Snowbirds begin annual migration to the coast

OCEAN SPRINGS, MS (WLOX)

That sound you hear when club meets ball is music to the ears of golf course managers. It means the snowbirds have arrived, cash in hand, ready to tee it up. 

At Gulf Hills, they are always welcome. The golfers enjoy the hospitality. One of them is Thomas Wright.

"Oh, I love it. It's got so much. Casinos, great food, great people, good atmosphere," Wright said. "Weather is kind of iffy right now, but it's looking up." 

Gary Thone is the pro shop manager. This year's season is also looking up, especially as balls are dropping into the cup.  

"This year, we're a little bit slower, but we're still on track with making a little bit better than we did last year," Thone said. "So it's shaping up for April especially."  

Golf course managers admit that one thing that worries them the most is the rising price of gasoline at the pumps. It's skyrocketing. But not all golfers are worried about gas prices.

"Gasoline is on everyone's mind as far as the price of it, but it's a trip that we enjoy so much, we'll pay the price. We'll pay for it," golfer Danny Brunham said.  

There are other problems the industry faces as well, and that will take time to correct. Stephen Miles is the Preserve Golf Course operations manager. 

"I think still our biggest impact we have here is hotel rooms," Miles said. "There is still not the inventory that we had pre-Katrina, and people are just slowly coming back." 

It may be slow, but the snowbirds are coming back, one golf bag at a time. The coast's snowbird season typically runs from late January until mid-April.