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New course takes name from surrounding nature preserve

Vancleave — The Preserve Golf Club opens this week, adding another element to the industry that is leading the Gulf Coast tourism recovery. Affiliated with the Palace Casino Resort in Biloxi, The Preserve is described as “eighteen holes of pure golf in a pristine setting” by the Palace marketing staff. The $20-million, Jerry Pate-designed course is open to the public.

“Everyone is welcome,” says Chris Champagne, head golf professional. “We want the snowbirds, and everyone, to come and use it. Our vision is to be an upscale facility and provide outstanding golf.”

To that end, a dress code will be maintained that mandates collared shirts and bans denim, cutoffs and tank tops.
He says it’s significant that the course was designed by Pate, a winner of the U.S. Open Championship and a highly competitive golfer on the professional circuit. Pate is from Pensacola, Fla., and has designed several golf courses in the Southeast.

The Preserve is located on 245 acres near Vancleave in Jackson County on Mississippi 57. Champagne says it takes about 22 minutes to drive east on Interstate 10 from the Palace Casino Resort to The Preserve. The golf course is surrounded by an additional 1,800 acres of dedicated nature preserve.

The native surroundings of pitcher plant bogs, cypress swamps, long leaf pine savannah, live oak groves and native grass prairies were integrated into the design of the 18-hole, par-71 championship layout.

‘Escape from everyday life’

Because of the surrounding nature preserve, the new golf course has been granted membership in the Audubon International Signature Program. “That means the golf course will never have any homes or development around it,” Champagne said. “It will be nice for golfers to get on a course and not see any people or development; an escape from everyday life.”

The Audubon Society certified that The Preserve is protecting the natural habitat and wildlife, maintaining wetlands and that it is environmentally friendly. That stipulation requires that nothing be sprayed that will harm the environment. A medal for the Audubon program will be awarded after the golf course is open for six months.

Gulf Coast tourism official Stephen B. Richer says The Preserve means a lot to the recovering tourism industry and will mean even more with the opening of additional hotel and condominium rooms.

“It’s a perfect match. People want to be together and play golf together,” he said. “Most of the condos sleep four and six and have kitchens. Golf is a big part of what’s keeping us going and helping us rebuild.”

Richer said The Preserve, along with other courses about to open or reopen, brings the number of courses in the area to 24 and adds to the Coast’s economy.

Challenging and enjoyable

This newest golf course features five sets of tees with different distances for all level golfers. Champagne, a class A member of the Professional Golf Association, says the course is challenging yet enjoyable for all golfers. Some tee times have been booked for weeks and inquiries are coming in for tournaments.

“We definitely are interested in having tournaments and already have eight or nine inquiries about them,” he said. “The Gulf Coast has a lot of courses but there’s a demand for more. This course will create more buzz, especially as more rooms become available for stay and play packages.”

Although The Preserve is open to the public, Champagne says the Palace Casino Resort will be making golf more of an amenity as its hotel rooms reopen. “The Palace wants this amenity for guests who can pair their stay at the luxurious AAA Four Diamond Award hotel with an extraordinary golf experience,” he said. “We felt like the market could stand another golf course and want to make golf more of a factor in a stay here.”

Guests at the Palace will get a price break on greens fees. Regular fees are $90 for morning tee times and $70 for afternoon times. “With the level of service we’ll provide, players still get a bargain playing here,” the golf pro said.

The clubhouse will not open until September or October, but sandwiches and drinks will be available from the cart shed until then. Champagne says a grand opening will be held sometime in the fall. The Preserve is expected to employ around 50 people.

Contact MBJ contributing Lynn Lofton at llofton656@aol.com.

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