The Azaleas and Oaks courses at Dancing Rabbit Golf Club are golfing amenities of the Pearl River Resort, owned and operated by the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians. Designed by Tom Fazio and Jerry Pate, the Azaleas appeared first in 1997, followed two years later by the Oaks.
Both courses are routed through densely forested terrain to the west of Philadelphia, on ancestral land owned by the Native American tribe. Strangely enough, the grasses used to construct the two 18-hole layouts are entirely different: the Azaleas is carpeted with Bermuda fairways and bent grass greens while the Oaks features Zoysia fairways and Bermuda greens.
Unlike its older sibling, The Oaks is routed in an out-and-back fashion and there’s a half-way house situated conveniently at the turn, close to the 10th tee boxes. Grass fronted bunkers help to defend par on this course, and several ponds also come into play. A little escarpment is encountered at the 6th, 16th and 17th, bringing quite a bit of interesting elevation change into proceedings.
The Oaks Course is another collaborative design by Tom Fazio and Jerry Pate. The course is delicately cut though a hilly white oak and pine forest with four ponds and meandering rivers that come into play on seven holes. Opened in 1999, the younger sibling offers wider fairways. Layout-wise it seems to be the easier but be forewarned. The Champion Bermuda greens average forty paces long and usually run around 10 on the Stimpmeter so expect some three putts.
Director of Golf, Mark Powell summed it up the best. “The trouble here seems to be either left or right where as Azalea trouble is on both sides”. I now understand since most of the fairways slope towards the hazard.
Even though there are only two forced carries from the white tees, you will find numerous risk/reward opportunities to tempt your bravado.
One of the unique features here is “cart paths are hidden so they do not obstruct your view” as Mark explained. Plus, all tee blocks seem to be elevated making it a photographer’s dream.
There are so many memorable holes here but the 18th hole sums up the course the best. The finishing hole forces you to split a tight fairway to avoid the large bunkers on both sides. From there you need a precise mid to long-iron to avoid the pond on the left and long, yet still be in position for any chance on this well contoured green.
Both courses are spectacular. If you like to gamble, the adjacent Pearl River Resort is the ideal place to stay and play.
To read more about Dave Finn's golf travel adventures visit www.golftravelandleisure.com