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|TPC Louisiana is a lovely Pete Dye work, with 20 acres of "sand hazards." (Tim McDonald/WorldGolf.com)|
New Orleans golf courses such as Metairie Country Club and the Links at Stonebridge took a pounding when the hurricane hit three years ago, but many are thriving again.
NEW ORLEANS, La. - It looks like the good times are rolling again in New Orleans, at least for partiers and golfers.
Like most other aspects of post-Katrina New Orleans, golf has taken some time to rally after the devastating storm, but most courses there before the storm are back open and some are doing booming business.
It isn't quite the way it was before, which is a shame because New Orleans-area golf was going through a bit of a mini-revival, with several courses either undergoing or considering major renovations, like New Orleans Country Club, Metairie Country Club and the Links at Stonebridge. Several new courses were also on the drawing board.
Katrina had little effect on courses west of the city, but some of those in the harder-hit areas have closed for good, like Eastover, which tried to make a go of it but failed after being inundated with 12 feet of saltwater.
City Park's popular three courses have struggled to re-open, but been bogged down in red tape and a lack of funding. Only the driving range is open at this point.
A new David Toms-designed course, the Club at LaTour, is scheduled to open later this year.
New Orleans was never a world-class golf destination, and still isn't. But it still has the rowdy French Quarter, which is as rowdy as ever, some of the best restaurants in the country and remains one of the more eclectic, eccentric and romantic cities in America.
New Orleans nevertheless still faces major problems, one of which is its post-Katrina image. You can, in fact, go to New Orleans now and have the same sort of fun that made it famous, or infamous. For golfers, you can still experience the city's sensual pleasures and get in a solid week's worth of golf, after your morning beignets at Café DuMond.
• TPC Louisiana, part of the excellent Audubon Trail, is across the Mississippi River from New Orleans, about 12 miles from downtown, and one of a handful of upscale courses in the New Orleans area. Green fees reflect that, ranging from $50-$160 depending on the season and your residency status.
The Pete Dye design stretches 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 to choose from.
At least 20 of the 80-plus, playable acres are sand, and there are 103 bunkers - including 69 pot bunkers - to contend with. 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 course on three sides.
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 that 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.
Play the Dye way, and you can score. Don't, and you can find yourself in some triple-bogey situations.
• The Carter Plantation is an excellent course, deserving of all the awards various golf magazines have bestowed upon it.
The land was originally deeded as part of a Spanish land grant, and at one time it was a working plantation. There is still a cemetery on the 700-acre development by the Blood River that residents say is "active." Only in Louisiana, where the past is more a part of the present than elsewhere, are cemeteries described as "active."
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.
It's a daily-fee facility, with green fees in the $75-$95 range.
• Money Hill Golf and Country Club in Abita Springs is an atypical southern Louisiana golf course, with undulating terrain over hills and through valleys. It plays from 70 feet above sea level to 120 feet below.
The private course sits on 200 acres with a spring-fed lake that affects many of the holes, especially the last five. It measures 7,131 yards with a slope rating of 135, and has been ranked the top course in the state by Golf Digest, and still is in the top10.
It's a Ron Garl design with five sets of tee boxes. The name comes from an old story that buried treasure is somewhere on the property.
• The Links at Stonebridge is built on flat terrain and very open on the interior, with a few trees scattered around. It's a fun play with some good, challenging holes along its 7,000-yard-plus layout.
Stonebridge is a semi-private club with green fees in the very reasonable $45-$55 range, rare for a course so close to a big city. It's a 27-hole facility, the 18-holer plus another nine-hole executive type course.
• Belle Terre Country Club winds through neighborhoods with well-kept homes usually lining the fairways. There is quite a bit of water, on 10 of the 18 holes, but much of it is lateral and there for show.
The Bermuda fairways are fairly ample, with some of the landing areas squeezed by water, fairway bunkers, houses, or sometimes all three. This is a straightforward Pete Dye work, without his customary eccentricities.
• You can reach the Golf Club at Audubon Park by taking the streetcar to St. Charles Avenue. It's a beautiful, shady little executive course that tops out at 4,220 yards with a par of 62, located inside the park and right across the street from the zoo.
The course dates back to the late 1800s and was re-done in 2002 by Denis Griffiths. It features bunkers, lagoons and undulating greens.
One of the area's better layouts, it hosted the PGA Tour from 1989 through 2004. This is a private club with limited public play.
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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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