A new millennium offering from Davis Love III, the course at Shell Landing Golf Club weaves in and out of sizeable tracts of Biloxi marsh and wetland areas. Unlike many golf facilities in the region which are backed by casinos, Shell Landing operates on its own merits, with wide fairways routed through a forest of trees and some holes playing along salt marshes and scenic inlets.
Notable holes on the outward nine include the 555-yard 3rd (played to a fairway that’s guarded by a couple of bunkers on the right and a long sand hazard down the left) and the 412-yard 6th (regarded as the signature hole), where the tee shot has to carry a marshland area then the approach needs to fly a pond protecting the front of the putting surface.
On the inward half, water runs along the left of the fairway before cutting in front of the green on the 414-yard 14th; there’s three bunkers at the back of the 193-yard 17th to catch over hit tee shots; and the home green on the 439-yard 18th sits behind a big bunker to the front left side, bringing a round here to a stylish end.
Shell Landing was easily the prettiest course I played in Mississippi. The layout weaves (albeit somewhat awkwardly) throughout the ridges above the lovely salt marshes of the Graveline Bayou, featuring a surprising amount of elevation change and some wide-open vistas of the wetlands. This was my first experience on a Davis Love III design, so I was anxious to see his approach to routing and building a course; I found the routing a bit wanting as without a cart, the course would have been nearly impossible to play. The holes themselves, and particularly the greens, however, were first-rate; by routing the holes farther apart, the designers could choose the choicest spots on the massive property to build them. I count only a handful of holes on the course by which I was not particularly impressed: the ninth, fourteenth, and fifteenth.
The best portion of the front nine lies right smack dab in the middle of it after an above-average first three holes: the fourth, a short par four featuring a semi-blind tee shot over a (mostly decorative) bunker atop a rise, the fifth, a fun long par four featuring a bunkerless green falling off on three sides; and then the sixth, a wild long par four literally perched above the wetlands and exposed completely to the wind. The final three holes on the front nine are a bit of a letdown, however, headlined by the tight forced layup on the par four ninth.
The back nine starts with a bang with the par four tenth, a hole that could not set up more perfectly for my game – short and bending gently to the right. The eleventh, a par three, features no bunkers but doesn’t need them – the enormous lumpy green features about fifteen little pinnable shelves along with a nasty tight little swale to the right. The twelfth and thirteenth are solid holes, but the following two were a bit uninspiring. After a long drive, players arrive on the sixteenth tee needing a long draw around the corner to reach this par five in two. The green on sixteen sits atop a spectacular mound, feeding off in all directions, so any miss leaves a challenging up-and-down. The par three seventeenth requires a forced carry over a section of the salt marsh with three bunkers that can only be described as decorative behind the green, since they are separated from the green surface by a large swale. (The same thing occurs behind the third green; I’m wondering if the fact that it’s three bunkers means it’s some form of a Love III calling card.) After those two exciting holes, the somewhat mundane par four eighteenth is a bit of a letdown.
Overall, I was impressed with the layout at Shell Landing, and the course was in good condition for the winter. Most notably, the greens were the firmest I saw in Mississippi, enough so that a full wedge into the green doesn’t even leave a pitch mark! I consider the course to be an excellent value in a beautiful spot, and well worth playing when spending time on the Gulf Coast.
Played February 21, 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.
Shell Landing Golf Club was built by renowned PGA TOUR professional Davis Love III and features five sets of tees that range in length from 5,047 – 7,024 yards making it playable – and enjoyable – for any golfer. Shell Landing Golf Club features both a beautiful natural waterfront setting and some diverse topography. Water comes into play on eight holes and plays a role on most scorecards. Generous tree-lined fairways meander through the pine savannah, which is adorned with seasonal flowers. These well-sculpted fairways give way to large undulating greens that roll true and fast. You’ll find conditioning like many of the high-priced casino courses in the area at a fraction of the cost. As you make your way around the layout, you’ll have the opportunity to commune with nature; it’s not uncommon during a round to see deer, alligators, rabbits, foxes, and a variety of birds. Its signature hole is also a par 3 that plays over 200 yards from the back tees.
Many people may not think of Mississippi as a golf hot spot and frankly it does not have the sheer depth of courses but the ones that are good clearly make a statement that quality golf is available for those who keep their eyes open.
Shell Landing is the handiwork of Davis Love III and his efforts here came before the more visible creation like Diamante Dunes in Cabo.
The course is wonderfully routed and the holes are quite varied and appropriately challenging. Far too many times when you get a layout with little elevation change the net result can be predictable and often times maddeningly redundant. Not so at Shell Landing.
The main deficiency rests with the greens. They are not especially noteworthy in terms of general contours or the way the surrounding areas are crafted off the putting surfaces. If there should ever be a renovation of the course in years to come I'd say updating the green contours would only add to the overall standing of Shell Landing.
M. James Ward
I agree with your overall assessment. I played here too long ago to give a current rating. I played Shell Landing on May 6, 2003 as part of a golf trip with seven others to the area where we played the RTJ courses near Mobile, Alabama and also played a course that I have rated as the third worst course I have ever played To be fair, a substantial hurricane had occurred only a few months before.
I felt Shell Landing to have a good routing and a nice mixture of holes but the greens were both slow and uninteresting. When we played it, they offered a replay rate of 50% off (I think $30 back then) but no one other than me wanted to play it a second time. It actually could be a very good course if they fixed the greens even if it might not climb in the rankings of best in Mississippi given Fallen Oak, Mossy Oak,and Old Waverly. One would hope the current ownership would make the needed adjustments to the greens perhaps two-three holes at a time, but I suspect it will never get enough play/revenue to justify closing holes.