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.
Date: May 08, 2021