GULF SHORES, Ala. - Cypress Bend, which opened in 1997, is one of three courses offered by Craft Farms. This and Cotton Creek were authored by the Arnold Palmer, while the Woodlands, the first in this series, was designed by Larry Nelson.
Although Cypress Bend doesn't have the character of the Woodlands it seems to play more difficult. Large bunkers are prevalent and water comes into play on 13 holes.
Five separate tee boxes are offered on some holes making the course play 5,045 yards from the reds, 5,954 from the whites and 6,424 from the blues. For the seniors there are silver tees, 5,552, and those heavy hitters can play from the 6,848 yard gold tees. The greens are bermuda and vary in size.
With the course only being two years old none of the trees Palmer had planted are in play just yet. You will, however, contend with lakes or ponds on tee shots.
A nice second hole sees water run all the way down the left, then another lake comes into play to the right of the par-four green, extending about 20 yards down the fairway. From the whites, 330 yards, you may want to guard against hitting driver too far up the right.
Following a 177-yard par 3 is the memorable par-5 4th. A 474-yard dogleg right, you can take the lake on the right out of play by going straight or bite off some yardage by traversing the water and a large bunker.
Depending on your choice off the tee, the green is reachable in two, however, more water looms on the left and the green is heavily surrounded with traps. An eagle putt must be earned.
Palmer follows that with the No. 1 handicap hole. A 368-yard par-4 from the white tees, there's water to the right on the tee shot and left as you hit your approach. Do you see a pattern forming here?
Before moving to the back nine you must play the par-5 ninth. This 479-yard hole is one of the prettiest out there. Trees and wasteland run down the left and water down the right. A narrow creek meanders in front of the green just to make sure you don't try to roll a three wood up there.
The 420-yard par-4 11th is the toughest hole Cypress Bend has to offer in my mind. Once you negotiate the water to the left of the tee there is a modest landing area with trouble right. You will have a mid to long iron, depending on the direction of the wind, into a green with sand and water on the front left. No. 15 is a beautiful 148-yard par 3 which calls for a tee shot across the water to a well guarded green. No. 17 is a similar par-three with fewer traps surrounding the putting surface.
Far be it from me to tell Palmer how to design golf courses, but No. 9 would make a much better finishing hole than the current No. 18. It's a nondescript par-four, 315 yards from the whites, with a slight bend to the left. I don't want to say the water on the left doesn't come into play because a member of my group did go in it, but you do have to hit a big hook to reach it.
The green fees for Cypress Bend and the Woodlands are $48, cart included, and the fee drops to $45 in December. If you're the kind to play 36 holes in one day, then there's a replay fee of only $22 or $14 for nine holes. Walking, at the Woodlands only, is $20 in the spring, summer and fall, and $15 in the winter. A $38 twilight rate goes into effect after 2 p.m. at Cypress Bend and the Woodlands.
Cotton Creek and Cypress Bend operate out of the same clubhouse, while the Woodlands is located one mile north on Highway 59. Both pro shops are fully equipped to meet all your needs and have a bar and restaurant connected. A large, well marked driving range and putting green are located within walking distance of each clubhouse.
There are several different golf packages available which include accommodations provided at Craft Farms. This puts you within one mile of three beautiful, well manicured courses. It's great for those who don't like driving around looking for the course. You can find out more about this state-of-the-art facility by logging onto www.craftfarms.com.
104 Cotton Creek Drive
Gulf Shores, AL 36542