Have you ever dreamed about playing one of American golf’s top 36-hole resorts or testing your game at an elite golf club that has often been given ‘Top 100’ status? Are you game for a 3-5 day getaway to also experience some wonderful Southern hospitality and gourmet Southern food? I just discovered exactly where you could accomplish this. What’s more, it’s a most worthwhile and affordable golf getaway. The place is Mississippi and the golf courses are the exciting Dancing Rabbit courses and the esteemed Old Waverly Golf Club located in “The Pines Region.”
Flying into Columbus, Mississippi or Jackson a bit further away, you will discover the wonderful warm hospitality that Mississippi is famous for plus some great golf in the Dancing Rabbit courses of the Pearl River Resort and the Old Waverly Golf Club. Interestingly, touring professional Jerry Pate consulted with Tom Fazio and Bob Cupp respectively while learning the golf course design craft. Either way, the look and feel between the two facilities is refreshingly different.
Starting with Old Waverly, this was originally a very exclusive private golf-only club built in the model of Augusta National complete with a golf-discriminating national membership and tasteful cottages. This Bob Cupp-designed layout has graced “Top 100” lists and is among the elite championship layouts of the Deep South.
Built upon fairly flat wooded and pasture land, Old Waverly features some interesting movement to the property as you explore the outgoing nine. When you traverse the wide corridors between the tall pines and majestic oaks, you realize that you are in for a complete test of championship golf especially when they grow the rough and firm up the greens.
I found the stretch between the 6th and 9th holes particularly engaging with two exceptionally picturesque holes in the forest followed by two strong meadow holes framed by wispy native grasses and abundant bunkering. Lake Waverly dominates five holes on what I would describe as a rather strong back nine with water the problem on left of no less than six holes. The coupe de grace is the 445-yard dogleg-left par-four 18th with water the entire way on the left side. You can cut off as much as you dare, making this is as dramatic a hole as you will likely ever face. The other thing worth mentioning is that the conditioning at Old Waverly is superb and the genteel antebellum ambiance rates favorably with any of the “pure” golf clubs in America.
Moving about a 90-minute drive to the north is the 36-hole Dancing Rabbit complex, which rates among the best two-course resort offerings in the Deep South. While Old Waverly’s business model is patterned after the Augusta National Golf Club, it is Dancing Rabbit that looks more like the Georgia club. Built upon the ancestral lands of the Mississippi Band of the Choctaw Indians, both courses here were primarily designed by Tom Fazio in consultation with Jerry Pate. While the Azalea Course has garnered slightly higher reviews, I will challenge you to pick a favorite. Both meander up and down through generous avenues among the tall pine and oaks with five miles of Dancing Rabbit Creek lacing through the property. Both can easily be set up for championship-caliber play.
Fazio is known for “painting” picturesque portrait-like golf holes and at Dancing Rabbit you just want to jump into the picture. The par-threes on both courses make for a delicious offering with elevated tees hitting at gorgeous greensites. I also enjoyed the engaging par-five holes. Again on both courses, Fazio presents many tantalizing risk-and-reward options for the good players, which is apt to keep you thinking as you play. The same applies to the two-shotters where a full-bore driver is not always the best play. Common to the Fazio look is the dramatic bunkering that will likely have you reaching for your camera at every opportunity.
The next piece of good news is that there are very attractive stay-and-play packages at both Old Waverly and the Dancing Rabbit Golf Courses, which are part of the Pearl River Resort. At Dancing Rabbit, there are a variety of enticingly affordable stay-and-play packages that range from a golf course home, luxurious clubhouse rooms, a Hilton Garden Inn, the Silver Star Hotel & Casino or the Golden Moon Hotel & Casino. And for a special dining experience, try the Miko Restaurant in the Silver Star Hotel & Casino. All make for a most convenient location by which you can enjoy the amenities of some fine dining as well as the casino.
Though these courses only scratch the surface of available great golf in Mississippi, I particularly recommend the Old Waverly-Dancing Rabbit combo as a superb, yet affordable way to experience elite private-style golf together with top-flight resort play. You can also experience a refreshingly interesting portion of America that epitomizes the Deep South. If you want to easily add in casino activities, great dining, smooth music, and more, it adds up to a great getaway!
For more information on each of the golf courses, consult my “Golf Course Reviews” on this website.