West Choctaw, MS (SportsNetwork.com) - FACTS AND STATS: The Azaleas Course
Architects: Tom Fazio and Jerry Pate (1997). Year Opened: July, 1997.
Location: West Choctaw, Mississippi. Slope: 135. Rating: 74.4. Par: 72.
1 - Par 4 415 Yds 10 - Par 5 529 Yds
2 - Par 5 548 Yds 11 - Par 4 386 Yds
3 - Par 4 453 Yds 12 - Par 4 456 Yds
4 - Par 3 183 Yds 13 - Par 3 206 Yds
5 - Par 5 571 Yds 14 - Par 4 378 Yds
6 - Par 4 379 Yds 15 - Par 4 359 Yds
7 - Par 3 184 Yds 16 - Par 3 175 Yds
8 - Par 4 465 Yds 17 - Par 5 527 Yds
9 - Par 4 439 Yds 18 - Par 4 475 Yds
Par 36 3,637 Yds Par 36 3,491 Yds
Key Events Held: Pearl River Resort Golf Classic (Hooters Tour) (2006-07),
Mississippi State Amateur Championship (2006),
U.S. Senior Open qualifier (2006).
Awards Won: Ranked #5 by Golf Digest - Best-in-State (MS) (2013-14),
Rated #94 by Golfweek - Best Resort Courses (2013),
Rated #2 by GolfWeek - Best Courses you can play (MS) (2011),
Rated #2 by Golf Magazine - Best Courses you can play (MS) (2008),
Ranked #11 by Golf Digest - Top-40 Casino Golf Courses (2007),
Number 32 - Golf Magazine - Top 100 Courses you can Play
Rated #2 by GolfWeek - America's Best State-by-State (MS) (2006),
Rated 4 1/2 stars by Golf Digest - Best Places to Play (2006),
Rated #1 by GolfWeek - America's Best in Mississippi (2003).
FACTS AND STATS: The Oaks Course Architects: Tom Fazio and Jerry Pate (1999)
Year Opened: June, 1999. Location: West Choctaw, Mississippi. Slope: 139.
Rating: 74.6. Par: 72. Yardage: 7,076.
1 - Par 4 367 Yds 10 - Par 4 322 Yds
2 - Par 4 468 Yds 11 - Par 3 220 Yds
3 - Par 3 209 Yds 12 - Par 4 444 Yds
4 - Par 5 536 Yds 13 - Par 4 387 Yds
5 - Par 3 190 Yds 14 - Par 5 566 Yds
6 - Par 4 424 Yds 15 - Par 4 421 Yds
7 - Par 4 446 Yds 16 - Par 5 540 Yds
8 - Par 4 327 Yds 17 - Par 3 177 Yds
9 - Par 5 577 Yds 18 - Par 4 455 Yds
Par 36 3,544 Yds Par 36 3,532 Yds
Awards Won: Rated #6 by GolfWeek - Best Courses you can play (MS) (2011),
Rated #4 by Golf Magazine - Best Courses you can play (MS) (2008),
Ranked #18 by Golf Digest - Top-40 Casino Golf Courses (2007).
Rated #4 by GolfWeek - America's Best State-by-State (MS) (2006).
Rated 4 1/2 stars by Golf Digest - Best Places to Play (2006).
Web site: www.dancingrabbitgolf.com, pearlriverresort.com.
HISTORY: The golf courses at Dancing Rabbit have only been around since the
late 1990s, however, the land that they envelope has been part of American
history for over 150 years.
As history tells us, the Choctaw Indians thrived on their ancestral lands and
in the fall of 1830, the U.S. government and the tribe sat down to negotiate a
treaty between the two parties.
The basis of the treaty was the United States ceded roughly 11 million acres
of the Choctaw Nation (a large portion of Mississippi) in exchange for nearly
15 million acres in the Indian region of Oklahoma.
The signing of this historic occasion occurred in the southwest corner of
Noxubee County, Miss., known to the Choctaw as Chukfi Ahihla Bogue (Dancing
Rabbit Creek). Hence the naming of the treaty, which in their native language,
was "Bok Chukfi Aabitba," meaning "the creek where rabbits dance."
The Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek was one of the largest land transfers ever
signed between the government and American Indians in time of peace and was
the final treaty between the two parties.
So the name, Dancing Rabbit Golf Club, serves as a remembrance, not to mention
a celebration of the Choctaw Indian heritage.
To this day, the descendants of the Choctaw who stayed in Mississippi
reorganized themselves as the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians in 1945 and
gained federal recognition.
They are a proud people of 10,000 and the Choctaw land spans over 35,000 acres
in 10 different counties in Mississippi, led by the first female Tribal Chief
in their history, Chief Phyliss J. Anderson.
When it came to select a course designer, who better to create a pair of golf
courses on such storied ground than none other than Tom Fazio, one of the
leading architects in the history of golf course design.
In 40 years of golf course design, Fazio, who has crafted hundreds of courses
all over the Western Hemisphere, is especially known for his 17 venues ranked
in the top 100 of Golf Digest's, "America's 100 Greatest Golf Courses."
Layouts such as, Wade Hampton, Shadow Creek, Victoria National, Butler
National and The Estancia Club.
So it made perfect sense to hire Fazio, along with the assistance of PGA Tour
player Jerry Pate, to craft a pair of courses in this historic region of the
United States. Pate, who captured the 1976 U.S. Open and the 1974 U.S.
Amateur, was critical to the development with his insight to player strategy.
What transpired is the design of two different courses, one which features
generous fairways, stunning approach shots and Bermuda greens (Oaks) and
another that demands precision, length and skill played on Bentgrass greens
and Bermuda fairways (Azaleas).
Located in the Pines Region of Mississippi, the two courses feature five sets
of tees, ranging from as little as 4,909 yards to over 7,100 yards. And that's
the beauty of Dancing Rabbit, all skill levels can play these two gems, just
select the correct teeing ground and have at it.
The courses are carved through tall pines that date back hundreds of years and
boast rolling fairways, sculptured through valleys of breathtaking landscape
and topped off with two miles of meandering creeks.
It comes as no surprise that both courses have been rated in the top 10 in the
state for years and most likely for seasons to come.
REVIEW: AZALEAS COURSE - Although rated one of the easier holes on the course,
the first on the Azaleas Course is anything but easy. Reaching 415 yards from
the back markers, the opening hole features a wide fairway, but necessitates a
200-yard carry to the landing area over a creek and thick rough. Avoid the
large bunker on the left and you'll be left with a severely uphill approach to
a very deep green. Sand to the left of the putting surface guards the slick
green that runs from back to front. Club selection will be difficult because
you can only see the top of the flag.
The first par-5 on the course stretches 548 yards and is straightaway from tee
to green. A fairway bunker down the left squeezes the landing area slightly,
but it's the trees down both sides that must be avoided. Although reachable in
two, the prudent play is to lay up down the right side of the narrow fairway.
Sand guards both sides, but you should be able to split this section with a
rescue club or fairway metal. Your approach will be uphill to the two-tiered
green. A back-left pin, tucked behind a bunker, will be difficult to get at,
so play out to the right and leave a mid-length putt for birdie.
One of the most sensational holes on the course, the third, is also one of the
hardest on the Azaleas. This par-4 measures 453 yards and features a split,
upper and lower portion fairway. The right side is the proper section, as it
sits well above the left and gives the player a better angle of attack to the
green. The left side brings a creek and thick rough into play and forces the
player to carry over a larger portion of the wetlands and the greenside
bunker. The putting surface is one of the longest on the course at 47 yards in
depth, as it slopes from right to left. The sensible play is out to the right
and let your approach feed toward the pin.
Number four is the first par-3 on the course. Playing slightly downhill, a
large bunker guards the right side of the long putting surface and must be
avoided, as it sits well below the hole. The key here is club selection
because the slope of the hole will dictate your approach. Fairly simple, but
do not take lightly, as the green slopes from front to back.
