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Mild winters, natural beauty make gaming and golf perfect set

With Mississippi’s brief, mild winters, golf is a year-round attraction. The state’s casino resorts make the most of the climate and available space to offer golf courses for guests and to the public.

Some build their own golf courses, often designed by celebrity golf names, while others forge deals with free-standing courses to provide golf for guests. In its promotional literature, Bacaran Bay Casino Resort, which plans to open in Biloxi in 2010, says its guests will have access to a signature 18-hole championship golf course.

So important is offering gold to its guests that Hollywood Casino Tunica offers only one resort package, and that is golf. “We partner with the 18-hole Scottish links at River Bend Links golf course so our guests can enjoy more of a resort experience — gaming and golf where they stay,” said Mary Beth Felty, public relations manager. “We include a one-night stay, green fee and cart. It’s very popular with our guests.”

The Bridges Golf Club was an early leader among casino golf courses on the Coast. Billed as the only Arnold Palmer signature designed course in the state, it was built on site at the former Casino Magic Bay St. Louis, now Hollywood Casino Bay St. Louis.

“The Bridges Golf Club is one of the most revered golf courses in the state,” said Bob Davidge, advertising and public relations manager for the casino resort. “It is ranked among the Top 10 courses in the state and Top 40 casino courses in the country by Golf Digest magazine.”

The frequent site for tournaments, such as the recent Emerald Coast Golf Tour, Davidge says The Bridges has nearly one mile of lakes, marsh, wetlands and fairways that comprise what golfers perceive as the casino resort’s main attraction.

“The par-72 course, named for the 21 wooden bridges that span across its 160 unspoiled acres, is the first resort golf course in the world to be granted Audubon Signature status by Audubon International,” he added.

Since that designation, however, another Coast casino golf course, The Preserve Golf Club, opened in 2006 as an amenity of the Palace Casino Resort in Biloxi, has earned the Audubon award. Described as “18 holes of pure golf in a pristine setting” by the Palace marketing staff, the $20-million Jerry Pate-designed course is surrounded by a nature preserve. It has been granted membership in the Audubon International Signature Program.

“That means the golf course will never have any homes or development around it,” Chris Champagne, head golf professional, said. “It’s 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 was awarded after the golf course was open for six months.

Golf is an integral component of the Pearl River Resort where the Dancing Rabbit Golf Club has two championship courses, the Azaleas and the Oaks. Both were created by designer Tom Fazio and Pate.

“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,” said Ryan Griffin, public relations manager at the resort. “Combined, these two courses encompass more than 700 acres wrapped in over five miles of meandering spring-fed streams. The setting accentuates the beauty of the course while adding to the difficulty of play.”

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


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