AVONDALE, La. – No other golf course design element can distinguish a good player from a not-so-good one quite like a bunker. It makes sense, then, that Pete Dye included 103 of them in his design of TPC Louisiana, host of the PGA Tour Zurich Classic of New Orleans.
Dye, with input from player consultants Steve Elkington and New Orleans native Kelly Gibson, put bunkers everywhere. They’re in landing areas and around the greens. Some are tiny, others are the size of a football field. In truth to their name, hazards, 62 of them are pot bunkers. It’s hard enough avoiding them, but getting your ball up and down is no easy task.
Other than that, there's not much to contend with on this par-72, 7,520-yard golf course – except for the mounds, water, small greens and towering pines and cypress trees.
In other words, there's trouble everywhere at this PGA Tour venue.
TPC Louisiana demands patience
It's hard to believe that this was once just a flat piece of swampland next to New Orleans. But in true Pete Dye fashion, earth was moved to create mounding, lakes, lagoons and 20 acres of bunkers and waste bunkers.
It’s no wonder that when the course opened in 2004, Dye quipped that PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem 'finds a flat site, and then he calls me.
'But I appreciate the confidence he has in me,' Dye added. 'And, what the heck, I still love digging in the dirt.'
Despite all its trouble, the TPC Louisiana, part of Louisiana's Audubon Golf Trail, plays hard and fast. In other words, don't be intimidated by the yardage, even from the tips, which is 7,400 yards for non-tour players.
But patience here is a virtue. Miss it on the correct side of the greens, and you've got reasonable up and down opportunities. Find a bunker, and things get tougher, even on greenside bunkers, which are often set away from the green with a chipping area in between.
'If you're aggressive and miss, you'll pay the price,' said TPC General Manager Luke Farabaugh.
Dye is famous, of course, for the island green 17th hole on the Stadium course at TPC Sawgrass in Florida, but what about island fairways surrounded by sand, not water?
That's exactly what you'll find on the 1ong par-4 15th. Off the tee left of the fairway, there's a 150-yard bunker with six small islands of turf in it. Chances are you won't find grass if you hit your ball in there, but you won't soon forget it either.
Oddly enough, in this area where water is plentiful, none of it is natural on the 250-acre TPC; but it is bountiful. It plays prominently on the par 3s. On the ninth and 17th, which are similar in shape and length, water runs all down the left side. On the 18th, which plays 585 yards from the tips, it's down the entire right side of this dogleg right.
Practice facilities and lessons at TPC Louisiana
It should be no surprise that the range, practice greens, practice bunkers and chipping greens are in superb condition.
On the large practice tee you get a pyramid of high quality practice balls with perfect Bermuda turf conditions and plenty of visible targets. Lessons are also available, ranging from $30 for a half-hour with an assistant to $80 for a full hour with a PGA Professional. Playing and group lessons are also available.
In the golf shop, you'll find a good selection of apparel and equipment and logoed merchandise from the Zurich Classic.
TPC of Louisiana: The verdict
The TPC of Louisiana was one of many properties in the New Orleans area to suffer from Hurricane Katrina in 2005, but it has rebounded nicely.
The golf course suffered widespread flooding and thousands of downed trees, forcing the property to close. The clubhouse also was renovated as the tournament returned to TPC Louisiana in April 2007 after being played at English Turn Golf & Country Club for a year.
Typical of Dye, this is a thinking-man's course, but that will do you little good if you can't control your ball with all the trouble out there. Come with a plan and good golf swing and you'll enjoy your time.
TPC is also well conditioned, as you might expect of a course that charges $110-plus. Some of the holes do look similar to one another, but there are plenty you won't soon forget.
The 478-yard sixth is one of them. It's a tough dogleg left around water that makes par a real feat. The 16th is a good, short par 4 playable many different ways, including hitting driver to get it on or in front of the green, with water and sand looming to catch errant shots.
Five different tee configurations accommodate various skill levels. Although even from 5,100 yards, the bunkers and water are still there.