Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Rick Cleveland: From De Soto to Mossy Oak

In 1541, Spanish explorer Hernando De Soto's expedition passed through or near here, moving westward through what became known as the Black Prairie in search of gold and silver.

He found the Mississippi River instead. DeSoto crossed the nearby Tombigbee River, which scarcely prepared him for the mighty Mississippi a few weeks later.

George Bryan, the remarkably successful, West Point-born businessman, knows and appreciates the history of this place. His family came here in the 19th century, started a meat market that grew exponentially into Bryan Foods. He loves the people – and the lay of the land – and chooses to live here when he could live anywhere in the world.

Bryan built the beautiful Old Waverly Golf Club here and then remarkably brought the U.S. Women's Open to rural Clay County in 1999. Now, he has partnered with nearby Mossy Oak and world-renowned golf architect Gil Hanse to carve Mossy Oak Golf Club out of what was once a dairy farm.

The two golf courses, both world class, are across the street from one another on Old Waverly Road, and will provide a unique destination golf resort. Mossy Oak Golf Club, a public golf course, will open Sept. 2.

Standing near the sixth green, Bryan can see all 18 flags on the Mossy Oak golf course.

“You know, DeSoto could well have come right through where this course is now,” he says. “Our goal is to have this land look as much as possible like it did in the 16th century. We want it to be as natural as possible. This land is so beautiful; why mess with it?”

Why, indeed?

Thus, the term: Nature's Golf. Thus, the hiring of Hanse, who is known for his minimalist approach to golf course design. Hanse doesn't move land to shape the golf course. No, he shapes the golf course as the land dictates.

If you don't know of Hanse's work, tune in to the Rio Olympics golf coverage. At the same time Hanse has been directing the design of Mossy Oak, he has designed the Olympic course in Rio de Janeiro. Most every golf architect on the planet wanted the Rio/Olympic job. Hanse was chosen at least partly because of his plan to preserve the land of the Marapendi Natural Reserve near Rio.

That's also what he has done here in Clay County, working with Bryan and Mossy Oak, the outdoors lifestyle company founded by Toxey Haas in 1986.

The golf course will stretch out to 7,500 yards, par 72. It will feature striking (for Mississippi) elevation changes and native grasses and wildflowers that will frame the fairways. It will also feature stately native oak trees, two ponds (stocked with tiger bass), and a winding creek with several burns running off it. There are 95 bunkers of varying sizes, including a massive 20,000-square foot bunker as you approach the 17th green. The native sand comes from the sand pits and banks of the nearby Tombigbee.

“Old Waverly is more of a traditional golf course, and we're still mighty proud of it,” Bryan said. “Mossy Oak is different. It has the look of a links golf course, though obviously there's no ocean. It will be an excellent course for walking and we'll have caddies and fore caddies.”

The attention to detail is impressive, down to the 16,000-square feet putting green, shaped like the state of Mississippi. (To putt from Biloxi to Southaven, you will be tempted to use a wedge.)

To help finance the project, Bryan and Mossy Oak have recruited 76 founders, who have invested significantly in the golf course. Those founders, although mostly from Mississippi, include golf enthusiasts from California, Utah and all over the southeast.

“The hope is to attract destination golfers not only from all over the southeast but all over the U.S. and even the world,” Bryan said. “In golf, one plus one equals more than two. We think having two world-class golf courses right across the street from one another be that kind of attraction.”

To that end, there will be more than 150 rooms available in cottages at the two golf courses. You can book tee times (and cottages) at

“Gil (Hanse) says that in three years this course will look like it has been here for centuries,” Bryan said. “That's the whole idea.”


Rick Cleveland ( is a syndicated columnist and historian at the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and Museum.


Anonymous said...

There's a sign up in Tunica County that proclaims the spot where he discovered the Mighty Mississippi. Some disagree.

Anonymous said...

Great article. It is so good to read a story written by a real reporter who knows proper grammar and punctuation. Thanks Rick!

Anonymous said...

Viva EspaƱa.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Jerry Mitchell is the best reporter. Have you not seen the Felix Vail story??

Anonymous said...

Rick is a really good writer and knows his stuff and has got to be disappointed there are not more comments here. But, this just proves, once again, that people don't come to this blog to read sports stories. Publishing them periodically won't change that reality either. Sorry Rick.

Anonymous said...

Ditto what 12:06 said.

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Trollfest '09

Trollfest '07 was such a success that Jackson Jambalaya will once again host Trollfest '09. Catch this great event which will leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Othor Cain and his band, The Black Power Structure headline the night while Sonjay Poontang returns for an encore performance. Former Frank Melton bodyguard Marcus Wright makes his premier appearance at Trollfest singing "I'm a Sweet Transvestite" from "The Rocky Horror Picture Show." Kamikaze will sing his new hit, “How I sold out to da Man.” Robbie Bell again performs: “Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be Bells” and “Any friend of Ed Peters is a friend of mine”. After the show, Ms. Bell will autograph copies of her mug shot photos. In a salute to “Dancing with the Stars”, Ms. Bell and Hinds County District Attorney Robert Smith will dance the Wango Tango.

