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|Belle Terre Country Club is a Pete Dye design that opened in 1977. (Tim McDonald/WorldGolf.com)|
LA PLACE, La. - The Belle Terre Country Club is anywhere from 20 minutes to 20 hours outside of New Orleans, depending on whether or not two 18-wheelers collide on the narrow, two-lane bridge that takes you over the marshy shores of Lake Ponchartrain. In my case, it was the latter.
Usually, it's a relatively easy drive with views of the lake and various Louisiana wading birds, and then you have the added advantage of ending up in La Place, the "Andouille Capital of the World."
For the uninitiated, andouille is a Cajun dish involving pork, chit'luns, pepper, onions, wine and whatever other seasonings that particular Cajun feels like throwing in that day.
Belle Terre - "beautiful land" in French - opened in 1977 as a private club but went public some years ago. It winds through the various neighborhoods of the development, with nice, well-kept homes usually lining the fairways.
There is, however, a stretch in the middle of the front nine with some adjacent wild areas; if you forgot for a moment you were on a golf course, you'd swear you were in a deep, hidden bayou somewhere. But mostly, you'll get tree and house-lined fairways, which means out-of-bounds is one of your obstacles here.
There is also quite a bit of water, on 10 of the 18 holes, but much of it is lateral and there for show. Off the tee, there are no significant carries, but you will be hitting over water into some greens.
The Bermuda fairways are fairly ample, with some of the landing areas squeezed by water, fairway bunkers, houses or sometimes all three.
The greens are also pretty flat, with a few exceptions, and have very good speed, as opposed to some other glacier-slow greens on New Orleans-area golf courses. Some of them have moderate elevation.
"This is the first course I've played in the last four months where you'll leave a ball mark on the greens," said local Blair Coleman said. "The greens on the other courses have been so rock-hard, you can't stop the ball."
This is a Pete Dye work, without the eccentricities he is known for. Belle Terre is a straightforward layout with not many doglegs, with the exception of No. 18, a challenging dogleg left that wraps around a lake, daring you to go for it.
It has good length at 6,840 yards from the back tees, with a moderate slope rating of 130. Most of the greens and fairways are mounded, so this is one Dye design where he is actually making it pretty easy to get around.
It's known for its conditioning, which on the day I played was good throughout the course.
"Looks like it's in good shape three years out (from Hurricane Katrina)," Coleman said. "And the beer is cold, that's the most important thing."
Belle Terre is an enjoyable course, more so when you consider the very reasonable green fees. It has hosted a lot of tournaments, including a few PGA Tour sectional qualifiers and both state amateur and junior championships.
It has a driving range and two putting greens, and the Ciao Bella restaurant.
The country club also has tennis, swimming and banquet facilities.
The Carter Plantation is a great golf resort if you want to be away from the hubbub but close to New Orleans golf courses and other attractions the city offers. The plantation is practically out in the middle of nowhere, in a peaceful and serene part of the state.
The plantation has 63 rooms and suites in nine villas, some so close to the course you could hit it with a half-wedge. Each villa contains seven guest rooms, perfect for large groups or corporate outings.
Standard amenities include refrigerators, DVD players and free, high-speed Internet access, and most have verandas or balconies overlooking the course.
Others have full-sized kitchens, big-screen TVs and living and dining rooms. In addition to room service, the plantation also offers in-suite catering services.
June 24, 2008
Veteran golf writer Tim McDonald keeps one eye on the PGA Tour and another watching golf vacation hotspots and letting travelers in on the best place to vacation.
Any opinions expressed above are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of the management.
Referred to by its hosts as a "hidden gem," the greens alone at Sterling Hills Golf Club in Camarillo, Calif. make this a stone worth turning over. Located an hour northwest of L.A., it's a pleasing, quiet and generally engaging round that will appease players of all levels.
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