Four Courses in Mississippi's Northwestern Most County Create a Lasting Impression
Exploring Great Golf in DeSoto County
By Glen Turk
The great state of Mississippi needs a hug. Watching your local news for only a few minutes will reveal catastrophic pictures of the recent oil spill that has affected Mississippi's Gulf Coast. Watch a few minutes more and you'll see that Brett Favre once again turned southern Mississippi into his own personal waffle house for the third straight year. But six hours north of the chaos is a county that prides itself in taking it slow and reveling in the good life - a life that includes four pristine golf courses only minutes from Memphis, Tennessee.
I've been fortunate enough to visit DeSoto County twice and the highest compliment I can say is that I've recommended family and friends to vacation there. Sure you can fly into Memphis from any major Midwestern airport, but I prefer the 10 hour, all-expressway drive through the heartland of America. It's an easy trip, especially when you leave at 4:00 am so you can catch a twilight round of 18 on the same day. Just how important is golf to the people of DeSoto County? When looking up the county on Wikipedia under the "Attractions" heading the first phrase was "DeSoto County is known for its variety of golf courses." Now that's good stuff.
Two of the four properties within DeSoto County, Cherokee Valley and The Plantation, are owned and operated by the Mike Herrington and Keith Allen families, second-generation stewards of Olive Branch, MS golf. Mike's father, Clay, was a long-time mayor of Olive Branch and can be credited with bringing the vision of golf to Desoto County. Today both properties are simply getting better with age and feature full parking lots from sunup to sundown. In fact, a recent Golf Digest article mentioned Cherokee Valley as the finest public course in the greater Memphis area - a true credit to Herrington, Allen, and their commitment to an exceptional experience.
Cherokee Valley takes full advantage of a beautiful piece of land and does so immediately. Stunning elevation changes and prominent water features are present while standing on the opening tee box and it only gets better from there. At only 467 yards and all downhill the first half, the premier hole's real defense is an elevated green that's protected by water roughly 30 yards in front of the putting surface. Make sure to look to the right on your approach and you'll see a gigantic "CV" logo carved out of the bushes. I wonder how many people pulled off Hwy 306 to play 18 at Cherokee Valley only after they saw the logo from the road.
A very distinctive and memorable design aspect of Cherokee Valley is the parallel par-4's that conclude each nine. Both holes go uphill forever and present that dreaded "I can only see the very top of the flag stick proposition." "My dad pictured those two holes in his mind as he loved the idea of uphill finishing par-4's, or as he called them sister par-4's,"explained Mike Herrington. Number 9 is highlighted by a very narrow landing area plus has a huge green with several ridges that adds to the excitement. Number 18 plays at 399 yards and features a three-tiered small green. Your ball must be on the proper level or at least below the hole in order to two-putt.
The inward nine is more open than the front, but still presents players the perfect combination of beauty and playability. The 12th hole may only be 338 yards long, but it signifies the start of a great stretch on the back nine. Big bombers may be able to drive the green with a mighty strike on the perfect line. John Daly once hit a 3-wood to 8 feet during a local pro am and then sheepishly said to Mike Herrington, "You've got a great long par-3 here."
Only five minutes northeast of Cherokee Valley is The Plantation, the first course Clay Herrington built. The 6773 yard layout opened in 1990 and features gentler contours than Cherokee Valley. The exciting news at The Plantation for 2010 is the installation of Championship Bermuda greens. Adam Payne, The Director of Golf at both facilities, is overseeing the project and looks forward to an October 1st reopen. "The greens at the Plantation course are 20 years old and the best years of their life are past. This summer has been extremely hot and several golf courses in our area have had to close because they lost their greens. Also with the results that we have seen from other golf courses in our area that have already changed, we feel it is the best thing for the golf course moving forward. The Plantation at this time next year should be a real treat to play," concluded Payne.
No matter what the make up of the greens are, the inward nine is fantastic, as it plays a robust 3590 yards from the tips and features a par-5 over 600 yards and four par-4's that play well over 400 yards. The 437 yard 18th is a super dogleg left that's straight uphill from the 150 yard mark. You'll have to take at least two more clubs just to negotiate the climb toward the clubhouse. Make sure you look back as you're putting out and enjoy the view of where you've just been. Director of Golf Adam Payne believes any round at The Plantation ends with a flourish thanks to the 18th. "Number 18 is a long but straight driving hole with a second shot to be played over water up hill to a very tough green. Go right off the tee and you will be left with a very long shot into the green. Par is always a good score here." For further details on Cherokee Valley and The Plantation, log on to their website at www.olivebranchgolf.com.
