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Making the rounds on the state’s daily-fee municipal courses By Kent J. Landry

Audubon Park Golf Course

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The cart’s GPS system read 156 yards to pin. OK. Not to worry. That would be a nice 7-iron for me. There were a couple of problems, however:

1. The green was banked by a large bulk-headed pond starting from its center and running all the way down the right side, which meant I had to strike my 7- iron straight and true.

 2. My knees were shaking.

But, as fictional character Roy McAvoy says in Tin Cup, “When a defining moment comes along, you can do one of two things. Define the moment, or let the moment define you.” So, to my playing partner’s disbelief, I grabbed my 7-iron out of my bag and approached my ball. I stood over it for a second, visualizing in my head the ball in flight, sailing over the pond and landing softly on the green safely in two. I waggled once, then twice, adjusted my grip and felt my body tense ever so slightly: Define the moment!

Last year I wrote an article in this magazine detailing the best courses that Louisiana has to offer (“Golfing in Paradise,” September-October 2009): private clubs, casino and resort complexes, and members of the Audubon Trail. In this article, however, the focus is on the best public courses in the state — daily-fee municipals, places where anyone can participate in an exciting round of golf on a beautiful course.

The many public golf courses around the state offer spectacular scenery, adventurous architectural designs and occasional wildlife. No matter your skill level, rest assured that there is a public golf course for everyone, and on these courses, everyone is welcome. So without further ado, here is a list of some of the top public courses to play around our great state.

Top Public Courses

1. Audubon Park Golf Course
The only course in Louisiana that you can access via streetcar, this is a quaint little course in the middle of the Big Easy.  Pack your clubs, hop on the St. Charles streetcar, and take a ride into historic New Orleans: shops, beautiful homes and restaurants everywhere your eyes turn. Sitting within Audubon Park and right next to the Audubon Zoo, the course is managed by the Audubon Nature Institute, which runs the park, the zoo and the Aquarium of the Americas near the Riverwalk along with other parks and museums, all of which share a common goal of preserving Louisiana’s natural habits and diverse wildlife.

Location: New Orleans, Orleans Parish
Region: Greater New Orleans
Green Fees: $30 on weekdays,
$40 on weekends
Length: 4,220 yards (par 62)
Architect: Dennis Griffiths
(2002 –– redesigned)
Web site: www.auduboninstitute.org

2. Atchafalaya at Idlewild

Sitting directly under the elevated Acadian-style clubhouse, the ninth and 18th holes share a common green, a unique feature that adds a nice twist to one of the longest courses in the state.  The entire property is picturesque and beautiful. The front nine of the course plays into the woods of the lower Atchafalaya delta with native wildlife sometimes making appearances. The back nine is basically a links-style course with slight elevation changes and hilly terrain. It was voted the No. 1 Best Course You Can Play by Golfweek Magazine for the past two years. The camouflage carts make you feel like you’re on a golfing excursion.

Location: Patterson, St. Mary Parish
Region: Cajun Country
Green Fees: $58 on weekdays,
$68 on weekends
Length: 7,533 yards
Architect: Robert Van Hagge (2006)
Web site: www.atchafalayagolf.com

3. City Park

Baton Rouge’s City Park Golf Course is an entertaining little nine-hole course that is fun to play. Sitting right off of Perkins Road near the LSU lakes, the course is surrounded by all sorts of outdoor activity: jogging, biking, boating. The layout incorporates two blind tee shots and other unique features. It is one of only 20 courses in the country listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Location: Baton Rouge, East Baton Rouge Parish
Region: Plantation Country
Green Fees: $12
Length: 9 holes, 2,858 yards
Architect: Tom Bendelow (1928)
Web site: www.brec.org

4. TPC (Tournament Players Clubs) of Louisiana

Only 12 miles from the bustling city of New Orleans, the TPC of Louisiana, like all TPC courses, is owned and managed by the PGA Tour. Consequently, it is the host of the PGA Tour’s Zurich Classic, the only major PGA golf tournament in Louisiana. The course was built by Pete Dye, the same architect who designed the TPC Sawgrass in Florida with its famed island green 17th hole.

Location: Avondale, Orleans Parish
Region: Greater New Orleans
Green Fees: $89 on weekdays,
$99 on weekends
Length: 7,520 yards
Architect: Pete Dye (2004)
Web site: www.tpc.com

5. Copper Mill Golf Club

This beautiful course sitting north of Baton Rouge is designed in the links style with an uncommon hole layout.  The course contains three par 3 holes, three par 4 holes and three par 5 holes on both the front and back nines. Golfers can view the remains of the old mill along the 17th fairway.

Location: Zachary, East Baton Rouge Parish
Region: Plantation Country
Green Fees: $50 on weekdays,
$60 on weekends
Length: 7,049 yards
Architect: Max Maxwell and Nathan Crace (2003)
Web site: www.coppermillgolf.com

6. Gray Plantation Golf Course

Gray Plantation was named one of the 100 Greatest Public Courses in the United States by Golf Digest for the past three years. It was also ranked No. 3 in the state of Louisiana.

