Mississippi is not normally thought of as a hotspot for golf. As the birthplace of America’s music and home to attractions celebrating rock ‘n’ roller Elvis Presley, bluesman B.B. King and country pioneer Jimmie Rodgers, it’s easy to focus on the state’s larger-than-life legacies. However, for those that have been to Old Waverly and/or Mossy Oak (a sister course located across the street), know Mississippi has some of the best golf found anywhere!

The name Old Waverly exudes Southern Charm. An exclusive semi-private facility only 20 minutes from Mississippi State University and home to the Bulldogs men’s and women’s golf programs – it is THE course that put Mississippi on the golf map. Hosting the 1999 Women’s U.S. Open Championship (won by Juli Inkster), the 2019 Women’s U.S. Amateur (won by Gabriela Ruffels) and numerous SEC Championships, Old Waverly is a memorable course and should be a Must Play.

Old Waverly was a course that I had wanted to play for years but never had the opportunity. However, that all changed when my daughter became the Head Volleyball Coach at Mississippi State University.  I now have a reason to be nearby!

So, in late October 2020, it was time for a visit.

Capturing the grace and charm of the Old South, the Old Waverly experience starts as soon as you enter the property. The tree-lined drive from the main gate to the clubhouse is very reminiscent of the entrance to Augusta National. The attention to detail is evident and establishes Old Waverly as a truly special place.

Numerous lush gardens punctuate the property with color and variety year-round. One remarkable example is the Lavender Rose Garden modeled after an old English traditional rose garden where loving care brings forth a wondrous burst of fragrance and color.

Seven thousand yards of undulating fairways, five lakes, pristine white sand bunkers, immaculate greens as good as you will find anywhere, surrounded by tall pines and hardwoods…that’s Old Waverly in a nutshell.

If you ask the founder of Old Waverly, George Bryan, what makes it so special, he will tell you it’s the people. Most are local Mississippians who need little instruction of how to take good care of members and the guests.

I can’t say enough great things about the staff and the members. Everyone was so friendly and accommodating and were genuinely thrilled to have us play there. It was Southern hospitality at its finest.

A visit to Old Waverly should be on every golfer’s #BucketList.

THE HISTORY OF OLD WAVERLY

Old Waverly was founded on the site of the historic Waverly Mansion built by Colonel George Hampton Young for his wife, on the banks of the Tombigbee River. Tragically, before the magnificent home was finished, Colonel Hampton’s wife died. But as a man of vision, the Colonel pushed forward and when the homestead was mostly complete in 1852, he named it “Waverley,” after the main character and title of the first novel by Scottish writer Sir Walter Scott. In the novel, Waverley lost great friends and love but persevered to start life anew. Waverley succeeded and so too would Colonel Young.

One hundred thirty years later, George Bryan and his wife, Marcia, familiar with the mansion and wanting to create something truly special, sought to highlight nature’s splendor and fulfill a shared dream. Waverley Mansion would be the backdrop for a world-class center of golf and recreation. Those initial plans, thwarted by circumstances, were not to be realized. But as with Colonel Young, this George, his wife and 29 other founders persevered. These visionaries found a piece of property not far from Waverley Mansion. Although the history and uniqueness of the mansion were not present, they understood that a diamond does not come out of the ground cut and full of sparkles. This enterprising group sought to allow the beauty they saw in their minds’ eye to emerge through the skillful hands of those who knew how to bring it out.

U.S. Open winner Jerry Pate and course designer Bob Cupp were enlisted to trim away from the undeveloped nature of 360 acres of pasture and prairie located near West Point, Mississippi, and add to its history, beauty and success. “Old Waverly, The Golf Club of Mississippi,” with a grand entryway leading to the clubhouse that reflects the original mansion’s aura and a greenscape that evokes quiet awe was the result. Beauty of the local region was drawn out and allowed to sparkle with the hard work and a devotion to detail. In just a few short years the Bryans’ vision had morphed from idea to reality and Old Waverly opened formally in September 1988.

THE COURSE

This course can best be described as Mississippi’s Augusta National – complete with a grouping of holes, 10, 11 and 12, that rival Augusta’s famed Amen Corner. And just like Augusta, there are magnolia bushes and stone bridges. The only difference between these southern gems is Old Waverly is open to outside play.

The unique combination of parkland, lakes and links style course is set against the backdrop of hardwood trees, stately homes and five lakes. Playing at over 7,000 yards from the tips, Old Waverly delivers a golf experience like no other.

Each hole at Old Waverly was masterfully designed and crafted, and together they fit together to make one of the finest classic courses in the South. It would be easy to write about every hole, but instead I will only tell you about the most memorable holes.

