Shell Landing Golf Club shows that Davis Love III is a can't-miss Mississippi course designer

By Chris Baldwin, Contributor

After playing Shell Landing Golf Club, you'll want to add Davis Love III to the list of promising PGA Tour vets/course designers. Shell Landing is massive and sprawling ... and beautiful and fun.

Shell Landing Golf Club - Tall Grasses
Shell Landing Golf Club can mimic a postcard with its tall nature grasses swaying.
Shell Landing Golf Club - Tall GrassesShell Landing Golf Club - MarshesShell Landing Golf Course - GreensShell Landing Golf Club - Bunkers
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Shell Landing Golf Club

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3499 Shell Landing Blvd.
Gautier, MS 39553
Phone(s): (228) 497-5683, 1 (866) 851-0541
18 Holes | Public golf course | Par: 72 | 7024 yards | ... details »

GAUTIER, Miss. - Davis Love III probably doesn't crack your list of must-play celebrity golf course architects. He never gets in the discussion with Mount Rushmore heavyweights Tom Fazio, Jack Nicklaus and Pete Dye. He holds none of the buzz of superstars-turned-budding-designers Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson or even Annika Sorenstam.

But after playing Shell Landing Golf Club, you'll likely conclude that Love deserves ... well, a little more love.

Love, who's still probably best known for being Mr. Nice Guy on the PGA Tour, treats everyday golfers with a lot of respect on his designs, too. Yes, we're talking about you, the guy who doesn't have a hook as much as an errant tree-seeking missile off the tee.

At Shell Landing, Love gives recreational golfers wide, wide fairways, the better to keep those drives in play and the frustration level down. It's similar to the approach Love takes at his most well-known design - Barefoot Resort Love Course, which once ranked as the best course in all of Myrtle Beach, S.C. Only at Shell Landing, Love might even have a better natural landscape to work from (check out the Gopher Turtle wildlife refuge just before you get to No. 6).

Yes, there's an official wildlife refuge on the golf course. And that's not even what you're going to remember most from playing Shell Landing.

"I've played a lot of golf courses by a lot of designers, and this is as good as anything I've ever played," Shell Landing General Manager and longtime local golfer Kenny Hughes said. "You can play it on a decent budget, too."

Shell Landing tops out at $99 weekdays in high season. When May 26 rolls around, it drops down to $69 until mid September. For that, you get a definite Big Boy golf course.

Love may give you a break in the vastness of the fairways. But that only makes Shell Landing's 7,024 yards look even more massive. There's so much room, it can be a little intimidating. Holes look longer than are from the tees, and the real fun doesn't even start until you get to the greens.

The putting surfaces are where Mr. Nice Guy shows his fangs. Or, more accurately, his turns and curves. Love put in massive greens at Shell Landing (they average 12,000 square feet), and they have as many sudden swerves as the Autobahn.

"You can reach a lot of greens, but you'll probably have a lot of three putts, too," Hughes said. "If you don't land your approach on the right part of the green, you'll get an adventure."

It turns out Shell Landing does have a hare to go with those slow-trudging tortoises - its NFL cornerback-quick putting surfaces.

All of this makes Love's design one that you don't want to pass by. Luckily, it's in the perfect location to play on the way in-between a Mississippi Gulf Coast and an Alabama Gulf Shores golf vacation. These two golf destinations offer everything from the high-end casino gambling of Biloxi to the postcard white sand beaches of Alabama's shore off the course and plenty of reasonable top quality golf.

Maybe better yet, it's pretty easy to hit both locations on the same trip.

Especially if you're stopping in for 18 at Shell Landing to cut down on any drive time monotony. Play among the tortoises on the hare greens, and you'll have more than enough to talk about on the drive into Alabama.

Some of the discussion (or moaning) will likely center on No. 6. Shell Landing's sixth isn't a golf hole as much as an adventure. This 412-yard par 4 provides a great look from a big raised tee - you're staring out at a sea of tall, brown swaying grass.

Of course, from the back two tees, you have two separate marshes to clear before you even reach fairway. Then there's another marsh clear right before the green. And don't forget the wicked, wicked bunkers on the sides of hills. Just in case your ball doesn't land in a marsh, there's always tilted sand.

Apparently, Love wants those turtles to be entertained.

The Verdict on Shell Landing Golf Club

How often do you notice the birds on a golf course? At Shell Landing, you'll be aware of the birds. That's because you hear a ton of them as you navigate Love's 128-slope-rating nature trip.

All those chirps are indicative of a course that manages to maintain a sense of outdoor wonder even though there are houses on it. The first six holes and the last six holes of Shell Landing are largely home devoid, so it's only the middle six holes where you'll see someone's backyard. And when Shell Landing gets into its nature stretch, it really gets into nature.

You're not going to mistake Shell Landing for another golf course. It's about as cookie cutter as a Faberge Egg. On No. 15, freight trains sometimes rumble by far behind the hole. On No. 16 - a tough, curving 559-yard par 5 - a bunker below the green is so large that it has six rakes. On No. 17, you feel like you're in the middle of your own daunting wheat field with the raised tee looking across a huge swath of those tall, brown grasses to a par 3 green that looks like it's a green island amongst the marsh.

There's a reason that PGA Tour players like Bubba Watson and Heath Slocum enjoy this course in regular charity events. Davis Love III made Shell Landing a Big Boy course that has a little something for everyone.

No matter how straight or crooked you hit them.

Mississippi Gulf Coast & Alabama Gulf Shores hotels

Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Biloxi bring plenty of style, hi-definition 42-inch plasma TVs and plush beds. Plus, it's right across the street from Mary Mahoney's, a must-eat fine dining institution with some of the richest food on the planet.

If you're going on to the Alabama Gulf Shores, Kiva Dunes Resort is a must-stay for its secluded retreat feel and great beaches, not to mention the best golf course in the state.

Fast Facts

Shell Landing only lost about 300 trees in Hurricane Katrina. What you'll likely remember more are all the different varieties of colorful flowers that come out during the various seasons of the year.

Chris BaldwinChris Baldwin, Contributor

Chris Baldwin 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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