Nestled inside a cozy residential neighborhood is Wedgewood Golfers Club, a deceivingly difficult, yet thoroughly enjoyable track. The course plays a stern 6863 yards from the tips and features a series of cavernous ravines that make the fairways look like a narrow airport runway. Even though most landing areas are wide enough to negotiate, it's that sense of impending danger that suggests you must pick your lines and clubs carefully.
I absolutely love the final 10 holes at Wedgewood, and it all starts with the 364 yard par-4 9th. This hole starts players on a journey back into the wooded, residential portion of the property where home and shot values are high. After a few confidence inducing holes on the back nine, the final four will test your game and it all starts with the 424 yard par-4 15th. This risk/reward gem features water down the right side and a ridiculous fairway slope that sends balls right to the H2O. Two holes later, at the penultimate 17th, is where John Wells, the General Manager of both Wedgewood and The Club at North Creek believes Wedgewood is at its finest. "Number 17 is a short par-4 with a down hill tee shot and an uphill approach shot onto an elevated two-tiered green. This hole rewards a well placed wedge shot." For more information on Wedgewood Golfers Club, visit www.wedgewoodgolfersclub.com.
Located 15 minutes straight west of Olive Branch is the suburb of South Haven, Mississippi and the Club at North Creek. Big things are happening at North Creek as the course has been closed most of the summer for the installation of Bermuda green complexes. Once the course reopens October 1st, 2010 it is sure to have some of the finest conditions in the area. "The reason we decided to change the greens at North Creek is because bentgrass tends to struggle during the hotter summer months in this region," explained John Wells. "When the heat gets as bad as it has, especially this summer, it makes it really hard to keep bentgrass in the shape that you would like it to be in. Bermuda, on the other hand not only maintains well in the heat but thrives. It is just a better choice of grass for our region when it comes to having quality and more manageable greens year round," concluded Wells.
The par 72 layout plays 6433 yards from the gold tees and is a fun hybrid links style layout. After playing the front nine I fully expected the scorecard to say "Designed by Jekyll and Hide." Reason being I'd play an easy hole followed by a really difficult one and then the process would repeat itself. The toughest of the lot, is the 628 yard, yes no typo here, the 628 yard par-5 4th. Amazingly, over 1/6 of the entire front nine's yardage is consumed at the 4th. I swear the only two man made objects you can see from space are the Great Wall of China and this hole.
North Creek's most unique design feature is back-to-back par-3's over water at the 16th and 17th holes. The 16th plays at 170 yards from the tips and features a multi-tiered green that slopes severely from back to front. The 17th plays 165 yards from the back and also features a forced carry to the putting surface. Play these two holes in par and you deserve a liquid refreshment after the round. For more information on The Club at North Creek, visit their website at wwncgolf.com.
In summary, four phenomenal golf courses in the suburbs of the always exciting Memphis await when you take a journey to DeSoto County, Mississippi. For more information on all that DeSoto County has to offer, visit their website at www.desotocountytourism.com.
Article Tags: DeSoto County Golf, Mississippi Golf
Revised: 10/07/2010 - Article Viewed 1846 Times
Glen Turk Biography:
Glen Turk is a Wisconsin native and is the Senior Writer/Editor of Midwest Golfing Magazine. Midwest Golfing Magazine was formerly known as Pub-Links Golfer's Magazine and is a free publication distributed four times per year throughout Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, Iowa, Indiana, and Ohio.
His duties at MGM include writing course features, facilitating product testing, and overseeing the overall content and look of the magazine. But clearly his most important task is playing as much golf as his wife allows. Fortunately for him, she plays also and loves out-driving him even with a 60 yard head start.
Glen plays to a 6 handicap but once set a record by having his ball retriever regripped 15 times in one calendar year. It was a December trip to Guam that ultimately did him in. Finally, if you haven't caught on by now, the two most worthy weapons in Glen's writing arsenal are self-deprecating humor and pithy one-liners.
My signature line, "Be A Force on The Course" and now more recently, "Hit 'Em Where They Mow!" can be reused at no charge.
Contact Glen Turk:
Midwest Golfing Magazine - Senior Writer Editor