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Magnolia Golf Trail’s challenging courses keeping players of all levels busy

Since GodwinGroup co-founded the Magnolia Golf Trail in 2002, it has won accolades worldwide.

AAA Southern Traveler named it a Southern Travel Treasure, and Golf Digest, Golf Week and Golf Magazine have rated the trail’s challenging courses, designed by pro golfers Arnold Palmer, Jerry Pate and Mark McCumber, some of the best golf in America. A string of reputable publications have also given the trail high marks.

“Some great golf writers have given us some good publicity, and the Magnolia Golf Trail has received great acclaim around the country for the quality of golf courses involved in the trail,” said Craig Ray, tourism director for the Mississippi Development Authority (MDA).

The award-winning Web site, magnoliagolftrail.com, is arguably the nation’s top golfing site for its graphic beauty and content. Golfers can obtain specific information about any member course, purchase logo apparel and find package information.

“We’re beefing up marketing efforts to make it even easier for golfers to participate in the trail,” said Ray. “In the past, you’d purchase a card to receive a discount on greens fees. Now you can go online to book a reservation through our Web site or our 800 number. It’s a turning point for us to make it even more user-friendly.”

Transformation this summer

This summer, the Magnolia Golf Trail is being transformed into a non-profit association for the sole purpose of promoting golfing tourism in Mississippi.

Carol Smith, a Mississippi native, avid golfer and travel expert, recently transformed her full-service travel agency into a full-service golf packaging company, Mississippi Golf Travel, which has been assigned as the exclusive packager for the Magnolia Golf Trail.

“We’re on a good roll here,” said Smith, who recently returned from a three-day golf excursion in Tunica. “Snowbirds will start calling when their golf courses close in the fall and they still want to play golf. We should be extremely busy from September to March.”

Recently, two dozen out-of-state golfers discovered the Magnolia Golf Trail via the Internet and booked a multi-day trip sight unseen.

“The trail gives golfers a feeling of insurance because the courses have been pre-approved,” said Scott Kelly, who helped establish the trail.

Growing the trail

Janet Leach, manager of sports development for MDA, said she likes the new format of also marketing non-trail golf courses. “When you’re marketing the golf trail, you’re marketing Mississippi anyway,” she said.

Philip Shirley, president and COO of GodwinGroup, said the company’s long-term goal has been to grow the trail to 18 or 20 of the state’s top courses.

“That’s a manageable number,” he said. “It would be premature to mention the specific courses we’d like to join, but there are at least a half dozen great courses around the state that we believe may be interested. Several of these have expressed interest and discussions are ongoing with those that meet the quality guidelines.”

Since its inception, more than 500 Magnolia Golf Trail Players Cards have been sold for $49.95 each. In-state golfers will be able to retain their cards for continued discounts on greens fees and merchandise, but they will no longer be sold through the packaging service.

“Not only do we want to cater to tourists out of state, but we want our loyal golfers in Mississippi to continue to toss their golf clubs in the trunk and drop by a trail signature golf course,” said Kelly. “There’s such a great variety of golf courses from North to Central to South Mississippi that just playing the trail will keep them plenty busy.”

Contact MBJ contributing writer Lynne W. Jeter at lwjeter@yahoo.com

Magnolia Trail Courses

1 – River Bend Links

2 – The Club at North Creek

3 – Wedgewood Golfers Club

4 – Mallard Pointe

5 – Big Oaks Gold Club

6 – Caroline Golf Club

7 – Whisper Lake Country Club

8 – Patrick Farms Golf Club

9 – Beau Pré Golf Club

10 – Timberton Golf Club

11 – The Bridges at Casino Magic

12 – The Oaks Golf Club

13 – Windance Country Club

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About Lynne W. Jeter

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