Developed by the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, the two 18-hole layouts operated by Dancing Rabbit Golf Club at Pearl River Resort are late 1990s co-designs by Tom Fazio and Jerry Pate. The Azaleas came first, debuting in 1997, with the slightly shorter – though tougher – Oaks course following two years later.
The heavily wooded courses are built on ancestral land belonging to the Native American tribe, with the waters of Wolf Creek coming into play a number of times on the Azaleas course, most notably on the 453-yard 3rd, the 456-yard 12th and 527-yard 17th, where the creek encroaches on both the fairway and the green.
agronomic make-up of the two Dancing Rabbit 18-hole layouts are completely
different – the Oak s features Zoysia fairways and Bermuda greens whereas the
Azaleas has Bermuda fairways and A-4 Bentgrass greens. Combined, the courses
extend to more than 500 acres, with five miles of wandering creeks adding both
beauty and challenge.
In Golf Magazine’s Top 100 Courses You Can Play book by Brian McCallen, the author states: “It’s difficult to single out feature holes on this seamless, flawless 18 that opened to instant acclaim in 1997. The quartet of one-shotters, three of which plunge sharply downhill, are exceptional.
“The 8th hole, rated the toughest on the course, and stretching to 465 yards from the tips, is one of the finest par fours in the nation. The driving area is generously wide, but the approach must be rifled into a chute of trees, the green tucked deep in the woods and well-defended by bunkers.
“The 9th and 18th holes, both testing par fours graced by strategic water features, are memorable Nassau nightmares that can make or break a match. A pure golf experience unsullied by real estate, Dancing Rabbit is anchored by a clubhouse described as ‘the house your grandmother should have lived in’. It’s a three-story, plantation-style brick structure with high ceilings and two wrap-around verandas overlooking rolling, wooded hills.”
The Azaleas course at Dancing Rabbit is a good resort course. The first hole is welcoming. A straightforward slightly uphill par four with a fairway bunker left and greenside front left. The first par five is reachable. Pretty darn straight but the fairway does tilt left. There is a creek left and a fairway bunker on the left as well. There is not much risk on this hole so go for the reward. The 3rd has a split fairway. The right is the high side and offers the better approach angle but you will get closer going down the left side. There are several pot bunkers that will really only come into play if you do not commit and execute your drive. The creek continues down the left side with a large fairway bunker left and a large greenside bunker left. This is a crowned green middle to front and middle to back. Tough hole. The first par 3 is downhill, take one club less, bunker right and creek left and behind the green. The 5th is a 3 shot par five. Tight, long and the last third uphill. That pesky creek is also on the left of this hole. For your second shot make sure you are inside the left fairway bunker. This green is well protected with bunkers left front. The 6th is a good birdie oppty. A short par four dogleg left, however the grade tilts right. This is a two tiered green. The 7th is another short par 3, while it is downhill it is not as much as it appears. There is a large bunker left and this green does slope right to left and back. The 8th is a long par four, not sure why it is the number one handicap hole. Favor the left off the tee, but make sure you avoid the large waste bunker left. The approach will be over a valley to a relatively flat green. The9th looks a lot tighter than it is, but you must go down the left side. Right risks be blocked out, not to mention the fairway bunker and water hazard. That pesky creek remains left along with a greenside bunker and a green that lists left as well.
The back starts with a reachable slight dogleg right par 5. There is a little more risk on this one as the bunkers near the green have some teeth and I had trouble with this green. The short 11th is a birdie oppty. On the left there is a plateau about 125 yards out. If you go longer and/or right you may have a blind shot over a deep right bunker. The 12th is a downhill drive dogleg left with an uphill approach. The creek that bisects the fairway really should not come into play and the green is protected left and right with greenside bunkers. The 13th is another downhill par 3. There are two greenside bunkers right and the creek is in front of the green. This green slopes significantly back to front. The 14th is a short par four and an excellent birdie oppty. Avoid the waste bunker left. There are two front left bunkers and the green rolls back to front left. The short 15th is another birdie oppty. Big hitters may be able to get home in two. You may want to consider laying up off the tee and favor the right side. The 16th is an uphill par 3 to a redan green with a bunker in front left. The last par 5 is tight and should be played as a 3 shotter, unless you can hit it over the creek that bisects the fairway. A straight t shot is required to avoid the left fairway bunker and the creek on the right that cuts across the fairway. For the second shot favor the right side of the fairway to give yourself the best attack angle at the flag. The 18th is a good finishing hole. Long and with trouble greenside, a par here is earned.
Classic resort course
Opened in 1997, the Azalea Course was recently renovated in 2016 changing to new Bermuda fairways and Tiff Eagle greens. Add to the fact that this layout already has dramatic elevation changes with spectacular scenery, this course is one of my favourites in Mississippi. There are numerous memorable holes here including the following.
The 3rd hole is downhill par-4 has a two-tiered fairway. My advice is to play your tee shot to the right on the upper plateau for the best angle at the green.
The 4th is a downhill par-3 with water on the left side that wraps behind the green and the right side is protected by a bunker.
5th is a par-5 where your second shot must land inside the 150-yard marker as the green is tucked uphill to the right with four bunkers protecting anything short right.
The 9th hole starts with an intimidating tee shot to a narrow fairway having a creek running down the entire left side and around the green.
The 17th par-5 is downhill with a creek that runs along the right side and crosses the fairway around the 150-yard mark and continues down the left side to the green. Your drive is relatively open, but your second shot is where all the trouble begins since a large bunker protects the front of the green.
I noticed that 18th hole is the only one that is uphill so bring your camera.
The greens are large, and the overall conditioning is great except for a few tee blocks area. This course is not to be missed.
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