By Glen Turk
Golfing, Gambling, Fishing, and Dining Combine to Create a Memorable Trip
The sum of any great golf trip is a collection of its parts. Even the most avid golfer will tell you it's the adventures enjoyed in between the fairways hit and birdies made that truly define a distinctive golf vacation. Without a doubt the 120,000 person city of Lake Charles, LA, located less than 3 hours from both Houston and 4 hours from New Orleans, was created with those parameters in mind. In late April a group of golf writers from around the country and Canada were treated to a four day extravaganza of golfing, gaming, fishing, and eating that would have made Caligula blush. Below is a recap of our exciting jam-packed four day journey to bayou country.
Day one began with our touchdown at Lake Charles Regional Airport, the perfect place to make the proper first impression. The cozy airport features direct flights to Houston and Dallas, therefore allowing anyone from anywhere to experience Lake Charles easily and cost effectively. Then it was off to Mallard Cove Golf Course, a city run municipal course located on the former Chennault Air Force Base. The 7015 yard layout dates back to 1976 and can be best described as a sporty layout at an affordable price. You'll never pay more than $40 to play and every shot in your bag will be tested as half the holes are impacted by water hazards including the mind-bending 563 yard, par-5 18th.
|Mallard Cove Golf Course|
It is truly one of Lake Charles' most talked about holes and PGA Professional Derek Smith loves hearing the stories come through his pro shop like this one as described by former World Long Drive Champion Brian Pavlet.
"Memorial Day weekend in 2000, I was in Lake Charles, La., at Mallard Cove Golf Club playing in a charity pro-am. The last hole says "540 yards, par-5" on the card, but the tees were up about 30 yards. Having played in the event previously, I knew I could take a shortcut and drive the green if I could carry the ball about 390 yards. The hole horseshoes around a big swamp with these huge trees in the middle. When I swung, I knew it was going to be good. My ball landed just short of the green and bounced on, stopping about 12 to 15 feet from the hole. When I got to the green, everybody was going nuts. Now, I am thinking, I've got to make this. I walked up, gave it a read and nailed it for double eagle," regaled Pavlet. For more information on Mallard Cove, visit www.cityoflakecharles.com or call (337) 491-1204.
I love the second day of four day golf trips. You're over the stress of getting there plus you've got a bulk of the trip to look forward to. In a rare admission, day two in Lake Charles would have been amazing without hitting a single golf shot as our group got to enjoy an early morning fishing excursion by Capt. Eric Rue's Calcasieu Charter Service. Eric offers some sweet Stay and Play packages at www.calcasieucharters.com that includes lodging on site and the opportunity to play either Gray Plantation or Contraband Bayou Golf Course, which will be discussed shortly. The four writers plus our guide Bryan combined to catch 14 redfish that we later devoured at the legendary Seafood Palace. Besides our catches of the day we dined on one of every appetizer they serve including Pistollettes, Crawfish Pies, Fried Alligator, and their legendary deep fried boudin sausage balls.
In between fishing stories and eating glory, we took in the sights and sounds at National Golf Club of Louisiana at Westlake. Stepping off the bus my first comment was "Wow, this doesn't look like we're in Louisiana anymore!" Director of Golf Ron Brown agrees.
|National Golf Club of Louisiana|
"As a matter of fact, most people that play here say that often. Many compare The National to Pinehurst in North Carolina. They say when they drive up that they feel like they are definitely in a different place, not in Louisiana. They love the look, the service, and the consistent quality of the course," stated Brown.
Speaking of the quality of the course, it's in remarkable condition considering it's only a few years old. The Dave Bennett design plays 6946 yards from the tips and requires shot-making expertise throughout. The course unfolds like a best-selling mystery novel as it gets better the further into it you are. To that end, one of Ron Brown's favorite holes is The National's penultimate one.
"I love the par-5 17th that's reachable in two with a huge risk reward factor involved. The hole is a slight dog-leg left with close OB on the left and trees and water all the way down the right side. The green is very well protected by bunkers in the front and back and missing the green can cause a major headache when it comes to getting up and down. This hole normally is very pivotal in the completion of the round and/or how you finish a tournament," finished Brown. For more information on all that Louisiana National has to offer including their upscale housing community,visit www.nationalgcla.com or call (337) 433-2255.
