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Blood and sand: Play the Dye way or pay at the TPC Louisiana near New Orleans

Tim McDonaldBy Tim McDonald,
TPC Louisiana Golf Course - Greens
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The greens at TPC Louisiana are relatively small, but well-conditioned and fast, with chipping areas between them and greenside bunkers. (Tim McDonald/WorldGolf.com)

TPC Lousiana is across the river from New Orleans, about 12 miles from downtown. It has both the quality stamp of the PGA Tour's TPC collection and the usual concoction of Pete Dye eccentricities. It is one of a handful of upscale golf courses in the New Orleans area and green fees reflect that.

AVONDALE, La. -- You can find a lot of similarities between TPC Louisiana and the original TPC Sawgrass Stadium Course in Ponte Vedra, Fla. if you care to look.

Both golf courses were carved out of primeval swamp and both were designed by Pete Dye.

"(PGA Tour Commissioner Tim) Finchem asked me to do this and I think I know why," Dye says on the TPC Louisiana Web site. "He finds a flat site and then he calls me. But, I appreciate the confidence he has in me and, what the heck, I still love digging in the dirt."

They both have the quality stamp of the PGA Tour's TPC collection, which means beautiful facilities, a big budget, excellent service and careful attention to detail.

And, of course, they both have the usual concoction of Dye eccentricities that both infuriate and compel golfers from the professional to the duffer level.

In the TPC Louisiana's case, that means sand and plenty of it. So much sand, in fact, you might think King Abdullah was a consultant, instead of Steve Elkington and Louisiana native Kelly Gibson.

At least 20 acres of the 80-plus playable acres are sand, and there are 103 bunkers -- including 69 pot bunkers -- with which to contend.

Well, you're thinking, I've played golf courses with more bunkers than that. Yes, but were some of them 150-yards long? Many of these bunkers could be called waste areas or "sand hazards" as officials here refer to them.

Dye did cut us a break on the greenside bunkers, with a caveat. The excellent greens are relatively small and mostly flat, so the greenside bunkers are set off from the putting surfaces, with chipping areas between them.

What's odd, for a course that was carved out of the delta lowlands, is that the water hazards are man made. That includes the five ponds on the layout and the drainage canals that surround the golf course on three sides.

Play TPC Louisiana The Dye Way -- or pay

You combine all of this with other Dye characteristics -- the progressive movement he pushed up with his bulldozers as you near the greens, the usual Dye asymmetry which includes disorienting twists and turns and awkward angles -- and you have a course that can bite you like one of the gators lurking in the swamp.

If you play the Dye way, you can score. If not, you can find yourself in some triple-bogey situations.

"I tell you, you don't hit a good drive on this course, you're in trouble," said Mike Lacoste, playing the course with his two brothers on a sweltering June day.

TPC Louisiana: The verdict

The TPC Louisiana stretches out to a whopping 7,520 yards, but that's only for the pros. The Dye tees are a touch over 7,000 yards, and there are three other sets of tees from which to choose.

So it plays long, but the heart of the course, according to Dye, are the shorter par 4s, like No. 8, which is drivable but with a ton of trouble, and the 377-yard 13th, a dogleg over -- yes -- sand.

The greens, none of which measure more than 5,000 feet, are always in good shape, according to locals. The green speeds average around 10 on the stimpmeter, so they have good speed. Even after a recent aeration, the greens were rolling true. The only blemish on the course was a recent re-sodding around the greens after the Zurich Classic, which the facility hosts.

The course, part of the Audubon Trail, is across the Mississippi River from New Orleans, about 12 miles from downtown, and is one of a handful of upscale golf courses in the New Orleans area. Green fees reflect that, ranging from $50-$160 depending on the season and residency status.

There are no houses or condos around the layout, nor will there ever be. It has a first-rate, 15-acre practice facility.

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TPC Louisiana Golf Course - FairwaysTPC Louisiana Golf Course - Sand Hazards

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.

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