GOLFING AND EXPLORING THE JACKSON, MISSISSIPPI AREA
Dancing Rabbit, Quail Hollow, Sanderson Farms Heritage Pro-Am
Story & Photos by: Ed Stone
|Recently, GoGolfandTravel.com visited four of the more than 140 golf courses in the State of Mississippi. These courses are not only most affordable, but the area also offers a wide range of activities for the entire family including southern cuisine and entertainment.
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|Dancing Rabbit meanders over 700 rolling and diverse acres with about 2-plus miles of creeks and streams.
The first two were located at Dancing Rabbit Golf Club – an amenity of the Pearl River Resort near Philadelphia – about 75 minutes northeast of Jackson. It features two Tom Fazio and Jerry Pate designed courses called The Azaleas and The Oaks. The third course was Quail Hollow, an Arthur Hills design near McComb, in Percy Quin State Park (75 minutes south of Jackson). Our final course was Country Club of Jackson, where the PGA TOUR’s annual Sanderson Farms Championship is played. This was not your usual round of golf, rather, a tournament pro-am.
Of course, we also had the opportunity to experience restaurants, casinos and other attractions we think our readers will enjoy when visiting the area.
You will not want to miss Dancing Rabbit. Before describing the Dancing Rabbit courses, some background information about this special place is worthwhile. Located on ancestral lands of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, the golf club name stems from the Big and Little Dancing Rabbit Creeks. Both the world-class Pearl River Resort and Dancing Rabbit courses are living tributes to the tribe and this beautiful land.
|In the background beyond this par 3 is the Golden Moon Hotel & Casino. Pearl River Resort also has Geyser Falls Water Theme Park.
|The Dancing Rabbit Inn with our dedicated golf cart.
Pearl River Resort (www.pearlriverresort.com) consists of the Silver Star Hotel & Casino, Golden Moon Hotel & Casino, Dancing Rabbit Golf Club and Geyser Falls Water Theme Park. For golfers, this is the perfect long-weekend or week-long family getaway.
Our stay at Dancing Rabbit (www.dancingrabbitgolf.com) was idyllic. There are eight clubhouse rooms upstairs, with the golf shop and grill downstairs. A clubhouse room stay comes with a dedicated golf cart. They are used for playing golf or visiting the Silver Star Hotel and Casino (a short, well-routed drive through scenic woods to the resort). Resort guests and visitors can enjoy a sumptuous meal at Phillip M’s award-winning steakhouse. We certainly did. There’s also a sports bar and grill, a variety of other dining options, along with a full-service spa, retail offerings and live entertainment.
Teeing up on the first hole of The Azalea is a bit intimidating from the tips and next tee box, thanks to forced carries of 170 to 145 yards, Once playing, however, you’ll quickly settle into a blissful state of mind, as this is one of Fazio and Pate’s best. They have taken full advantage of the terrain, native trees and turf. The par-72 course has five sets of tees, ranging from 5,097 to 7,076 yards, and leads you to pull just about every club in your bag. The fairways consist of Bermuda and Zoysia while the greens are Champion Bermuda.
|The Oaks course plays entirely different than The Azalea, although both offer five sets of tees.
The Oaks course plays entirely different than The Azalea, although both offer five sets of tees. The first fairway is generous and wide, allowing the average golfer a comfortable start. Tee boxes measure 4,909 to 7,128 yards with Bermuda and Zoysia fairways and A-4 Bent grass greens.
Dancing Rabbit meanders over 700 rolling and diverse acres with about 2-plus miles of creeks and streams. There are no homes on either course and one can relish the glorious, unspoiled natural setting throughout a round.
Pairing Tom Fazio and Jerry Pate to design these 36 beautiful holes on some very sacred land was a stroke of genius. Those of us familiar with Fazio know him for creating tough, bold courses. Pate on the other hand has a more compassionate approach by not designing many forced carries or blind shots on courses. The results are outstanding, delivering two very different and playable golf courses.
