Grand Bear Golf
by Scott A. Sumner
I first started golfing in 1975 as a 20 year old and at that time if you were a golfer your hero was Jack Nicklaus. Each year I would see jack compete at the Canadian Open at Glen Abbey, the first golf course he ever designed. Since then Nicklaus has over 200 unique designs around the planet earth and I always enjoy playing the Golden Bear layouts.
Mike Buckley is the Head Golf Professional at Grand Bear located in Sauchier MS. Opened in August, 1999 the Jack Nicklaus Signature design was built on a 1750 acres property with the golf course situated on some 600 acres. You always feel like you are the only group out there. It is a great piece of property. We can play from 4550 to 7200 with 5 tees- the grizzly bear to teddy bear, stated the constantly smiling Mike Buckley. The course has some elevation
changes which is rare for Mississippi and winds into the Sesot forest with big tall pines trees, a lot of wetlands and is unique to any other golf course as we are nestled between the Big and Biloxi rivers. There are 4 holes along the rivers where you can see the natural white sand along the rivers which I have never seen anywhere else except the ocean. There are no houses,no development which means we are all natural. It is pretty special. It is a lot of acreage here and when Nicklaus came in they gave him 1750 acres and said use what
you want. He carved it out, taking 600 acres for a golf course which
is unheard of these days.
Harrahs Casino owns Grand Bear. It used to be an amenity for the Grand Casinos in Gulfport and Biloxi. After Harrah bought out the operation in 2005 the course was opened to the public, not just casino guests nd it has been great according to Mike Buckley. In peak
season it costs $89 weekdays and $99 weekend to play Grand Bear. In the hot summer period there are green fe specials of $50 and $65. Included in you fee is cart and range balls.
We did 23,000 rounds last year and hope for 25,000 this year. Our peak season is starting right about now, early March. We do 12 minute tee times and try not to get people bunched up out there, noted Buckley. We would like more Canadians to come down. We are trying to
develop the market. The coast golf wise is a good as it gets now as we have opened new golf courses since the storm. It is the best it has ever been and it is going to get better. We have the hotel rooms and the casinos. Our company own 6 courses not near each other.
How did Hurricane Katrina affect Grand Bear. The day after the storm we pulled up and got in the cart. We rode down no.10 couldn't get past 10. We rode down 18 and couldn't get past 18 so we started walking the course. My boss asked how long wil it take to reopen and
I said 1 year and he said I'll give you 3 months, smiled Buckley who is originally from Boston and plays golf a lot. We had 5000 trees down but the trees didnt affect the course that much. It really just thinned things out.
Grand Bear has been ranked no 1 in Mississippi by Golf week and in the Top 100 in the US twice.