairways, four lakes, numerous sand oases and well-manicured greens, surrounded by tall pines and numerous hardwoods, make it a formidable, but not impossible, task.
Driving from the main gate to the clubhouse, it seems as if Old Waverly had been established at the turn of the century. With its grand architecture and many mature trees, it is hard to believe the club is merely 27 years old. But it is the attention to detail at every turn that establishes Old Waverly as a truly special place. Numerous lush gardens punctuate the property with colour and variety year round.
Dancing Rabbit, part of the magnificent Pearl River Resort complex (which has been dubbed Vegas with Sweet Tea) is another gem, long recognized by golf publications. Among the awards: Top 100 Courses You Can Play, Best Course in the State, Top 100 Best Resort Courses, Top Casino Course in America and The Augusta You Can Play.
The Azaleas and The Oaks are nestled among the towering pines and stunning oaks in the rolling hills region of east central Mississippi. Each golf course covers 7,000 yards when playing from the championship tees, and offers five different sets of tees to accommodate every level of play. Combined, these two courses encompass more than 700 acres wrapped in more than 8 km. of meandering spring-fed streams and the exquisite setting accentuates the beauty of the course while adding to the difficulty of play. Every hole at Dancing Rabbit is a work of art, featuring Champion Bermuda grass greens on the Oaks and A-4 Bent grass greens on the Azaleas, along with Zoysia fairways on the Oaks and Bermuda fairways on the Azaleas. Both courses were created by Tom Fazio and Jerry Pate.
“We have two very well-maintained golf courses and we have two casino hotels within walking distance,” said Dancing Rabbit’s director of golf Mark Powell. “Everything is within a few blocks. Guests who have come a long way get here and realize they don’t have to travel far to get to anything.”
It’s a given that you will experience great golf, but there’s so much more to add to your trip agenda.
The true essence of the Pines region is its wondrous natural beauty. This lush landscape is home to outstanding nature trails, state parks, the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway and scenic roads like the Natchez Trace Parkway.
Tupelo isn’t far away and it’s where Elvis is from so you need to check out The Elvis Presley Birthplace.
Leach has some suggestions if you’re thinking about making the trip.
Said Leach: “If you can stay at the villas at Old Waverly, play that, plus the new course when it opens – I would suggest at least a couple of days in West Point – then drive to the Choctaw reservation – the Pearl River Resort – stay there, play the courses at Dancing Rabbit. They have two casinos, five hotels, you can stay in the clubhouse at Dancing Rabbit if you like. They have suites upstairs that are just gorgeous. There’s a clubhouse veranda all the way around it, with rocking chairs. You can sit look out over the reservation, it’s very relaxing. You could really make a trip of it. You can then drive on down to Tupelo. It’s a very easy trip.”
The easiest fly-in point for Canadians is probably Memphis. But, with connections, you can fly into Tupelo (through Atlanta) or the Golden Triangle in Columbus.
For more information, check out www.visitmississippi.org/sitepages/pines.