From one of the shortest holes to the longest, the par-5 fifth can play as
long as 571 yards from the gold tees. Although the fairway is generous and
needs just 240 yards to carry the left fairway trap, be wary of the trees that
guard either side, as this will make an easy hole very, very hard. Following
your second shot, the hole doglegs sharply to the right and is uphill toward
the green. A back-left pin, not only will bring four bunkers into play, but
left of the surface falls hard toward a creek bed. Birdieable, but double-bogey
is not too far behind.
One of four par-4s under 400 yards, the sixth is a dogleg left gem that can
baffle the best. Although it bends left, the fairway tilts right, making your
tee shot even much more difficult. Lay back off the tee because this will help
you avoid the fairway bunker down the right side. A medium to short iron will
be left to one of the smallest greens on the course, protected only by a
valley separating the fairway and the surface. Choose the right club to clear
and you'll have a great shot at birdie.
The valley that dissects the sixth hole comes into play on the par-3 seventh.
At 184 yards, this hole is all carry to the green. Playing downhill, you'll
need to pick the right stick off the tee, making sure you carry the valley,
but not too long to fly the surface. When the pin is back-left, you must avoid
the temptation of flag hunting because this is the smallest portion of the
green and any shot just off-line will result in a big number.
We've reached the hardest hole on the course, the par-4 eighth at 463 yards.
You'll need to blast a big tee ball down the left-center of the fairway
because the landing area tilts to the right. This might be a daunting task, as
a 70- yard trap lays in waiting down the left. As the hole bends slightly to
the left, a long iron or fairway metal might be the club of choice to a green
guarded by sand left and trees on both sides. Any tee ball to the right rough,
will have little chance of getting home, as the trees protrude out in full
The closing hole on the outward nine is a picturesque, should I say, Augusta-
like par-4. Playing slightly downhill off the tee, your drive must carry over
200 yards to the wide fairway, but must avoid the sand right. A meandering
creek runs down the left side through the green, definitely coming into play
with your approach. The putting surface is one of the largest on the course at
46 paces in length, but very shallow. Long and left is a double- bogey waiting
The back nine starts out with a reachable par-5 of just 529 yards from the
tips. Although it plays uphill, the 10th can be had, but the key is the tee
shot. A long forced carry is required to reach the fairway, which is quite
generous, except the bunker down the right side. With a successful tee ball,
you'll have an opportunity to get home as the hole bends to the right, but be
careful because the landing area tightens by the green and the putting surface
features a tier that will make two-putting difficult. By the way, avoid the
massive trap on the right flank of the green ... it's a doozy.
Birdie chances continue when you reach the 11th, a short par-4 under 400 yards
in length. No fairway traps, just trees guarding both sides of the landing
area, which is quite tricky, because it features a top shelf, before falling
down drastically some 20 feet. If your tee shot carries too far, you're left
with a difficult, uphill approach to a very shallow green with a deep bunker,
front and center. It's best to lay back at the 125-yard mark, which leaves a
short iron approach, setting up a much-needed three.
A poor tee shot on 12 will force you to play catch-up, as this massive par-4
sweeps hard to the left and can play as long as 456 yards. Despite playing
downhill from the tee, you'll be hard-pressed to avoid the trio of traps down
the left side, so play right, although you'll have a longer second to the
green. If your tee ball is not up to par, you'll need to lay up short of the
creek at the 100-yard mark, leaving a full sand wedge approach to a fairly
large putting surface with a pair of bunkers guarding the entrance.
At 206 yards, the 13th is the longest and most difficult par-3 on the course.
All carry from the tee, make sure you take enough club here, despite it's
downhill appearance. The putting surface is quite deep, so picking the right
club is critical. Any shot coming up short will find sand, or worse, a
meandering creek that quietly moves throughout the course.
The next three holes will allow the player to make up some ground because the
course eases up just a bit. The 14th is only 378 yards and requires just a
long iron or fairway metal off the tee. Sand down the left must be avoided, as
this will leave an obstructed view of the slightly elevated putting surface.
