The two courses at Craft Farms are among the most popular in the area. Cypress Bend at Craft Farms is a par 72 that measures 6,848-yards. Golf Digest recently named it to a list of best places to play. This Arnold Palmer-designed course boasts a 4 ½ star rating by the same publication and was rated the number one most playable new course in the U.S. when it opened in 1993. It lives up to that standard even today. Bring your A game or lots of extra ammo as you will find water hazards on every hole!The sister course at Craft Farms—Cotton Creek—was also designed by Arnold Palmer and opened in 1987. Measuring 7,127-yards from the championship tees, this course is very playable from the 5,175-yard forward tee boxes. The lush course features tree-lined, rolling fairways surrounded by lakes. True to its Palmer design, this traditional 18-hole masterpiece was laid out to challenge rather than intimidate.
Kiva Dunes Golf Club, designed by former U.S. Open champion Jerry Pate, is Alabama’s only beachfront golf resort and consistently ranks among the top golf courses along the entire Gulf Coast. Golf Digest recently listed the 7,092-yard track as one of “America’s 100 Best Public Golf Courses.”
Gulf State Park, set between the towns of Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, has an 18-hole golf course and enough other activities to fill an entire summer. The 18-hole, Earl Stone-designed Refuge Golf Club opened in 1974 and stretches to 6,593-yards. It features three tee boxes, reasonable green fees at $27.50 for 18 holes, and a driving range, putting green, pro shop, and the welcoming Refuge Grill.
Peninsula Golf & Racquet Club is a 27-hole championship course, also designed by Earl Stone. It is nestled beside the Bon Secour wildlife preserve and winds throughout live oaks, cypress, and other natural vegetation native to Gulf Shores.
Lots to See and Do
In addition to great golf options, the Gulf Coast attracts lots of visitors for fishing. There’s no shortage of charter boats with experienced crew members who will help you reel in a variety of fish and lots of memories. Sunset cruises are also quite popular, with patrons setting sail on comfortable charter boats and catamarans, routinely accompanied by dolphins swimming nearby.
If you don’t feel like catching your own dinner, head to one of the many fine restaurants throughout the region. Lulu’s at Homeport Marina is owned by Jimmy Buffet’s sister Lucy Buffet, and has been a favorite of locals and visitors since opening 16 years ago. It is definitely a popular draw, serving 4,000 people a day during the peak summer season.
The Wharf, in Orange Beach, is another popular destination for locals and tourists alike. This premier resort and marina features a unique selection of restaurants, shops, a 15-screen movie theater, 112-foot tall Ferris wheel, and 9,600-seat amphitheater.
A visit to Gulf Shores wouldn’t be complete without experiencing the legendary Flora-Bama Lounge, an iconic roadhouse-style bar that recently celebrated 50 years in business. Known for its live music and Bushwacker frozen drinks, the Flora-Bama, which straddles the Florida-Alabama state line, features popular events like the Interstate Mullet Toss (a mullet is a type of fish down south). On Sunday mornings, you can gather again at the Flora-Bama for church services dubbed Worship on the Water. This unique venue for church invites any and all to attend.
Gulf State Park is set on more than 6,000 acres, and in addition to its golf course, has 496 campsites, and two miles of white sand beaches. In addition to playing golf, you can paddle and fish in the 900-acre Lake Shelby, or hike, bike, or run on the 15-mile Hugh S. Branyon Backcountry Trail. The park’s beaches offer plenty of room to explore the beauty and serenity of this sun-drenched coastline. A new beach pavilion was recently added, and you’ll also find tennis courts, a zipline, and a fishing pier that is 20 feet wide and extends 1,512 feet into the Gulf.
Retro-themed and pet-friendly Sugar Sands RV Resort in Gulf Shores features 63 sites, each with a 22-foot by 60-foot concrete pad to accommodate larger rigs. Amenities include full hookups, 30/50-amp power, water/sewer, and Wi-Fi.
Bay Breeze on the Bay RV Park, also in Gulf Shores and pet-friendly, is located on the serene shores of Mobile Bay. Bay Breeze offers 25 full-service RV sites with Wi-Fi, water, sewer and electric hookups, along with three rental RVs and a cottage. The large shaded lots each have a concrete patio and picnic tables.
Rick Stedman is an avid golfer, RVer and writer. Rick writes a weekly golf blog, “The 19th Hole,” which is published every Saturday at rvlife.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.