Women who don't want to gamble on overly long, macho courses should try these in Biloxi

By Tim McDonald, Contributor

BILOXI, Miss. - Men and women may approach gambling the same way, but not golf. Most men want to be tested in golf, not gambling. They want to pull out the driver and see how far they can whack it, so they tend to look for long, difficult courses - even if they secretly yearn for short par 4s they can drive.

Women, however, seem to enjoy golf's nuances more. They want to be tested, but don't go out looking for overly long, macho courses.

The Biloxi area is a good place for gamblers and golfers, especially women golfers. There are some fairly difficult courses along the Mississippi Coast, like Shell Landing and The Bridges, which women might want to consider before playing.

On the other hand, there are some that women particularly seem to enjoy. Here are some of them:

• The course at the Great Southern Golf Club measures only 6,236 yards from the back tees, so it is very playable for women.

"Great Southern, I find, is women-friendly," said Karen Arseneau, president of the Gulf Coast Ladies Golf Association. "The par 3s and par 5s are manageable. Now, some of the par 4s are long, but the fairways are wide and they keep it in good shape."

The challenge of Great Southern, apart from the longer par 4s, comes from the greens, which Donald Ross designed to be tricky, falling off abruptly sometimes. The short game is important here.

"Great Southern has the best greens on the Gulf Coast," Arseneau said. "They're fast, but they're really true and they keep them up."

The course, the oldest along the Mississippi coast, has a great deal of history and has the advantage of holes that overlook the Gulf of Mexico. It hosts more than 30,000 rounds a year and the green fees are only in the $55-$70 range, cart fee included.

Grand Bear is a Jack Nicklaus design way out in the sticks, surrounded by the DeSoto National Forest. It isn't a particularly difficult course, though it can be a challenge from the back tees at 7,204 yards.

However, the forward tees make the course 4,800 yards and it has wide-open fairways, a Nicklaus trademark. The packed pine needle rough is easy to extricate yourself from, should you really be off the mark.

"That was really our goal to do that," said Toby Strahan, Grand Bear's director of golf. "We wanted people to play this course and say, ‘If I played better, I would have scored better,' not because the course was too hard."

Women beware, there are some long holes, like the par-5 fifth hole. It's a tree-lined fairway, narrow for Nicklaus, with a creek running through the middle of the hole. Your approach shot may land on a fairway that slopes left to right.

The Oaks is 6,885 yards from the tips, but 4,691 from the forward tees. Even then, it's not an easy course, with a number of water hazards, 44 bunkers in the fairways and in the approaches to the greens to contend with.

Still, women seem to be lured.

"I just find the fairways are fairly wide and, although they have some water and a slot of sand traps, obviously, it seems to be manageable," Arseneau said. "There is trouble, but if you think about what you're doing, you can avoid it."

The course sits in a 400-acre development with 400 lots in a gated community of hardwood and pine groves. It has creeks and wetlands running through it and, though there are homes along the layout, it still projects a pastoral feel.

"It's beautiful," Arseneau said. "Before they developed it, it was just woods and old oak trees and it was just gorgeous. It's not as pretty now as when they first opened it, they've built so many homes out there. I just like the course because it's so pretty."

Be aware, however, that this year the greens are in rough shape because of bad weather last November.

Sunkist Country Club is one of the more popular courses on the coast. It's about 6,400 yards from the back tees and was 5,457 from the forward, red tees before they moved them up.

"I thought that kind of took away the character, but it certainly made it a lot easier," Arseneau said. "It's pretty flat out there and pretty wide-open. You can get into trouble, but you can recover from it; it's not devastating."

Sand and water comes into play on 13 holes.

Gulf Hills is different from most courses in the area, with its elevation changes, usually difficult for many women. "There's not many of them on the coast got this kind of elevation," member Arnold Verhoeven said. "Some of them move earth around, but all this is natural."

It has rolling, tree-lined fairways and greens that feature some subtle, tricky breaks.

"Gulf Hills is very challenging, it's not really easy by any stretch," Arseneau said. "They have a real active ladies movement - we always laugh because it's such a difficult course that when they come and play a course like Sunkist or another wide-open course, they do well."

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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