Great courses in gulf region of Alabama
When in Alabama, memorable events on a golf course are punctuated with cries of “Roll Tide” and “War Eagle.” At least that’s how seven golf writers, playing this week in the Gulf Shores region, are getting into the spirit of ‘Bama golf.
The most memorable scene on Monday was Roy Lang of the Shreveport Times letting out one such yell, driving up to the third green at Cypress Bend at Craft Farms, and stalking the pin to check on the shot he believed he holed from 181 yards out. Lang found his ball in the cup on the par-five hole. His 6-iron produced a rare double-eagle 2 on the 490-yard hole.
If any of the players on the trip was destined for an albatross, it was the long-hitting Lang, who was one of the lucky few who made it through the media lottery last month at Augusta and shot an 80.
Through two days, the trip has been full of sun, waves, incredible seafood (Cobalt, Tacky Jacks), and fabulous golf at four courses, each with a unique signature. Here’s how I rate the courses so far.
- Gulf Shores Golf Club – The oldest of the nine courses in the Gulf Shores region dates to 1964 but doesn’t show its age. The smooth bent grass greens are the best we’ve played on the trip. Parkland-style course is extremely flat, but holes have plenty of definition thanks to tall trees, beautiful white sand bunkers, and subtle shaping. Course was renovated in 2005 by Jay and Carter Morrish.
- Cypress Band at Craft Farms – Arnold Palmer design includes an 18 holer, Cypress Bend, and another older, more tree-lined 18, Cotton Creek. Cypress Bend has been the most playable course so far with wide fairways and generous, fast greens. Best hole was No. 13 a par five over water that measures 543 yards, but can be much shorter for players daring to hit over the lake instead of taking the safer route to the left.
- Lost Key Golf Club – Close enough to the gulf to have a continuous breeze. Keeping tee shots in the fairway is challenging as many slope away on either side. Best advice is to hit plenty hybrids and utility woods off the tee. The most visually appealing course so far, but the least playable. Greens are smooth and true, but surprisingly slow. One of two Arnold Palmer designed facilities in Alabama. Formerly tree-lined, but course changed radically after Hurricane Katrina knocked down 10,000 trees. Now it’s a windswept links.
- Glenlakes Club – Course has 27 holes, with each nine created by a different designer. Most interesting nine is the 3554-yard Dunes, which has surprising elevation change and many fairways framed by man-made dunes. The Dunes is little too contrived with all the earth-moving that was required, but is still a worthy and unique test. Price is right at this inexpensive course.