The bunker complex down the right is over 275 yards out, so think off the tee.
Your approach is played diagonally left to a very shallow, although long
green. With a wedge in hand, you should be able to score a birdie.
Equally appealing is No. 15, also well under 400 yards. In fact, if you lay
back with a fairway metal or hybrid, you'll have just a wedge to another long,
but narrow putting surface. The fairway is tighter than 14, but with a shorter
club in hand, you should be safe. Sand protects the landing area at the 90-
yard mark and up by the green, so take note and attack accordingly.
One more shot at birdie comes by way of the par-3 16th. At just 175 yards,
it's the shortest hole on the course, but that's not to say it's anything but
easy. Picking the right club is key because the green is large and any play
long, will repel down the slope and into the trees. On the other hand, any
shot short, will find the beach, making for an almost impossible up and down.
The two-tiered green is difficult to judge, but if you're on the right level,
a deuce always looks good on the card.
The closing two holes on the Azaleas Course are as good as it gets. First, a
risk-reward par-5 and then a rugged par-4. You'll have your hands full on 17,
despite its relatively short yardage. No problem off the tee because only
trees line the fairway. However, that is where the fun begins because you're
faced with a difficult decision: go for it or lay up. Neither is easy. You
must be on the left side of the fairway to have any chance of getting home
because the trees encroach your view. If not, you'll have to lay up and that
brings the meandering creek into play - it cuts across the fairway. Going for
the green in two brings plenty of trouble into play, hence the risk-reward
aspect, but who knows, you might be rewarded. Honestly, the smart play is to
lay up, but take a hybrid and cross the creek to the right, as the short pitch
will reward you. The green is very long, two-tiered and runs from front to
back and to the right. It's a lot to take in, but worth every penny.
The final hole is a robust, 475-yard par-4 that plays uphill from the tee.
Yes, the fairway is wide, but you'll need to crack a long one to have a modest
club coming in. A 40-yard trap down the right guards the landing area, just to
keep you honest. If you're a big hitter, no problem, but for us mere mortals,
200- yards plus will be left to a long (50 yards long) and narrow green. And
guess what, a pond protects the right part of the left-to-right sloping green
and sand guards the left. It's not a bad idea to play short of the trouble and
pitch close to save your par.
OAKS COURSE - The opening hole on the Oaks Course is a straightaway par four
reaching just 367 yards from the back tee. Take out the big stick and let it
rip because the main trouble is the fairway bunker some 270 yards away on the
right. The landing area on the first is quite generous, leaving just a wedge
to a fairly large, but narrow putting surface. The two-tiered green can play
extremely difficult if the pin is placed in the back.
In contrast, the second hole is a robust, 468-yard par four that doglegs to
the right. Your tee ball needs to favor the right side, but be careful, the
30-yard bunker tightens the landing area and will most likely force the player
to lay up if the shot strays. A mid to long iron will remain to another large,
kidney-shaped putting surface that slopes from left to right. There's good
reason it's the second-most difficult hole on the course.
The first par three is all carry to the green, with no bailout area to speak
of. At 209 yards, you'll need a fairway metal or hybrid to conquer the
smallish green. Missing right will find sand that sits well below the putting
surface and cants from back to front. Although it's rated No. 16 on the card,
a back-right pin and a back-left tee position can lengthen this gem to over
Number four on the Oaks is a definite risk-reward par five. Only 536 yards in
the length, the key here is the tee shot. Although the landing area is
accessible, you'll have to contend with a very long fairway bunker down the
right. With that task accomplished, it's decision time, as the you'll have an
opportunity to get home in two. With the green offset to the left, it's best
to play down the right, setting up a simple pitch to the smallest green at
Dancing Rabbit, just 20 paces in depth, but 40 yards wide. The putting surface
slopes from right to left with a couple of deep bunkers in front. And you
thought this would be a birdie hole?
