There are dozens of casino golf courses in the U.S., but one of the finest efforts has always been Shadow Creek in Las Vegas. Visionary hotelier Steve Wynn hired acclaimed designer Tom Fazio to build a pristine and luxurious course that could only be played by lucky guests of Wynn’s hotels (now MGM Resorts).
Since the day it opened in 1989, Shadow Creek has been one of the country’s most beloved casino courses. Given this success, when Wynn built Biloxi’s Beau Rivage Resort & Casino, his “Bellagio of the East,” he went the same route and hired Fazio to build another dazzling new course.
The result has been very similar, and Fallen Oak, which opened in 2006, is generally regarded as the second-best casino course in the entire country, one of just a handful of casino layouts in the U.S. Top 100 and easily the best course in Mississippi. It also now hosts an annual PGA Champions Tour event, the Mississippi Gulf Resort Classic.
For the true golf fan visiting the region, it is simply a must-play experience, from the first-rate caddies and the always-pristine conditioning to the signature clubhouse bloody marys.
While Fallen Oak was built from scratch, somehow course designer Tom Fazio made the layout look as if it had been here for a century. Spanish-moss-dripping trees appear more painted than planted.
The atmosphere, as a whole, is of a bygone Southern era, set amid a heavily wooded setting of towering oaks, pecans and magnolias framing perfectly groomed fairways. Even for Fazio, known for his jagged and scalloped sand traps, the bunkering here is extreme, but also extremely beautiful.
Throw in a few glimmering ponds and you have a golf course that can be described as a work of art, and one that is blissfully free from homes or any other development.
Pace of play
Fallen Oak is very unusual in that tee times are highly limited. It has no members and is only open to guests of Beau Rivage Resort & Casino hotel, so it receives far less play than most courses.
It is also one of the only courses on the Gulf Coast that provides forecaddies, thus speeding up the pace of play by providing guests with accurate yardages, strategic tips and a set of hands to rake bunkers.
As a result, a round can theoretically be played quite quickly, in as little as three hours and 15 minutes. But since Fallen Oak is all about the escapist luxury experience and lack of crowds, it lends itself to dawdling and conversation. Most golfers take their time, with rounds averaging closer to four hours.
The dress code at Fallen Oak calls for collared shirts to be worn. Pants are also recommended, though shorts are allowed as long as they are tailored and at least mid-thigh length (no denim of any kind).
Women may also opt to wear golf-appropriate skirts. Like most golf courses today, no metal spikes may be worn and some form of soft-spike golf shoes are required.
Because of expense and exclusivity, attire at Fallen Oak skews toward the dressier end of the resort golf spectrum. Given the Southern heat, though, many people still opt to wear shorts on the greens, especially in the hottest months between June and September.
Where to practice your swing
Fallen Oak has both a traditional practice driving range for woods and full-swing iron shots as well as a dedicated short-game practice area for chipping, pitching, putting and bunker shots.
It is one of the best practice facilities on the entire Gulf Coast, using real quality balls rather than standard range balls. The use of everything is included in the greens fees.
The clubhouse at Fallen Oak also offers full men’s and women’s locker room facilities and a place to store extra clubs in the event you want to try a new driver, wedge or putter during your time on the course.
How to get tee times
Because tee times at Fallen Oak are only available to overnight guests of Beau Rivage Resort & Casino, accommodations must be reserved either first or in conjunction with tee times.
This can be done through the main reservations line at the Beau Rivage (888-567-6667) or by calling the dedicated golf package number (877-805-4657). Stay-and-play packages are offered but prices vary, depending on hotel occupancy and number of guests in your group. Typical greens fees for playing Fallen Oak are about $200. Gift certificates are also available.