Golf Digest consistently ranks Old Waverly among their 100 Greatest Public Courses. You’ll see why as soon as you’re greeted by the magnificent lavender rose garden. From the fairways and lakes (stocked and supervised by Bill Dance) to the restaurants and villas, the attention to detail throughout this 360-acre property is astounding. I suggest arriving early on a Thursday to kick off your weekend in style. You’ll want plenty of time to explore the grounds and linger in the wine cellar. A tour of nearby Waverly Mansion is also recommended. Waverly is a members’ only club – but has a “stay and play” option. The cottages overlooking Lake Waverly are perfect for getting a few friends together.
Day two takes us an hour down the road to Dancing Rabbit in Choctaw, Mississippi.
Dancing Rabbit features two Tom Fazio/Jerry Pate courses: The Oaks and The Azaleas, which rank #27 and #34, respectively, in GolfWeek’s “Best Resort Courses.” Try your hand at both while you’re here. Each well-manicured course plays through the lush rolling pines of east Mississippi. The clubhouse offers lodging right on the course. Or if you want to take a break from golf for some different games, book a room at the nearly adjacent casinos of Pearl River Resort. Either way, you must enjoy dinner at Phillip M’s at the resort. This Wine Spectator award-winning restaurant is no gamble.
Today, we leave the pines for the white sands of the Mississippi Gulf Coast. It’s a 3 ½ hour drive. But that’s ok. Because Robert St. John’s outstanding restaurants in Hattiesburg break up the trip nicely: Tabella, Purple Parrot, Branch – they’re all great, and all conveniently located just off I-59. What a delicious detour. Fortified with a cup of gumbo and fried green tomatoes, it’s not much longer to the comforts of the Beau Rivage Resort & Casino in Biloxi.
Staying at the Beau Rivage also grants you access to the magnificent Fallen Oak golf course – another one of Golf Digest’s “100 Greatest Public Courses,” as well as one of the top-two casino courses in America according to Golf Week. Walking up to the clubhouse, it’s easy to see why. The alluring but challenging course is lined with centuries-old live oaks, magnolias, streams and marshlands. After the course works you over, you can always recover with a trip to the fantastic Beau spa – or a night in the casino. I also like to refuel with a fresh Gulf shrimp po-boy. There are too many recommendations to list here. Just pick out a deck on the Gulf of Mexico and go for it. It’ll be good.