When New Orleanians think of what they love to do outside in the springtime, there are lots of activities that come to mind: There’s sailing on Lake Pontchartrain, running in City Park, hanging out at festivals … The list is a long one.
But one activity many New Orleanians might not think about is golf. While New Orleans and its surrounding areas have plenty of golf courses, the city isn’t a golf mecca, especially when it comes to public courses with a New Orleans address. Just like the rest of the city, the golf community was hit hard by Hurricane Katrina. “The problem with New Orleans is, since Katrina, City Park got washed out,” says Joseph Giorlando, the director of instruction for Rabito Golf at City Park. City Park’s North Course is open now, but there used to be more. There are plans for a new championship golf course at City Park, but that won’t be ready for a while (see box for more details).
“If you’re not a member of a country club, you don’t have a lot of options,” Giorlando says.
But even though the number of New Orleans golf courses for the casual golfer might seem small, there are plenty of ways to get involved in the game this spring and summer. Here are a few ideas for getting into golf this year, whether you want to hit the links or watch from the gallery.
Get to Know Some Local Courses
The Joseph M. Bartholomew Municipal Golf Course originally opened in 1956. If you haven’t been to the course in a while, March 2014 is a good time to go because the new clubhouse is slated to open later this month. The clubhouse will feature a bar and restaurant, a ballroom and a pro shop.
City Park fans love the North Course, which includes an 18-hole course, as well as a driving range and a practice facility. In addition to the typical rates, City Park offers a Practice Pass, which includes unlimited range balls and other perks.
For Uptown golfers, there’s Audubon Park Golf Course, which Golf Digest once voted the No. 1 course of “Courses Over 100 Years Old.” It opened in 1898, but Director of Golf and Head Pro Stan Stopa calls the course the “course of the future” because it’s short – a nice choice for people who don’t want to spend five hours on the course. “If somebody’s looking to play quickly and get a quality experience, Audubon is certainly it,” Stopa says.
On the West Bank, there’s Lakewood Golf Club, which is open to both members and non-members. The course is working on a program for women golfers, but details were not available at press time. If you’re interested, check LakewoodGolf.com or follow Lakewood Golf Club New Orleans on Facebook.
Take a Lesson
For those who are new to golf, and don’t even know what to do once on a course, you’re going to need a lesson. One method Giorlando suggests is taking a group lesson with friends, a strategy that’s especially popular for women who are new to the game. “It’s cheaper to do it that way,” Giorlando says. “If they really like it, and they have some aptitude for it, then they have a private lesson.”
The North Course at City Park offers private lessons and video lessons. A video lesson entails an instructor recording a golfer’s swing and pointing out ways to make the swing better. Audubon Park Golf Course also offers lessons, as does Lakewood, along with other courses in the area.
Golf is challenging even though many non-golfers think the sport is just about “chasing a little white ball around,” Giorlando says. “For the most part, it has nothing to do with chasing a white ball around.”
Get the Kids Involved
There has been a big push in the golf world to get kids into the sport to keep golf growing. One way to get your own kid involved is to enroll him or her in a junior golf program, such as the Lakewood Junior Golf Program. The program, which Lakewood PGA apprentice Chris Howard calls “the best in the state,” features weekly classes, access to the course at a discounted rate and more benefits. Visit LakewoodGolf.com/junior_golf for details.
If your kid already knows how to play and is hoping to play a lot this summer, Audubon Park Golf Course is offering a new youth special called the Junior Summer Pass. For $500, kids can play from May 1 through Aug. 31. This is the first time Audubon has offered the deal, Stopa says. “I just felt like it was time to get some juniors involved,” he says. “We haven’t been seeing too many juniors out here.”
Hang Out at City Putt
For those looking for a less serious version of golf, there’s always mini golf; for that, the newest and most prominent mini golf option is City Park’s City Putt. Opened in 2013, City Putt features two courses, one inspired by Louisiana and the other inspired by New Orleans.
While City Putt is a popular choice for family outings with the kids, it can also serve as a night without them thanks to a new social putt-putt league. Sean Gaubert, a community coordinator for WAKA Kickball and Social Sports, started the social league, which invites adults 21 and older to come out and play at City Putt on Monday nights. After mini golf, the team heads to a bar to socialize – the winter league hung out at Shamrock on S. Carrollton Avenue.
Registration for the league costs $72. A schedule for spring play has not been released yet, but interested players should watch the league’s website, KickBall.com/season/LaCityPuttPuttWinter2014, for details on the next season.
See the Pros Play
If you would rather spend your time watching golf instead of playing it, the Zurich Classic is happening April 21-27 at TPC Louisiana in Avondale, La. The PGA Tour tournament has been around since 1938 and still attracts top golf talent; past players have included Jack Nicklaus, Phil Mickelson and Bubba Watson.
Day passes cost $25 and week passes cost $75. Call 342-3000 for tickets, or visit ZurichGolfClassic.com for more details.
4 Golf Courses to Try This Spring
Audubon Park Golf Course
6500 Magazine St., 212-5290, AudubonInstitute.org/visit/golf
City Park North Course
1051 Filmore Ave., 483-9410, CityParkGolf.com
Joseph M. Bartholomew Municipal Golf Course
6514 Congress Drive, 658-3387, PlayNolaGolf.com
Lakewood Golf Course
4801 General Degaulle Drive, 373-5926, LakewoodGolf.com
Is there still a new golf course coming to City Park?
A championship golf course is planned for City Park, but golfers won’t be able to play there any time soon. John Hopper, the chief development officer and public relations director for City Park, says the plans have been drawn.
Hopper says the golf course “will happen, we just don’t know when,” and a course can take two years to develop. The new course will be located between Harrison Avenue and Filmore Avenue.