Legendary golf architect Tom Fazio drew from his considerable design acumen when shaping the Contraband Bayou Golf Club at L'Auberge, located only a well struck driver away from the stately entrance of the L'Auberge Casino Resort. Completed in 2005, the 7077 yard layout is the perfect complement to a property that rivals any casino on the Las Vegas Strip. Fazio was able to fit the bill of what a casino course should be - a playable test for all abilities while still creating many memorable shot values throughout the journey.
|Contraband Bayou Golf Club at L'Auberge Casino Resort|
"Mr. Fazio is good at what he does. He has the ability to visualize and move earth to make his visualization a reality. We wanted a fun course that could be challenging simply by moving back a set of tees," stated Bill Belcher, the Director of Resort Services at L'Auberge Casino Resort.
The best stretch of golf on our entire trip resides on holes 8 through 15 at Contraband. A two hour fun fest waits on this elite 8 that any course in America would be thrilled to have on their roster. The journey begins with the backdrop of a stunning edifice.
"That stretch has a great variety of holes in it. You have three great par-3's, one reachable par-5 (depending on the wind), one par-5 that makes you think on all three shots, and three par-4's - one dog leg left, one right and one straight. We are very fortunate to have such a great collection of holes. Of the eight hole stretch, the 15th is the hardest hole on the course due to all the trouble that exists on both sides all the way from tee to green," said Belcher.
For more information on Contraband Bayou including their Stay and Play packages and their top notch amenities including pool, spa, and food services, visit www.llakecharles.com call (337) 395-7777.
The final day of our trip ended in style with a bonafide southern experience at Gray Plantation, one of America's top 100 public courses according to Golf Digest. Not only is the semi-private property home to the 7,200 yard Rocky Roquemore design, but it is also home to the Golf Academy at Gray Plantation.
"The Gray Plantation Golf Academy is the most technologically advanced Academy in the region. The Academy provides our members and customers with all forms of game improvement, equipment upgrades, and analysis necessary to have the ultimate experience. With three Class A PGA Professionals on site we're able to host golf schools and clinics of any size with an impressive student to teacher ratio that feels like a one on one lesson," stated Kevin Tracy.
It is my humble opinion that you should join the Academy first and then play The Gray as the better you play the more you'll enjoy this amazing property. It's also important to note that Gray Plantation was a charter member of the Audubon Golf Trail in Louisiana when the course opened in 1999. The natural beauty of Louisiana's bayou country is on full display as 8 of their 18 holes are built along the wetlands of the Calcasieu River. No more is this beauty revealed that the quartet of par-3's-quite possibly the finest collection of short holes I've seen since The Harvester Golf Club in Iowa.
Kevin Tracey expands from there: "All four par- 3's force golfers to carry the Calcasieu River in front of the green. Two of them are island greens with wetlands surrounding the putting surface. Only one of the par 3's plays further than 150 yards, which allows golfers of skill levels an opportunity to hit it close. However, any errant shot on the wrong side of the green will inevitably reach the water," concluded Tracey. For more information on the Gray Plantation and their adjoining Graywood Community, visit www.graywoodllc.com or call (337) 562-1663.
In conclusion, four thrilling days in bayou country was the perfect elixir for the spring blues that befell the Midwest this year. Whether you want to golf 54 or 9 holes a day, I promise you'll never be bored in Lake Charles, Louisiana. For more all information on all that Lake Charles has to offer, visit www.visitlakecharles.org.
Where to Stay and Gorge Yourself in Lake Charles, LA
L'Auberge Casino Resort offers first class accommodations complete with a pool to rival any Vegas casino and gaming. (866) 580-7444
Darrell's for subs and sandwiches. A unique twist on the stereotypical po-boy. 119 W College St, Lake Charles, LA 70605. (337) 474-3651
Mazens's Mediterranean Restaurant. A perfect blend of local flavors with Cajun and Mediterranean style cooking. 217 W College St, Lake Charles, LA 70601. (337) 477-8207
Seafood Palace. The spot to get local flavor complete with crawfish and fried alligator. 2218 Enterprise Blvd, Lake Charles, LA 70601. (337) 433-9293
Ember Grille & Wine Bar. Located inside L'Auberge Casino Resort, you are in for a culinary experience. A modern steakhouse complete with a variety of certified angus, kobe and natural grass fed beef. (337) 395-7565
What Else to do:
Southwest Louisiana Boudin Trail - a popular Cajun sausage follow this trail to several stops to taste a little local flavor.
Calcasieu Charter Service. Create a customized trip complete with fishing, hunting and golf, of course. 210 Bank Street - Big Lake, Lake Charles, LA 70607. (337) 598-4700