Owned and operated by the Palace Casino Resort in nearby Biloxi, the course at The Preserve Golf Club is a new millennium design from Jerry Pate. It’s laid out within a 245-acre property that’s surrounded by cypress swamps, long leaf pine savannah and live oak groves.
Opened for play in 2006, The Preserve lies within 1,800 acres of nature conservancy and the layout borders, but doesn’t bring into play, the meandering waters of the Fort Bayou Creek. Only eight years after it was unveiled, the course underwent a major upgrade, with all the greens and bunkers renovated.
This course extends to 6,774 yards from the back markers so it’s not designed to beat golfers up for length. The par three 16th is considered the toughest hole on the scorecard at 225 yards, though the 442-yard 9th and 462-yard 18th are also formidable par fours to face at the end of both nines.
Stephen Miles, Director of Golf Operations kindly supplied the following:
Our greens are now TifEagle Bermudagrass with TifGrand Bermudagrass collars. All greens were completely rebuilt with most having the same contours as the originals. The green complexes that now have more “character” are on holes 3, 12-15 and 18.
We took advantage of the closure to replace our old bunker liner with Capillary Concrete (becoming the first course to do so with all 18 holes in the US) and the sand was replaced with a manufactured sand from Atlanta, known as G- Angle. This sand has held up well and provides a firmer, more consistent surface throughout the bunkers.
The complete rebuild of our greens was necessary due to a few factors.
Low quality dirty sand was chosen during the initial construction and this sand interacted with a sodic water irrigation source, resulting in the destruction of the internal drainage of our putting greens.
During the rebuild we improved our light quality through tree removal. We built a better, more stable foundation on which our greens would be built. We chose the highest quality materials to be used during construction and hired a highly regarded contractor whose project superintendent had lead successful renovation projects at The Country Club of Birmingham in Alabama and Peachtree Golf Club in Atlanta.
We also located a new, higher quality water source. All of these factors have resulted in significantly improved playing conditions, while lowering our annual maintenance expenditure.
Let me start this review by highlighting the numerous excellent restaurants in the Biloxi/Gulfport area… I kid, I kid. Golf takes precedence here, and as I stated in a comment to a previous reviewer who did go into a bit too much detail about the restaurants: The Preserve is a damn good golf course.
Coastal Mississippi is rather flat for the most part, and The Preserve went above and beyond as the flattest course I saw in the region from tee to green. That said, the wonderfully contoured greens and surrounds, along with an excellent use of trees and water/wetland penalty areas made for some exciting holes even with the pancake-like terrain. Despite some softer off-season turf elsewhere, particularly the fairways, the greens were delightfully firm, to the point of barely even leaving a pitch mark on some full shots. The greens also featured a ton of creativity; as a Jerry Pate design neophyte, I was floored with how ingenious many of these green complexes were. I tend to judge courses by the quality of their short par fours; excellent holes of this length require a bit more creativity than others. The Preserve exceeded my expectations substantially in that regard, particularly on the inward side, where three of the best short par fours I saw in Mississippi presented themselves.
The outward nine begins with a couple of “gentle handshake” holes leading up to the par four third. At 368 yards and featuring a forced carry over a pond on the approach, I was a bit worried that the layup would feel forced, however with a strong wind against players on this day, there was ample room to stay short of the pond with driver. The third green features a massive slope in the middle which creates a bowl-like area in the front portion where the pin was set; after a thinned wedge, I found myself above the top of the slope having to putt the ball into the fringe on the left side of the green just to keep it within ten feet of the flag! The fourth green is another exciting one; on a legitimate three-shot par five, the green features a significant tilt from left to right with a shelf in the upper left portion. The sixth, a par three, features a subtly Biarritz-style green, and the green at the par four seventh can best be described as two saddles back-to-back; it’s wild.
The best short par fours, however, and the best green overall are all found on the back side. The simple but elegant eleventh is my favorite hole on the course; its defining feature is a large mound on the front left side of the green into which a bunker is cut. This mound hides much of the green from view off the tee, but at a mere 322 yards from the tips, the hole begs you to challenge the mound and the green. The dogleg right twelfth is the second consecutive excellent short par four, with an ample layup area but a quickly narrowing fairway leading up to one of the tiniest greens on the course. The best three-hole stretch on the course begins at the long par four fifteenth which runs along the wetland area on its left edge – and long on its approach. The par three sixteenth is far and away the best one-shotter on the course; its huge green complex features a five foot high slope at about two thirds of its depth, down which sits a lower portion that acts almost as a second green. The pin location was on the lower portion when we played, leading to some exciting putts down the slope for more conservative players. To close out the stretch, at 308 yards the par four seventeenth once again invites players to challenge the lake on the left side and drive the green, braving all sorts of trouble along the way, but also provides a generous layup area for those inclined to play an iron and a flip wedge. Finally, the ultimate hole provides some serious drama as by far the longest par four on the course; the lake on its left side once again does right-to-left players no favors.
