Blazing spotlights don't faze Gil Hanse. Over the past two years, he's enjoyed huge successes with his high-profile redo of Doral's Blue Monster and his above-and-beyond efforts to create the major-worthy Olympics course in Rio. Now, Hanse and his team—including sidekick Jim Wagner—have pulled off a hat trick. Mossy Oak in northern Mississippi is Hanse Golf Course Design's first post-Rio layout to open (this past September), and it's a winner. Granted, the Magnolia State is not quite as big a stage as the Rio Games. The new home for the Mississippi State University golf teams is located next to Old Waverly Golf Club (host to the 1999 U.S. Women's Open). If Old Waverly is the polished dress shoe, Mossy Oak is the comfy, classic leather loafer.
The par-72 track fits the rolling Mississippi Black Prairie region. It's as though the course has been there for decades. Old World charm abounds: a handsome palette of mature oaks, native grasses splashed across a meadow setting. Distinctive holes with substantial contouring weave amid the ridgelines and valleys. Among them are the drivable par-4 10th, its tilted, boomerang-shaped green hidden behind a massive oak tree; and the par-3 15th, an uphill thrust to a ridge-top green bracketed by steep fall-offs on either side and menaced by a sand sprawl that's etched into the hillside.
In typical Hanse/Wagner style, the course is meant to play firm and fast, with shaved short grass around the greens to inspire ground game options. The greens come in all shapes and sizes and rely more on broad slope than individual contours for their challenge. And at 7,200-plus yards from the tips, there's more than enough beef to test top collegians and low-handicaps, with two ponds impacting four holes and farm ditches that influence play. Still, overall width and roomy green entrances make it playable for all levels.
Gil Hanse, Jim Wagner—you've done it again. Your place on the podium awaits.