My sore left shoulder from the Covid vaccine wasn’t about to make me pass up Media Day at Flowood’s newly renovated Refuge Golf Course.
I’ve been excited about this because it is the nearest golf course to my house in Loho and it’s public (affordable)!
Before the children came and I had to give up golf, I played the Refuge. Ugh!! Lost a dozen balls. Narrow fairways, dense woods. Horror!!
That has all changed. The trees are thinned. The fairways are widened. The TifEagle UltraDwarf bermuda greens are big and fair. The cart paths are premium concrete and brand new. This is a very beautiful and fun golf course.
With the redesign, both the front and back nine end at the clubhouse, so it’s easy to play just nine holes. There’s also a lake driving range. (Kinda weird deliberately hitting balls into the water!)
I played with Thomas O’Brien with iHeartMedia; Annandale member Ted Enstrom and my cartmate Ryan Bukvich, whose Sunbelt construction firm does a lot of renovation work for UMMC.
Bukvich played for Ole Miss and then in the big leagues as a relief pitcher.
According to Wikipedia, his longest stint was with the Chicago White Sox where he appeared in 45 games with a 5.05 ERA and one win. Wikipedia states, “He became a cult hero at U.S. Cellular Field, earning the nickname ‘Iceman’ for his cool demeanor in pressure situations.”
Bukvich or “Buck” is a big guy. All told, about twice my size. After he hit a tee shot, I said to him, “I think you just hit that about 320 yards.” He turned to me, “That’s about right. I normally hit about 315 to 320.” That’s pro-level distance.
After I hit my tee shot right down the middle about 215, I reminded him, “Adjusted for height, weight, age and accuracy, I think I just out drove you.” That got a grin and maybe a chuckle.
Golf is a great equalizer. Buck could knock it a mile, but he struggled that day with his chipping, an area in which I excel. That’s why golf is a game that ages well.
From my house in the Loho neighborhood in Jackson, there are 19 courses within 30 minutes: Refuge, Jackson Country Club, Lake Caroline, Patrick Farms, Whisper Lake, Annandale, Castlewoods, Reunion, Deerfield, Live Oaks, Bay Point, Canton Country Club, Lefleur’s Bluff, Sonny Guy, The Links in Madison, Eagle Ridge, Pearl Municipal, Grove Park and soon a new 14-hole course where the old Colonial Country Club used to be off Old Canton Road.
Like everything, golf course technology has advanced rapidly. For instance, the sand traps use the Billy Bunker Method, which introduces capillary concrete liners that provide for better drainage and extend the life of the sand traps. The irrigation system is state of the art.
Troon golf management will run the course for Flowood. Head pro is Blake Hatfield who comes from Fallen Oak Golf Course at Beau Rivage in Biloxi, one of the top courses in the state. Troon currently manages the Reunion golf course in Madison. It’s the largest golf course management company in the world.
There are five tee boxes for every distance level playing from 4,439 yards to 7,013. Posted rates top out at $65 for weekends. Golf memberships are $159 per month, $229 with unlimited carts. Weekday green fees are $45, weekend $52 plus $18 for a cart.
The adjacent 10-story Sheraton Hotel has 200 rooms and a 54,000-square foot conference center. There’s a resort style pool with a lazy river, 15-acre lake with walking paths, an event lawn adjacent to the lake to accommodate outdoor weddings and other outdoor functions as well as a spa and culinary school. There will be an on-site dining venue, the 19th Hole.
The view from the top of the hotel is beautiful, offering an amazing view of the golf course and downtown Jackson. The whole project cost $70 million. The golf course was $2 million. The Mississippi Development Authority has helped fund the project with the Mississippi Tourism Sales Tax Program.
Being near the airport, it will surely attract out-of-town visitors who love golf and have business to conduct in Jackson.
The city of Flowood, in conjunction with the state tourism aid, made this project happen. Suburban cities like Flowood are often flush with cash as escalating property values and growth bring in more and more dollars. It’s rare that the government lowers taxes accordingly. More likely, they embark on a fancy project such as this. That’s just the nature of bureaucracies.
I’m not sure it makes sense to have the city and state government in the resort business, but there is no doubt that the facility is mighty impressive and is a boon to Jackson as a whole.
You can’t argue with the timing. Covid ushered in a huge golfing boom. It’s something social you can do outdoors. It’s good light exercise, especially if you walk with a pushcart. Golf courses offer some of the most beautiful scenery in the city.
It’s fascinating to me how many different hobbies there are. And it seems like each hobby has its own unique passionate following. This is a great example of the variety and richness of human life. What a wonderful world!
Why do some people love golf? For one, it’s a beautiful way to enjoy the outdoors. You’re outside, but in a controlled, manicured way. With a good group of golfing buddies, it’s enormously fun, social and entertaining. There’s plenty of time for joking and socializing on the tee box and greens. And, of course, the necessary “aiming fluid” enhances the social aspect.
I like golfers because they are an optimistic, determined, focused group of people. Only such personalities would insist on mastering the impossible task of knocking a hard little ball 400 yards into a tiny hole in just four or five strokes. Given the dozens of joints and moving parts of the body, there are an infinite number of possible positions at any point in the golf swing. It’s a rubik’s cube you do with your body in a beautiful setting surrounded by your friends. Or, as I describe it, four hours of misery and frustration interspersed with fleeing moments of rapture. Golfers never give up.
I still love tennis and always will play as long as I am physically able. Tennis is more impetuous, more spontaneous, more mano-a-mano competitive, more physical. A mixture of the two is a perfect balance for me. River Hills is one of the greatest clay courts facilities in the south.
What a blessing to live in Jackson with its clean air, traffic-free streets, open spaces, friendly faithful people and numerous beautiful golf courses. The new Refuge is a welcome addition to this bounty.