Gulf Shores, Alabama: A six-pack of must-play golf courses on the Flora-Bama coast

GULF SHORES, Ala. -- Come to Gulf Shores to play golf, and you'll find one of the best bargains in the country. This area of Alabama offers quality resort golf for less than half the price of some other parts of the country. And it comes with beaches, terrific restaurants and great blue-collar entertainment, like the legendary Flora-Bama Lounge on the Florida/Alabama border.

And as far as the golf is concerned, the area offers everything from coastal links to hillier courses with elevated tees and greens.

"You're not just playing one style of golf when you come here for a vacation," said Duncan Miller, executive director of the Gulf Coast Golf Association, which offers stay-and-play packages in the area. "There's a lot of variety."

The golf courses feature some of the best names in the business – Arnold Palmer Design, Jerry Pate and Earl Stone, for example. There are more than a dozen to chose from in the area, and it's hard to go wrong with any of them. But we've chosen six that you shouldn't pass up if you're in the Mobile/Gulf Shores, Ala., area. These tracks are sure to keep you challenged and entertained ...

Kiva Dunes Golf Course

When it opened in 1995, Kiva Dunes Golf Course ranked second on Golf Digest's list of Best New Public Courses in the United States and has been perennially ranked among the top golf courses in Alabama. Considered one of Jerry Pate's finest designs – and the former U.S. Open and Players Champion has a number of them – Kiva Dunes is what golfers think of when you mention Alabama coastal golf. Situated next to the Gulf of Mexico, this tough, scenic links-style layout is greatly influenced by the elements – namely the wind. Fortunately, the course was designed with the prevailing winds in mind, but from the tips at more than 7,000 yards, this is one tough test.

Peninsula Golf and Racquet Club

Set along Mobile Bay, 27-hole Peninsula Golf and Racquet Club is also near the top of the must-play list when visiting Gulf Shores. Designed by Earl Stone, the championship layout of Peninsula's Cypress/Marsh course is more than 7,100 yards, but also provides a playable and enjoyable test for golfers of all skill levels. The real bonus, however, is the scenery. Peninsula Golf Club runs along the Bon Secour Wildlife Preserve, making its way throughout live oaks, cypress, and other natural habitat. The club also has a recently remodeled clubhouse, restaurant and grill, fitness center, tennis courts and pools.

Lost Key Golf Club

Located on the Barrier Island of Perdido Key, Fla., Lost Key Golf Club was renovated by the Arnold Palmer Design Group in 2006. This par-71 signature design features Sea Dwarf paspalum tee to green for superior conditions. Lost Key was also the first golf course in the world to be certified as an Audubon International Silver Signature Sanctuary. The club also has a new clubhouse with a golf shop, men's and women's locker room facilities with lounge areas, and a restaurant and bar with indoor and outdoor seating overlooking the golf course.

Craft Farms Resort

It was R.C. Craft's dream to one day invite Arnold Palmer to design a golf course on his 870-acre gladiola farm located just three miles from the beaches, and in 1988 that dream became a reality. There are two 18-hole championship layouts. Cotton Creek is the more resort course of the two with plenty of Palmer mounding and large greens. It features a picturesque clubhouse that exudes Southern hospitality. Craft Farms' Cypress Bend course has more of a coastal links feel. The layout features sprawling bunkers and lakes that come into play on nearly every hole. Fairways are generous, and the greens are large with plenty of undulation. Craft Farms Resort also offers first-rate accommodations and convenient shopping.

Timber Creek Golf Course

Located in Daphne, Ala., Timber Creek Golf Club is the antithesis of coastal golf, with hills and elevated tee shots. This 27-hole layout located on the eastern shore of Mobile Bay makes its way through wetland preserves and a forest of dogwoods, magnolias and pines. Also designed by Earl Stone, each combination approaches 7,000 yards in length from the tips, challenging every level of player. The facility also offers a full-service restaurant, top-notch practice area and friendly service.

Rock Creek Golf Club

Rock Creek Golf Club, which is located in Fairhope, Ala., is another Stone design. It offers several sets of tees and can be stretched to more than 7,000 yards, challenging both long hitters and higher handicap players. The layout features numerous doglegs, generous landing areas and large greens with multiple tiers and plenty of movement. Like Timber Creek, Rock Creek Golf Club has plenty of elevation change. Its signature hole is the second, a 434-yard par-4 that drops 70 feet from the tee to the fairway with a an approach shot over wetlands to a green featuring a 30-foot bulkhead wall. The course plays along fresh Alabama water wastelands, tall pines, hardwood forests and the Rock Creek basin.

Mike Bailey is a former Golf Advisor senior staff writer based in Houston. Focusing primarily on golf in the United States, Canada, the Caribbean and Latin America with an occasional trip to Europe and beyond, he contributes course reviews, travel stories and features as well as the occasional equipment review. An award-winning writer and past president of Texas Golf Writers Association, he has more than 25 years in the golf industry. He has also been on staff at PGA Magazine, The Golfweek Group and AvidGolfer Magazine. Follow Mike on Twitter at @MikeBaileyGA and Instagram at @MikeStefanBailey.

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Kiel Christianson has lived, worked, traveled and golfed extensively on three continents. As senior writer and equipment editor for, he has reviewed courses, resorts, and golf academies from California to Ireland, including his home course, Lake of the Woods G.C. in Mahomet, Illinois. Read his golf blog here.
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Gulf Shores, Alabama: A six-pack of must-play golf courses on the Flora-Bama coast