Road map to the Audubon Golf Trail

By Erik PetersonDecember 11, 2009, 8:34 pm
tpc louisiana
TPC Louisiana in Avondale is one of 12 courses along the Audubon Golf Trail

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.

New Orleans
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
Bourbon St.

About 20 minutes outside of New Orleans is TPC Louisiana, which opened in 2004 and hosts the PGA Tour Zurich Classic. Designed by Pete Dye with input from major-winner Steve Elkington and New Orleans native Kelly Gibson, the course can play as long as 7,600 yards from the tips, but is a much more manageable 6,300 yards from the white tees.

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.

Audubon Golf Trail -
Complete Course listing

Audubon Park
Black Bear
Carter Plantation
Cypress Bend Resort
Gray Plantation
Olde Oaks
Tamahka Trails
The Island
TPC Louisiana
The Atchafalaya at Idlewild
The Wetlands

If you need a place to lay your head, stay at Carter Plantation, which is the best on-course option for group lodging in Louisiana. These villa-style accommodations feature a central room that’s a perfect gathering point for a foursome – or two.

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.
Photo by Enrique Berardi/LAAC

Top-ranked amateur Niemann one back at LAAC in Chile

By Nick MentaJanuary 21, 2018, 8:44 pm

Argentina’s Jaime Lopez Rivarola leads the Latin America Amateur Championship at 5 under par following a round of 3-under 68 Saturday in Chile.

The former Georgia Bulldog is now 36 holes from a trip to Augusta.

He is followed on the leaderboard by the three players who competed in the playoff that decided last year’s LAAC in Panama: Joaquin Niemann (-4), Toto Gana (-4), and Alvaro Ortiz (-3).

Chile’s Niemann is the top-ranked amateur in the world who currently holds conditional status on the Tour and is poised to begin his career as a professional, unless of course he takes the title this week. After a disappointing 74 in Round 1, Niemann was 10 shots better in Round 2, rocketing up the leaderboard with a 7-under 64.

Niemann’s fellow Chilean and best friend Gana is the defending champion who missed the cut at the Masters last year and is now a freshman at Lynn University. His second-round 70 was a roller coaster, complete with six birdies, three eagles and a double.

Mexico’s Ortiz, the brother of three-time Tour winner Carlos, was 6 under for the week before three back-nine bogeys dropped him off the pace.

Two past champions, Matias Dominguez and Paul Chaplet, sit 5 over and 7 over, respectively.

The winner of the Latin America Amateur Championship earns an invite to this year’s Masters. He is also exempt into the The Amateur Championship, the U.S. Amateur, U.S. Open sectional qualifying, and Open Championship final qualifying.

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McIlroy gets back on track

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 21, 2018, 3:10 pm

There’s only one way to view Rory McIlroy’s performance at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship:

He is well ahead of schedule.

Sure, McIlroy is probably disappointed that he couldn’t chase down Ross Fisher (and then Tommy Fleetwood) on the final day at Abu Dhabi Golf Club. But against a recent backdrop of injuries and apathy, his tie for third was a resounding success. He reasserted himself, quickly, and emerged 100 percent healthy.

“Overall, I’m happy,” he said after finishing at 18-under 270, four back of Fleetwood. “I saw some really, really positive signs. My attitude, patience and comfort level were really good all week.”

To fully appreciate McIlroy’s auspicious 2018 debut, consider his state of disarray just four months ago. He was newly married. Nursing a rib injury. Breaking in new equipment. Testing another caddie. His only constant was change. “Mentally, I wasn’t in a great place,” he said, “and that was because of where I was physically.”

And so he hit the reset button, taking the longest sabbatical of his career, a three-and-a-half-month break that was as much psychological as physical. He healed his body and met with a dietician, packing five pounds of muscle onto his already cut frame. He dialed in his TaylorMade equipment, shoring up a putting stroke and wedge game that was shockingly poor for a player of his caliber. Perhaps most importantly, he cleared his cluttered mind, cruising around Italy with wife Erica in a 1950s Mercedes convertible.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

After an intense buildup to his season debut, McIlroy was curious about the true state of his game, about how he’d stack up when he finally put a scorecard in his hand. It didn’t take him long to find out. 

