Golfing Magazine Online - http://www.publinksgolfer.net
Gulf Shores Alabama
http://www.publinksgolfer.net/articles/381/1/Gulf-Shores-Alabama/Page1.html
Leonard Finkel
 
By Leonard Finkel
Published on 10/16/2007
 

A Sparkling Alabama Coast Golf Getaway


Alabama has a scenic shoreline on the Gulf Coast of Mexico which is home to an excellent group of nearby golf courses known collectively as the Gulf Shores Golf Association.

If you’re not aware of Gulf Shores, or that Alabama had Gulf-front tremendous real estate, you’re not alone. But that is increasingly changing as the area is becoming known as a must-visit, beachy golf oasis.

It includes 32 miles of sugar-white sand beaches, luxury beach homes, stay-and-play condos, a wide array of restaurants serving fresh catches of the day, and many other amenities, including deep sea charter boat fishing, shopping for the ladies, and many family themed attractions (parks, rides, etc).

The golf in Gulf Shores is above average and includes nine championship courses.

We’ll start with Craft Farms because, well, golf in Gulf Shores started there. Craft Farms boasts 36, Arnold Palmer-designed holes of first-rate golf built on hundreds of acres of old coastal wilderness. The land was formerly a gladiola nursery and then a sod farm – perfect ingredients and a great setting for golf courses.

The Cotton Creek championship 18 takes you through soft rolling hills, quiet lakes, with groves of pine, oak, and cypress trees framing the pristine fairways. The tranquil surroundings soothe while Mr. Palmer’s design continually challenges and delights.

Craft Farm’s Cypress Bend gives you plenty of room off the tee, but the greens are slick and well-guarded. It too is a pleasurable mix of diverse holes that isn’t pushover but not too penal either.

Next up is Kiva Dunes – a links course played through sand drifts and hollows with roughs of sea grass. Designed by Alabama native son Jerry Pate, Kiva Dunes is one of several highly acclaimed courses designed by the former U.S. Open Champion, who regularly visits Kiva Dunes.

Mr. Pate’s layout demands consideration of the wind gusts off the nearby Gulf before attempting your shots. Many of the dune-flanked green fronts are able to accept old school “keep-it-out-of-the-breeze” approach shots, and those that don’t offer “safe” options which can avoid the abundant mix of marsh, scrub brush and sand which frame virtually all the holes.

Arnold Palmer-designed Lost Key Golf Club is just across the nearby Florida border. Yes, a Gulf Shores Golf Association course is in Florida. But it might as well be Gulf Shores given its similar terrain and proximity. And Lost Key is essentially brand new, having been renovated recently and reopened last summer.

Owned by the luxury real estate developer WCI, Lost Key features a brand clubhouse and stay-and-play condos, both wonderful, convenient additions. Lost Key was the first golf course in the world to be certified as an Audubon International Silver Signature Sanctuary.

It’s a very tight course with many environmental areas framing the fairways. Keeping the ball straight and in play is paramount at Lost Key, which, due to its emphasis on environmental sensitivity and substantial unspoiled areas has the feel of going back in time.

There are nine golf club members in the Gulf Shores Golf Association. Peninsula Golf and Racquet Club is a 27-hole beauty managed by the superb Honours Golf company. They offer everything from barrels of apples on ice at the first tee of all three nines to mango scented towels during heat waves to delivering insect repellant towlettes if the humidity rises and the breeze dies down. Then there’s the golf, three very different nines, all worth playing. Peninsula is a must-visit part of the GSGA.

There are other fine GSGA member courses, nine in all. Rock Creek, Timbercreek, Glenlakes and Soldiers Creek. Unfortunately I didn’t get to play them all in our four-day visit. But I am already planning a return visit in the spring with my golfing buddies.

To make your Alabama Gulf Shores visit stress-free, contact the Gulf Shores Golf Association for their myriad of stay-and-play packages at www.golfgulfshores.com, or call 888/815-1902 for details. There are all types of resort-style accommodations available.