The second par three comes by way of the fifth hole. At 190 yards in length,
this one-shotter will play slightly shorter than the indicated yardage due to
the elevation change. Another lengthy putting surface will put a premium on
club selection, not to mention the two-tiered slope in the rear portion. By
the way, attacking a back flag is not recommended because water looms in the
The first of back-to-back dogleg left par fours, the sixth is of moderate
length, but requires an accurate tee ball. With no sand to protect the landing
zone, it's the rough and trees that line the fairway that will keep you
guessing. A shot down the right side will set up the best angle to this long
and narrow putting surface. Don't get caught up in the beauty of the hole,
you'll need to focus on getting the ball to the green, otherwise, double-bogey
will ruin your scorecard.
In my estimation, the seventh is the most difficult hole on the course and
maybe at Dancing Rabbit. Your driver will be the most important club on this
hole because you'll need to find the fairway. On some courses, you can spray
off the tee, but not here, as the left side is crimped by a lake that runs to
the 175-yard mark, while the right side is guarded by a 30-yard long bunker. If
you're man enough and have the game to do so, then blast away down the left
and you'll cover the water, otherwise this is going to be a nightmare. The
green is one of the longest on the course and runs from front to back with a
pair of bunkers on the left. Need I say more? I could, but that would spoil
The excitement continues with the driveable eighth, a wonderful, downhill par-4
of just 327 yards from the back tees. Playing much shorter than the
yardage indicates, this is truly golf at its best, which means fun. The only
bunker is the greenside trap to the right. The landing area is as wide as can
be, so where's the beef, so to speak? Well, a lake juts out to the left of the
putting surface and covers the entire rear of the green. This two-tiered green
runs from back to front, but this could be your best birdie chance of the day.
If played properly, the ninth also can be a solid birdie opportunity. Although
it's the longest hole at Dancing Rabbit Resort, this par-5 can be had. First
off, the landing area is as wide as any hole on the course and even with the
water and bunkers left, you should be able to land a 747 on this runway. The
most difficult aspect might be the layup, as the fairway is pinched tight
by bunkers on either side. Now all that's left is a wedge to an angled green
with two levels that slope from front to back. Avoid the grouping of bunkers
to the left and you're home free, whether it be birdie or par.
Another short par-4 starts the back nine off. At just 322 yards, it's driveable
for the big boys, but if you can't get there, you still want to be aggressive
off the tee. The group of bunkers on the left are 200 yards off the tee, while
the section of sand on the right is 270 from the gold markers. If you decide to
lay up, there's plenty of room, so lay back and attack with a wedge to a fairly
benign putting surface.
Not only is the 11th the longest par-3 on the course, it is also the most
difficult, as you'll need to carry water to the promised land. In addition, a
creek that feeds into the pond runs left of the green, just for difficulty
sake. The long putting surface features a semi-circular ridge on the right
that will feed you're play toward the left greenside bunkers.
The most difficult stretch of holes starts with the 12th, a dogleg right par-4
rated as the most difficult on the Oaks. Swinging hard from left to right, the
fairway is devoid of sand, but has plenty of bite as the landing area is tree-
lined through the green. Miss your tee shot right and you'll have little or no
chance of getting to the putting surface in regulation. A mid to long iron will
be required for your approach to a difficult green with sand covering the right
side. Tough, tough hole.
Although the 13th is a short par-4 at just 387 yards in length, it features a
tight fairway, highlighted by a 50-yard bunker on the right. A successful tee
ball will leave a short iron to this dogleg right, fronted by a deep bunker.
The green, one of the smallest on the course, runs from left to right with a
ridge on the back-left. Depending upon pin placement, this is a spot to flag
hunt for birdie.
