Gulf Shores-Orange Beach, Alabama: Sandwiched between Pensacola, Florida and Mobile, Alabama near the Gulf of Mexico is an excellent destination for year-round golf with other fun activities. Not only are the courses really good but they’re all in close proximity to one another. No long hauls to visit a particular favorite.
“We’ve got an island that is 32 miles long with beautiful, white sand beaches and 20 miles of golf if you add the yardages of the 15 public courses together,” said Easton Colvin, public relations coordinator for Golf Shores-Orange Beach Tourism. “You can schedule a tee time on your own at every one of them.” Full-service golf packages can also be booked through a division of Troon, which owns three of the courses, called Coastal Alabama Golf.
You can begin your Gulf Shores golf experience at the course that has garnered the most accolades, Kiva Dunes, a Jerry Pate links-style design just 200 yards from the beach that was chosen #1 public course in Alabama in 2017. This gorgeous track winds through a secluded piece of land presenting incredible shotmaking opportunities in an unforgettable setting.
Pate had a successful golf career including winning the 1974 U.S. Amateur, the 1976 U.S. Open in his rookie year, and The Player’s Championship in 1982. Shoulder and knee problems persisted, so when developer Jim Edgemon asked him to help lay out Kiva, Jerry’s design career took off.
Peninsula Golf & Racquet Club is rated 4.5 stars by Golf Digest and chosen as the “most memorable and enjoyable course in the Southeast.” Nestled on the Fort Morgan Peninsula and bordering the Bon Secour Wildlife Preserve, Peninsula was designed by the renowned architect, Earl Stone and boasts 27 holes comprising three nines-Marsh, Lakes & Cypress winding through 800 acres of ancient oaks, cypress, and other natural vegetation. It is managed by Honours Golf, a division of Troon.
The oldest course, Gulf Shores Golf Club, is another Ed Stone original that opened in 1967 and went through a full-scale renovation in 2005 at the hands of father-son team Jay and Carter Moorish. Designed in the traditional plantation style, the course offers a great golfing experience in a beautiful setting for both the novice and enthusiast with five sets of tees and ample practice facilities.
The biggest of the Gulf Shores facilities is just minutes from the peninsula. Craft Farms Resort (pictured at top) has 45 holes with its Cotton Creek and Cypress Bend courses and a nine-hole par-3 layout, all designed by Arnold Palmer and managed by Honours Golf. It is home to the 6th annual Coastal Alabama Couples Classic in early November, a fun outing playing the 2 Craft Farms championship courses plus Peninsula and Kiva Dunes. “Gulf Shores in November is as good a place to play golf as you’ll find anywhere,” said Dan Dorough, the head superintendent at Gulf Shores.
So Much More
Gulf Shores-Orange Beach is not just about golf. Visitors come for the beaches, water sports, and numerous activities available in the area. Gulf State Park with its 6,150 acres is a haven for hikers, cyclists, and segway tours. The Hugh S. Branyon Backcountry Trail spans all of the park’s 28 miles and connects Gulf Shores and Orange Beach to the park. There’s also a nature center, over two miles of pristine beachfront, and an expansive Lodge (a 350-room Hilton) located within the park.
Dining in Gulf Shores-Orange Beach is a culinary experience of its own dimension. One of the favorite dinner spots is Big Fish featuring seafood and a sushi bar along with steaks, pasta, and sandwiches. Lucy Buffett’s (Jimmy’s sister) LuLu’s, located on the Intracoastal Waterway spreads lots of good old-fashioned Southern hospitality and Gumbo Love with live music, a fun arcade, a 3- story climbing ropes course, and children’s activities.
Sassy Bass Cookout Tiki Bar is somewhat hidden between Kiva Dunes and Peninsula. The food served in hot iron skillets was a unique presentation and delicious. The sprawling Flora-Bama Yacht Club offers open-air waterfront dining, live music, eclectic decor, and numerous bars. Famous for its annual “Mullet Toss,” Flora-Bama is a must-stop during a trip to the Gulf Shores-Orange Beach area.
You don’t have to just play golf and eat here. On rainy days the family can enjoy miniature golf indoors at the 5,000-square-foot Glow-In-The-Dark Jurassic dinosaur adventure, a nice diversion for even the most serious golfers. For something more romantic or to cap off the evening, take the ‘Sail Wild Hearts,’ a relaxing two-hour sunset cruise on a 53-foot open-ocean catamaran.
For more information, visit www.GulfShores.com