Published: Nov/Dec 2003

Take a shot at more off-season golf

In Branson, Mo., temperatures during November and early December are mild and comfortable, making it an ideal time to capture another game of golf before Old Man Winter settles in.

Integrating course design with rugged Ozark Mountain topography, the courses are both scenic and challenging. Overlooking the sweeping mountain views and the scenic hillside terrain, the Branson area–a southwest Missouri vacation mecca–has nine 18-hole courses and two nine-hole courses, including Top of the Rock designed by Jack Nicklaus, to try. Contact the Branson/ Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce at 1-800-477-2751 or for more information. Details on the Branson Area Golf Council’s six member courses are at

Louisiana’s Audubon Golf Trail. Several courses statewide designed by masters like Hal Sutton and Arnold Palmer wait for golfers year round. From Bossier City in the northwestern corner of Louisiana to New Orleans, golfers will enjoy great golf at affordable rates plus unforgettable food and music.

Contact the Audubon Golf Trail at
1-866-AGT-INLA (866-248-4652) or click on

The Magnolia Golf Trail (MGT) recently was unveiled in Mississippi. It features 14 courses designed by the likes of Arnold Palmer and Jerry Pate.

For more information, call 1-866-468-7245 or click on www.magnoliagolf

–Compiled by AAA Midwest Traveler staff

Give this a shot
Before the cold weather comes, plot a course for off-season golf destinations

By Al and Lynnette Horn

Falling leaves and browning zoysia signal the end of the golfing season for some golfers. They retire their soft spikes and pack up their golf bags until spring rains will make the fairways green.

Others stock up on supplies at end-of-season clearance sales and hit the road in a quest to find the best possible conditions, which require a combination of good weather and course maintenance.

The unpredictability of the weather can make this endeavor challenging, but not without its rewards. Overall, off-season golf has a lot to offer. It keeps your game polished and your body limber, while providing opportunities to try championship courses usually at reduced off-season rates. Tee times are more readily available and the play more leisurely. Most important, summer’s nuisances–mosquitoes, heat and humidity–are no longer a factor.

Three regions worth trying for golf getaways are Lake of the Ozarks, the Mississippi Delta and the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

Lake of the Ozarks

Picturesque Lake of the Ozarks, situated in central Missouri just off Highway 54, has 14 courses that are part of the Lake of the Ozarks Golf Council. Average daytime temperatures are almost 57 degrees in November and 46 degrees in December. It’s not unusual to encounter local wildlife–squirrels, rabbits, ducks, turkeys, deer and an occasional chipmunk–on the courses. Steep knolls and hollows surrounding the lake provide panoramic vistas and would challenge any golfer.

The Oaks at Tan-Tar-A Resort and Witch’s Cove, a Robert Trent Jones Sr. course at The Lodge of Four Seasons, are two spectacular examples that have been carved out of the lakeside forestry. They are characterized by narrow rolling fairways and luscious scenery.

While semi-private Witch’s Cove is open to guests at the lodge and to the public on a limited basis, Four Seasons also offers an 18-hole public course, Seasons Ridge, which is as beautiful as it is challenging. In addition to breathtaking views of the lake and limestone cliffs of the Ozark hills, it features more than 180 feet of elevation change.

If steep inclines and narrow fairways are a problem, Dogwood Hills Golf Club has the solution. Its gentler grades and wider fairways are easy on the knees, while still providing a challenge.

“The course sets up well for ladies, kids and seniors,” said General Manager Cliff Easum.

The Lake of the Ozarks Golf Council makes booking a golf getaway through participating resorts and hotels simple, utilizing the Golf-A-Round Package program. It entitles the golfer a double occupancy room, plus green fee and shared cart rental for 18 holes a day at one price.

Mississippi Delta

Traveling southeast from the Ozarks, the next stop for the perfect off-season game is the Delta region of northeast Mississippi. Fifteen courses can be found there, in particular, the links-style courses of Tunica County, just 30 minutes south of Memphis. These three courses were literally sculpted out of cotton fields. Lakes were dug out to provide water challenges, and the displaced soil was used to create undulating fairways and numerous berms.

