In 1987, R.C. Craft – a self-made man with a turf farm – convinced Arnold Palmer – a self-made mega famous golf tycoon – to build a golf course on a flat sod farm in the middle of nowhere and shortly thereafter Craft Farms' Cotton Creek Golf Course opened for play. In, fact, Craft Farms is essentially how Gulf Shores originally became known as a great golf destination.
In 1993 the front nine of Cypress Bend opened for play with the back nines opening in 1998. Since opening Craft Farms has received a number of awards and accolades, some of which include:
- Voted Best in Alabama by readers of Golf World
- Cypress Bend received Golf Digest's 4 ½ stars and Best Places to Play
- Cotton Creek was rated 4 stars and Best Places to Play by Golf Digest
- Won the People’s Choice Award as Best Golf Course
- Awarded America's Top Golf Courses
Each of the Arnold Palmer signature courses at Craft Farms has its own unique personality and characteristics but common to both are lush conditions, immaculate greens, a fantastic plantation style clubhouse with a great restaurant and well stocked pro shop, and first class service. The differences between the two courses include:
- Cypress Bend is a more open with a resort links style look and feel with wide fairways, vast landing areas, sprawling bunkers, and large undulating greens – as such it is more player friendly but also has more sand and water to keep you focused – read our review of Craft Farms' Cypress Bend to learn more
- Cotton Creek is longer and a more traditional and straightforward 18 holes with tight tree lined fairways, dog legs, smaller greens, risk reward opportunities, and a coastal feel as it traverses a unique system of cord-grass accented lakes which come into play on nearly every hole – all which makes this 18 harder by 2 to 3 strokes – rating of 133 versus 123 from the tips
Unlike Cypress Bend's wide open and forgiving fairways, Cotton Creek has tighter, more traditional, tree lined fairways where if you miss the fairway, you're lost in a dense forest of pines. Some of the fairways have some beautiful homes set back from the fairways but still in play if you hook or slice the ball. The yardages on the par 4 don't vary much, so you'll get a lot of practice with just a few clubs – best hope that they are your favorites!
At 7127 yards with a slope of 73.3 and rating of 133 from tips, Craft Farms' Cotton Creek is demanding from each of the five sets of tee boxes, so don't bite off more than you can chew. You'll encounter water on 13 holes, 41 tough bunkers, dog legs left and right, several risk reward opportunities, and some tight landing zones plus tough approach shots – all of which are very manageable if you play smart and deploy some good course management skills.
You'll also find some very fun holes, some of which include:
- #3, the 571 yard #3 handicap hole which ate 2 of my golf balls as I tried to fly the lake to the dog right green
- #6 is a blast – the #1 handicap is only 395 yards but it temps you to risk flying more of the lake to give you a shorter shot at the green which also requires a carry over the same lake that cuts across the fairway and protects the green with 3 bunkers surrounding it – another of of my Bridgestones went swimming
- #6 is followed by a 517 yard par five that horseshoes around yet another lake offering a risk reward shot from the tee and again on your second shot if you want to go for the green in two – all risk for me and no reward with two more of my golf balls taking a dive in the lake
- #10 is a 536 yard par 5 where I thought I was at the beach, but without the Pina Coloda and beach chair, thanks to two large fairway bunkers and 6 more bunkers within 50 yards of the green
- #12 and #15 are both dog legs right with a risk reward opportunity to fly the tall pines for a shorter approach shot – I thought of Woody Woodpecker as I ricocheted off several trees and lost another ball
- #18 is a fantastic finishing hole with a lake and the plantation style clubhouse as a backdrop – I only had one ball left and I was sure I would plop it in the lake with all the people on the clubhouse deck watching but to my surprise I actually stuffed it on the green to a round of applause
The tree lined fairways can be a little tight on this 18 at Craft Farms, so you might consider leaving the big dog in the bag unless you're deadly accurate. The fairways were in fantastic condition but not quite as lush and plush as Cypress Bend thanks to a flood ruining the day before seeding and fertilizing. Most of the fairways have plenty of contour and some are like a roller coaster ride for kids and others are like a ski run full of moguls.
The greens range from average to a tad small and all have some slope and undulation. They were soft and running at a good speed but some of the breaks are subtle and surprising.
The bunkers are all soft white sand and in good shape. They are strategically placed in the fairways as well as guarding the greens.
Craft Farms is currently owned and operated by Honours Golf Company which is the leading boutique golf course and club management company in the Southeast with a portfolio of excellent courses and a reputation for excellent conditions and service.
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Service is fantastic - friendly and outgoing. The pro shop is well stocked, the restaurant has a good breakfast and lunch menu, and the practice facilities are very good.