Two of the courses I played in Mississippi stood out from the rest of the pack in terms of creativity, playability, and enjoyability of their layouts: The Preserve and Hattiesburg CC. One of those is accessible to the general public, while the other is not. The moral of the story? When visiting the Gulf Coast, do not miss out on playing a round at The Preserve.
Played January 30, 2021
Jeff Kissel visited the Mississippi Gulf Coast for an extended period in early 2021, and wrote about it as a guest on the blog Lying Four.
Although Biloxi, MS is best known for its beaches and casinos, its appeal to golfers and golf travelers is growing quickly. Coastal Mississippi has some amazing and stunning golf courses, with plenty of courses for the public to play, numerous restaurants to eat at, and the opportunity to win big at one of the many casinos. It’s a chance for a hole-in-one and a million-dollar jackpot all in the same day! There are 12 courses immediately in the Biloxi area; several more if you don’t mind putting a few miles on the rental car. Here’s my take on a few of them.
A few of the courses are owned by casinos. The Preserve Golf Club is owned and operated by the Palace Casino Resort and was designed by U.S. Open champion Jerry Pate and covers 245 acres of pristine land surrounded by an 1800-acre nature preserve. Pate did a masterful job of incorporating all of the natural beauty the land has to offer including pitcher plant bogs, cypress swamps, longleaf pines, live oak groves, and native prairie grasses into the design of the 18-hole, par-71 layout. The Preserve recently invested in the Visage GPS, which offers touch screen capabilities as well as commentary from experts on how to play a particular hole. Uncharacteristically, the #1 handicapped hole on the course is Number 16 which is a par 3 which plays 225 yards. Depending on pin placement you may have to shape your tee shot on this long par 3!
When it comes to dining options, you can’t go wrong with what each of the casinos has to offer: incredible buffets as well as high-end steakhouses. Get outside the casinos and head into the towns of Ocean Springs and Biloxi and I have a couple of suggestions. Patio 44 in Biloxi is known for its fresh take on classic Creole-style dishes that incorporate the freshest ingredients available from the Delta and Gulf Coast regions, dishes like shrimp and grits, fried catfish tacos, and seafood gumbo. The Buckhead Certified Angus Beef they serve is aged for a minimum of 21 days. Patio 44 also offers one of the most unique – and delicious – appetizers I’ve ever had. Their Debris Fries are a “southern take” on Canadian poutine. Perfectly cooked French fries with braised beef trimmings, brown gravy, and melted cheese, garnished with green onions. It’s a must!
Maison de Lu is Ocean Springs is another great choice. New Jersey native Luann Ellis left the snow and headed for Gulf Coast over 20 years ago and now calls Ocean Springs home. Maison De Lu is located in the heart of downtown Ocean Springs and serves some interesting creations. The Goat Cheese Torte is delicious; layered with sundried tomatoes and pesto and served with warm pita chips. The New Zealand Rack of Lamb is sliced into chops and served with the sauce du jour. The side dishes are amazing; Roasted Red Beets, Roasted Mushrooms and Onions, and a great alternative to potatoes, Twice Baked Cauliflower.
This is just a brief glimpse into everything Coastal Mississippi has to offer golfers. From great drives on the course to short drives to everything you want to do off the course, The Secret Coast has got you covered.
This review has a lot more information about restaurants than about the golf course, which is unfortunate, because it's a really good golf course.
You had me at “Debris Fries”...but then ruined it with “Goat Cheese Torte”
The greater compliment one can pay any course is that it looks like the layout was meant to be there. Too many modern courses are superimposed on the terrain. The natural connection, that should have been present, is completely obliterated through a heavy-handed emphasis.
The far southern areas of Mississippi do not have much elevation change. What architect and former PGA Tour player Jerry Pate smartly did was to take the qualities of the site and route the course in such a way that the connection between the golf and Mother Nature is maximized to the utmost. The actual course sits on 245 acres of land so there's enough spacing between the holes and, more importantly, there is no on-course clutter which would clearly be an eye-sore no matter how protected from view such inclusions would be.
The course is engulfed with 1,800 acres of dedicated nature preserve. When you step on the 1st tee you feel a complete harmony with the surroundings. Pate wisely provided for challenging golf but not with a heavy reliance on massive length or overly shaped greens. Over the last number of years the ascension of "minimalism" has been a dogmatic pursuit for many people. The idea that you don't include anything more than what the given sites provides. The Preserve was shaped for the 18-holes but done so via fine brush strokes -- not the invasive sort that distorts beyond comprehension the very qualities that originally existed.
The routing and pacing of the holes is also done well. Pate outlines a preferred angle of attack for optimum scoring purposes. But, there's also avenues for the less gifted player to attempt to secure a low score via another avenue.
The fees charged are not inexpensive but given the connection between the course and The Palace Casino you do get top tier customer service upon arrival and through departure.
The Preserve hooks together playable but yet reasonably challenging golf. Combine that with the innate beauty of the surroundings and one's time here will clearly be savored.
M. James Ward