By Len Ziehm

It’s no secret that the horrible pandemic gave a boost to the golf industry nation-wide, and that is most evident in Mississippi. The sport has really taken off there in the last few years.

That was evident when a small group of golf media members from all parts of the country spent a week getting a thorough look at the state’s best courses, be they private, resort or public.

While I don’t take any of the major course rating polls as gospel, our group played seven of Mississippi’s top 10 in the Golf Digest rankings. That gave us a good feel for what golf has done for the state since the pandemic.

“We were the No. 1 state in the country for recovery,’’ said Craig Ray, director of tourism for Visit Mississippi.  “That’s according to the U.S. Travel Association.  We got our casinos open early and encouraged our golf and other outdoor activities (to do the same). That’s why we came back quicker, with a smaller percentage of losses than any other state.’’

The casinos were important, of course, but golf was also a big key to recovery.

“We wanted to get people to the casinos, see a show, get a great dinner,’’ said Ray. “We wanted the golfers to see everything else we have to offer – the hunting and fishing, the culinary tours. We have the largest music trail system in the world.  We wanted to show them the whole state.’’

On our trip the group took in a couple of the casinos, Beau Rivage in Biloxi and Pearl River Resort & Casino in Choctaw. We enjoyed some fine dining at Field’s Steakhouse and Oyster Bar, Jia (featuring Pan-Asian cuisine), Phillip M’s Steakhouse, Mama ‘N’ Ems and Cameron’s at Old Waverly Country Club.

The good golf, though, was spread around the state. Using the Golf Digest rankings, we hit No. 1 Fallen Oak, No. 2 Mossy Oak, No. 3 Old Waverly, No. 5 the Azalea course at Dancing Rabbit, No. 6 Grand Bear, No. 8 Dancing Rabbit’s Oaks course and No. 10 Shell Landing. More