“Chasin’ down a hoodoo there.” Even though it reminds me of my golf game, I’m sure John Fogerty from the famed rock group Creedence Clearwater Revival never imagined that his song would be an inspiration for a golf article. His lyrics are more about living in Louisiana rather than chasing a little white ball, but still the song continues to resonate with me! From the day I arrived, I felt a genuine connection with the people of Lake Charles and no wonder. These folks are proud of their Acadian heritage and were absolutely delighted to regal me with stories about their last visit to ‘back home’ or their longing to explore their family’s origin.
The region was settled primarily by families from Nova Scotia and Quebec during the 18th and 19th centuries when they were forcibly exiled by the British. These French-speaking expatriates maintained their traditions, developed their own dialect and now as Cajuns have stamped an everlasting impression on the culture, music and cuisine of Louisiana. I can see why eastern Canadians would be drawn to this region. Enough about history! I came here to play golf. So here it is. There are seven public golf courses in the area to choose from though II only got to play four. Yet another to plan a return vacation!
Contraband Bayou Golf Club is located adjacent to the opulent L’Auberge du lac Casino Resort. Famed architect Tom Fazio was hired to design a resort style, links-feeling layout that he stretched out to over 7,077 yards on relatively flat land that encompasses eight lakes. In fact GolfWeek has recommended it in 2010 and 2011 as one of the “Best Places to Play in Louisiana”. I found it tame in comparison to most Fazio layouts but he has strategically placed the bunkers and water for maximum intimidation off the tee and on your approach shots. 18 holes with a GPS equipped cart ranges from $59 to $99USD for hotel guests and $69 to $109 for visitors, depending on the time and day of the week.
Mallard Cove Golf Course, a relatively flat par 72, is located adjacent to the abandoned Chennault Airbase. At over 7,000 yards from the tips, there are few bunkers here but the water hazards on 12 of the 18 holes will surely test your skills, especially when the prevailing winds are kicking up, as they usually do. My favorite hole had to be the par 4 – 13th, a dogleg left with a large pond guarding the entire left side and a sliver of a fairway to work with. You need to hit a precise draw on your drive or you’ll fly it through the fairway and hitting a layup will leave you with a lengthy second shot. The par 5 – 18th gives you more options. You can be bold and try and clear the lake for an easy access to the green in two or hit your drive across a slender peninsula on you left to avoid all the water. Green fees with cart range from $31-$36.50USD.
The National Golf Club of Louisianais the newest course in the area and located in nearby Westlake. This Audubon International certified championship layout has been delicately designed to have the least amount of impact on the preserved wetlands. Architect Dave Bennett has incorporated over 80 bunkers with water evident on every single hole. I must admit I got my butt kick. So keep your ego in check and make sure you play from one of the five sets of tees that best suits your game if you want to tame this layout that starts at 5,267 but stretches out to 6,946 yards. Green fees including cart start at $40 up to $59.
Gray Plantation Golf Coursecomes with a lot of accolades including 4 ½ stars and a rating for the past 6 years as one of the Top 100 public golf courses by Golf Digest. This semi-private course is also part of the Audubon Golf Trail featuring towering pines and dramatic par 3’s. 60 acres of lakes come into play on 12 of the 18 holes to go along with 94 bunkers that are dispersed throughout this course. They also offer an indoor state-of-the-art teaching academy and practice facility. Green fees with cart range from $55-$65.
For something a little special, I would highly recommend a ½ day fishing trip with Calcasieu Charter Service. They’ll take you on out on Calcasieu Lake (nicknamed The Big Lake) in the brackish water of the Grand Bayou Marsh in search of red fish, flounder and trout. Each licensed fisherman is allowed to catch five red fish 16” to 27” inches with a maximum of one over 30”. Mine, as I am proud to say, was the largest of the group at 30”. In total our boat caught fourteen red fish and one trout between the three anglers. Back on-shore, Captain Erik Rue and his co-captains filleted our catch and we ate it for dinner. How fresh is that? What a treat! Lake Charles and southwest Louisiana also host over 75 special events including Mardi Gras, the Black Heritage, Cajun French Music and Food and, the Contraband Days Pirate Festivals for your after game amusement and entertainment. And, if you love food and plenty of it then you have to chow down on local delicacies like crawfish, gumbo, jambalaya and boudin, a spicy combination of beef or pork and rice sausage that varies from restaurant or meat market that you can if you decide to explore the Southwestern Louisiana Boudin Trail.
Lake Charles is just off of Interstate 10 in southwest Louisiana. You can fly into Lake Charles but the largest international airport is in Houston Texas just 140 miles due west. There are a multitude of accommodations here ranging from campgrounds and RV parks to B&B’s, motels and boutique inns to opulent five star hotels. As well as year-round golf, Lake Charles and Southwest Louisiana offer other attractions that include beaches, bars, casinos, horse racing and world famous wildlife sanctuaries as well as some of the finest examples of Victorian architecture in the deep south. Start planning your next golf vacation. Visit www.visitlakecharles.org
By Dave Finn (dave @ golfinn.com)