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Former sports editor Rusty Hampton and experts select state's top golf courses

‘COME SEE US’ – The MBJ’s annual Meetings, Conventions and Tourism magazine (Spring 2014 edition)

Rusty Hampton

Rusty Hampton

Jim Gallagher Jr.

Jim Gallagher

Tommy Snell

Tommy Snell

Leigh Brannan

Leigh Brannan

Lou Hart

Lou Hart

 

 

 

 

 

 

By Rusty Hampton

Mississippians have more golf options than ever, from private clubs in the bigger cities to casino-sponsored resort courses that have sprung up on the Coast and in the Delta.

Because I covered golf for many years as a reporter and then sports editor for The Clarion-Ledger, the editors at Mississippi Business Journal asked me to rate the courses in the state for their fifth annual “7 Best Golf Courses in Mississippi.” I, in turn, asked for a little help, forming a five-member panel of Mississippi experts who combined have 200-plus years of golfing experience.

Our panel starts with Jim Gallagher Jr., a five-time PGA Tour winner and former Ryder Cup player who now plays on the Champions Tour and lives in Greenwood. Lou Hart of Meridian is a former long-time community college coach who has won nine Mississippi Women’s Amateur championships. Lan Gooch of Fulton, now the pro at Natchez Trace Golf Club, played many years on golf’s minor league tours and had a two-year stay on the PGA Tour. Leigh Brannan of Canton is a semi-retired club pro who won the Mississippi Amateur and the Mississippi Open. And Tommy Snell of Gulfport is the long-time coach at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College and a veteran rules official and Golf Digest panelist who has officiated at a U.S. Women’s Open, a U.S. Junior Championship and the past 10 NCAA Division I national championships.

BEST OVERALL EXPERIENCE

WHERE THE PROS PLAY

MOST SCENIC COURSE

BEST PUBLIC COURSE

TOUGHEST TEST

BEST CASINO COURSE

BEST LOCATION FOR A COURSE

BEST OF THE REST

TOP PRO SHOP

TOP TEACHING PRO

BEST 19TH HOLE

Each was asked to rate the courses of Mississippi in a variety of categories, from something as all-encompassing as best all-around golf experience to something as specific as best location, most scenic or toughest test of golf.

With their input, I compiled a list of courses to visit and play. The only choice listed here that was unanimous among our selectors was that of Old Waverly as best all-around golf experience in the state. I don’t expect everyone to agree with every choice on a list like this, but I think there’s one thing we can all agree on, and that’s the fact that Mississippi has never had as many varied and excellent golfing opportunities to enjoy as it does today.

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