Snowbirds bring golf clubs and money to the coast

JACKSON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - Every winter, snowbirds flock to the Mississippi Gulf Coast to enjoy their favorite pastime: Golf.

Inside the Shell Landing clubhouse, it's nice and warm. Outside, the weather's not too bad either. That means the parking lot is full of cars from the chilly Midwest.

"It was 24 degrees when we left home Monday morning," Bonnie Hubbard said.

At Gulf Hills, it's been slow, but that's about to change. Wally Page is the clubhouse assistant.

"The Burnham group is coming in and there's 32 of them. Hopefully the weather will hold out and we'll have a good weekend with them," Page said. "Plus, we've got another group coming in next week with about 40 of them."

Shell Landing is also swinging away to make a nest for the snowbirds.

"It's a little flat compared to last year," Shell Landing CEO Kenny Hughes said. "But the weather up north is a lot worse this year, so I think the phone is going to be ringing more and more. We see that already."

Some of those calls came from a group from Illinois, here for the first time. Scott Gilliland is one of them.

"Just a golf getaway with the buddies. We just come down and we try and do a golf vacation every year, so this happens to be our choice this year down here," Gilliland said.

Illinois weather doesn't compare to here for Shawn Schneider.

"There, it gets pretty cold at night, could get in the teens," Schneider said. "It was supposed to be up to 50 on Sunday, but then there was a chance for snow the next few days, so this weather is awesome."

The snowbirds are attracted to the Mississippi Gulf Coast because of the beautiful golf courses and, of course, the beautiful weather. For instance, Monday it was 65 degrees and sunny in mid February. But they're also attracted to other things as well, like the casinos and restaurants and some things you might not be aware of.

Lynn Hubbard is married to Bonnie.

"I make him go and do a lot of antiquing. We go into the antique shops and he's pretty good about that. We like to antique and that's the only shopping I do," Hubbard said.

But shopping for a low score on the golf course is the top priority.

The snowbird season on the coast typically runs through the middle of April. Tourism officials estimate the economic impact of the season at about $35 million.

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