Overall, Dancing Rabbit and the other Pearl River Resort amenities make for a great golf and family destination. We found the staff to be most cordial and ready to accommodate our every need – true Southern hospitality.
|Quail Hollow Golf Course located at Percy Quin State Park offer fairways that are open and forgiving.
Quail Hollow couldn’t be more different from Dancing Rabbit and is indicative of the state’s diverse golf options. Located in McComb, just off I-55, lies the inspired Arthur Hills-authored Quail Hollow Golf Course (www.quailhollowgc.com). Most of the fairways are open and forgiving. From the tips, the length is 6,740 yards for this par-72 design, with a course rating of 71.9 and a slope rating of 118.
Percy Quin State Park was built in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). However, the golf course was opened in 1996 and is first-class in every respect. There are three lakes on the course providing irrigation and coming into play on four of the 18 holes.
The terrain is perfect for this course. Hills took advantage of gently rolling hills to make it a most enjoyable, yet challenging layout. Surrounding the fairways and greens are loblolly pines, magnolia trees and seasonal flowers. For those traveling on to New Orleans, the city is just 90 minutes from the golf course. Beside golf, Percy Quin also offers an abundance of outdoor activities, including fishing, hiking, nature trails and campgrounds (for both tents and motorhomes).
Going from Quail Hollow to playing Country Club of Jackson – as part of the Sanderson Farms Championship Heritage Pro-Am – was an exciting first. I had never played in a Pro-Am, which provides a great taste of professional golf.
|The “Draw Party” is held where amateur participants gather to select the PGA TOUR pro with whom they will play the next day.
The evening before the pro-am, a “Draw Party” is held where amateur participants gather to select the PGA TOUR pro with whom they will play the next day. A computer program provides the order of team selections in a random manner (think of lottery balls popping up). Once “on the clock” (35 seconds to announce a team’s selection), teams choose their professional playing partner, based on player and tee-time preferences. Our team had penciled in about 10 pros we prioritized, hoping to select one that had a reasonable morning tee time.
As luck would have it, we were the third out of 48 groups to select our PGA TOUR member. We picked Charles Howell III (www.charleshowell3.com), who, unfortunately, had the unholy tee time of 6:25 a.m. But on the brighter side, Howell is from my home state of Georgia (Augusta) and we would finish well before the day’s rain threat.
Like nights before early morning flights and other similar situations, I didn’t sleep well, wondering if my wakeup call would happen or if the alarm clock was set correctly. Rising at 4:30am is not my norm. The other two guys on my team were in the lobby and ready to go when I arrived at 5:30am. A quick bite of breakfast at the country club was much needed along with plenty of coffee. Then off to the practice tee. Unfortunately, as we arrived, we were called to the first tee for photos and introductions. It was pitch dark. Without flood lights from the driving range, there was no way to see where the drives were going.
|Walking with and watching a top PGA TOUR professional up close is most gratifying.
Our introduction to Howell was very pleasant and he was most gracious. As we were introduced and exchanged pleasantries, a glimmer of light peaked over the horizon and the round was begun. Howell hit his first drive some 300 yards and into the darkness. Ian Thompson from Birmingham, Ala., a 4-handicapper, went next, followed by Detroit’s Tom Lang, who hit a decent drive down the middle. Then it was my turn, and with the lengthy check list in my mind, I stepped up and hit the ball down the middle, a bit over 200 yards. I was pleased.
The round was extremely enjoyable, each of us chatting with Howell and our caddies who were local high school golf team players. My caddie was Keaton Belk, a junior at Jackson High and plays to a 4 or 5 handicap, from the tips. He was perfect for my game and helped with reading the greens, selecting clubs, etc.
