The “Magic of Mississippi” as the Gulf turns to Golf

According to, "with more customers leaving Louisiana for Mississippi's casino strip, this length of coast is expected to topple Atlantic City as the second largest gaming market in the US", so if you were betting on a growth industry for the Mississippi it is bound to be casinos and gaming.

Even before the hurricanes of 2005 that hit the area with force, Mississippi's power in the gaming industry was on the rise and it is now determined to win the title talks of. Mississippi is however spreading its bets with a more unexpected jackpot, golf, and the gamble is paying off. Often overshadowed by the bright lights of the casinos – Mississippi is now also emerging as a golfing hotspot.

Mississippi's temperatures are one great draw for golfers, with a semi-tropical climate that boasts warm, sunny weather for most of the year, good visibility and cool breezes that add to the challenge of a round in this southern region. Not only this but the draw of the casinos, along with local entertainment, white sanded beaches and an area history that includes the Mississippi Blues Trail, mean that Mississippi offers a rounded tourist experience for those visiting to play golf – and this is what state governor Haley Barbour, on, calls the "magic of Mississippi".

Of the 140 or more on offer, Mississippi's golf courses themselves benefit from the region's fertile soil, which makes for stunning established fairways, and many of the local courses are designed by top golf celebrities. One such example is the Grand Bear, Saucier, a course designed by golfing legend Jack Nicklaus and just a 30 minute drive from Biloxi's casinos. Voted the 'Best Public Course in Mississippi' by Golfweek Magazine and one of Golf Digest's "Top 40 Casino Courses" 2007, Grand Bear is a great draw for golfers who appreciate its rolling fairways and the surroundings of the DeSoto National Forest that edges the course.

A golf course that exemplifies Mississippi's regeneration following the hurricanes is The Bridges in Bay St Louis, designed by Arnold Palmer. A course that boasts 21 bridges and 17 lakes to its name, The Bridges found itself in 2005 also home to a stranded dolphin. Since it was rescued and released back into the wild, The Bridges has turned itself around and in 2007 was also named one of Golf Digest's "Top 40 Casino Courses".

A newer golf course that is becoming popular with tourists is Fallen Oak, Biloxi – one of the winners of the GOLF Magazine's 2007 "Top Ten New Courses You Can Play". In its replanting of around 1,000 established trees to fit with the exacting design, Fallen Oak (designed by Tom Fazio) highlights the quality of courses in the area and proves that the attention to detail in Mississippi golf courses is second to none.

With such high quality courses on offer, it is easy to see why the Mississippi tourism industry has so much potential. Recent figures from the Mississippi Development Authority have shown a 4.1% increase in estimated tourism employment on golf courses in the region from 2006 to 2007. This is being helped by local courses hosting top golf tournaments, such as the Adams Golf Pro Tour at the Windance Country Club in Gulfport and the Viking Classic at the Annadale Golf Club in Madison, as well as tournaments that tourists can take part in, such as Golf Week's Biloxi Golf & Poker Tournament, an event that combines the area's two favourite pastimes.

This increasing focus on golf for the Mississippi region is one that is bringing tourism and in turn increased employment to the local area. The continuing post-hurricane regeneration is especially good for the Biloxi area, hard hit in 2005 but re-emerging into a popular place for golf tourists and in turn investors. Danny Silver, principal of Property Direct America agrees,

"This is an excellent time to invest in the Mississippi region as the regeneration is in full swing and there is currently a great demand for housing. Biloxi, specifically, is emerging as an investment hotspot, with more and more people employed by the growing golf tourism market looking for rental properties."