Wrestling returns, except this time it will be a Battle Royal with Othor Cain, Ben Allen, Kim Wade, Haley Fisackerly, Alan Lange, and “Big Cat” Donna Ladd all in the ring at the same time. The Battle Royal will be in a steel cage, no time limit, no referee, and the losers must leave town. Marshand Crisler will be the honorary referee (as it gives him a title without actually having to do anything).

Meet KIM Waaaaaade at the Entergy Tent. For five pesos, Kim will sell you a chance to win a deed to a crack house on Ridgeway Street stuffed in the Howard Industries pinata. Don't worry if the pinata is beaten to shreds, as Mr. Wade has Jose, Emmanuel, and Carlos, all illegal immigrants, available as replacements for the it. Upon leaving the Entergy tent, fig leaves will be available in case Entergy literally takes everything you have as part of its Trollfest ticket price adjustment charge.

Donna Ladd of The Jackson Free Press will give several classes on learning how to write. Smearing, writing without factchecking, and reporting only one side of a story will be covered. A donation to pay their taxes will be accepted and she will be signing copies of their former federal tax liens. Ms. Ladd will give a dramatic reading of her two award-winning essays (They received The Jackson Free Press "Best Of" awards.) "Why everything is always about me" and "Why I cover murders better than anyone else in Jackson".

In the spirit of helping those who are less fortunate, Trollfest '09 adopts a cause for which a portion of the proceeds and donations will be donated: Keeping Frank Melton in his home. The “Keep Frank Melton From Being Homeless” booth will sell chances for five dollars to pin the tail on the jackass. John Reeves has graciously volunteered to be the jackass for this honorable excursion into saving Frank's ass. What's an ass between two friends after all? If Mr. Reeves is unable to um, perform, Speaker Billy McCoy has also volunteered as when the word “jackass” was mentioned he immediately ran as fast as he could to sign up.

In order to help clean up the legal profession, Adam Kilgore of the Mississippi Bar will be giving away free, round-trip plane tickets to the North Pole where they keep their bar complaint forms (which are NOT available online). If you don't want to go to the North Pole, you can enjoy Brant Brantley's (of the Mississippi Commission on Judicial Performance) free guided tours of the quicksand field over by High Street where all complaints against judges disappear. If for some reason you are unable to control yourself, never fear; Judge Houston Patton will operate his jail where no lawyers are needed or allowed as you just sit there for minutes... hours.... months...years until he decides he is tired of you sitting in his jail. Do not think Judge Patton is a bad judge however as he plans to serve free Mad Dog 20/20 to all inmates.

Trollfest '09 is a pet-friendly event as well. Feel free to bring your dog with you and do not worry if your pet gets hungry, as employees of the Jackson Zoo will be on hand to provide some of their animals as food when it gets to be feeding time for your little loved one.

Relax at the Fox News Tent. Since there are only three blonde reporters in Jackson (being blonde is a requirement for working at Fox News), Megan and Kathryn from WAPT and Wendy from WLBT will be on loan to Fox. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both and a torn-up Obama yard sign will entitle you to free drinks served by Megan, Wendy, and Kathryn. Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required. Just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '09 is for EVERYONE!!!

This is definitely a Beaver production.

Note: Security provided by INS.

Trollfest '07

Jackson Jambalaya is the home of Trollfest '07. Catch this great event which promises to leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Sonjay Poontang and his band headline the night with a special steel cage, no time limit "loser must leave town" bout between Alan Lange and "Big Cat"Donna Ladd following afterwards. Kamikaze will perform his new song F*** Bush, he's still a _____. Did I mention there was no referee? Dr. Heddy Matthias and Lori Gregory will face off in the undercard dueling with dangling participles and other um, devices. Robbie Bell will perform Her two latest songs: My Best Friends are in the Media and Mama's, Don't Let Your Babies Grow up to be George Bell. Sid Salter of The Clarion-Ledger will host "Pin the Tail on the Trial Lawyer", sponsored by State Farm.

There will be a hugging booth where in exchange for your young son, Frank Melton will give you a loooong hug. Trollfest will have a dunking booth where Muhammed the terrorist will curse you to Allah as you try to hit a target that will drop him into a vat of pig grease. However, in the true spirit of Separate But Equal, Don Imus and someone from NE Jackson will also sit in the dunking booth for an equal amount of time. Tom Head will give a reading for two hours on why he can't figure out who the hell he is. Cliff Cargill will give lessons with his .80 caliber desert eagle, using Frank Melton photos as targets. Tackleberry will be on hand for an autograph session. KIM Waaaaaade will be passing out free titles and deeds to crackhouses formerly owned by The Wood Street Players.

If you get tired come relax at the Fox News Tent. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both will entitle you to free drinks.Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required, just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '07 is for EVERYONE!!!

This is definitely a Beaver production.

Note: Security provided by INS