Gulf Shores, Alabama, is one of the top resort areas on the gulf coast of Alabama, thanks to its location on the Gulf of Mexico and its proximity to the Alabama-Florida border. Gulf Shores has plenty of beaches for tourists and golf courses for those who enjoy a day on the course. Many of the courses in Gulf Shores are part of resorts and are rated by golf publications as some of the best in the state and nation.
The State Park
The state of Alabama owns and operates a half dozen golf courses on state parklands. The course in Gulf State Park Golf Course in Gulf Shores plays 6,563 yards from the back tees. Gulf State Park offers discounted green fees to senior citizens, a snack bar, locker rooms with showers and a practice area that includes a driving range, putting area, and chipping area with a sand bunker.
Two golf complexes in Gulf Shores offer players more than the standard 18 holes. Craft Farms features 36 holes designed by former PGA Tour legend Arnold Palmer. Named for the land’s owner, R.C. Craft, the Cotton Creek course plays 7,200 yards from the back tees, while the Cypress Bend course plays 6,848 yards from the back tees. Both courses feature natural undulation, plenty of sand bunkers, and water that comes into play on many holes. Peninsula Golf and Racquet Club has three different nines with three sets of tees so players can play several different combinations without repeating themselves. The course is near the Bon Secour Wildlife Preserve and has its own clubhouse, restaurant and fitness center.
The Top-Ranked Course
When Kiva Dunes opened in 1995, Golf Digest named it the state’s “Best Place to Play.” GolfWeek Magazine named it the third-best public course in Alabama in 2010. Designed by former U.S. Open champion Jerry Pate, Kiva Dunes plays 7,092 yards from the back tees. Pate’s design brings water into play on several holes, forces accuracy by lining the fairways with trees, and features plenty of bunkers all over the course. The course is part of the Kiva Dunes Resort, which features pools, beaches, tennis and several restaurants.
Kiva Dunes has earned recognition from Golf Digest, Golf Magazine and Links Magazine. Golf Digest ranked it among the nation’s Top 75 resorts in 2002 and among the Top 100 public courses in 2003. Kiva Dunes was tied for 60th in Golf Digest’s 2010 rankings for best resort. Both the Cotton Creek and Cypress Bend courses at Craft Farms have earned four-star ratings from Golf Digest.
On the Cotton Creek course at Craft Farms, the par-4 sixth hole deserved plenty of focus. Players must clear water off the tee and on their approach to the green, as the 395-yard hole is the toughest on the course. Cypress Bend’s par-5, 18th hole plays 505 yards from the back, just short enough for players to be tempted to go for it in two shots, but you’ll need to avoid the water on the right and the bunkers in front of the green to do so. At Kiva Dunes, the par-5 second hole is an experience. Players tee off down a narrow fairway and must negotiate a water hazard on the right side to reach a small green guarded by bunkers on the left.