Golfers who watched Justin Rose and Inbee Park win Olympic gold medals on The Olympic Golf Course in Barra da Tijuca, Brazil, and thought they might like to play the Gil Hanse-designed layout now have the opportunity to play something similar without having to travel overseas to do it.
Mossy Oak Golf Club, a Hanse project at Old Waverly Golf Club in West Point, Miss., had its grand opening on Sept. 2 and opened for play Sept. 3. It is the first Hanse course to open in the United States since his completion of the Olympic course.
Golfers who played Capstone Golf Club near Tuscaloosa might recognize Hanse's name. He designed that popular layout, which unfortunately closed for business more than a year ago.
Old Waverly is a resort that opened in 1988 and has hosted a number of tournaments across all levels of golf, including the 1999 U.S. Women's Open. It was founded by George Bryan of the Bryan Foods family and has become a popular destination for golfers across the nation.
The resort will feature two 18-hole courses, the first designed by Jerry Pate and Bob Cupp, and a variety of lodging choices — villas, cottages and condos — with around 100 beds. There are also tennis courts, a swimming pool, a fitness center and a full-menu restaurant on site. The property also offers fishing and hunting opportunities.
"The goal is to become a destination for golfers across the nation," director of golf Chris Jester said. "We hope to attract golfers to the region who have not visited the area and provide them an exceptional golf experience."
Old Waverly and Mossy Oak will challenge golfers of all skill levels. Both courses are available for play to resort guests, and Mossy Oak will be open to the public.
Old Waverly Golf Club
Mossy Oak Golf Club founders wanted to offer golfers a unique experience they call "Nature's Golf." Minimalist course architect Gil Hanse utilized the property's contours to help the cause.
Old Waverly Golf Club
The 7,068-yard layout, featuring rolling hills, pine forests and native grasses that give some holes the feel of a Scottish course, is filled with fun and challenging holes.
"Old Waverly is a classic design that golfers never get tired of playing," Jester said. "It is a very fair course where everything is right in front of you."
It opens with a 389-yard par-4 that offers a good birdie opportunity to get rounds off to a good start. The ninth hole is a 552-yard par-5, which again is open to birdies and gives golfers a shot at carding a solid front-nine score.
The 10th, a 543-yard par-5, begins a stretch of three holes that play around Lake Waverly. No. 12 is a 173-yard par-3 with the lake sitting along the left edge of the green, which slopes toward the water with a tightly mown mound that can send balls to a watery grave.
The finishing holes, No. 17 and No. 18, also play along Lake Waverly. The 18th is a beautiful hole — a 445-yard par-4 with the antebellum clubhouse serving as a backdrop behind the green. Golfers can be as aggressive as they want off the tee, taking off some of the dogleg left, but errant shots will find the water to the left or possibly the three bunkers that guard the right side of the fairway.
"The last two holes make you hit shots," Jester said. "There is no real bail out on either. With water running the entire left side of each hole and out of bounds lurking on the right, you've just got to hit the shot. The feeling that you've hit the shot you had to is all the reward a true golfer needs."
The layout is fair, but water, sand, trees and tall native grasses can make it quite a challenging.
The short par-4 third hole at Mossy Oak Golf Club might entice some to go for the green off the tee, but deep bunkers and a small green call for a more conservative approach.
Mossy Oak Golf Club
While I didn't get a chance to play the 7,400-yard layout, it was clear the course would offer a different kind of challenge.
With a limited number of trees, wind will play a factor in almost any round on this links-style layout. Nine nobs — the course was built on land that was once home to Knob Hill Dairy — offer subtle elevation changes of about 40-50 feet. Once the native grasses mature, the course will feel like it's been there forever. A large number of bunkers — 103, to be exact, one so big you could get lost in it for days — add to the challenge, as do water hazards that come into play on 13 holes.
Old Waverly Golf Club
Bryan, part of a group of 76 founders that includes Toxey Haas of Haas Outdoors and Mossy Oak Camo, wanted Mossy Oak to deliver what he calls "Nature's Golf," and the minimalist style of Hanse was perfect for the job. Hanse did little to alter the property's contours, and the only major dirt-moving was done to create a lake toward the front of the property and build up the holes on the back end.
"Nature's Golf is felt from the moment a golfer enters the clubhouse and steps onto the course," Bryan said. "The expansive landscape highlights the local habitat of the Mississippi Black Prairie. Once off the first tee, nature is a highlight of the playing experience, with native grasses, wildlife and creeks interacting with fairways and bunker complexes to blend a sense of place on every hole."
Bryan added that the goal was to build a course that had the feel of famous Northeast layouts Shinnecock Hills and The National.
The view from the sixth hole is nothing short of amazing. Golfers can see every flag from that vantage point.
I look forward to making my way around the course with particular interest in the third and 17th holes.
No. 3 is a shortish par-4, about 298 yards, that features large, deep bunkers around the smallest green on the course. Aggressive play off the tee could result in an eagle opportunity, but the smart play is an iron off the tee to avoid the trouble around the green.
The 17th hole boasts a bunker like none I've ever seen before. The deep beast runs from about 100 yards up the left side of the fairway to about 40 yards short of the green. The green slopes away from the fairway, so long shots can leave delicate chips back to the flag.
With five sets of tees, golfers of all skill levels can play to a suitable length. Bryan said there will also be tees set up for junior golfers.
"A big part of our goal is junior golf," Bryan said. "We have to get more young players involved, and we've had a good junior program in place for several years."
Along those lines, the course also features a massive practice area — home to the Mississippi State golf program — which features a large putting green in the shape of the state of Mississippi complete with ridges and plateaus that mimic the state's terrain.
Another goal of Bryan was to create a walkable course — there's very little distance between greens and the next tee — that could be played in a reasonable amount of time.
"There's nothing worse than a five-hour round," Bryan said. "I want rounds to be played in less than four hours."
The first time around, that might be difficult as golfers could find themselves spending a little time admiring this Hanse beauty.
Jester said the initial response to the new course has been encouraging.
"Our response for tee times has been phenomenal," Jester said. "We have been receiving a great deal of excitement from golfers who are eager to play the latest course designed by Hanse."
Tee times can be reserved online at MossyOakGolf.com, and stay-and-play packages can be booked by calling or emailing Gary Billington, the sales and marketing manager, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 662-524-1000.
Old Waverly features a variety of lodging options with around 100 beds available.
Cottages: $150 per room
Villas: $300-$600 a night
Condos: $300-$400 a night
Rack rate (with cart): $150
Rack rate (walking): $132
Stay and play weekend (ride/walk): $135/$117
Stay and play weekday (ride/walk): $125/$107
*Rates are good at both Old Waverly and Mossy Oak and include taxes.
The rates do not include caddie/forecaddie fees.