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Louisiana: Home to Cajuns, crawfish and some good golf resorts

Tim McDonaldBy Tim McDonald,
The Bluffs Country Club
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The Bluffs Country Club has a great, Arnold Palmer design. (Courtesy The Bluffs Country Club)

Louisiana is an odd state. No one who has ever visited can deny it. Instead of counties, they have parishes. They eat big bugs there and have strange, foreign-sounding food, like jambalaya and etouffee.

But, it's odd in a good way. And besides, Louisiana takes its golf seriously, and there are some mighty fine Louisiana golf courses.

The state doesn't have the sheer volume, like Florida for example, when it comes to golf resorts - those sanctuaries where you can find both fancy lodging and golf combined with a spa and other luxury amenities.

Nor does it have those sprawling, multi-course resorts golfers can enjoy in many other states. But, it does have some good ones. Here are our recommendations:

The Bluffs Country Club and Resort, St. Francisville

The Bluffs takes the top spot mainly on the strength of its golf course, which was laid out before they built the surrounding, master-planned community. Architect Arnold Palmer was given a free hand, and he and his team staked out eight separate routings before they decided on the 18 best holes.

It shows. Golf Digest ranks it second in the state, saying it is "perhaps the best of any Palmer design," which is saying quite a bit. It's all-Bermuda, and more than 7,100 yards from the back tees, winding through classic, Louisiana back-country settings.

The plantation-style resort is situated on Thompson Creek, about 35 minutes from the state capital, with trails, wildlife and rolling hills.

The Lodge is a small, exclusive, all-suites facility, with 25 one-bedroom suites and two, two-bedroom suites. One of the two-bedroom suites has full kitchen with an ice-maker, and all suites have wireless Internet.

The Cottage, with its pool, brick-lined patio and sun deck, is available for weddings, meetings and other functions. It overlooks the lake, fairway and green of the ninth hole.

Carter Plantation, Springfield

The Carter Plantation's David Toms-designed golf course opened in 2003 and plays through stands of pine, live oak, cypress and Tupelo gum trees.

Open to the public, the course is 7,049 yards from the back tees, with a tough slope rating of 140: this is no ridiculously easy resort course.

Even with that toughness, it is usually described as "understated," like Toms himself.

"Carter Plantation will never be the top dog on the Audubon Golf trail ... but it is a great addition to the greater New Orleans golf scene," wrote TravelGolf.com's Jason Scott.

The layout plays through three distinct landscapes: live oak flats, cypress wetlands and upland pine forests, with 86 bunkers, Tifeagle greens and rolling fairways. Water is in play on 11 holes.

The resort is owned by the Penn and Sharp families, descendants of George Richardson who bought the property in 1856. It has 63 villas, guest rooms and suites, in nine buildings with golf course views.

The Pavilion restaurant is in the center of the complex, with meeting and banquet facilities. It's about an hour from New Orleans and a half hour from Baton Rouge.

L'Auberge du Lac Hotel and Casino, Lake Charles

L'Auberge, in Lake Charles, features the superb Contraband Bayou golf course, a 7,000-yard, par-71 track emphasizing the marsh and lowland features of southwest Louisiana, with eight lakes worked into the terrain.

It's a highly acclaimed Tom Fazio design, the only public Fazio course in the state.

The L'Auberge features one of the largest, single-level, riverboat casinos in the world, with a glass dome and vaulted ceiling, and 1,600 slot machines and 60 table games.

The 26-story hotel has 750 rooms, including suites and villas, a large pool, lazy river and beach area. The events center has 26,000 square-feet of space and includes a 14,000 square-foot ballroom that can be broken out into six separate meeting spaces.

There are six bars/restaurants: the Jack Daniels bar, Snake River Grill, Nevie Beach Club, Le Café, Le Beaucoup Buffet and Asia.

The L'Auberge would be ranked higher, but there were a number of complaints about customer service when the property first opened.

Cypress Bend Resort, Many

Cypress Bend is a golf, spa and conference hotel, on the border with Texas, about an hour and a half from Shreveport.

The course plays through hardwood forests, with views of Toledo Bend Lake. Since the course wraps around one of the lakes, there are many inlets and 10 holes are along the water, six with water carries. Gusting wind off the lake can be a strong factor.

The hotel is connected to the main conference center and has 67 rooms, including three one-bedroom suites, all with water, lake or golf views.

The conference center has a pool with a big deck, poolside bar and a swim-through to the inside pool. The resort has a sauna, massage and whirlpool in its fitness center There's 11,000 square feet of meeting space.

Most of the activities are centered around the lake, including guided fishing trips for bass and crappie.

Beware, this property has also received a number of complaints from guests, including gripes about service and food. The complaints about odors from smoking prompted management to revert to an entirely non-smoking policy the first of this year.

Emerald Hills Golf Resort, Florien

Emerald Hills is in the Kisatchie National Forest, near Hodges Garden State Park, midway between Shreveport and Lake Charles.

The resort has a player-friendly, inexpensive resort course, short at 6,548 yards with a slope rating of 125. It opened in 1970.

There are 110 rooms and suites with meeting space attached, and children 12 and under get in free. Hotel rooms are available alone or as part of golf packages. There are condos with full kitchens available.

Mulligan's Bar and Grill overlooks the course.

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.

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