Playing the first two rounds alongside Dustin Johnson – the undisputed world No. 1 who was fresh off a blowout victory at Kapalua – McIlroy beat him by a shot. Despite a 103-day competitive layoff, he played bogey-free for 52 holes. And he put himself in position to win, trailing by one heading into the final round. Though Fleetwood blew away the field with a back-nine 30 to defend his title, McIlroy collected his eighth top-5 in his last nine appearances in Abu Dhabi.

“I know it’s only three months,” he said, “but things change, and I felt like maybe I needed a couple of weeks to get back into the thought process that you need to get into for competitive golf. I got into that pretty quickly this week, so that was the most pleasing thing.”

The sense of relief afterward was palpable. McIlroy is entering his 11th full year as a pro, and deep down he likely realizes 2018 is shaping up as his most important yet.

The former Boy Wonder is all grown up, and his main challengers now are a freakish athlete (DJ) and a trio of players under 25 (Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm) who don’t lack for motivation or confidence. The landscape has changed significantly since McIlroy’s last major victory, in August 2014, and the only way he’ll be able to return to world No. 1 is to produce a sustained period of exceptional golf, like the rest of the game’s elite. (Based on average points, McIlroy, now ranked 11th, is closer to the bottom of the rankings, No. 1928, than to Johnson.)

But after years of near-constant turmoil, McIlroy, 28, finally seems ready to pursue that goal again. He is planning the heaviest workload of his career – as many as 30 events, including seven more starts before the Masters – and appears refreshed and reenergized, perhaps because this year, for the first time in a while, he is playing without distractions.

Not his relationships or his health. Not his equipment or his caddie or his off-course dealings.

Everything in his life is lined up.

Drama tends to follow one of the sport’s most captivating characters, but for now he can just play golf – lots and lots of golf. How liberating.

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Crocker among quartet of Open qualifiers in Singapore

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 2:20 pm

Former amateur standout Sean Crocker was among four players who qualified for the 147th Open via top-12 finishes this week at the Asian Tour's SMBC Singapore Open as part of the Open Qualifying Series.

Crocker had a strong college career at USC before turning pro late last year. The 21-year-old received an invitation into this event shortly thereafter, and he made the most of his appearance with a T-6 finish to net his first career major championship berth.

There were four spots available to those not otherwise exempt among the top 12 in Singapore, but winner Sergio Garcia and runners-up Shaun Norris and Satoshi Kodaira had already booked their tickets for Carnoustie. That meant that Thailand's Danthai Boonma and Jazz Janewattanond both qualified thanks to T-4 finishes.

Full-field scores from the Singapore Open

Crocker nabbed the third available qualifying spot, while the final berth went to Australia's Lucas Herbert. Herbert entered the week ranked No. 274 in the world and was the highest-ranked of the three otherwise unqualified players who ended the week in a tie for eighth.

The next event in the Open Qualifying Series will be in Japan at the Mizuno Open in May, when four more spots at Carnoustie will be up for grabs. The 147th Open will be held July 19-22 in Carnoustie, Scotland.

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Got a second? Fisher a bridesmaid again

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 1:40 pm

Ross Fisher is in the midst of a career resurgence - he just doesn't have the hardware to prove it.

Fisher entered the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship with a share of the lead, and as he made the turn he appeared in position to claim his first European Tour victory since March 2014. But he slowed just as Tommy Fleetwood caught fire, and when the final putt fell Fisher ended up alone in second place, two shots behind his fellow Englishman.

It continues a promising trend for Fisher, who at age 37 now has 14 career runner-up finishes and three in his last six starts dating back to October. He was edged by Tyrrell Hatton both at the Italian Open and the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in the fall, and now has amassed nine worldwide top-10 finishes since March.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

Fisher took a big step toward ending his winless drought with an eagle on the par-5 second followed by a pair of birdies, and he stood five shots clear of Fleetwood with only nine holes to go. But while Fleetwood played Nos. 10-15 in 4 under, Fisher played the same stretch in 2 over and was unable to eagle the closing hole to force a playoff.

While Fisher remains in search of an elusive trophy, his world ranking has benefited from his recent play. The veteran was ranked outside the top 100 in the world as recently as September 2016, but his Abu Dhabi runner-up result is expected to move him inside the top 30 when the new rankings are published.