America’s Best Secret Golf Vacation Destination – Gulf Shores, Alabama?

The 6th at Lost Key Golf Club.

There are many popular, well-known American golf destinations worthy of your attention, but I am pleased to highlight a special one that has previously flown beneath the radar screen of most – the Gulf Shores, Alabama area.  And yes, with the BP oil situation resolved, that area of the Gulf Coast is open and ready for play, fishing, boating, swimming, or a host of other activities that you, your buddies, or family might choose.

How many courses do you typically play in your golf vacations?  Well, if it is nine or less, the greater Gulf Shores, Alabama area will fit you to a tee.  It possesses nine properties (several offering 27 or more holes) that are conveniently clustered close to one another.  In fact, it is very likely that your next course will be no more than fifteen to twenty minutes tops away from the one you are playing or maybe just five.

While there are other regions that offer many more golf courses, how many do you need?  Gulf Shores has the necessary balance and variety in offerings to give you all the different looks and challenges you could want.  What’s more, the pricing is right and the service is superior.  There is not a facility including Top 100-ranked Kiva Dunes that charges more than $95 at its peak time, and I would categorize the group as a downright bargain.

The Peninsula Golf & Racquet Club

Yes, the golf courses and the area in general suffered from the perception of what was happening with the BP oil spill.  Their misfortune is your opportunity, and you may never want to leave.  Below I will present compelling reasons why Gulf Shores, Alabama may be one of America’s best golf or vacation destinations.

Kiva Dunes

1.              Golf Course Quality – You will find really solid, playable golf courses.  Kiva Dunes evokes a links feel sitting close to the beach and is the only nationally Top 100 ranked course, but the others are imminently worthy.  I also particularly enjoyed the 27 holes at Timber Creek, the 36 at Craft Farms, and the pristine Cypress Nine at The Peninsula Golf & Racquet Club. The Dunes Nine at Glen Lakes Golf Club is a beautiful tough challenge on undulating property, and for those with uncanny accuracy, the swamp-lined Lost Key Golf Club will prove attractive.

2.              Golf Course Variety.  Variety is the spice of golf and the Gulf Shores area thankfully has it.  You can play coastal golf at Kiva Dunes or feel you are in the Carolinas playing the forested hills of Timber Creek, the flat boldly bunkered parkland style of Craft Farms, or the challenging swamp-lined Lost Key.  You will discover the work of the golf course designers Jerry Pate, Earl Stone, and the Arnold Palmer organization.  Suffice it to say that there is plenty of variety to provide you a different look and feel from course to course – hardly boring.

The beautiful hilly terrain of Timber Creek.

3.              Affordable Golf.  The highest rate at the peak time is $95 at Kiva Dunes (still a real bargain) and you can access golf for as little as the $30 vicinity.  What a value!

4.              Not a crowded “Golf Factory” environment.  While three times the number of people visit Myrtle Beach, eleven times partake Orlando, and twice the number go to Phoenix/Scottsdale, even during peak season, the Gulf Shores region is reminiscent of a sleepy little beach town and that extends to the golf courses.  The pace is much more relaxed and uncrowded.

A view of the Gulf of Mexico from the Lost Key Golf Club.

5.              Great Food. Not only are there many dining options around the area, but also many of the golf courses offer far better than the usual golf course menus.  For simple casual hometown dining and music, you must sample Lulu’s and for fantastic seafood fare at great prices, you will delight at The Original Oyster House – both situated on the water.

6.              Splendid White Beaches. Yes, I swam in the Gulf and it was clean and warm – simply gorgeous!  The area boasts some of the whitest, cleanest sand in America – reminiscent of the Caribbean islands, only closer.

7.              Affordable Lodging. There are a plethora of hotels and condo rooms for rent.  I was most fortunate to enjoy a gorgeous condo suite at the high-rise Beach Club, which makes luxury affordable for a group of eight at very economical prices (

The pristine Gulf beaches look pretty good in the morning from my room.

8.              World-Class Fishing. The Gulf Shores area boasts the largest private charter fleet in America, which should say something.  Your trip into the Gulf of Mexico will assure you of some of the best fishing anywhere!  (I was treated to a cruise with Captain Ricky McDuffie and I’d heartily recommend that you check him out at

9.              Shopping and Nightlife. Whether your tastes run from beachside boutiques to malls, there are plenty of interesting offerings for both kids and adults.  The same goes for the nightlife.  I particularly enjoyed “The Hangout” which features a variety of interesting offerings ranging from a suds machine for kids of all ages, playgrounds, live music, food and adult libations – and it’s right across from the beach.  For the more adventurous crowd, Florabama on the Florida-Alabama border may be worth investigating.

The Author enjoying the suds machine at "The Hangout."

10.          Gambling. If you want to gamble, the casinos of Biloxi, Mississippi are only a quick 90-mile jaunt west on I-10, which make for a perfect rainy day getaway or a convenient stop-off for those coming from the West.

11.          Easy Access. The Pensacola and Mobile airports are both conveniently located and the area is easily accessed by the Interstate Highway system.

12.          Service. I am a stickler for friendly service and it’s been a long time since I have experienced such uniformly superior friendly service as I did in Gulf Shores.  It not only included the eateries and golf courses, but also the lodging, shops, and everyone – how nice!

Craft Farms - Cypress Bend Course

The area golf course have smartly aligned themselves with one another to form the Gulf Shores Golf Association to provide a one-stop shop for information or help regarding your golf trip to the area.  I’d recommend that you refer to for further information.

The interesting thing about golf in the Gulf Shores, Alabama area is that it tends to cater to golf junkets in the spring and fall, but then the visitors are so impressed with the area that they bring their entire families back in the summer once school lets out.   Taking that a step further, after having played at least five golf courses in all fifty states, I’m on the lookout for where I may to eventually end up, and I might just want to have a permanent place here.  It’s a “Shore Thing” that you will enjoy your golf trip to Gulf Shores, Alabama, perhaps America’s best secret golf destination!

Author Bob Fagan on the par-3 12th at Kiva Dunes.

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