Welcome to the ‘golf park’ era
The LeFleur’s Bluff Education and Tourism Complex in Jackson, Mississippi, announced major plans for a new golf facility in the Magnolia State’s capital city that will help to preserve nearly 150 acres of urban green space and create a permanent home for First Tee of Central Mississippi. The project is part of a larger master plan to connect four museums with walking/biking trails and other outdoor recreational amenities – and renowned golf course architect Robert Trent Jones II is collaborating with Mississippi-based golf course architect Nathan Crace to make it a reality.
Jones (a past president of the American Society of Golf Course Architects) and Crace (the only ASGCA member in Mississippi) made the announcement at an event at the Mississippi Children’s Museum. The museum is not only adjacent to the property, but also a key player in making the dream a reality.
“When Bobby and I first met seven or so years ago, he told me that there are only two states in the country without a RTJ course and one of those states is Mississippi,” Crace said. “A few months ago, when the project really began to gather steam, I called him and asked if he wanted to collaborate on it. I told him that we could not only preserve a large swath of urban green space, but also create a permanent home for First Tee and he cut me off in mid-sentence. He said ‘I’m in. Let’s do it.’ He is passionate about saving urban greenspaces and promoting junior golf, so this project is the perfect fit for the two of us to collaborate.”
"I’m thrilled for many reasons to be part of the team creating Otter Creek Golf Park," said Robert Trent Jones Jr., chairman and master architect, Robert Trent Jones II Golf Course Architects. "Not only will it be the centerpiece of a master plan that preserves urban green space in Mississippi’s biggest city, but it also creates a permanent home for the First Tee of Jackson, introducing golf to a new generation. The country—and the world—needs more projects like this."
The new facility will be named Otter Creek Golf Park at LeFleur’s Bluff, a name Crace said serves multiple purposes. “The course will be built on a portion of the old LeFleur’s Bluff State Park Golf Course, which has been closed since the pandemic began,” he added. “We wanted to rebrand the new facility so people would know it was not the same course.”
Otter Creek comes from the North American River Otters that not only make their home in the banks of the nearby Pearl River, but also “Spotter the Otter” is the mascot for the LeFleur’s Bluff Complex. Lastly, as Crace said, the term golf “park” denotes that this is a different type of golf facility.
“It’s not just another golf course. It’s going to be all about fun. It will be a 10-hole par-3 walkable course with holes ranging from 70 to 150 yards, a state-of-the-art driving range, 18-hole putting course, separate putting green, a new clubhouse, and it will all be lit up to allow for nighttime play. This truly is more of an outdoor golf entertainment experience – something beginners, juniors and seniors can all enjoy, but also a fun time for better players who want to have fun, a date night with your significant other, or a way to spend an hour when you just want to get outside and get some fresh air.”
“We are so excited about the opportunity to help make this a reality,” Mississippi Children's Museum President Susan Garrard said. “Otter Creek will be the centerpiece of the LeFleur Museum District linking together four museums along with outdoor activities including walking and biking trails, pickle ball, an outdoor amphitheater, botanical gardens, and even 3D archery. Having Mr. Jones not only involved, but also so passionate about the project has really energized a number of decision-makers and private donors to get behind the project and we’re excited to make this announcement and start doing the work of making this happen.”
Otter Creek hopes to instill a love and knowledge of golf in youth through a partnership with First Tee of Central Mississippi. The facility will be open daily to the public, offering a welcome respite for golfers of all types in and around the Jackson Metropolitan area.
Crace said the location of the facility, at one of the busiest intersections in the state at I-55 and Lakeland Drive, is great for visibility and offers easy access. “It’s easy to get to and on a beautiful piece of rolling property, nestled between the Pearl River and the University Medical Center/St. Dominic’s Hospital complexes,” he added. “You can stand on any hole and see the tops of the skyline above the trees, but still feel like you’re miles from town.”