NEW ORLEANS – To most traveling golfers, great golf and delicious food go hand-in-hand. Perhaps nowhere else in America does that ring truer than along Louisiana’s Audubon Golf Trail, where you can play a fantastic golf course and enjoy world-famous cuisine all in the same day.
Formed in 2001 to promote golf tourism in the state, the Audubon Golf Trail is comprised of 12 courses throughout Louisiana from New Orleans in the south, to Shreveport near the Arkansas-Texas border. Its portfolio, which includes TPC Louisiana, host of the PGA Tour’s Zurich Classic, took a hit from Hurricane Katrina in 2005, but all of the affected courses are back to full strength and await your visit.
If you’re thinking about a golf road trip, the Audubon Golf Trail is a fantastic place to consider. Check out this road map of courses from the Trail, which offers a wide variance of character and challenge – and even better, each course has great value as well.
Audubon Park Golf Course is one of the classic gems of New Orleans. Located in the Uptown section of the city, in close proximity to Tulane and Loyola Universities, this par-62 executive course sits smack dab in the center of Audubon Park, just outside the gates of the Audubon Zoo.
As you make your way through your round you'll notice moss hanging from the branches of old oak trees, and a jogging path around the periphery gives youthful exuberance to a course that has been in existence for more than a century.
In 2002 Audubon Park underwent a multi-million-dollar renovation, which elevated the conditions of the course and also improved the clubhouse, which along with its southern charm and delicious breakfasts offers impressive views of the golf course.
Where to eat
Red Fish Grill on Bourbon St. or the Gumbo Shop on St. Peter St.
Where to stay
The J.W. Marriott on Canal St. is within walking distance of Bourbon St.
Where to have fun
Like all courses in the New Orleans area, TPC Louisiana was devastated by Hurricane Katrina – in fact, the 2006 Zurich Classic had to be moved to English Turn Golf & Country Club because of it – but the course has since recovered, and is a lot of fun considering it was built on land that has about as much elevation change as an airport runway.
The defining characteristic of TPC Louisiana is the 100-plus bunkers that dominate the landscape, some of which are more than 150 yards long. Instead of worrying about the bunkers, you’ll play better if you stay patient and accept the fact that no matter what, you’ll end up in some of them.
About an hour northwest of New Orleans is Carter Plantation, the first and only course designed by PGA Tour star and Louisiana native David Toms. True to his playing style, Toms didn’t cut any corners in designing Carter Plantation, and the end result is a well-shaped course that’s enjoyable and challenging for all types of golfers.
The signature hole at Carter Plantation is undoubtedly No. 14, a risk-reward par 4 that has just as much trouble as opportunity. During a recent U.S. Open local qualifier the tee was moved up to entice players to drive the green. For the less-aggressive player, it’s a simple fairway wood and wedge approach. Whatever you do, avoid the deep bunkers on this hole, which engage the out-of-bounds markers behind the green.
After your round be sure to visit the Plantation Dining Room, which is in a class above your typical clubhouse restaurant. The reasonably-priced Dining Room is led by executive chef Marcus Day and features such delicacies as hand-cut char-grilled rib eye steaks and the always-popular Southern fried green tomatoes dressed with crawfish tails. It’s the perfect way to finish a day of golf.
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Complete Course listing
Cypress Bend Resort
The Atchafalaya at Idlewild
The keen attention to detail at Carter Plantation earned it the award, No. 1 for Customer Service on the Trail.
For another course that pays careful attention to detail, head west from Carter Plantation to The Island, where the greens have a lot of character, and are usually in fantastic shape.
Located just 15 minutes from the capital city of Baton Rouge, The Island is surrounded on all sides by water, as its name suggests. Ironically, it’s one of the best-draining courses in Louisiana. In a low-lying state where even one day of rain can wreak havoc on most courses, The Island rarely has to enact the bothersome “Cart Path Only” rule on its golfers.
The signature hole at The Island is the difficult par-4 11th, which has water along the right and out-of-bounds hugging the left. Even if you can manage to put your tee shot in the fairway, you’re still left with a mid-to-long-iron approach shot into a severely undulating green.
No. 11 is one of those holes that’s devilishly tough, but a lot of fun to play.
If you’re seeking a little off-the-course thrill in the form of a casino, the Audubon Golf Trail has that covered too. From Baton Rouge, head north toward the center of the state to Paragon Casino & Resort, and Tamahka Trails Golf Club.
Located 90 minutes northwest of Baton Rouge, the Paragon Casino & Resort features a 530-room hotel and all the casino games you could ask for. The adjoining Tamahka Trails Golf Club is, like many casino courses, very well maintained and a lot of fun to play.
The signature hole at Tamahka Trails is No. 7, a dogleg-right par 4 that’s literally as far from the hustle and bustle of the casino as you can get. It’s a classic risk-reward hole with a massive tree guarding the front-right of the green and a creek that will snare anything that comes up short.
As with gambling, you won’t have success at No. 7 without a little luck on your side.
Whether you play one course on the Audubon Golf Trail or all 12, you’ll enjoy the great golf, fine cuisine, and affordable prices.