By: Tim Baines
For those who have been there, done that, the Mississippi Gulf Coast has long been an outstanding golf destination.
When you’re in that beautiful area along the Gulf of Mexico, framed by 62 miles of beaches, you can expect you’ll get a good dose of the southern F-word: Friendly. You see, that good ole southern hospitality makes y’all want to come back for more and more. Fishing, restaurants, casinos and golfers love those golf courses … there’s plenty for everyone.
The Mississippi Gulf Coast Golf Association wants to be known as a golf destination that stands up to any in North America. Given what the Gulf Coast has to offer, it’s a goal that seems realistic.
“We are the Golf Coast,” says Russ Bloom, who became president of the golf association a year ago and is also GM of The Oaks Golf Club, one of the elite courses in the area. “With the value of this destination and the quality of the golf, it’s just a matter of us getting the word out and getting the ball rolling. Las Vegas, Myrtle Beach … I’ve been to all of those places. I believe this is as good as it gets.”
A program to attract golfers to the Mississippi Gulf Coast was developed in 2001. The success was quick during the peak years of golf when everyone was battling for tee times. Everyone and their mothers were looking to play. Well times have changed, golf play is down and just like every other golf destination they are looking to do something to bring more people back.
There is a whole new attitude on the “Golf Coast!” The Golf Coast has re-branded the hotbed into the Mississippi Gulf Coast Golf Trail and there are plenty of optimism that the area has so much going for it and will see a spike of interest in golf. The Golf Trail concept in this case is not one where you play, then drive to another region, staying in a different hotel every night. This is a Stay & Play destination. You can play many courses and still stay in one hotel for your entire stay.
“The destination is as good as it’s ever been,” said Bloom. “We’ve got the food, the casinos and the golf and much more.”
The association’s website www.golfcoast.com has been jazzed up. There’s all kinds of info on not only the golf, but in the lodging, casinos and area attractions. You can book just the golf on the website, but if you fill out a package request form, within 24 hours you will get multiple offers from golf packagers and casinos. With companies competing for your business, you can choose the best deal.
It is a year-round golf destination. Daily temperature highs in November are still in the 20C range, while they dip to 15C or so in December and January.
Bloom says the Gulf Coast area, which includes communities like Gulfport, Pass Christian, Ocean Springs, Bay St. Louis and Biloxi, has plenty going for it.
“Downtown, there are cool bars and great restaurants,” said Bloom. “The beach is beautiful. It’s about us getting the word out and getting people here.”
Casinos include the Beau Rivage, the IP Casino Resort and Spa, Harrah’s, Island View, the Hollywood Casino, The Palace, Golden Nugget and the Hard Rock. There are also plenty of condos if that’s what you’re looking for. Companies like Gulf Coast Resort Rentals can set you up in a two- or three-bedroom condo that sleeps up to six and comes with beer in the fridge.
Some of the outstanding restaurants include The Shed BBQ and Blues Joint, Mary Mahoney’s Old French House, the Half Shell Oyster House, The Reef and The Lookout.
There’s also a certain synergy between the local hotels and golf. While the hotels are generally pretty booked up on weekends, there are plenty of weekday vacancies, which allows for aggressive package pricing.
There are some great golf courses on the menu for visitors, including Shell Landing, The Oaks, Grand Bear, Diamondhead, Windance, Great Southern and Hickory Hill, with designers like Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Davis Love III, Mark McCumber, Jerry Pate and Tom Fazio shaping the look and feel.
Mississippi has long been popular with Canadians.
“The Canadian market was always huge for us, it’s where we’ve seen one of the biggest impacts,” said Bloom. “The survival of the golf courses is dependent on us providing a great vacation for Canadians. Our new effort will hopefully get the ball rolling in the right direction. What we need is word of mouth, people going back and talking about what a great vacation they had.”
While there are no direct flights from Canada to Biloxi there are a number of direct flights from Canadian cities into New Orleans. From there it is only about a 1 hour drive to Biloxi. And what is wrong with a few nights on Bourbon Street at the end of a great golf week on the Coast! There are several easy connections into Gulfport-Biloxi International Airport. It’s a vacation, Bloom said, that he’s confident golfers will love it.
“The Mississippi Gulf Coast offers the perfect golf vacation where you have the daytime activity of golf that hits every sized group, then you have the night-time activity, seafood galore, plus countless other styles of restaurants and casinos,” he said. “The biggest thing is it’s all about value. If you to go to Vegas, Pinehurst or Phoenix, they’re higher-priced golf destinations. We have great concerts and shows and restaurants, a lot of things you would get in Vegas.
Many have referred to Mississippi as Las Vegas lite…for what you might pay 3-4 nights for in Vegas you would get a whole week’s worth in Mississippi! …and there is 62 miles of white sand beach!
“We pride ourselves on making sure every customer has a great experience while they’re here. We talk about that as an association as well, that people have that memorable experience. It’s a Southern hospitality thing, it’s a Southern experience thing. It’s more than just a vacation, it’s a welcome to our house.”
It’s appropriate that the area’s slogan is: “Stay Awhile, You’ll Get It.”
Come on down y’all! Check us out www.golfcoast.com