Normally when you think golf in the Orange Beach area Kiva Dunes and Lost “Ball” Key come to mind. I wouldn’t call Peninsula a “hidden gem” but it wasn’t the first course on some peoples’ list of recommendations. From the Flora Bama, you head west toward Gulf Shores, for about 10 miles and then head north toward Bon Secur Bay. The drive was beautiful, especially at 6 in the morning with the sun creeping up from the horizon.
The hospitality was tremendous from the moment that I pulled up. I could hardly get out to open the trunk, and there was a cart barn guy greeting me with a cart and a smile. He loaded me up and I headed to the practice tee. The range was in good shape, had plenty of room, and everyone’s favorite, the pyramids of golf balls at each spot.
There are 27 holes at Peninsula, broken up into three, nine, Marsh, Lakes and Cypress. I played the Lakes/Marsh combo. Of the two I would definitely give the edge to the Marsh. The Lakes begins with two shorter par 4’s that are protected by water on the left side of both of them. These are two of the more scenic holes on this side. #2 has a huge willow tree in the middle of the water that blocks your view of the green. You can hit driver on this hole, bringing in more trouble or you can hit a shorter club, leaving yourself 175 yards plus into the green. These types of choices, are a dime a dozen through out, definitely one of it’s assets.
My favorite hole on the Lakes, bar none is the Par 5, 7th. The 530 yard, dog leg right, runs along the Bon Secur Bay. You can see the water from the tee box and makes for an awesome view thru the live oaks and Spanish moss. The landing area is wide open, but the challenge comes on the lay up. I had about 245 back into the wind and had to cover 195 over a lake on the left portion of the fairway. This left me an in between number for my third shot. In hindsight, I should have hit the three wood, because 50 yards to an uphill green is not the ideal shot for me.
The Marsh, definitely touched me in all of the right…golf places. There are legitimately 7 out of 9 holes that are, simply put, solid golf holes. Regardless of my score on them, they were fair, challenging not just in distance but in strategy. Holes 2-6 might be my favorite 5 hole stretch I have played in a while. #2 is a behemoth of a Par 5, it’s 630 yards and sandwiched between two swampy waste lands. The green complex is multi-tiered and guarded by 3 deep bunkers. These factors make for challenging layups and approach shots. The third, a 456 yard Par 4, forces a left to right tee shot in order to avoid the waste area to the left of the fairway. The green slopes from back to front, making a front pin location most desirable in my eyes.
Gill Hanse has said over and over again he hates the term “Signature Hole” because it degrades the rest of the holes on the course. If there were to be a signature hole on this nine it would be the 215 yard Par 3. There is a lake that runs along the tee boxes, leading into two large green side bunkers on the right side. If you push your tee shot right, good luck getting up and down. The green slopes away from those two bunkers making it extremely difficult to get it close. Needless to say I experienced that first hand.
The fifth is a tricky little Par 4. OB left, waste land all down the right that cuts into the fairway. This forces you to hit fairway wood or a long iron to stay short of it, leaving a mid iron in. If you try and hit driver the fairway narrows to about 20 yards wide all the way up to the green. Number 6, plays 350 on the card but the hole sits at a 75 degree angle, which makes it feel like the Cape template hole. The more you bite off toward the hole, the more you are going to have to chew and the more you bail out right the longer your shot is going to be into the green. That’s the definition of risk reward.
I think the variety makes this stretch so appealing. There are not many times you play a 600 yard Par 5, a +200 yard Par 3, and two short par 4’s in a 5 hole stretch. Earl Stone, you did a good job my friend. I hope to get to some of your other courses across the South East.
If you are in the Orange Beach/Gulf Shores area, I highly recommend visiting Peninsula Golf and Racquet Club. Throw it in with Kiva Dunes as the best courses on the emerald coast of Alabama.