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|No. 3 at the Carter Plantation is a pretty par 3 over marsh to an elevated green. (Tim McDonald/WorldGolf.com)|
SPRINGFIELD, La. - About an hour from the fleshy diversions of Bourbon Street, over the 24-mile Lake Ponchartrain Bridge, you'll find one of the best golf courses in the state nearly hidden in them deep, Louisiana woods, pardon the Cajun grammar.
The Carter Plantation golf course was designed by native son David Toms and Glenn Hickey, who just started cutting and whacking without the inconvenience of a blueprint or anything so formally restrictive.
If south Louisiana isn't a swamp, then it's usually moss-draped live oaks or upland pine forests, and all of that is flat. So Toms and Hickey moved more than 600,000 cubic yards of Louisiana soil to get the elevation changes they wanted. Don't play this golf course expecting to be in the hills, but some of the tees and greens do rise considerably above the flatlands, giving the course some added variety.
This is an excellent course, deserving of all the awards various golf magazines have bestowed upon it, but the true test is with the locals who have options.
David Harris lives in Covington and has at least five golf courses closer to his home, but he chose to join this one.
"This is the one to play if you want to learn how to play golf," Harris said. "Learn or quit. It's always in good shape. I don't think anybody's made a course this good for the money."
Carter Plantation is a daily-fee facility, with green fees in the $75-$95 range, but you can also join for a yearly fee of $2,500, which is what Harris did.
The land was originally deeded as part of a Spanish land grant, and at one time it was a working plantation. There is a cemetery on the 700-acre development by the Blood River that residents say is still "active." Only in Louisiana, where the past is more a part of the present than elsewhere, are cemeteries described as "active."
The Carter Plantation is part of the Audubon Trail. That means, in part, they are more attuned to the environment. In this case, plantation crews have added native grasses to the layout, but a great deal of trees have also been removed to allow for home sites.
"This used to be beautiful," Harris said of one section recently cleared.
Ah well, progress. There is still much beauty to be admired.
Carter Plantation is no resort pushover. It's officially listed at 7,049 yards, but they've added about 200 yards, and the slope comes in at a healthy 140 from the back tees.
The biggest challenge is probably the greens, which is where the movement really picks up; almost every green has a significant degree of slope and undulation, and they frequently fall off dramatically to collection areas or hazards. They are also usually guarded by one of the 86 bunkers on the course.
The fairway bunkers can also be devilish. They are strategically placed near landing areas and many of them are high-lipped and wearing gnarly growth around the edges. "Mustache" bunkers, Toms calls them.
The greens are TifEagle and the fairways are Tifsport and those who play here regularly say they are almost always in great shape, hurricanes or no.
The routing takes you through three different types of Louisiana terrain: live oak flats, cypress wetlands and upland pine forests and Tupelo gum trees. There is also water on 11 holes, but this isn't a course where you come away grousing about losing a bunch of balls to water; much or it is lateral, though you will be carrying several ponds and creeks off the tee and into several greens.
There are a number of excellent holes at Carter Plantation, with an excellent collection of par 3s. No. 3 is a pretty little par 3 over a marshy area to a two-tiered, elevated green, and No. 5 is another par 3 over water, as is No. 17.
The par-4 eighth is a doozy. It's a 430-yarder that doglegs right around a bunker and over the trees. Beware! There is an unseen pond behind those trees, which cuts across the fairway. The green slopes from the middle to the front, and falls off to the right to that same pond.
The only drawback to the course is it isn't really conducive to walkers. Some of the jaunts from green to tee are considerable.
The Carter Plantation has excellent practice facilities, including a double-ended driving range, three practice greens and practice bunkers.
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.
July 15, 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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