Mississippi National Golf Club: A Gautier course holding true to Earl Stone's legacy
GAUTIER, Miss. - Like most golf courses along Mississippi's coast in the post-Katrina era, Mississippi National Golf Club is unintentionally open; many of the trees that flavored this pleasant, walker-friendly layout were swept away.
Hurricane Katrina hit Mississippi National hard, with trees and debris damaging fairways and greens, not to mention the large boat that ended up in the parking lot.
All of the condos that line the course were put out of action. In fact, the condos are only now finishing touches on their repair, operating at about half capacity.
The course closed for a little more than four months, re-opening in July of last year.
Those playing the course for the first time would probably never know it was battered by a historic storm, unless they were shown photos of pre-Katrina. It remains one of the better courses in this part of the state, and a joy for anyone who enjoys the short game.
"The greens are rolling true and will hold anything," Director of Golf Mike Moddrell said. "You can practically skull a 3-iron and it will stick."
Mississippi National opened in 1965 from a design by Earl Stone, an architect well known in these parts. The course has pretty much kept Stone's original blueprints in place, notwithstanding Katrina, as well as previous hurricanes like Camille and George.
Stone's push-up greens are probably the most dramatic feature of the course; they must be approached with extreme caution. You can almost see yellow warning lights.
"When you get past the first three holes, don't hit it past the flag again," Moddrell said. "Being short here is fine. Hit it long and you're toast. In fact, if you're a short player, but know how to chip it around the green, you'll do well here."
After playing this course twice, I can tell you that is great advice. The greens are not particularly undulating, but they are all, after the first three holes, sloped with varying severity, and all of them slope back to front. Hit it past the flag and you'll be having a three-putt derby.
You're better off here even missing the green short. Miss it long, and even if you were Phil Mickelson, you'd be facing some chip shots that would have you shaking your head.
Mississippi National Golf Club: The verdict
No. 2 at Mississippi National is a hole that will stick with you for a long time.
"We get players here all the time, and even if they finish birdie, birdie, birdie, all they want to talk about is the eight they got on No. 2, Moddrell said. "This is one of my favorite holes."
It's a 546-yard par 5 that throws two water carries at you. Longer hitters will hit 3-wood off the tee to be short of the first creek that cuts across the fairway. Then, the conundrum: Do you try the 250 yards or so to carry the second creek to reach the green or lay up on the peninsula fairway?
The second creek has some visual deception to it: the creek is angled so that the left side is farther away than it looks.
"It's a visual mind-screw," Moddrell said.
Course officials intentionally left out the blue tees, to encourage better pace of play, but if you care to step back, you're looking at around 7,000 yards.
"It can be all you want, or it can be a fun, fair golf course," Moddrell said. "You can get away with some mistakes here. When the Nike Tour played here, they went back to 7,000 yards. Then, you can't make mistakes."
The Island View Casino and Resort opened in September of 2006 - not even a month after Hurricane Katrina hit - with a temporary casino at the former site of the Grand Casino Gulfport.
The Island View has one of the best views in Gulfport, overlooking the Gulf of Mexico and Cat Island, part of an expansive national park.
The hotel has more than 500 newly designed rooms, with Gulf views, and an 83,000-square-foot gaming floor. The casino has a 350-seat buffet, with one of the better dessert bars in the Biloxi area.
March 29, 2007