Our buddies’ golf trip to the Gulf Shores of Alabama started out as most do: A few of my married friends were somehow able to come up with a weekend that would work for everyone, and needed one more buddy to round out their foursome.
I have been working on branching out more from the Midwest golf scene, and a trip to a new state sounded ideal! I have been through Alabama for work before, but never spent much time there. I have always heard great things, though, and especially about their quality of golf.
Some calls were made and a significant amount of research was done, and voila a great buddies’ golf trip was borne!
The hard part, as is the case with all golf trips, is the waiting. For our group, it was only a couple of months since with everyone’s buy-in we were able to put it together pretty quickly during the recent Wisconsin winter.
As the ten-day forecast approached on weather.com, each day in the Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, AL seemed to be better than the last: 80 degrees and sunny or partly cloudy. Then came the first ten-day forecast including April 9-12: 79 and sunny on Thursday, April 9 (travel day), followed by 80 and thunderstorms with 80-90% chance of rain on Friday, Saturday and Sunday – all three of our golfing days!
On the eve of our trip, the forecast improved slightly: 90% chance of rain dropped to 50% chance of rain, and 80% fell to 40%. Fortunately for us, if the weather was awful then at least we’d be staying in an unbelievable 4-bedroom condo on the beach at the Turquoise Place! Three days with four guys sitting on two beds in a Red Roof Inn would obviously have been more of a letdown.
Staying at the Turquoise Place in Orange Beach, Alabama, we were not exactly going to be slumming it. What would be plenty unfortunate, though, if the weather failed to cooperate is that we would not have been able to enjoy the beach and the Gulf of Mexico… And of course the golf!
For months leading up to this trip, I would have to take breaks at work to check out the websites and additional Google Image searches for the courses we would be playing. Kiva Dunes’ website, especially received a ton of additional hits courtesy of my iPhone and laptop.
Fingers were crossed that our golf trip would go well, and that we would somehow luck out and have playable golf weather.
Jeff, Mike and I got from Milwaukee to Mobile with no major issues, but Nick’s flight from Chicago was canceled because of the massive storms on Thursday night and had him arriving late Friday morning.
It is an easy enough hour and fifteen minute drive from Mobile, Alabama to the Gulf Shores, but that is a bit longer than the commute from the closer Pensacola, Florida airport. We flew out of Pensacola on the way home (50 minutes, and just 38 minutes from Lost Key Golf Club), thankfully, as with all four of us crammed in the Toyota 4-Runner with our clubs and luggage, I was left with Nick sitting on my right knee.
The biggest “WOW” moment of the entire trip came on our very first night, when Jeff, Mike and I got to the Turquoise Place in Orange Beach, parked the truck and opened the door to our home-away-from-home for the weekend: Room 909.
We already each opened a beer at the point of this photo, obviously, and the picture does not do justice to the beauty of these condominiums: Over 3,500 square feet of indoor class and comfort, plus over 1,000 square feet of balcony space including an outside hot tub and gas grill for each condo. An unbelievable ocean-view and gorgeous vistas of the surrounding area from the other bedrooms adds to the magnificent ambiance, and every amenity you can imagine rounds out what is the perfect home base for an amazing buddies’ golf trip… Or family beach trip. The three of us ran from room to room after getting there, checking out all the condo had to offer.
The Turquoise Place is simply amazing, and all of us agreed that the $750 per night is a lot for 30-somethings like us, but would be worth it to enjoy such an incredible vacation spot that is so conveniently located and with such a gorgeous white sand beach and amenities. It would probably be hard to go back to Gulf Shores again and stay anywhere else, although there are obviously plenty of less expensive spots (we have officially been spoiled!).
So what about the rooms, you ask? Here was my master bedroom – my sincere apologies to the Turquoise Place that I did not get pictures when all the beds were made and the rooms were clean as they initially were (Turquoise Place is managed by Spectrum Resorts, which has a clean bed guarantee and fantastic pre-cleaning services!):
My master bathroom, including a shower and bath experience that to me is second to only the American Club in Kohler, Wisconsin:
Water closet and bidet in the master bathroom – I was a little scared of this thing…
My walk-in closet, which as you can tell I filled up very well! I probably used about 2-3% of the available hanging space
Washer and dryer off my master suite walk-in closet:
Second bedroom suite, with a king-sized bed:
3rd bedroom suite, with a king-sized bed:
4th bedroom suite, with 2 twin-sized beds:
All of the bedroom suites have elegant attached bathrooms and showers, and all of them have walk-in closets and walk-out balconies. Most of our time in the condo was spent either on the balcony enjoying the view, in the living room watching The Masters, or at the dining room table playing our new favorite gambling game, LRC (Left-Right-Center).
