The Grand Bear Golf Course is a Jack Nicklaus Signature design, which might conjure up images of very long, very difficult golf holes and an exhausting afternoon. But this course, which opened in 1999, was said to be designed by a "nice Nicklaus.''
The 18-hole, par-72 course does, in fact, play to a lengthy 7,204 yards from the back "Grizzly Bear'' tees, but it's been described as a not particularly difficult course, despite its USGA rating of 75.5 and slope rating of 143.
The picturesque course is a bit off the beaten path, and even the driveway to the course is six miles long. That's because the course navigates through the towering pines and natural cypress wetlands found on a sprawling 650 acres of rolling land in the DeSoto National Forest. It's been said the golfers can play this course all day and not see a house or another soul, as the holes are well-spaced and often hidden by towering trees and marshland.
For the most part, the Grand Bear has wide-open fairways, which speaks to Nicklaus' love of the golf courses of Scotland. And, even for those wayward shots that miss the ample fairways, the rough consists of packed pine needles which aren't very difficult to exit.
Because of the course design, there are also many different angles that golfers can take to the green. One of the hazards that should be avoided, however, are the deep, signature Nicklaus bunkers, which again pay tribute to Scottish influence, and can be very difficult to escape. Another noteworthy hazard is the Biloxi River, and several of the holes wrap around it.
There are difficult holes, of course, including Hole No. 5. This par-5 hole plays to a lengthy 603 yards from the tips, and features a tree-lined fairway that's one of the narrower on the course. There's also a creek that runs through the middle of the hole, and approach shots will find a landing area that slopes left-to-right. There's also a bunker on the right, but plenty of room to the left and back to bail out.
Another noteworthy risk-reward hole is No. 17, which presents golfers with a challenge and a decision right from the tee: go for it and try to carry the rocky stream, or lay up short of it and make the next shot a longer play.
As a testament to the championship quality of the course, the Grand Bear has hosted PGA events, such as the 2000 Shell's Wonderful Word of Golf, which featured a match between Jesper Parnevik and Paul Azinger. The Grand Bear also played host to John Daly's Make a Wish Tournament in 2004.
Practice facilities at the course include a 400-yard driving range, along with putting green and chipping area. Lessons are also available.
The course also features a 5,000-square-foot clubhouse, with a golf shop and bar & grill.