Number 1 provides a glimpse of what’s ahead. The elevated tee gives you a full view of the fairway so you can plan your attack down this tight tree lined fairway. Hit it long and straight…Lake Azalea will come into play on the right so keep your approach left and watch your ball funnel back toward the center of the green.

Number 6 is listed as one of the favorites of the members. The 331-yard dogleg right Par 4 starts from an elevated tee box to a well-defined landing area. From there, you’ll have a short pitch shot over a small pond to a wide, shallow green with a nasty little pot bunker in front of the green.

Number 7 is a par three requiring a mid to long iron for most players. It plays slightly uphill and the green is fronted on the right side by a bunker.  A meandering creek runs diagonally across the fairway with lush foliage surrounding its banks with multiple falls known as Palmer’s Falls (named after Arnold Palmer). The creek should not come into play but definitely accentuates the hole with its natural beauty.

Number 9 is a 485-yard par five. Bunkers dot the landing area of this front nine finishing hole, both in the landing area and in the rough. And not only on your tee shot, but on the layup shot as well. In all, there are no less than 13 bunkers on this hole. Selecting clubs that keep the bunkers out of play may be your best bet to leave yourself a manageable chip onto the green.

Number 10 starts with a blind tee-shot and is a sweeping par 5 with a pond that comes into play on the left for your second shot. This would be a signature hole on any other course but not so here.

Typically, there is one hole on a course that I call My Comeback Hole. A challenging hole that I either play so well that I want to do it again or sometimes, play it poorly and need to play it again. Either way these are holes that I never forget.

Old Waverly doesn’t have a Comeback Hole, they have a Comeback Stretch…16, 17 and 18.

Number 16, a 422-yard par 4. The tee shot plays over a pond before contending with a trio of bunkers up the right side. 230 yards will carry all the sand, so the biggest concern on that line is the pond that is hidden on the other side of the landing area and is quick to drown Pro V1s that tumble toward it. If you can keep your tee shot up the left side, you’ll eliminate the trouble on the ground, but you’ll bring into play the overhanging trees. The approach shot plays uphill at least a half club and could be a full club depending on the temperature and conditions and coming up short can kick balls backwards off the sloping face. The tee and approach shot combo is one of Old Waverly’s best and most rewarding to play.

Number 17, a picturesque 170-yard par 3. Although the distance of this hole may not intimidate you, the water certainly will. The pot bunker in front of the middle of the green forces you to carry the ball onto the green off the tee and a ridge through the middle of the green can make for some interesting birdie putts.

Number 18, they save the best for last at Old Waverly.  The 385-yard par-4 is a sensational test from tee to green. A big sweeping dogleg left, around Lake Waverly with the club house sitting behind and above the green. Your best bet off the tee is to aim at one of the fairway bunkers on the right side. Find the fairway successfully and you’ll have the best angle into an angled green protected by 8 bunkers.

By the way, I went Birdie, Bogey, Par – definitely a come back stretch for the right reason. Can’t wait to play them again.

AMMENITIES

Old Waverly is not just about golf; Old Waverly is about living. In addition to the nationally known course with its reputation for challenging golf and cultivated beauty, the attention to detail extends to the many other aspects of the Old Waverly Golf Club. The Old Waverly Culinary Staff expertly creates ever-changing menus that highlight unique Southern cuisine, providing pleasure for every palate. Everyone is assured of a splendid dining experience. Whether you desire a quick bite in Murphy’s Pub or a more relaxed time in the Grill, there are savory choices down to the selection of Napa Valley Monticello Vineyards as the signature wines for Old Waverly.

Luxury accommodations for the most discriminating guests and members are also an important aspect of the Old Waverly experience. Many members and guests enjoy using the seven, four-bedroom cottages on the shores of Lake Waverly. Each cottage has a common living center with a sitting area, wet bar, coffee station, under-the-counter refrigerator with icemaker, microwave and covered porch with a panoramic view of the lake and the course. Each bedroom has a private bath and individual flat-screen television. Private villas and condominiums, and complete luxury homes, are also available. And to meet the desires of these guests and members, Old Waverly provides lighted Rubico tennis courts, a swimming pool complex and fitness center.

Sir Walter Scott’s hero, Edward Waverley, as he headed home passed through a royal park. Scott writes of his experience, “With a mind more at ease, Waverley could not have failed to admire the mixture of romance and beauty which renders interesting the scene through which he was now passing…” Everyone who passes through Old Waverly today cannot help but experience “a mind more at ease.” Each person who plays on the course and watches their ball fall to the bottom of the hole and then looks to the nature that surrounds each green cannot help but “admire the mixture of romance and beauty.”