Don't gamble on your golf: Do both on a three-day Biloxi golf weekend

By Tim McDonald, Contributor

Biloxi, Mississippi is a golfing and gambling mecca, with tee times at golf courses such as Fallen Oak and Grand Bear and casinos like Beau Rivage, the Island View and Hollywood to keep you occupied for an entire weekend.

Fallen Oak Golf Course
Fallen Oak will elevate golf in Biloxi, it's so good.
Fallen Oak Golf CourseGrand Bear Golf ClubThe Bridges Golf ClubHollywood Casino
If you go

BILOXI, Miss. -- If ever there was a town made for a long golf long weekend, it's Biloxi. Casinos, golf courses and long, white beaches.

For golfers, it's a mini-paradise, with a number of excellent golf courses that are easily reached with minimal driving time.

You may like to hit the links during the day and the casinos at night, to try to even the score with your golf buddies who are sucking you dry.

Good luck. Here's a great, three-day golf and gambling itinerary for a Biloxi golf vacation.

Friday

STAY: The Beau Rivage casino is the biggest and wealthiest in Biloxi, and probably the only casino here that could pump as much obvious money into a track like the Fallen Oak Golf Course. You'll be staying here to start your weekend because of that course, to start you off with a bang.

The casino is truly an impressive sight, inside and out. Post-Katrina, it has new restaurants and a more luxurious casino that's been re-designed. All the rooms have been re-designed as well.

The Beau Rivage has more than 1,700 guest rooms and suites, with 32-inch flat-screen TVs. It also has a re-designed casino area, seven restaurants, four lounges and bars, 12 shops, spa and salon, a pool and convention center.

PLAY: Fallen Oak Golf Course is the newest golf course in the Biloxi area, and it is a humdinger, a big, bold, even spectacular course by one of the world's more well-known golf architects, Tom Fazio.

Fallen Oak elevates Biloxi golf, literally and figuratively. It's one of the few courses in coastal Mississippi with substantial elevation changes, and its mere presence will attract golfers to a place that needs visiting golfers badly. It's that good.

The service is smothering. Fallen Oak has a vast practice facility, one of the most pristine I've ever seen. Teak furniture, neatly-stacked range balls, towels and cold drinks. Everything in the beverage carts is free except the hard stuff.

The clubhouse is grand, with a fountain trickling by outside and inside, a floor-to-ceiling view of the course.

If you come straight from gambling at the Beau Rivage, be prepared to keep rolling the dice. It's a gambler's course, with more risk/reward options than the blackjack table.

Fairways bend and twist, rise and fall. The greens are huge, averaging about 7,500 square feet, with He-Man slope. There are marsh carries, doglegs to be cut and creeks to fly. You'll be thinking on every hole, so you'll need some smarts with your muscle mass: the course tips out at more than 7,400 yards, though you may want to take it on from the forward tees.

Saturday

STAY: 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.

This casino 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.

PLAY: Grand Bear Golf Course is one of Biloxi's star attractions. It may not have the novelty of the Mississippi Gulf Coast's two glitzy new openings, Fallen Oak and The Preserve, or the history of Great Southern golf course, but this will always be a favorite of those who travel and play golf regularly in Biloxi, including myself.

First of all, the setting: Grand Bear is about a 30-40 minute drive from the casinos and the crowds they attract. It's a lovely drive through the Mississippi back roads, and when you hit State Road 49, you still have a winding, six-mile drive through them Southern woods.

It's bordered by the DeSoto National Forest, so only the deer and turkey and occasional wild pig are there to laugh at your chili-dips. Instead of condos and homes, you have the truly lovely Biloxi River making cameo appearances, with its dark, flowing water offset by sandy beaches.

The course rolls and dips, with swales and hollows, and has some decent elevation changes, atypical for this part of the world. It's an idyllic setting, with excellent movement on the course, which plays through pine and hardwood. There is water, but not a ton of it.

The fairways are tree-lined and wide, showing off one of Nicklaus' favorite themes: multiple routes to the green.

Sunday

STAY: We're going to take you away from the casino madness of Biloxi, but let you continue your golf and gambling revelry. The Hollywood Casino is 20 miles west of Biloxi. You're in luck because the Bay St. Louis bridge just recently opened, 20 months after Hurricane Katrina washed away the old one.

You can walk directly from the slot machines in the casino, formerly known as Casino Magic, directly to the golf course.

The hotel has nearly 300 waterfront rooms that overlook the marina, golf course, Jourdan River and the Bay of St. Louis. The casino has a pool and cabana bar, and four restaurants, as well as my favorite, Shaker's Martini Bar.

There is more than 17,000 feet of meeting space, and all rooms have free, high-speed Internet.

A lot of people like to bring their RVs here. Good Sam Park has 100 hookups with cable TV, barbecue grills, a pavilion and 24-hour security. It's a party out there.

PLAY: The Bridges Golf Club is one of the prettiest you'll find, with marsh views virtually everywhere; only rarely do you see evidence it's on the grounds of a large casino complex. There are no houses or condos to mar the views, and the tumbling dice are too far away to hear.

The fairways still roll and tumble despite Katrina's best efforts, and the same interesting variety of holes is still there. The greens are still large and contoured. The conditioning, even if a hurricane had never hit, is very good.

The Bridges is a must-play in coastal Mississippi golf. It's one of Arnold Palmer's better works, a golf course co-habitating with interesting, natural terrain.

The tees, fairways and greens are pushed up out of the marsh, and wood bridges take you over the wetlands with more than a mile of bridges, hence the name.

This is not an easy, slap-it-around resort course, with its slope rating of 138 from the back tees at 6,841 yards. You have to have some length in your game, and while the fairways mostly have room, the ever-present marsh means you can't swing away like Barry Bonds off the tee every time.

The large greens are particularly good, just the right touch of slope and undulation to make you work, without overwhelming the average player.

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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