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|The 199-yard, par-3 15th at Tamahka Trails Golf Club provides a dramatic view from the tee. (Mike Bailey/WorldGolf.com)|
MARKSVILLE, La. - What does it mean when a golf course architect combines a "new school" design with an appreciation for Scotland's legendary courses?
For starters, it means 76 bunkers in many different shapes and sizes. It also means doglegs, water hazards, native grasses and trees, which is what course designer Steve Smyers managed to get just right at Tamahka Trails Golf Club at the Paragon Casino & Resort near Alexandria.
This 230-acre tract, part of Louisiana's Audubon Golf Trail, has just about every element you'll find in a good golf course, but none of it is overdone. Right off the bat, on the opening par 5, Smyers intimidates with a series of foreboding fairway bunkers. A couple holes later, there's a green that can produce putts with 20 feet of break.
And when you get to the seventh hole, you'll find the mother of all dogleg rights. It has a series of five deep fairway bunkers that must be avoided at all costs for any hope of clearing the hazard fronting the green.
The fifth hole, one of four above-average par 5s on this 7,019-yard par 71, has nine bunkers. At 555 yards from the tips and 514 yards from the next set of tees, it's reachable for good players, but the bunkers provide a good amount of risk. Find one, and par isn't a cinch.
Unlike southern Louisiana, there's natural movement in the land around the Alexandria area. So Smyers had plenty to work with and didn't have to move a lot of dirt, except for the bunkers.
The hills at Tamahka Trails provide several nice views, most notably on the par-3 15th with its elevated tee. Below, you not only see the green, but a variety of plant life woven into a hole that's both aesthetically pleasing and challenging.
Smyers' appreciation for bunkers is what makes Tamahka Trails unique, though. Many are true penalties, but not all of them. They help define holes and also make you think a little off the tee and on approaches. Missing them, by in large, is crucial to shooting well.
The par 3s are another strength. All are strategically challenging and picturesque. The par-3 11th, which is all carry over a small pond, is a good example. At 145 yards, it isn't long, but the green, with one pot bunker that seems to catch more than its fair share of shots, is small.
The golf course is in excellent condition. The undulating greens run true, the fairways offer great lies, and all the holes are pretty much different.
There's also a large clubhouse with a friendly staff, good grill and excellent practice facilities. The practice area includes a large range, two chipping greens and a large putting green to prepare for your round. Lessons are available.
Tamahka Trails is so interesting you'll want to play it more than once, which is good since Paragon Resort is a very comfortable and self-contained destination on its own.
Recently, the resort poured $150 million into improvements. The rooms are clean, comfortable and state of the art, with flat panel TVs and $5 Internet. Guests will find free bottled water and snacks waiting for them.
The resort also has a movie theater with the latest releases, a large casino with off-track horserace betting and six restaurants and bars.
I recommend the boiled shrimp and crab with potatoes and corn. It's a lot of work cracking crab and peeling shrimp, but well worth it.
June 9, 2009
Mike Bailey is a senior staff writer based in the Houston area. Focusing primarily on golf in the United States, Canada, the Caribbean and Latin America, he contributes course reviews, travel stories and features as well as the occasional equipment review. An award-winning writer and past president of Texas Golf Writers Association, he has more than 20 years in the golf industry. Before accepting his current position in 2008, he was on staff at PGA Magazine, The Golfweek Group and AvidGolfer Magazine. Follow Mike on Twitter at @Accidentlgolfer.
Any opinions expressed above are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of the management.
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