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|An oak tree is strategically placed to foil cutting the corner on the dogleg-right eighth hole at The Oaks Golf Club. (Katharine Dyson/WorldGolf.com)|
The Oaks Golf Club in Pass Christian, Miss., west of Biloxi, is a delight to play and surely ranks among the better values in Mississippi Gulf Coast golf.
PASS CHRISTIAN, Miss. - It happened to all of us. A good enough drive, a missed pitch, leaving the ball just off the green, followed by a few practice chips and then a plain-ugly wedge shot as the club got caught in the Bermuda rough.
The rough could be brutal.
Anywhere in the rough, just finding the ball was a challenge. It was typically buried.
"I know it landed by this tree," said one guy in our foursome.
We had all seen the same thing but ran out of time, and he had to load up again.
"Here, it's all about the roughs," he mumbled. "They're vicious."
Perhaps even more vicious as we played after a long stretch of wet weather. In fact, rain fell as we arrived early that morning. It stopped after we gobbled down breakfast sandwiches in the clubhouse.
Other than the rough, The Oaks Golf Club in Pass Christian, Miss., west of Biloxi, is a delight to play and surely ranks among the better values on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Near Gulfport, The Oaks, which opened in 1998, was designed by Landmark National, the well-known architects of California's PGA West and Kiawah Island Resort in South Carolina.
The Oaks certainly stands on its own as a distinctive golf track, and the beverage-cart girls, provided by Hooters, add a spicy element. Sporting the latest Hooters fashion, the girls wear perfectly fitted, signature-orange shorts, white sleeveless tops with the orange Hooters logo and white socks and sneakers.
I didn't ask how they fare with tips, but one guy in our foursome ran out of cash.
Lost your ball in the rough? Perfect time for a Hooters cart girl to appear.
In the rough? What rough?
In spite of its placement in a 400-acre residential community, The Oaks celebrates the outdoors with its tall hardwoods, native wetlands and ponds. Meandering through the landscape defined by stands of trees and well-placed bunker complexes, both nines return to the clubhouse. The ninth hole presents a good challenge with a must-carry over wetlands (except from the red tees) to a landing area.
Playing just over 7,000 yards from the tips, this is not one of the longer golf courses in Mississippi, especially from the forward tees, which are but 4,691 yards. But that doesn't mean it is easy.
It all depends on your accuracy and from which of the four tees you play. The often-narrow fairways, water, wetlands and nearly 50 bunkers demand accurate placement.
The par-4, 381-yard first hole presents an immediate birdie chance. The trick? Pay attention to pin location and land on the right side of this two-tiered green, the first of several tiered and undulating putting surfaces.
You'll find it's usually better to roll short then overshoot into the trees and brush.
Just when you've got that birdie in your pocket, the No. 1-handicap second hole looms, a par 4 that plays 452 yards. It climbs to an elevated green with a slight dogleg left. Those playing from the tips must carry 240 yards over wetlands. But from the forward tees, it's less challenging and the No. 5 handicap for women.
The par threes are reasonable tests from all but the forward reds, which are plain silly. For example, No. 5, which plays a sensible 182 from the back, is but 61 yards from the reds. You'll be tempted to putt, as there's nothing much between you and the green except a clever little pot bunker on the left.
And the par-3 sixth hole, at 67 yards, is pretty much a walk in the park from the reds. So I suggest to anyone who can hit the ball, play at least one back and have some fun catching a shot over the pond, with only 124 yards to reach the green.
Several holes offer makeable birdie opportunities. No. 4 is a short par 4 at 414 yards (305 from the reds). It's just one spot from which a good drive can leave an easy pitch. Hit the right tier of the green and you'll be in contention.
The par-4, 432-yard 13th hole, a dogleg right, is fun with choices. It offers another good shot at birdie for those who successfully carry the marsh. Long-hitting women, from the 225-yard reds, might drive the green to set up an eagle opportunity.
Thoughtfully designed, The Oaks is one of the better, pretty golf courses of the 20 or so in Mississippi's coastal region. It's user-friendly for women and targets shooters who can navigate successfully around hazards, trees and water.
Time for a Hooters break.
The Oaks achieved 4 1/2 stars in Golf Digest's "Best Places to Play" (2008-2009); named "Best New Course on the Mississippi Gulf Coast" by Coastal Living Magazine; voted top-10 course in Mississippi by Golf Digest (2003); ranked No. 6 of "Top 10 Values in Mississippi" by Golf Magazine (2006). Nationwide Tour events have been held here as well as a PGA-Tour qualifying event.
The golf course includes a nice clubhouse, practice range and restaurant.
The Hilton Garden Inn in Gulfport offers convenient and comfortable accommodations (877-782-9444 or gulfport.hgi.com).
For casino action, visit Island View Casino Resort in Gulfport or Beau Rivage Resort & Casino in Biloxi.
December 8, 2009
Katharine Dyson is a golf and travel writer for several national publications as well as guidebook author and radio commentator. Her journeys have taken her around the world playing courses and finding unique places to stay. She is a member of the Golf Writers Association of America, Metropolitan Golf Writers of America; Golf Travel Writers Organization and Society of American Travel Writers.
Any opinions expressed above are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of the management.
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