Walking with and watching a top PGA TOUR professional up close is most gratifying. Howell hits the ball off the tee consistently straight, typically 300-plus yards when using his driver. His approach shots were accurate and his putting excellent. Under the conditions, he was very relaxed, yet would often consult with his caddie, Henry Diana, regarding swing pattern, alignment and any other element where his game needed attention.
I must say that our amateur teammate Ian Thompson gave Howell some competition on the back nine with some long drives. Of course, Howell was playing from the tips and we were playing from the white tees. Tom Lang and I held our own and thoroughly enjoyed the round. Howell was most attentive and would call each of us by our first names when we made a good shot or putt. He was courteous to have photos made with each of the caddies. He is a true Southern Gentleman.
Our team won fifth place in the Heritage Pro-Am with no trophies, but a lot of great memories to share for a long, long time. On Sunday, Howell tied for 14th place in the $4 million Sanderson Farms Championship (www.sandersonfarmschampionship.com). He earned $66,000, which isn’t bad for a week’s work. Nick Taylor took first place, garnering $720,000 – a great week’s work.
|A super package for great value in golf, cuisine and entertainment.
|(Top to Bottom) Lucky Town Brewery, Hal & Mal's and Saltine's Restaurant.
Adding to our Mississippi trip enjoyment was a tour and microbrew sampling at Lucky Town Brewery (www.luckytownbrewing.com) in Jackson. The brewery debuted in mid-November 2014, an exciting next step for a company that opened in 2011 by contract brewing from the Back Forty Beer Co. in Gadsden, Ala. Lucky Town has found a home in Jackson and has an annual capacity of 3,600 barrels, with ample room for expansion. Current plans call for distribution in Mississippi to start, then potential new markets to follow.
One of our best surprises while visiting Mississippi was dinner at Saltine’s Restaurant (www.saltinerestaurant.com). The 100-seat eatery is located in the former Duling School building in an area of Jackson called Fondren. Although it is identified as an oyster bar, it emphasizes Southern dishes like catfish, barbeque and cornbread. Be advised, this is not your typical cuisine of the south.
Owner-Chef Jesse Houston and his wife Rachel open for lunch and dinner Tuesday through Sunday. As you might expect, the name comes from the saltine cracker often served with seafood…especially raw oysters. Saltine’s offers about 30 taps of craft beer – including several from Lucky Town – in the 3,000-square-foot restaurant with open-air patio. We highly recommend you give this one a visit.
Mississippi is well known as the birthplace of blues music, much of it created in the Clarksdale area. However, two brothers, Hal and Malcolm White (along with Vivian Pigott Neill) created a Jackson venue called Hal & Mal’s (www.halandmals.com). It presents some of the best regional and national blues artists, and also showcases foods of the region. They occupy the GM&O freight deport, which was built around 1923 and offers four different rooms for dining, special events, concerts and banquets. On any given night you can find performers giving their soulful all, surrounded by blues-history memorabilia and enthusiastic patrons. This is a perfect place to soak in the true atmosphere of Southern foods and indigenous music.
Dancing Rabbit, Pearl River Resort, Quail Hollow, Saltine’s, Hal & Mal’s give us a cross-section of what Mississippi has to offer for both the golfer and traveler. The golf courses are truly some of the best at reasonable prices. This area has a climate allowing year-round play and offering accommodations for every price range. We found the selection of restaurants can be casual to upscale, depending on your taste and budget. The music and entertainment is authentic and enjoyable. What a super package for those looking for a great value in golf, cuisine and entertainment.
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|FOR MORE INFORMATION:
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P.O. Box 849
Jackson, MS 39201
Dancing Rabbit Golf Club & Pearl River Resort & Casino
13541 Highway 16 West
Choctaw, Mississippi 39350
Quail Hollow Golf Course
1102 Percy Quin Drive
McComb, MS 39648-7565
622 DULING AVE, SUITE 201
JACKSON, MS 39216
Hal & Mal's Blues Bar & Restaurant
200 South Commerce Street
Jackson, Mississippi 39204-4406