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Alabama's "Golf" Coast

Again this year I’ve found America’s newest golfing “Hotspot”: Gulf Shores/Orange Beach, Alabama.

Both cities are located side-by-side on an island that borders Florida on the Gulf of Mexico, at the southern most tip of Alabama’s “Golf” Coast.

Golf is a year-round sport here due to the mild temperatures off the Gulf of Mexico. This 30,000 acre island comprises 32-miles of beautiful sugar-white beaches with tall sand dunes, sea oats and brilliant blue-green Gulf waters. Inland areas are wooded with live oaks and pines. Freshwater lakes, rivers and bayous provide nearly 400,000 acres of protected waterfront and a multitude of year round fishing opportunities. For deep-sea fishing, the Orange Beach marina offers a fleet of over 100 charter boats licensed by the U.S. Coast Guard. At Gulf Shores/Orange Beach you’ll enjoy great golf on the gulf at thirteen area courses that are all part of Alabama’s Golf Coast.

Arnold Palmer has two designs here including his newest, Cypress Bend at Craft Farms. Golf Digest Magazine recently rated Cypress Bend the #1 most playable new golf course in America. Cypress Bend is a fun, challenging layout with rolling hills, lakes, marshes, wide open landing areas, big sprawling bunkers and multiple tees. Palmer’s original design is the 7100-yard Cotton Creek course at Craft Farms. This one is a little tighter with sharper doglegs offset by larger more forgiving greens. Take it from me; this course is a real test from the tips. On this mature course the sub-tropical climate has produced excellent Bermuda grass fairways and greens. I found the greens easier to read, more like Midwest greens with grain not a big factor. That’s great if your coming from the north, you won’t waste two or three rounds getting used to southern greens. The third course at Craft Farms is The Woodlands, an eighteen hole Larry Nelson design featuring natural woodlands, large greens, rolling fairways and tropical marshlands. A new clubhouse also provides many welcomed amenities for guests.

Glenlakes is another Alabama Golf Coast course boasting 27 championship holes on a beautiful eight hundred acre tract. Bruce Devlin and Robert Von Hagge designed what I call a “tropical” Scottish Links style course called The Dunes. The appeal of this challenging design is centered on it’s wide and rolling fairways which are bordered by hallmark mounds and large greens, not to mention the signature hole, number sixteen, with an island green.

Heading north and inland from the gulf I came across another great course, the Timbercreek Golf Club. Picture in your mind a combination of Cog Hill # 4 and Sawgrass. Three different nines with woods, rolling fairways, water, wetlands and preserves. You name it, they’ve got it here.

Heading out towards the tip of the island you’ll find the Peninsula Golf & Racquet Club. It’s basically like a private country club that’s open to the public. Peninsula is nestled in the natural coastal wetlands and reaches the shores of Mobile Bay on one side and the Bon Secour Wildlife Refuge on the other. If you’re looking to golf with nature, this is the place. It’s beautiful twenty seven hole layout was designed by Earl Stone and encompasses 830 acres including 30 lakes winding through lush vegetation, cypress and live oaks. A full service clubhouse, fitness center with swimming pool and tennis make this the place for those who wish to do more than just golf.

A little farther out on the tip of the island you’ll find Alabama’s #1 rated golf course, Kiva Dunes. Designed by former U.S. Open Champion Jerry Pate, Kiva Dunes is consistently ranked among America’s finest courses. Located on property that adjoins the Gulf of Mexico, this links-style course has been ranked and praised by Golf Digest and Golf Magazine. The recently opened Kiva Lodge clubhouse is the biggest most lavish clubhouse and lodge I’ve ever seen. Magnificent!

The course is laid out in the coastal sand dunes along the Gulf of Mexico. Shot placement here is critical and going for eagles on par fives is very risky. Any errant second shot would result in at least a triple bogey and possibly worse. On the 570-yard par-5 fourteenth, a lay-up only 90 yards away left me with a harrowing sand wedge to a very elevated undulating green with deep, deep bunkers both left and right. Off to the right near the water I saw another hazard, an 8-10 foot alligator, just daring me to push it. Talk about pressure to hit the green!! At 7,100 yards, Kiva Dunes is truly the best test of golf anywhere on the Gulf.

As for accommodations on Alabama’s Golf Coast, I can offer three suggestions on where to stay, The Courtyard Marriott at Craft Farms. It’s next to the Arnold Palmer courses and has a fabulous hot tub, which you’ll need after a winter layoff! If you’re into the surf, another great location is The Beach Club, located out on the tip of the island on the beach near the Vividness golf course. Finally, check out the Gulf Shores Plantation Beach Resort, set right on the beautiful white sand beaches on the Gulf of Mexico.

Lunch and dinner here feature the best seafood found on the Gulf. Recommended local hot spots and tasty beach hangouts include “The Spot,” “Calypso Fish Grille,” “Mikee’s Seafood,” “King Neptune’s” and “Louisiana Lagniappe Restaurant.” All have great individual seafood specialties along with drinks to match. For the younger crowd, head to “Flora-bama.” A wild, multi-layered bar poised in the middle of the border of Florida and Alabama.(literally). One side of he bar is in Florida and he other side in Alabama. You’re on your own here!

U.S. Airways has the most regular daily flights into Pensacola, Florida. From there it’s a 20-30 minute drive along the Gulf of Mexico to the Gulf Shores/Orange Beach area and Alabama’s Golf Coast. Complete golf and travel packages are available year-round.

For more information and travel packages visit or call 1-800-572-5737

Alabama Gulf Coast Convention
& Visitors Bureau
P. Office Drawer 457
Gulf Shores, AL 36547

Gulf Coast Golf Association
P.O. Box 5767
Gulf Shores, AL 36547

Cypress Bend & Cotton Creek at Craft Farms
3840 Cotton Creek Blvd.
Gulf Shores, AL 36542

The Woodlands at Craft Farms
19995 Oak Road West
Gulf Shores, FL 36542

Peninsula Golf & Racquet Club
20 Peninsula Blvd.
Gulf Shores, AL 36542

Timber Creek G.C.
9650 Timbercreek Blvd.
Daphne, AL 36527

Glenlakes Golf Club
9530 Clubhouse Dr.
Foley, AL 36535

Kiva Dunes G.C.
815 Plantation Dr.
Gulf Shores, AL 36542

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Last Updated: 2/4/01