The Preserve Golf Club near Biloxi, Miss. preserves the pure golfing experience

By Tim McDonald, Contributor

VANCLEAVE, Miss. - The Preserve Golf Club is one of the Biloxi area's two newest golf courses - so new that it almost missed the wrath of Hurricane Katrina.

The Preserve Golf Club - No.2
No. 2 at The Preserve is a par 3 over marsh.
The Preserve Golf Club - No.2The Preserve Golf Club - Nature PreserveThe Preserve Golf Club - 14th Green
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The Preserve Golf Club

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8901 Hwy. 57 North
Vancleave, MS 39565
Phone(s): (228) 386-2500, (877) 674-6539
Website: www.preservegc.com
 
18 Holes | Public golf course | Par: 71 | 6774 yards | ... details »
 

Almost.

The Preserve was close to opening when Katrina hit in August 2005 and the storm landed a solid blow to the club and its pristine surroundings two miles north of Interstate 10. The golf course was partially flooded and lost thousands of trees.

Katrina delayed the Bermuda grass grow-in process, and the club is replacing the downed trees with transplants from Florida. It finally debuted this past July, and the excellent clubhouse opened in late January.

Looking out over The Preserve, you might wonder why they had to go to Florida to get those trees. There are few golf courses in Mississippi, or the Southeast, for that matter, with surroundings like these.

The course itself takes up 245 acres, but it is surrounded by more than 1,800 acres of dedicated nature preserve in the form of the Sandhill Crane Refuge and Conservancy. Old Fort Bayou flows at the track's eastern edge.

This is basically wilderness with golf clubs, and it isn't unusual to see deer, hawks and, of course, cranes, since they have standing reservations.

There are no homes around, and never will be. Any core golf experience is usually a treat, and The Preserve's location sometimes feels so lonesome you want to think about calling in a survival team. From some of the elevated tee boxes and greens, particularly the 14th, it is almost an understatement to call the views expansive.

You'll see pitcher plant bogs, cypress swamps, long-leaf pine savannahs, live oak groves and just plain marsh.

The course was designed by former U.S. Open champ Jerry Pate, who also did Kiva Dunes in Alabama and co-designed Mississippi's Dancing Rabbit with Tom Fazio. The two architects have a friendly rivalry, recently spiced by the fact that Fazio did greater Biloxi's other new course, Fallen Oak.

Pate is not of the longer-is-better school. The Preserve is 6,775 yards from the tips - not exactly an executive course, but not one of those modern -go-the-distance tracks either.

There are several memorable holes, notably No. 3, with its approach to a bulk-headed green; the 15th, with its visually deceptive bunker in front of the green (check your yardage book before you hit your approach); and No. 16, a par 3 that carries the hardest handicap on the course. It's a 225-yard smack to a green that drops off sharply left to deep bunkers.

The Preserve: Verdict

Affiliated with the Palace Casino Resort, The Preserve is a beautiful golf course that matches its surroundings tit for tat. At a time when other area clubs are running bare-bones operations to make ends meet, the service here is excellent. The unusual extra step of placing tarps over the Tid-Dwarf greens on frost days keeps the putting surfaces in immaculate shape.

The course was a sight in February, and it is said to be spectacular in the spring and summer, when the love grass turns lavender. The aesthetics are reminiscent of Shell Landing, another top-notch Biloxi course, though the greens there are more undulating.

Green fees are in the $90-$100 range but that includes free range balls, yardage books and water, in on-course coolers and to take with you as well. It's on the high end for Biloxi, but The Preserve is still strongly recommended.

Biloxi hotels & dining

The Palace Casino is right where it was before Katrina hit - on the water. The casino overlooks the Biloxi Back Bay and the Gulf of Mexico, daring Mother Nature.

The hotel's 236 rooms have marble floors, and the large suites have refrigerators and bars. There's also the casino, of course, all 43,500 square feet of it, and two excellent restaurants.

Mignon serves steak and fresh seafood and has a superb wine selection. The Palace Buffet is a smorgasbord of Italian, Southern and Asian food and an outstanding dessert station. I had one of the best fudge brownies I've ever eaten. I wish I could tell you what was in it.

Fast Fact

Palace Casino Resort guests get 20 percent off green fees at The Preserve.

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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