Initial ThoughtsI had the pleasure of playing at Dancing Rabbit Golf Club last week, a 36 hole facility with two Tom Fazio & Jerry Pate courses. Located in Choctaw, Mississippi, the courses are a bit remote- but well worth a trip (no fear- two casinos are on site so you'll have plenty to do). The Azaleas course is ranked #32 in Golf.com's Top 100 Courses You Can Play list, and the Oaks course, which is newer may be even better (all "Top" lists have it as a top 3 or 4 course in the state of Mississippi as well). I played the Oaks but had a chance to zip around the Azaleas as well (it was closed for the week for preparations for the season). While my review will be mostly focused on The Oaks, I'd consider most of it to be a generalization of the entire resort.
Because I want to focus the actual "review" portion of this article on the golf, I'll at least mention here my thoughts on the Pearl River Resort as a whole (www.pearlriverresort.com). It sits on the land of the Choctaw Indians and while the casinos are not the quality of Las Vegas (or even Atlantic City for that matter) they do fulfill most gaming needs. There are table games including a poker room as well as a plethora of slots if you enjoy losing your money that way. The resort draws a pretty strong list of entertainers. In the next few months Lynyrd Skynyrd, Vince Gill, Reba, Larry The Cable Guy and Tim McGraw will be performing.
Date PlayedThursday, March 3rd, 2011
Value - 8.0The Oaks course costs $100 Monday through Thursday and $125 on weekends. The Azaleas course is only available to resort guests (in season), and has the same rates. Certainly pricey, but compared to the kind of courses similar in quality- it's actually quite reasonable. Where you can really gain value though is by being a resort guest where you may spend $250 a night (rates depend on availability and season), but that includes a round of golf as well as a nights' stay and breakfast. The clubhouse is amazingly beautiful, an old antebellum house that has 8 guest rooms on the 2nd floor that overlooks the golf courses and includes access to a personal golf cart with a back path directly to the casinos. So yeah- thing could be worse!
Pace of Play - 9.0There were no issues with pace of play for me and my group. We didn't see anyone on any side of us all day. Of course the season has something to do with this- but overall, because of the remote location of the courses, the fact that there are 2 of them, as well as being attached to a resort facility including casinos makes the whole place feel more like a country club than a daily fee operation. In general that's a very good thing for pace of play.
Obviously in the seasonal months things may get a little more crowded, but I'll promise you there are worst places to get stuck waiting a bit- if it happens.
Course/Maintenance - 9.0In short- Dancing Rabbit is beautiful. When I played, the course was just starting to "pop" for the season and despite not being all of the way out- it was clear you're dealing with something special. Everything that is supposed to be green is. Flowers, shrubs, trees and water features all add to the experience without seeming forced. Both courses offer multiple sets of tees that allow for you to choose how much you want to work for you score- but from the tips that are over 7,000 yards on either course, you'll certainly find yourself a challenge if you're looking for it. The Oaks course had some forced carries, though nothing unreasonable and a great mix of short and long holes that required you to hit all kinds of golf shots. There were 2 driveable par 4's, one on each side and 3 par 4's over 425 yards, which pretty much require great tee shots to have a reasonable chance to score. The par 3's are are quite pretty- the tee box of three of them were well above the hole, hitting down into the large Champion Burmuda greens.
The fairways on the Oaks are Zoysia which means hitting the fairway is almost like hitting off velcro. The Azaleas has A-4 Bent Grass greens, which again northerners don't find all that impressive- but for a southern climate as harsh as Mississippi's can be- this is a pretty rare treat.
The only complaint I have at all with the course were the bunkers- and my frustration is probably as much preference as substance, but I found the sand to be way too fluffy and deep. I had a really hard time hitting out of them, both greenside and fairway (yes- my round had me "try" both) with any sort of predictability. They reminded me of the sand when you first step off the boardwalk and down on to a beach. I do have to give them credit for being consistent though.
Hospitality - 9.0This is a tricky one for me because I do realize I was "taken care" of a little extra because they knew I was there reviewing the course but all indications were that service and hospitality are great. Guests have access to very nice men's and women's locker rooms with a complementary locker key and the clubhouse grill was very considerate of a tee time, pumping out a breakfast sandwich in about 3 minutes.
I was playing with a friend from Pennsylvania and he was playing out of a bag I put together for him. Somehow (and embarrassingly) I forgot to put a putter in his bag and the Director of Golf Mark Powell kindly let him borrow an extra from the pro shop. I'd consider that top notch customer service! The beverage cart was sufficiently stocked and did a pretty good job getting around. I think over the course of 18 holes we saw it 3 times. I wouldn't mind a 4th or 5th time over 4 1/2 round, especially on a 95 degree day, but this wasn't that.
Scenery - 9.0I'll save my words.
Overall - 9.0 (not an average)Mississippians claim that Dancing Rabbit is as close as a "non-blessed" golfer will ever get to playing Augusta National. I don't know how much of a stretch that is (I'd have to imagine some), though in fairness I've never seen Augusta in person. It certainly shares some unique qualities; beautiful colors with flowers, plants and trees in full bloom against dark green grass, elevation changes (something northern golfers take for granted), and impeccable upkeep by the grounds-crew.
Realistically, you're going to have to "try" to get to Dancing Rabbit Golf Club. It's not a place you're going to just happen across, but it is truly a unique golf experience and worth all of its praise. It's only 90 minutes or so away from Jackson, Mississippi, 2 hours from Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and 3 hours from Birmingham, Alabama, so it's certainly within reasonable driving distance for many.
Tell your lady you need a mancation or bring her along for the rest of the resort's amenities and have yourself a blast!
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Played 11 holes on the Oaks Course, it was outstanding though a little soggy after torrential rains.(same rains that completely wiped out the Viking Classic a few days earlier a few miles down the road in Madison) Well worth the trip.
The picture posted here looks like #13 at Augusta!!! Sounds like a nice place.
@bducharm: i was thinking the same thing. "beautiful colors with flowers, plants and tress in full bloom against dark green grass, elevation changes (something northern golfers take for granted)", i think the southeners get the better end of the stick, being able to play year round, and we get A-4 Bent Grass greens... woohoo! not.
@banker85- (first of all- fixed spelling mistake) - I had this convo with someone today and as a northerner for 27 years and a southerner for 2- i have to disagree. At least as deep south as we are- summers actually become unbearable and much of the winter is still not playable because its "the rainy season." The frustration of being off for 4 months, having the buildup and then 8 months of wonderful beats sporadic year-round golf where you're always fighting some element... a lot of times 100 degree heat and what that does to the courses.
@Kickntrue - I disagree. I live in Austin TX and grew up in Wisconsin. I MUCH prefer to play year round. Sure we have a few times where we cannot. I personally don't mind it when it is 100 degrees out. To each his own...
Im with Bducharm, Here in Houston TX I also prefer to play year round, occasionally you have to play on Thursday instead of Tuesday due to rain or cold..
Regarding the grass at Rabbit, down here on the gulf coast if its Green and growing in July, you dont care what kind it is; there are alot of nice courses with bare spots in the summer down here.
@Kick, the last two winters have been unusual, normally a lot more play in the winter and I you will get used to the heat. better than all that snow.
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Heavenly Golf (7)
10.0 - 9.5 World Class
9.4 - 8.5 Awesome
8.4 - 7.5 Very good
7.4 - 6.5 Above Average
6.4 - 4.5 Solid
4.4 - 3.5 Below Average
3.4 - 2.5 Save Your Money
2.4 - 0.0 Pay NOT to go