WEST POINT, Miss. -- Long-time employees of Old Waverly Golf Club have driven by the old dairy farm across the road for years without realizing what a gold mine of a golf course it would become.
Gil Hanse, arguably the game's hottest architect, transformed the vast, rolling site into Mossy Oak Golf Club -- named after the popular camouflage apparel company located in town. The 7,212-yard public course opened for preview play in September, garnering plenty of praise. Hanse's use of deception and angles adds an element of mystery to a layout that seems straightforward at first glance.
Hanse isn't bashful about playing games with golfers. That way, players never tire of trying to solve his riddles. The tee shots on the par-5 seventh and par-4 14th holes are essentially blind. Many of the bunkers near the green appear to be much closer to the putting surfaces than they really are. Other green surrounds feature humps and mounds that kick balls closer to the pin or farther away. A few false fronts are dastardly difficult, such as the one on the elevated 12th green, the finish of a strong par 5.
Hanse forces golfers to think on a pair of short par 4s -- the 299-yard third hole and the 311-yard 10th hole. Going for the green makes sense on the latter, not the former. Ditches cross the fairways of four holes (no. 5, no. 7, no. 8 and no. 12) and again snake behind the green at no. 13 to keep players sharp. The most daunting hazards are the pond on the 250-yard, par-3 11th hole and the unholy 30,000-square-foot bunker left of the 17th green.
Guests who aren't playing with a founding member must take a caddie, a guide who classes up the experience and helps golfers avoid the most obvious pitfalls.
Mossy Oak Golf Club currently operates out of a temporary clubhouse that's actually quite nice. Cottages -- similar to the ones that allow stay-and-play access to the private Old Waverly -- will eventually be built on site.
Building a new course rarely makes sense these days, but Mossy Oak completes the puzzle for George Bryan, who developed Old Waverly in the late 1980s. Mossy Oak and Old Waverly are two completely different courses that make up one great golf destination.
Local attractions such as SEC football (Starkville is home of Mississippi State University) and outdoor adventures at Prairie Wildlife (a nature preserve with Orvis shooting and fly-fishing schools, hunting, horseback riding and off-road driving) add to the fun.