An Arnold Palmer designed golf facility originally opened in 1987, the Cotton Creek course at Craft Farms was the property’s original track that was expanded in 1993 with the addition of Cypress Bend.
The Gulf Shores of Alabama is a terrific golfing destination for its high overall quality of courses, great value and a really fun environment with plenty of entertainment options. Craft Farms played a critical role in the creation of this “Destination” experience and continues to play a key role in providing good golf at affordable rates.
For my full write-up of our buddies’ golf trip with my friends Jeff, Nick and Mike to the Gulf Shores of Alabama, please visit the following link:
As one of only two Palmer-designed courses in Alabama (the other being Cypress Bend on the same property), Cotton Creek blends parkland golf nicely with the numerous ponds and rivers that meander throughout the property. The fairways roll nicely, and the greens were in good condition but were a little on the slow side. They putted very true, though, which is to me always of utmost importance.
As an Honours Golf course, fresh apples are provided at the beginning of both nine holes, and a friendly and hospitable staff and a terrific food and beverage operation make for a wonderful on-site experience at Craft Farms.
The course starts out in a somewhat confusing manner, so take note that while the cart path flows toward the right, the first hole does not. The fairway runs straight toward the green, so stay between the left-side treeline and the large tree shown on the right below.
A look at the course layout, or local knowledge, would keep aiming over the trees to a fairway that is not there from entering your mind. All four of us played over the tree, and all four of us found the rough and/or a sand trap on the eighteenth hole.
The second is a really nice par four with excellent mounding both approaching and surrounding the green complex. A singular bunker is found front-left of the green, and there is a pond short and right of the approach zone.
The first par five on the course, the third hole has a wide-open fairway for the tee shot before getting considerably more challenging on the second and third shots.
The pond on the right side of the fairway means safety is key on the setup and approach shots, while a deep trap is found on the opposite side of the pond from the green complex.
The first par three on the course, the fourth is a fairly straight-forward one-shotter of 184 yards from the tips, save for the ridge that creates separate tiers on the green. Sand guards the front-left and right of the putting surface.
Water runs the entire left side, as well as the second half of the right side of the fairway on five. The green is protected by a lonely trap to the left and by the water right, but is large enough that long approaches should not be too stressful.
Considered to be the hardest hole on the course, six is an interesting golf hole. The pond before the tees is huge, and offers risk/reward opportunities for players who choose to bite off more of the lake. Fall short and find yourself re-teeing; slice the drive and do the same.
Speaking of risk/reward, Mike’s miss on the day was right, and as a huge hitter we had no idea whether or not his tee ball that we heard hit the cart bridge cleared the lake. He hit a second, in case, and when we got up toward the green we found his first tee shot five yards short of the green. This is not the angle I would recommend, but it certainly worked for him!
Similar to the tee shot on the sixth, the seventh hole tees up over a pond on the right side, but is much harder to clear or cut off distance on. The safe play here is obviously straight down the middle and not getting too greedy off the tee.
At 151 yards from the second tees in, the eighth is considered to be the easiest hole on the front nine for a good reason: The green is huge and the tee shot is not overly long. While the green is huge, though, it does have significant break and anything short-left or right will find sand.
The ninth is a challenging, long par four over 400 yards from the first two sets of tees. The ideal tee shot should start right at the clubhouse in the distance with a slight draw, but really distance is the key here to set up a shorter mid-iron approach to a green surrounded by water and a long bunker that sweeps the right side.
Fairway traps are found both left and right of the driving zone on the tenth hole, but if found it is a short enough par five that reaching this green in three should still be feasible. Approaching the green are a bevy of sand traps that both front and surround the putting surface.
Cotton Creek, the water feature after which the course was named, cuts laterally through the fairway on eleven not just once, but twice. While the first time is for appearance only, its reappearance at around 275 yards can force some players to hit less than driver off of the tee.
Excellent mounding in both the fairway and around the two-tier green can create some interesting lies.
With a sharp dogleg right fairway, it is tempting for long hitters to play a high fade over the trees off the tee on twelve. Make sure it fades, though, as anything hit too long straight will either catch the traps at the bend of the fairway or find the woods. I hit my straightest drive of the day on this hole… Really long… And of course never found it. The smart play is a hybrid or fairway wood to the shoulder followed by a short wedge in.
The twelfth has another really nice two-tiered green that is protected on the left side by a trap that plays toward a downward running putting surface.
My favorite par three on the course, the thirteenth has two separate teeing areas: The tips are found right of the pond, while the other tee boxes are found along the treeline. Playing from the tips, the tee shot has to clear the pond and affronting green-side bunker, then find a way to stay near the pin.
The shot pictured below had us thinking we might have our first hole-in-one of the trip. Disappearing beyond the sand and mounding over the water, it was on a perfect line. We got to the green and unfortunately found Mike’s tee shot about three feet short of the hole. “Lag it close,” Jeff said, which he did.
The fourteenth on the Cotton Creek course at Craft Farms features one of the tightest tee shots on the property. With trees left, and a treeline and homes to the right, this long par four also has one of the most challenging approach shots on the course over water.
The green found at the end of the pond is heavily contoured and tough to hit from long approach distances.
A long dogleg right, the fifteenth has a much wider driving zone than the fifteenth, but is still no easy hole. Cotton Creek comes in to play again on fifteen, running parallel to the left side of the approach zone to this narrow green from front to back.
The longest par three on the course, sixteen is a beast that requires all carry. The front-left green-side trap and the slightly elevated green mean club selection is important to have any chance at a two-putt par.
The penultimate hole on the Cotton Creek course, the seventeenth is a very scorable par five. A good tee shot to the left side of the bend in this dogleg left can allow for a long shot toward this elevated green in two.
Mike absolutely crushed his drive here, leaving him 235 in over the water. After watching me find the water on my attempt, he put his second shot to ten feet above the hole.
If you do not have 225-250 in your bag off the deck, laying up in two is definitely the right play here to avoid the water that runs the left side of the second half of this hole layout.
This is a very strong par five that provides great risk/reward opportunities.
The Cotton Creek course at Craft Farms ends with a really strong par four. At 434 yards from the tips, the second shot is bound to be long and flirts with the pond to the left, and has some really interesting breaks in the front-right of the green.
The tee shot is straight toward the white clubhouse on the horizon, and can be hit long to shorten up the approach.
The smart play on the approach is to avoid the water and traps to the right entirely by aiming for the right side of the green, which is heavily mounded but at least dry!
For its wonderful conditions and a fun course layout, the Cotton Creek course at Craft Farms is an excellent option to play in the Gulf Shores area of Alabama. While we did not have time to play its sister course, Cypress Bend, I am told it is slightly more links-style and a little shorter, in general. Six years the junior of Cotton Creek, I have heard good things about it although the original course on the property (Cotton Creek) tends to receive slightly higher praise.
Location: Gulf Shores, AL
Yardage: Gold-7127, Blue-6617, White-6080, Silver-5438, Red-5160
Slope/Rating: Gold-133/73.3, Blue-124/71.4, White-117/69.1, Silver-112/67, Red-118/70
Weekend Rates: $89 (includes cart and range)