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Great golf, even better business

Golf plays a big part in Mississippi’s tourism industry.

With world-class courses as part of casino developments in Philadelphia, Tunica and on the Coast, plus hidden gems like Grenada’s Dogwoods course, the golfing industry certainly pulls its economic weight.

The Mississippi Development Authority (MDA) even has a branch of its tourism development program devoted specifically to sports and golf marketing that.

And the MDA has taken an active role in promoting the upcoming Viking Classic, to be played at Annandale Golf Club in Madison September 15-21. The MDA is one of five consortium sponsors of the event.

“We use our sponsorship to promote Mississippi and the state’s golfing industry,” said Janet Leach, director of sports and golf marketing at the MDA. “About 80% of what we do is promote our golf courses.” Mississippi has 145 tracks scattered throughout the state. At the MDA’s tourism Web site, www.visitmississippi.org, there is a chance to win a golf getaway the week of the Viking Classic. The package includes a gas card, gift certificates, tickets to the tournament and lodging in the new Hilton Garden Inn in Madison.

Another of the MDA’s promotions may have some people wanting to get into the golf journalism business.

MDA will fly members of the national golf media to Memphis a few days before the Viking Classic tees off. From Memphis, media will travel to Tunica and play courses like Tunica National and Riverbend Links, where the Mississippi State Amateur was held in June.

MDA is rolling out the red carpet in hopes of garnering some attention to the state’s golfing industry.

“This will generate publicity and exposure that we couldn’t possibly buy,” Leach said. “A lot of national magazines will be here, and usually it’s not just one or two articles they write, but it’s several.”

Not that the state’s courses haven’t already opened some eyes. Golfweek magazine named the Beau Rivage’s Fallen Oak course, designed by world-renowned golf course architect Tom Fazio, the second-best casino course in the U.S. Grand Bear Golf Club, a Jack-Nicklaus designed development of Harrah’s Casino on the Coast, was ranked seventh. Of the 25 courses that made the list, Mississippi had four of them, the other two being the Oaks and Azaleas courses that make up Dancing Rabbit Golf Club in Philadelphia. On the list, Mississippi trailed only Nevada and Arizona, which had five courses apiece. Dogwoods in Grenada was named Golfweek’s “best new bargain” for 2007.

“Mississippi is the nation’s third-largest gaming destination, and many of our casino resorts have excellent golf courses,” Craig Ray, the MDA’s tourism division director, said in a news release upon Golfweek’s announcement.

Contact MBJ staff writer Clay Chandler at clay.chandler@ msbusiness.com .

About Clay Chandler

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