Photo |  Courtesy ADCNR

Gulf State Park officials announced “The Refuge,” an 18-hole golf course opened in 1974, will close as of Dec. 2.


Much of the news involving Gulf State Park has lately been positive. Its 350-room motel and convention center recently opened, while the Interpretive Center and East Pedestrian Bridge have been a hit at the Beach Pavilion.

However, park officials just announced the 18-hole golf course will be closing as of Dec. 2. Known as “The Refuge,” the 6,593-yard-long facility has wrapped through the natural scenery of the park since opening in 1974. It includes a driving range and a putting green.

In the news release from Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ALDCNR) officials, the saturation of golf courses in the region and the opportunity to provide new, nature-based recreational opportunities led to the decision.

ALDCNR Commissioner Chris Blankenship said the state park’s golf course has been losing money for several years. He added he “could not in good conscience allow our financial resources to continue to be diverted to subsidize the golf course while there are many other possibilities for the use of that property that can provide varied outdoor experiences for our guests and the community.”

Blankenship said the decision to close the course was not made lightly. A University of South Alabama graduate, he previously said he has been visiting Gulf State Park since his family moved to Mobile when he was three years old. His daughter even got married on its beach.

The verdict followed the development of a master plan for the park that recommended the golf course be repurposed into other outdoor recreation opportunities for patrons. ALDCNR also engaged a third party that specializes in studying golf courses and developing plans to identify how to make the best use of the facility. The Gulf State Park Master Plan can be viewed at mygulfstatepark.com.

“There are more than a half-dozen other golf courses in the region, and that saturation means the prognosis for profitability of our course is not good,” State Parks Director Greg Lein said. “We can’t afford to continue operating in the red year after year. That not only negatively impacts Gulf State Park, but our system as a whole.”

However, there is some good news for the park’s campground and lodge guests: Several local courses have agreed to offer special rates from Dec. 3 through Feb. 28 next year. Craft Farms in Gulf Shores will offer a “play anytime” rate of $46.50, Peninsula Golf Club in Gulf Shores will offer $51.50 and Rock Creek in Fairhope will offer $34.83.

Each of the three courses will offer an early-bird (before 9 a.m.) rate of $39 and charge $24 for a nine-hole round after 3 p.m., plus other special rates. Guests will have to present a receipt from the park to qualify for these exclusive rates.

“This was a very difficult decision and one that we know impacts the lives of a number of our staff here at Gulf State Park,” said Gary Ellis, the park’s director of community relations and administration. “We notified all of our golf course staff as a group of the decision, but we will be meeting one-on-one with all of them over the next several days to try to identify opportunities for them in the park or elsewhere in the system. We want to do everything we can to support them during this time of transition.”


Sports shorts

• The Alabama High School Athletic Association (AHSAA) and state Sen. Rusty Glover have honored five Faith Academy student-athletes for their character, ethics and sportsmanship. The Awards of Excellence are part of an AHSAA program that recognizes student-athletes who are outstanding examples of the standards and values that exemplify high school athletics.

“As a former teacher and coach, I have seen how being part of team can be like having a whole other family of supporters,” said Glover, who once coached football and taught history at Mary G. Montgomery High School in his hometown of Semmes.

The recognized students are Nick Broadus (baseball), Taylor Deitz (volleyball), Anna Henley (basketball), Tabitha Jordan (soccer) and Brunson Watt (football, soccer).

• “Teaming Up for Character” is a central theme for all National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) sports, showcasing the core values of integrity, responsibility, sportsmanship and servant leadership. As the top NAIA teams head to the Orange Beach Sportsplex this week for the Women’s Soccer National Championship presented by The Wharf, student-athletes will be collecting toys for the Christian Service Center.

“Character-driven initiatives set the NAIA apart as each staff member, coach and student-athlete comes together to touch our beach communities in an authentic way,” said Beth Gendler, vice president of sales for the Gulf Shores & Orange Beach Sports Commission. “We ask residents to come out and cheer on these incredible student-athletes throughout the championship and to take part in the toy drive impacting local children.”

Gulf Shores and Orange Beach residents can also get involved. New toys for local children in need of all ages can be taken to the Gulf Shores Welcome Center (3459 Gulf Shores Parkway) through Nov. 29.

For the NAIA championship, daily passes cost $10 for adults and tournament passes cost $30 for adults. Children 10 and under will be admitted free.

• The Palmer Williams Group will host its inaugural King of the Gulf Coast Barber Battle and Beauty Expo on Dec. 2 to raise funds for programs benefiting disadvantaged youth. The event features beauty, health and wellness products/services vendors, free health screenings by Remington College, an entertainment showcase, raffles and a Kids Zone.

It also includes a haircutting contest open to licensed barbers who will compete for a $1,000 grand prize. It takes place 3-10 p.m. at The Grounds, 1035 Cody Road North in Mobile. Admission is free for children 14 and under, and $10 for individuals 15 and older with advance tickets. Tickets cost $15 at the door for individuals 15 and over.

Proceeds will be used by the Palmer Williams Group for its programs that help youth overcome interpersonal obstacles, embrace family values and education, and avoid life’s pitfalls. David Palmer and Sherman Williams, former University of Alabama and NFL football players, co-founded the organization in 2013.

Tickets can be purchased online at Eventbrite. For additional sponsorship and event information or to purchase tickets, send an email to info@palmerwilliamsgroup.org.