If you played The Refuge Golf Course in Flowood, MS before 2017, you may not recognize it these days. The Refuge closed in 2017 for an extensive renovation and restoration under the direction of golf course architect Nathan Crace. During that time, a $50-million hotel and conference center was also built where the old clubhouse used to stand.
The Refuge Golf Course was originally designed by Roy Case and opened to rave reviews in 1998. The Club quickly gained acclaim as the “Best Purely Public Golf Course in Mississippi.” GolfLink.com ranked The Refuge as high as the #4 course in the state.
The Refuge is carved out of 200 acres of wetlands. The course is routed through stands of towering pines and centuries-old oaks and for the most, the original wetlands have been preserved. The original layout was nine holes out and nine holes back, like something you’d expect to find on a links-style golf course. Back then, the rap on the course was that it was too short for longer, better players and too tight and awkward for lesser-skilled golfers. Miss the fairway and you literally took your life in your hands, looking for your ball in the snake-infested rough!
Crace, who is from Mississippi, readily accepted the task to update and renovate the course. As part of the renovation, invasive trees were removed, and fairways were widened. Irrigation and drainage systems were also enhanced, and all course bunkers were rebuilt with the Better Billy Bunker system, which provides superior drainage. Many modifications were made to the overall routing including three new holes, the relocation of several water hazards, as well as new and enlarged cart paths. All greens were re-grassed with TifEagle Ultradwarf Bermuda and a new forward “Family” tee box was added.
The latest iteration of The Refuge plays to 7,013 yards from the tips with a course rating of 74,6 and a slope of 137. Most players I spoke with favored Tee II (6,327/71.1/135). There is now a suitable distance for players of every skill level from beginner to professional. Because the terrain in this area is so flat, The Refuge is an easy course to walk.
The Refuge features a nice mix of short risk/reward par 4s as well as longer, more challenging ones. Greens tend to be guarded by nasty little pot bunkers which can be penal with deep faces. Cart paths, bunkers, and wetland areas are meticulously maintained and add to The Refuge’s aesthetic value.
The newly designed Refuge Golf Course has several memorable holes. Number 6 is the first par 5 on the golf course. Trees on either side of the fairway guide you towards the green, which is visible from the tee box. The lone fairway bunker on the left catches its fair share of errant tee shots. Water comes into play about 100 yards from the green on the right and the green is protected by two more bunkers.
The course also features back-to-back par 3s at Numbers 7 and 8 which can make or break a good round. Number 7 is 182 yards and typically plays into the wind, especially in the afternoon. The green is elevated so you’ll need to select a club that will get you to the green. There’s a pot bunker front left and waterway right if you totally mishit it. The green is long and narrow and slopes back to front.
Number 8 plays 173 yards over water with a pot bunker situated just short of the green. The green is extremely large and deeper than it is wide; it can easily be a two-club difference between a front and back pin placement. It’s almost totally surrounded by water; anything right or short is most likely wet.
Number 16 is a short but interesting par 4, that plays 345 yards from Tee II. The lake on the left side creates a dogleg left and the large pine tree on the right side adjacent to Tee IV, forces you to play your tee shot towards the water. Trees line the right side; a good tee shot will leave a short pitch shot onto a green that is guarded with water on the left side.
At 377 yards, Number 18 is a relatively short and easy par 4 – as long as you keep your tee shot in play. Play your tee ball down the left side, that will take the fairway bunkers and water out of play. A good drive will leave a short iron or wedge into an elevated green that falls off to the left and is surrounded by bunkers. Eighteen provides a fitting end to an enjoyable – and memorable – round of golf.
The renovation also included an upgrade of The Refuge’s 15-acre aqua driving range. Every shot longer than a wedge is hit into a large pond with lighted fountains offering measured targets. Concrete was poured and new matted hitting surfaces were installed. Lights behind the range have also been added, allowing golfers to practice after the sun goes down.
The clubhouse was replaced by a golf shop within the new hotel. The new Sheraton hotel features multiple restaurants and bars, a swimming pool, a lazy river, 27,000 square feet of meeting space, a fitness center, a cooking school, and a spa. It is located just minutes from the city’s main airport. Head Golf Professional and General Manager Blake Hatfield’s office is located at the back of the golf shop.
Resort golf courses are, in most cases, more playable than your average daily fee course or private country club. Golfers at resort courses are there to have a good time, not set course records. As Flowood and the capital city of Jackson set their sights on becoming a viable golf destination, the renovation of The Refuge Golf Course is a step in the right direction. And the way Crace rerouted the course, it will be more appealing to golfers looking to just play nine holes. Playing the Refuge no longer requires 4 ½ hours to kill! Rates are quite reasonable too; the top in-season rate is $65.
The Sheraton Flowood Refuge Hotel and Conference Center is one of the hotel chain’s newest properties. The resort-style hotel at The Refuge Golf Course offers everything you need to feel welcome during travel. The rooms are stylish with modern decor, ergonomic workspaces, and golf course views in select accommodations. A variety of restaurants and bars offer savory American cuisine. Start with Rebecca’s and drinks in the lobby and then enjoy one of the best hamburgers in the state. End the evening at the Missy Sippy Roof Top Bar with your favorite adult beverage. Golfers can order from Sandi Trap (aka the 19th hole). Keep up to date on your workouts in the 24-hour fitness center and then unwind in the spa, sprawling outdoor pool, and lazy river. The Conference Center is adjacent to the hotel and offers a wide variety of indoor and outdoor function spaces and is an excellent choice for your upcoming event. No matter what the occasion is, you’ll enjoy your stay at the Sheraton Flowood.
The Refuge Golf Course is proudly managed by Troon Golf. Troon is by far the best golf course management company in the country. By joining their Troon Rewards program (it’s free to join), you can earn free rounds of golf at Troon facilities around the world as well as discounts on merchandise and greens fees. You’ll also receive access to exclusive events and Callaway promotions.
For more information on the all-new Refuge Golf Course, visit them online at https://refugegolfms.com.