Location: Lake Charles, Calcasieu Parish
Region: Cajun Country
Green Fees: $50 on weekdays,
$65 on weekends
Length: 7,233 yards
Architect: William “Rocky” Roquemore (1999)
Web site: www.graywoodllc.com

7. Pelican Point

Pelican Point offers two 18-hole golf courses on more than 450 acres of former sugar cane fields. The property sits in the heart of Plantation Country off of River Road. After a round of golf, visitors can treat themselves to a delicious meal at The Cabin, a Cajun-Creole restaurant in a reconstructed plantation cabin just minutes away from the course, or an upscale dinner at the Houmas House Plantation restaurant, either one an excellent choice.

Location: Gonzales, Ascension Parish
Region: Plantation Country
Green Fees: Lakes Course:  $57 on weekdays, $67 on weekends; Links Course: $37 on weekdays, $47 on weekends
Length: Lakes: 6,513 yards; Links: 6,931 yards
Architect: SAJO Construction (1997),
Holmes & Co. (2002)
Web site: www.golfthepoint.com

8. Tamahka Trails Golf Club

Tamahka Trails, owned by the Tunica-Biloxi tribe, opened in 2000 as part of Paragon Casino Resort, which
was the first land-based casino allowed in Louisiana. With a sprawling practice facility and affordable green fees, it is the perfect place to find some tranquility away from the cacophony of casino slots and tables games.

Location: Marksville, Avoyelles Parish
Region: Central Louisiana
Green Fees: $49 on weekdays,
$59 on weekends
Length: 7,019 yards
Architect: Steven R. Smyers (2000)
Web site: www.paragoncasinoresort.com

9. Lakewood

Lakewood Country Club was saved from bankruptcy by the New Orleans’ Fireman’s Pension and Relief fund in 2003, renovated and rechristened Lakewood Golf Club. Located in the Algiers neighborhood of New Orleans, the club boasts its civic pride: Check out its fleur-de-lis bunker on the first hole and the flame bunker on the 18th.

Location: New Orleans, Orleans Parish
Region: Greater New Orleans
Green Fees: For Louisiana residents,
$60 on weekdays and $70 on weekends
Length: 7,002 yards
Architect: Ron Garl (2009)
Web site: www.lakewoodgolf.com

10. Cypress Bend Golf Resort and Conference Center

As part of the Cypress Bend Resort in the exquisite Toledo Bend Lake — and also a member of the Audubon Trail — this golf resort and convention center offers a hotel and golf suites for the golf vacation. The course features 10 holes along water and six shots over water.  With ample fishing and outdoor activities, the location of the resort makes it a perfect getaway for the golfer and nature-lover.

Location: Many, Sabine Parish
Region: Central Louisiana
Green Fees: $55 on weekdays, “$75 on weekends
Length: 6,707 yards
Architect: Dave Bennett (1999)
Web site: www.cypressbend.com

11. Olde Oaks

This course features three nine-hole layouts on more than 340 acres of hilly terrain containing abundant wildlife.
If nightlife is your thing after a round of golf, you can try your luck at one of the area’s casinos.

Location: Haughton, Bossier Parish
Region: Sportsman’s Paradise
Fees: $44 on weekdays, $49 on weekends
Length: 27 holes, each nine a little more
than 3,600 yards
Architect: Hal Sutton
Web site: www.oldeoaksgolf.com

12.  Koasati Pines at Coushatta

Koasati Pines is the home course of the Coushatta Casino Resort in Kinder. It is the longest golf course in the state at 7,617 yards, and if that is not enough of a challenge, it contains three holes with split fairways and water hazards wherever you look. A secret hole behind the clubhouse that has an island green — a par 3, 137- yard 19th hole — is the perfect place to break a tie, make a bet or try your luck before heading back into the casino.

Location: Kinder, Allen Parish         
Region: Cajun Country
Green Fees: $50 on weekdays,
$65 on weekends
Length: 7,617 yards
Architect: Kevin Tucker (2002)
Web site: www.koasatipines.com

The 13th at Atchafalaya at Idlewild is dubbed “Haha Bay,” and it’s the perfect nickname — you either laugh at it or it laughs at you. So there I was about to go for the green in two and define my moment. My take-away was slow and smooth, making sure to keep my swing on plane and my hands inside, eyes focused on the ball. The club head struck the ball pure. It was up in the air and on its way. It had a chance. Go, ball! Go!

Splash! The ball landed, sinking my dreams.

My defining moment was all wet.

Now there was only one thing to do — drop and try again … and again. I think I ended up making a 13 on the hole, but at least I took a shot (actually a plethora of shots) to try to pull off the risk and reap the reward. And you know what? The next time I play, I’m going to do it again. I was out there with Mother Nature, in a landscape only Louisiana could make, with egrets flying about landing in the inviting ponds and turtles slowly meandering across the fairway, not a worry in the world.  If for only a few hours, I have escaped the hustle and bustle of life —
ha ha, paradise!

Additional information by: www.gulfcoastgolf.com

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