The 14th on the Oaks Course is a par-5 that is viewed as a birdie hole, but
with reservations. First off, the length ... 566 yards from the tips. Second,
the layup area for your next shot is extremely narrow and, finally, the putting
surface is tucked around to the right with bunkers galore serving as
protection. The fairway off the tee is generous, although bunkers dot the
right side of the landing area, but from here, it gets tricky. To lay up,
you'll have to contend with a tree-lined fairway, pinched tightly and if
you're not far enough down the fairway, you might be blocked to the green by
trees. Let's not forget the putting surface is 40 paces in depth and, yes,
One of the most sensational holes on the course, the 15th is a well-designed,
par-4 which doglegs to the left. One of six holes over 400 yards in length
at this par, it requires precision off the tee. Despite the trouble of sand on
the left, that side of the fairway will leave the best approach. Your second
over a creek, also must avoid the tall standing pine tree that protects the
right. The kidney-shaped putting surface is only 27 yards long and quite
narrow and features a double-tier. Another word of caution, do not miss right
because a deep pot bunker, the creek and trees await.
A real birdie chance comes our way on the 16th, that is, of course, if you bomb
your tee shot on this relatively straight par-5. At 540 yards, it's quite
doable to get home in two; however, there is plenty of risk. Your tee ball will
have to travel over 200 yards from the back markers just to reach the fairway
and if you're a big hitter, then the long fairway bunker down the right will
come into play. Your decision to go for it depends upon your tee shot, so
otherwise just lay back to a comfortable yardage, as the landing area is
ample. With a wedge in hand, you should be able to attack the fairly long, but
narrow green. The putting surface features plenty of slope and any shot pulled
slightly offline left will end up in the creek that runs left and behind the
The final par-3 on the course is also the shortest at 177 yards. The approach
is simple: Clear the creek fronting the putting surface and you're home free.
What makes this difficult is choosing the right club because the green is 39
paces wide, but just 20 yards deep. In addition, the left to right slope will
create plenty of agitation, even to the best of putters.
The Oaks Course finishes with a stout par-4, stretching 455 yards from the tips
and doglegging to the left. As with most of the holes on the Oaks, the tee shot
is critical as it must find the fairway in between the bunkers on either side
of the pinched landing area. Your approach shot needs to favor the
right side because a pond and sand left receive plenty of action. Although you
can bail out right, the two traps sit below the putting surface, a green that's
a whopping 47 paces in depth and 30 yards wide. Now that's a way to finish.
FINAL WORD: What a great diversity in courses.
From the spacious fairways and wonderful approach shots on the Oaks Course to
the perfectly conditioned, tree-lined difficulty of the Azaleas Course, that's
what makes these two venues so outstanding.
There is no question that both venues will test your ability, especially the
Azaleas, but you'll be quite surprised if you take the Oaks Course lightly.
From the gold markers, the Oaks is almost 7,100 yards in length and actually
boasts a higher slope and rating than the Azaleas.
The Oaks has a great variety of par-3s, a couple of driveable par-4s and two
of the longest holes on the property.
In contrast, the Azaleas Course is slightly longer and features lush
conditions with A-4 Bentgrass greens. Not to mention, six par-4s over 400
yards and a two-hole finish that will test your skill and determination.
If there is a slight drawback to the Azaleas, it might be the length of the
four par-3s, three of which are roughly the same in yardage. But that might
be picky on my part.
The bottom line here is that, although the courses present quite a challenge,
you'll need to pick the right set of tee markers to play from. Don't be
heroic. Enjoy the game of golf. You're not on the PGA Tour, so why play the
back tees when you can't even sniff breaking 85.
Former British Open and PGA Championship winner John Daly has been affiliated
with Dancing Rabbit for several years and has incredible affection for the
courses. "Dancing Rabbit is an incredible golfing destination from tee-to-
green. I've loved playing there over the years and I'm excited to call these
courses my golfing home."
Fazio and Pate have captured the essence of the region, keeping with the
tradition of the land in tact, while creating a distinct canvas to explore.
To top it off, the Pearl River Resort features two fully functional Casinos,
complete with table games, slots and poker, not to mention hundreds of rooms,
amazing entertainment, stellar dining alternatives and a full-service spa.
"There are few courses in the region that can match Dancing Rabbit's design
and hospitality," Daly said. "It's truly a gem that's reflective of the great
leadership of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians."
What more could one ask for?
A world-class golf destination with all the fixins. That's my kind of place.
"Bok Chukfi Aabitba."
Aces, pars or bogeys, send your thoughts to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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