MEMPHIS — If you come to the Mirimichi Golf Course looking for signs of Justin Timberlake, the hometown actor-singer who bought and renovated the course, you almost certainly will be disappointed.
On a recent visit to Mirimichi, all I spotted was a Timberlake photo in the clubhouse. If you didn't know before your arrival of Timberlake's connection to the course, nothing at Mirimichi would give it away. He seems to prefer being a low-profile, if not anonymous, owner.
But if you come in search of good golf at a reasonable price, you will be rewarded. Mirimichi, an American Indian word meaning "place of happy retreat," is a course with clear professional aspirations and tough challenges, but room for the everyday golfer.
What's more, it is environmentally friendly. Two years ago, Mirimichi became the first course in the country to receive an Audubon International Classic Sanctuary certification.
What that means to the golfer is this: Natural grasses abound, making the tee boxes spots of beauty. Natural streams, ponds and waterfalls dot the course; there are even places where you could envision having a picnic or just stopping for photos. It's really that gorgeous.
The holes have American Indian names, with each seeking to evoke a sense of nature and calm. The par-5 second hole is called Gada-ama, which means muddy water. No. 15, a tough par 4, is Tsaluyi, or forest. Behind the green is a wall of tightly bunched trees.
At a more granular level, the field staff at the course works hard to protect the grounds, reduce their reliance on fertilizer and pesticides, and create an ecosystem that offers sanctuary for golfers as well as native plants and creatures. It is one of the few settings that has threatened to steal my attention away from the golf.
I went to Mirimichi alone, but the people in the clubhouse were accommodating; single players sometimes find it tricky getting a tee time. However, Mirimichi wasn't especially crowded. Near 100-degree heat and stifling Memphis humidity likely were factors.
On the range I met an easy-swinging Rodney Hudson, who works at Claflin University, in Orangeburg, S.C. Hudson, 50, was on his way to the Walter Payton Celebrity Scholarship Golf Classic in Tunica, Miss. He thought Mirimichi would be a great tuneup.
By the time we finished 36 holes, we had come to the same conclusion about Mirimichi. From the tee, it is relatively open. While sand traps — with the same gorgeous white sand as Augusta National — and other hazards protect the fairways, finding a landing area is not particularly difficult, and most golfers should have little trouble. The tips on the excellent GPS system on golf carts also help navigate the fairways.
The large number of tee boxes that allow the best players to take on a course of more than 7,000 yards suggests that Timberlake would like to bring a professional tournament to Mirimichi.
The greens are big, undulating and lightning fast, making it easy to roll a putt past the hole or, after you've made that mistake a few too many times, to leave a putt embarrassingly short. They are ready for the pros.
Mirimichi offers an upscale experience on a course that is tough but not punishing, fulfilling Timberlake's goal of making golf accessible to players of all levels.