Mike was playing LRC for his first time, and was quite simply the least lucky gambler ever. It got so bad, in fact, that after 20-plus games without him winning he was nicknamed “E-3” – an easy three dollars. A handful of times he got close, and most of them resulted in situations like this:
Not in the mood to play LRC or cards in-house every night, and feel like hitting up the town? Call the local cab company and visit the world-famous FloraBama, less than five minutes from the Turquoise Place and straddling the Florida/Alabama border. It is an easy $10 cab ride, and an absolute blast.
FloraBama sprawls on and on, and I am still pretty sure we did not see all of it. We spent most of our time at the country bar there, which had an awesome band and raucous crowd that belted out local favorites like “Sweet Home Alabama,” “Dixie Land Delight,” and so many others. Drinks were cheap, fresh air was aplenty, and good times were had by all.
The saddest part of our trip: I ran in to this guy and his friends upstairs from the country bar at FloraBama; I was talking with him and his girlfriend, and he asked me where I was from. I told him we’re from Wisconsin, and he said he was sorry and that they’re from Duke. He then showed me pictures of him as the mascot for Duke basketball, who needless to say ripped my heart out in the NCAA Basketball National Championship earlier in the month. He was a cool guy, either way, but ouch.
Following our first day of 36 holes on Friday, we were all so hungry that we gave in and stopped for dinner at Hardee’s. I implore you: Don’t do that! There is so much great, fresh seafood in the Gulf Shores that spending any time or money at a fast food chain, no matter how hungry you are, is absurd!
Anywhere you go in the Gulf Shores area will have great seafood. Even our lunches at Kiva Dunes and Peninsula Golf Club were delicious, and our dinner on Saturday night at Shipp’s Harbour Grill… I can’t believe I’m even mentioning it in the same sentence… Was nothing short of spectacular. The Royal Reds appetizer – huge deep-water shrimps found off-shore and caught daily, was mouth-wateringly good, and the coconut grouper entree was near perfection.
There is a lot to explore in the Gulf Shores, from the bars, restaurants, beach and other activities, to of course the golf… Our golfing started on Friday morning, with 18 holes on the Cotton Creek course at Craft Farms.
Craft Farms, Cotton Creek:
The first of the four courses on our trip was the Cotton Creek course at Craft Farms. We really enjoyed the layout, with small greens and tight fairways, some really nice and varied par fours, and a couple of great par threes. The only complaint at Craft Farms was that the greens were a little on the slow side, although they putted very true.
Kiva Dunes Golf Club:
GolfWeek’s number one course in the state of Alabama, Kiva Dunes is a course that has a massive feel to it! Played after our round at Cotton Creek, the greens were definitely quicker, rolling at a 9.5, and were perfectly true. Kiva Dunes has some of the most challenging par threes I have ever played – none more so than the 200-plus yard knee-knocking seventeenth.
Peninsula Golf Club:
The fastest greens and best overall conditions of our trip, and probably the best overall variety of holes, was found at Peninsula Golf Club. The tees, fairways and greens on the Cypress and Pines course were absolutely flawless, and the courses were extremely fair and enjoyable to play.
We were told ahead of time that the Lakes course is having a rough Spring, and that if we wanted to replay either of the first two we were more than welcomed to – we decided to check out the Lakes course, anyways, and were happy that we did. The greens were certainly a bit beat up, like we’d been told, but it was a fun layout and one I’d love to play again on a return visit.
Lost Key Golf Club:
I had heard a lot about Lost Key prior to our playing it – “It’s unfairly tight,” and “Keep your driver in the bag and hit all irons to have any chance of staying in play” is what I heard. Having played it, though, I can say that yes it is tight, but it’s not unfair. Golfers know they’re going to have to keep drives in the fairway, but it’s not like there isn’t SOME room to miss.
Unless you’re a pro, definitely expect to lose some balls at Lost Key, but also expect to play a really interesting layout and some extremely memorable golf holes!
So how did the weather turn out for our trip, you ask? We had sun (and a few clouds) and 80 degrees for 77 holes. It rained hard late the first night, but was beautiful in the morning of our first 36. The conditions were perfect every day we played golf until the 78th out of 81 holes, when it started raining softly at Lost Key.
That soft rain continued until we had all of our clubs in their travel cases and piled in to the 4-Runner. Then came the deluge. From what I have heard, it hasn’t stopped since. There is no other way to say it but that sometimes you luck out big time!
When I asked my friends if they would come back to Gulf Shores, Alabama, the answer was unanimous: Absolutely. Gulf Shores has all of the ingredients necessary for an amazing buddies’ golf trip: Beautiful white sand beaches, terrific accommodations, world-class seafood, a fun nightlife and great golf!