USMs Van Hook Golf Course is a Public, 18 hole golf course located in Hattiesburg, Mississippi.
The course first opened in 1966. The course architect was Sonny Guy.
Blue tees: par-72, 6,429 yards, 72.2 / 117
White tees: par-72, 6,079 yards, 68.3 / 114
Green tees: par-72, 5,246 yards, 64.6 / 100
Red tees: par-72, 4,903 yards, 67.4 / 110
The course was owned by the University of Southern Mississippi. They closed the course in 2004 with intent to re-purpose the land.
The following article was written in 2015 by Rick Cleveland, executive director of the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and Museum.
USM's Van Hook Golf Course was named for the Mississippi Sports Hall of Famer. The course is no more. It was the old USM golf course, fondly called "The Ranch" by those of us who played there.
The Ranch was short for Goat Ranch because we believed only a goat would eat the grass and weeds that grew on our course. Believe this: Said goat would have learned quickly to beware of fire ants.
I took a long walk in Hattiesburg the other day and ended up at The Ranch, so I kept going around the front nine where those weeds have turned into bushes and the greens are no longer recognizable as such. A road now splits the fifth fairway. The trek brought back a flood of memories, especially when I reached what once was the fourth hole.
The Ranch's fourth, when played from the back tee, was only the most hellishly difficult par-3 on earth. It measured 210 yards to a postage stamp of a green that was as hard as asphalt. A few feet to the right of the green was out-of-bounds. A few feet behind the green was out-of-bounds. Just to the left of the green was 40 feet of dry land that went steeply downhill into a pond.
The right side of the fairway was guarded by tall pine trees, which prevented skilled golfers from hitting their usual right-to-left "draw" into the hole. If you wanted to hit a fade, your ball had to carry over the water.
Playing the fourth at The Ranch was like walking a tightrope. It was harder than advanced trigonometry, a quadruple bogey waiting to happen.
Yes, and the greatest shot I ever saw was executed there.
This was 48 years ago. Brother Bobby and I took Andy, our baseball teammate, out for his first round of golf. We laughed our way through the first three holes. Andy made 10 on the par-4 first, 10 on the par-5 second and 12 on the par-5 third. He was headed for a record.
We stepped to the tee on the dreaded fourth. Andy, using borrowed clubs, took out a 3-wood. The binding just above the scuffed-up clubhead was loose and was flying this way and that as he took a couple of practice swings.
About Andy's swing: His backswing looked fairly normal until he got to the top, and then he kind of whirly-birded it around. Think Jim Furyk, only exaggerated.
So, Andy addressed his ball, drew the club back and looped his swing with the binding flailing comically. Somehow or another his 3-wood connected with the ball. The ball headed far right of the green, high above the pine trees, headed over the fence and from Forrest County into Lamar.
I thought it was gone forever, and then the strangest thing happened. It hooked back above the trees and toward the green. Forty-eight years later, it seems a dream.
That ball landed on the fringe of the green, bounced once, rolled a few feet and, yes, dropped into the cup.
Bobby and I started hollering. Andy just stood there as if he didn't understand what all the fuss was about. He stared back at us and if his stare could have talked it would have said, "Well, isn't that what you are supposed to do?"
Well, yes. Andy then followed his ace with a 10 on the par-5 fifth. No matter. He was hooked on golf forever.
I was at the time a fledgling sportswriter but knew a story when I saw one. I wrote about Andy and sold my first magazine story to Golf World, which over the years has immortalized so many golfers and so many golf shots, none more amazing than Andy's.
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