Sunkist Country Club owners get lemons, make lemonade in Gulfport, Miss.
GULFPORT, Miss. — Sometimes, natural disasters bring unnatural luck.
"We're the only course on the coast that benefited from Katrina," Sunkist Club Manager Mike Baronich said.
Baronich's view is that the club re-built the course so well and so fast that golfers hungry to play have flocked to the course.
"Everybody who wanted a club membership came here," Baronich said. "Our membership really grew. I think once the local people came out to see how good the greens were, they came back."
Not that Sunkist was spared. After the storm left, officials discovered at least 15 trees had fallen on various greens. What made it even more maddening is that the course had closed a week before the storm hit because maintenance crews were installing new Champions Bermuda.
But, they weren't destroyed.
"They recovered," Baronich said. "You can see for yourself. I'd put our greens up against anybody on the coast."
Sunkist lost around 400 trees and half the terrain had rising water on it.
"Other than that, our maintenance crew has done a magnificent job of getting it back in shape," Baronich said.
Sunkist is a familiar place for longtime Biloxi-area golfers. It opened in 1953 from a design by Frank Steidle.
Its playability is what draws a lot of members. The course is short at 6,313 yards and has a benign slope rating of 121. There is water, but it's rarely troublesome, and there are few bunkers.
"It's a player-friendly course," Baronich said. "In my opinion, the greens make the course. They're small and undulating. That's what protects the integrity of the course."
Sunkist Country Club: The verdict
The greens are indeed small and undulating, and can make your score suffer if you aren't accurate with your irons. A few holes stand out.
No. 4 is a 399-yard par 4 with a sharp dip in the fairway a little past the 150-yard marker. Drives that make it there can roll almost to the green, but be sure to stay left because a large pine tree blocks the view to the green on the right.
No. 6 is a nice hole, a short par 5 that starts left, winds back to the right and then turns back to the left. This hole also has friendly elevation on the fairway. In fact, for such a short course, all of the par-5 holes are fun.
Off the tee, the course is open, with little rough to speak of. Though they lost a great deal of trees, there are still quite a few pine trees, with some nice old oaks tossed in.
Officials are planning a new, $500,000 irrigation system, expected to be completed sometime in March.
Gulfport-area hotels & casinos
The Island View Casino and Resort opened in September, 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.
June 18, 2007