Professional champion golfer Hale Irwin designed Cottonwoods at Grand Casino Tunica. Its gently rolling fairways, three lakes and five sets of tee boxes make this an enjoyable course for expert and novice alike.

Harrah’s, Hollywood and Sam’s Town casinos contracted Clyde Johnston to design River Bend Links. Situated along the Mississippi River, the course is landscaped by lakes, sand and grass bunkers, with strategically located mounds.

At press time, the Tunica National Golf and Tennis Center, located on U.S. Highway 61 north, was set to open in October. Its 8,000-square-foot clubhouse is surrounded by a 212-acre tournament-level golf course designed by Mark McCumber. A driving range that offers partially enclosed tee boxes to withstand inclement weather, a six-hole golf school and four indoor clay tennis courts utilizing advanced technology also are part of the center. In addition, with state-of-the-art global positioning satellite (GPS) technology on every cart, ball position can be tracked and distances automatically calculated. All the area resorts will offer packages with Tunica National.

“Weather in the winter is a crap shoot,” said Webster Franklin, president and CEO of the Tunica Convention and Visitors Bureau. “But most days are playable.”

First frost hits around mid- to late-December. Traffic on the courses is typically lighter in the off-season, but still plan ahead. It’s best to book tee times when making accommodation arrangements.

Mississippi Gulf Coast

As the frost line moves south, so does the search for good golf. It doesn’t get any better than along the Mississippi Gulf Coast, where 20 courses surround the Gulfport-Biloxi area. Golf packages and discounts through resorts and casinos are readily available, but the rates run higher mid-February through mid-April when tourism is at its peak.

Windance Country Club in Gulfport, designed by Mark McCumber, offers rolling fairways carved out of forests and large multi-tiered greens. It has played host to numerous professional tournaments, such as the Ben Hogan Tour, the Nike Tour, the Senior Series and the World Power Golf Championship. PGA champion Jim Furyk won his first professional tournament here in 1993.

The Oaks Golf Club, located just one mile south of Interstate 10 in Pass Christian, is another PGA championship course worth visiting. The course, which opened in 1998, hosted the Nike Tour’s Mississippi Gulf Coast Classic just a year later. While the greens are open and accessible, stretches of natural wetlands and signature bunkers add challenge to this course.

Do not overlook the Great Southern Golf Club, situated on scenic U.S. Highway 90 overlooking the white sandy shoreline of the Gulf of Mexico. The course, which was designed by Donald Ross and established in 1908, is the oldest in Mississippi.

Once a regular stop on the PGA tour, the Great Southern hosted the 1945 Gulfport Open where Sam Snead defeated Byron Nelson in a 19-hole playoff.

The Great Southern has since been renovated, but the traditional square greens remain and a sense of its history still lingers.

Two additional courses sure to offer good golf and plenty of great scenery are Jack Nicklaus’ The Grand Bear, built for the Grand Casino Resort, and Arnold Palmer’s Bridges at Casino Magic Resort.

Located just north of Gulfport, the Grand Bear serpentines 7,200 yards through pristine pine forests. Bridges, aptly named for its 21 cart bridges that span 35 acres of federal wetlands, is a challenge for even the most skilled.

Off-season golf can provide plenty of enjoyment and activities good for the heart, soul and mind. Whether your quest involves the perfect shot, the perfect round or simply a honing of your skills for next summer’s season, it’s easy to see there’s plenty of golf adventure to be found just a comfortable drive away.

Al and Lynnette Horn are avid golfers and new contributors from Wentzville, Mo.

Before you go

For information on lodging, attractions, events and golf, contact:
• Lake of the Ozarks Convention and Visitors Bureau, 1-800-FUN-LAKE (800-386-5253) or A free golf guide from the Lake of the Ozarks Golf Council (1-800-490-8474) lists the participating resorts and courses available in Golf-A-Round packages.
• Tunica CVB 1-(888) 4TUNICA (888-488-6422) or
• Mississippi Gulf Coast CVB 1-888-467-4853 or
• Gulf Coast Golf Association, (228) 374-4653 or, offers a free golf guide.
To plan your off-season golf trip, stop by your nearest AAA service office for maps, TripTiks and TourBook guides.

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