Superb Fallen Oak course elevates golf in Biloxi

By Tim McDonald, Contributor

BILOXI, Miss. - Fallen Oak is the newest golf course in the Biloxi area, and it's a humdinger - a big, bold, even spectacular course by a "A-list" architect, Tom Fazio.

Superb Fallen Oak Course - Biloxi
Fallen Oak is one of two new courses to open in the Biloxi area.
Superb Fallen Oak Course - BiloxiSuperb Fallen Oak Course - Tom Fazio DesignSuperb Fallen Oak Course - Guest Only Course
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Fallen Oak Golf Course

5 stars out of 5 (based on 2 reviews)
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24400 Highway 15 North
Saucier, Mississippi 39574
Harrison County
Phone(s): (877) 805-4657, (228) 386-7015
18 Holes | Private/Resort golf course | Par: 72 | 7487 yards | ... details »

It's financed by MGM Mirage and only guests of the Beau Rivage Casino are invited to share the glory. That's not all: They won't even allow you to take pictures out here; only officially approved photos will ever grace the pages of non-MGM Mirage publications.

Nor have they released construction costs. They're a little anal about this sort of thing, but they have the golf course to back it up.

While technically it isn't private, it is exclusive, doing a third of the rounds of, say, Grand Bear, another top-notch Biloxi golf course. It's a course that should retain its pristine conditioning.

Fallen Oak elevates golf in Biloxi, literally and figuratively. It's one of the few coastal Mississippi golf courses with substantial elevation changes, and its mere presence will attract golfers to a place that needs visiting golfers badly. It's that good.

"If you like golf, and you want to play all the great courses of the world, this should be on the list," Fazio said to the media when the course opened this past summer. "This area of the country, Fallen Oak, will be on the golfer's map and in a short amount of time, it will be the place you have to come to play."

I won't argue much. It may not be in the same class as Augusta National or Pebble Beach, but the place is exceptional from the minute you pull through the gates, after a 20-minute drive from the casino headlands of Biloxi, through the Mississippi backwoods.

The service is smothering. Fallen Oak has a vast practice facility, one of the most pristine I've ever seen. Teak furniture, neatly-stacked range balls, towels and cold drinks. Everything in the beverage carts is free except the hard stuff.

The clubhouse is grand, with a fountain trickling by outside and inside, a floor-to-ceiling view of the course, which is green even this time of year, from overseeding.

If you come straight from gambling at the Beau Rivage, be prepared to keep rolling the dice. It's a gambler's course, with more risk-reward options than the blackjack table.

Being a Fazio course, the bunkering is distinctive. They look like, well, a person with arthritis, in Fazio's words.

"We've evolved in America to think that bunkers aren't as much a hazard as they used to be," he said, noting the penal nature of bunkers on Scotland's golf courses. "You come to America, and if you can't hit a 3-wood out of a fairway bunker, you complain."

You won't be hitting 3-woods out of these bunkers or I'm Tom Fazio's brother, George.

The course has a "sub-air drainage system," which can either suck moisture out of the greens, or pump air back into them to cool them down. The system sounds like a faraway airplane when it kicks on; I played this course two hours after a hard, two-inch rain, and the greens putted smooth and true.

Fallen Oak: The verdict

Fallen Oak is worth a stay at the Beau Rivage, even if you hate the sound of slot machines. Hey, knock yourself out, take a limo there; they have 13 waiting for you.

The course has way more than its share of memorable holes. Fairways bend and twist, rise and fall. The greens are huge, averaging about 7,500 square feet, with He-Man slope. There are marsh carries, doglegs to be cut and creeks to fly.

You'll be thinking on every hole, so you'll need some smarts with your muscle mass - the course tips out at more than 7,400 yards, though you may want to take it on from the forward tees.

The course had about six or seven holes complete when Hurricane Katrina hit, and lost quite a number of trees as well as the grass they had planted. But, like other Biloxi-area courses, it weathered the storm fine, and the turf conditions even prospered.

Biloxi hotels

The Beau Rivage is the biggest and wealthiest of the Biloxi casinos, probably the only casino here that could pump as much obvious money into a golf course like Fallen Oak.

It's always crowded, even at a time when Biloxi wants and needs visitors. It's a huge place - 32 stories high - with granite and other expensive flourishes everywhere you look.

It opened in 1999 at a cost of $800 million and post-Katrina renovation cost $550 million. It's the largest employer in Biloxi with more than 3,800 employees and the largest resort in the Southeast to nab the AAA Four Diamond award.

The Beau Rivage has more than 1,700 guest rooms and suites, with 32-inch flat-screen TVs. It also has a re-designed casino area, seven restaurants, four lounges and bars, 12 shops, spa and salon, a pool and convention center. Man, I'm telling you, it's big.

Tim McDonaldTim McDonald, Contributor

Veteran golf writer Tim McDonald keeps one eye on the PGA Tour and another watching golf vacation hotspots and letting travelers in on the best place to vacation.

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