When you start thinking about summer and where to go and what to do, the Gulf Coast is always at the top of the list. Orange Beach, Dauphin Island, and of course, Gulf Shores all have a lot to offer, especially in the ways of golf. Whether you’re a novice, got big bucks to spend, or a zealous hacker, living and dying with each shot, the Gulf Coast has courses for you.
Diamond in the Rough – Glenlakes Golf Course, just twelve miles north of Gulf Shores, offers 27 holes of pristine golf. The views are beautiful, the fairways are lush, and the layout isn’t too strenuous for the weekend warrior on vacation. Cost is about normal for the area, $65.00 for 18-holes, but right now they are aerating the greens, which have the cost of a normal round down to just $25.00. And if you have the stamina, you can go for 27 holes in one day of play. Bonus: The Tangier Outlet Shopping Center is just a 0.5 mile away, which could be a great option for the shoppers in the family whilst you are hacking your way out of a sand trap.
Best Value – Silver King in Irvington, Alabama, just outside of Bayou La Batre, is off the beaten path. But, if you want to see where Forrest Gump went shrimpin and take in a little golf, this is the place, and it’s good for any pocket book. At $35.00 for 18-holes, you can ignore some of the lack of attention to the fairways. Greens are in good shape, and the layout is killer, especially number 14, a vicious par five with a sweeping dogleg left, not to mention the water in front of the green. A course on its way up in the world, and it could use the patronage.
Eat Your Wheaties – If you got the stamina, don’t miss Kiva Dunes in Gulf Shores. On this Jerry Pate designed course, you better bring your “A” game with you as well. With water all over, intermixed with sand and wind from the coast, you’ll have your work cut out for you. But in the end, if you survive, you will have stories to tell in the bar afterwards. Not too hard on the wallet either, at only $79.00, and that includes cart, greens fees, and range balls.
Don’t Miss – If you’ve ever traveled down I-65, you’ve seen the signs for the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail. Jones, a masterful golf architect, laid out some of the finest golf courses in the country, right down the middle of the state. One of the furthest south you can visit is Magnolia Grove in Mobile. Whether you choose “The Falls” or “The Crossings”, you’ll be delighted in some sweeping landscapes and layouts that will test every shot in your bag. The best part about Magnolia Grove are the tee boxes, they are calculated by handicap, not length of shot, so talent is desired if you want to hit from the back tees. The Grove is extremely affordable at $46.00 for this don’t miss golf experience.
Avoid Like The Plague – No one likes a bad review, but if you’re staying on Dauphin Island or think you might like to take the ferry over for some golf, don’t. Visit the Estuarium or stop by the Chevron gas station for a great cheeseburger, but do not waste your time, money, or spirit on the Isle Dauphine Golf Club. At $30 to play, you’ll be wanting not only your money back, but demanding they pay you for those hours of your life that you’ll never get back. The wind, sand, and layout could all be forgivable and considered great challenges, if it weren’t in such poor condition. This course is just not playable. Drive 20 more minutes west and check out Silver King.
Honorable Mention – If you still have time, and your spouse will let you hit the links again and again, three more course spring to mind. If you want cheap, head east of Gulf Shores to the Gulf State Park Golf Course. Owned and operated by the Alabama State Parks, it’ll only run you $36.00 for 18 and a cart, and you may even see a gator or two. Or if you want to feel like a pro, check out Craft Farms and their two courses, Cotton Creek and Cyprus Bend. These Arnold Palmer designs are majestic and still fairly affordable at only $79 in the morning or less if you want to take on the heat of the afternoon.
Ben Linder is Director of Youth and Children’s Formation at Epiphany Parish and southern expat. He currently lives in Seattle , Washington. Avid golfer and writer.