Trip Dispatch: Lake Charles, Louisiana an indulgent golf and gaming destination

By Brandon TuckerNovember 20, 2013, 4:03 pm

LAKE CHARLES, La. -- Let's get one thing straight: I would never dissuade anyone from indulging in a beignet, or maybe two, first thing in the morning.

These sugary, powered, soft donuts -- which are a specialty down on the Bayou -- are simply too appetizing to walk by when you see a tray full of them. Rather, I would merely suggest it be a piece (or two) of a balanced, nutritious breakfast, including a banana or a piece of toast to help ensure the sugar spike doesn't hit you by the third hole.

It's pretty tough to not dive head first into the culinary scene when spending a long weekend in Lake Charles, in western Louisiana, which makes appetizing the adjective of the day when describing a trip down here. It seems the Cajun locals never caught something in the water they couldn't fit into a deep fryer. Should you catch something yourself out on the waters, such as a prized redfish, you can find a local seafood joint like the local institution Seafood Palace to bake it up for you.


The many water hazards around Lake Charles are staked with redfish. 

Lake Charles has become a convenient playground of fishing and gaming, in particular, for the nearby Houston market. The main stay-and-play option is the L'Auberge Casino Resort Lake Charles, a 1,000-room casino and resort set along Contraband Bayou.

L'Auberge (which has a sister property in Baton Rouge) does far more than satisfy a basic gaming itch of residents whose state doesn't allow it. Guest rooms and common areas are stylish and modern, and Spa du Lac (set to be upgraded soon) oozes opulence. Outside, the outdoor pool area is a lush oasis with a lazy river, fire pits and adult's only pool. The summer months bring a nightly concert series to go with a common four-straight months of full occupancy.

For gaming, the casino floor, home to 1,600 slots and 70 table games, sits on a barge in the center of the hotel, but you'd never know you were on water as state laws mandate. It's a full-on, Vegas-style gaming experience including a live poker room, roulette and craps and an assortment of card games to go with complimentary drinks for players and a separate VIP lounge.

The signature restaurant at L'Auberge is Ember, which specializes in steaks (including a mighty "Tomohawk" cut, a 40 oz. ribeye for $99 that is cut table side and could probably be shared by a table of four). Or go more casual at Jack Daniel's Whiskey Grill, which turns into a lively bar late-night.

Where to golf in Lake Charles


Tom Fazio's Contraband Bayou winds around L'Auberge Resort in Lake Charles. 

The golfing menu in Lake Charles begins at Contraband Bayou, the onsite championship course of L'Auberge, and was designed by Tom Fazio. Fazio is no stranger to high-end casino plays and its unique clientele of high-roller comps (including Shadow Creek in Las Vegas, Edgewood Tahoe in Lake Tahoe, Fallen Oak in Biloxi).

His layout here, which opened in 2004, has not only the gorgeous stylings of Fazio's signature bunkering, fairway contouring and greens, but in recent years, the golf operation has added other high-roller trimmings: new cart paths, touch-screen GPS and iced apples sitting in a barrel at the 10th tee box. Wooden bridges cross over small ponds littered throughout the property, and the course converted to Ultradwarf bermuda grass greens in 2010.

A worthy compliment to Contraband Bayou can be found downstream along the Calcasieu River at Gray Plantation. An upscale, semi-private facility, the course was in the Top 100 for, and is an original member of, the Audubon Golf Trail. Several holes play along the river, most notably the watery, short, par-3 sixth, whose tee and green is connected by a long, wooden bridge. With two drivable par 4s on the back nine, along with some reachable par 5s and short par 3s, the layout, while a stern 140 slope from the back tees, presents ample opportunities to catch a hot streak.

Also playing


National Golf Club of Louisiana is one of two standout munis around Lake Charles. 

There aren't enough golf courses in the Lake Charles area to call it a true "golf mecca," but there are a couple municipal courses worth a round if you want to expand your golf options beyond Contraband Bayou and Gray Plantation.

In Westlake, The National Golf Club of Louisiana is the area's newest course (until the Golden Nugget's course opens). The course is the centerpiece of a new 600-acre residential community (though few houses are visible from the course at this point). Challenge-wise, it holds its own with Contraband Bayou and Gray Plantation at more than 7,000 yards and interspersed with 14 water hazards (and could probably match the other courses's gator presence, too).

A more traditional layout can be found at Mallard Cove, located by the Chennault International Air Park, a former military base. The federal government gave the land to the city of Lake Charles to use for recreation, and it's become a local favorite but with enough interesting (albeit narrow) holes to make it a worthy option for the visitor. The large clubhouse -- rebuilt in 200, following Hurricane Rita's destruction -- certainly doesn't feel "muni."

A new course is also on the way. Just a chip shot away, a new casino property is being erected, the Golden Nugget, complete with a new 18-hole golf course designed by Todd Eckenrode (who has a casino course near San Diego at Barona Creek). The property is on schedule to open in mid-to-late 2014.

View more tee times in Louisiana and Lake Charles

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Twice winner Kizzire on missing U.S. Open: 'Fuel to my fire'

By Will GrayJune 19, 2018, 5:59 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – Based on recent form, there likely wasn’t a more decorated player watching last week’s U.S. Open from home than Patton Kizzire.

Kizzire is in the midst of a breakthrough season that has already included two wins: a maiden victory at the OHL Classic at Mayakoba in November, and a marathon playoff triumph over James Hahn at the Sony Open in January. While those titles got him into the Masters and the PGA Championship, they didn’t mean an exemption to Shinnecock Hills.

Kizzire got as high as 51st in the world rankings after his win in Honolulu, but his game started to turn shortly thereafter. A T-12 finish at the WGC-Mexico Championship is his lone top-25 finish in 12 starts since his Sony victory, and he missed four straight cuts from the Masters to The Players Championship.

Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos

The U.S. Open grants exemptions to the top 60 in the world at two different cutoff points close to the tournament. But in the midst of a cold streak, Kizzire was 63rd and 65th at each of those deadlines. He attempted to earn a spot at sectional qualifying in Columbus, only to find that his score of 5 under was one shot too many.

“I guess just adding a little fuel to my fire, adding insult to injury,” Kizzire said. “Just to have narrowly missed several different ways of qualification was disappointing. But I just tried to spin it as a positive. I got two weeks off, and I did watch those guys struggle a little bit. I wasn’t struggling at home, we’ll just say that.”

Kizzire hopes to put the disappointment behind him this week at the Travelers Championship, where he finished T-53 a year ago. And while his pair of trophies didn’t get him a tee time last week – or guarantee him a berth in The Open next month – they put him in prime position to make the season-ending Tour Championship, which would mean spots in the first three majors of 2019.

The combination of two recent wins and a ranking outside the top 60 isn’t one that comes up often on Tour, but Kizzire maintains a balanced perspective as he looks to get back to playing the kind of golf that will ensure he doesn’t miss any more majors in the near future.

“If I would have played better in between the U.S. Open and my last win, I would have gotten in. So my play was the reason I wasn’t in,” Kizzire said. “You certainly could look at it and say, ‘This guy’s got two wins, he should be in.’ But I’m not making too much of it.”

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Masters, Players and U.S. Open champs grouped at Travelers

By Will GrayJune 19, 2018, 5:50 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – Fresh off a second straight U.S. Open victory, Brooks Koepka is getting right back to work at the Travelers Championship.

Koepka has stood by his commitment to tee it up at TPC River Highlands, becoming the first U.S. Open champ to play the following week on the PGA Tour since Justin Rose played the Travelers after his 2013 win at Merion. Koepka will play the first two rounds alongside Masters champ Patrick Reed and Webb Simpson, who captured The Players Championship last month.

Here’s a look at some of the other marquee, early-round groupings for a star-studded field outside Hartford (all times ET):

7:50 a.m. Thursday, 12:50 p.m. Friday: Jason Day, Xander Schauffele, Daniel Berger

Day is making his second straight Travelers appearance, having missed the cut both last year in Cromwell and last week at Shinnecock Hills. He’ll be joined by reigning Rookie of the Year Schauffele and Berger, who took home ROY honors in 2015 and last year was on the losing end of Jordan Spieth’s playoff dramatics at this event.

Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos

8 a.m. Thursday, 1 p.m. Friday: Brooks Koepka, Patrick Reed, Webb Simpson

Koepka is making his third tournament appearance overall, but his first since a T-9 finish in 2016, before he had either of his two U.S. Open trophies. Reed has become a regular at this event and enters off a fourth-place showing on Long Island, while Simpson cruised to victory last month at TPC Sawgrass and tied for 10th last week.

12:50 p.m. Thursday, 7:50 a.m. Friday: Jordan Spieth, Marc Leishman, Russell Knox

This was the tournament that turned things around last year for Spieth, who took home the title in his debut thanks to one of the most dramatic shots of the year in a playoff against Berger. He’ll start his title defense alongside a pair of past champs, as Leishman won here for his first Tour title back in 2012 and Knox was a winner two years ago when the tournament was played in August.

1 p.m. Thursday, 8 a.m. Friday: Bubba Watson, Rory McIlroy, Justin Thomas

This group should get plenty of attention in the early rounds, with Thomas entering as the highest-ranked player in the field at No. 2 and joined a pair of players who will launch drives all across TPC River Highlands. Watson has feasted on this layout, winning in both 2010 and 2015 among five top-10 finishes, while McIlroy tied for 17th last year in his tournament debut but missed the cut last week at Shinnecock.

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Travelers Championship: Tee times, TV schedule, stats

By Golf Channel DigitalJune 19, 2018, 5:30 pm

There will be plenty of star power this week in Hartford as the PGA Tour moves north for the Travelers Championship. Here is the key info for this week's event.

How to watch:

Thursday, Rd. 1: Golf Channel, 3:30-6:30PM ET; live stream:

Friday, Rd. 2: Golf Channel, 3:30-6:30PM ET; live stream:

Saturday, Rd. 3: Golf Channel, 1-2:45PM ET; live stream:; CBS, 3-6 p.m.

Sunday, Rd. 4: Golf Channel, 1-2:45PM ET; live stream:; CBS, 3-6 p.m.

Purse: $7 million

Course: TPC River Highlands (par 70, 6,841 yards)

Defending champion: Jordan Spieth. Defeated Daniel Berger with a birdie on the first playoff hole.

Notables in the field

Jordan Spieth

• Missed last two cuts (the Memorial, U.S. Open) entering this week

• 188th on PGA Tour in strokes gained: putting (4th in strokes gained: tee to green)

• Only player to win Travelers Championship back-to-back: Phil Mickelson (2001-02)

Brooks Koepka

• Making third career start in Travelers Championship (last start: T-9 in 2016)

• First player to play Travelers week after U.S. Open win since 2013 (Justin Rose)

• First player to win U.S. Open back-to-back since 1988-89 (Curtis Strange)

Justin Thomas

• Fifth career start in this event (MC, T-3, MC last three years)

• Second on PGA Tour this season in strokes gained: tee to green (+1.49)

Rory McIlroy

• Second career start in Travelers Championship (T-17 last year)

• Missed cut last week at U.S. Open (shot 80 in opening round)

Jason Day

• Fourth career start in Travelers Championship (best finish: T-18 in 2014)

• Leads PGA Tour in strokes gained: putting this season

Patrick Reed

• Earned second-most world ranking points of any player in 2018

• Finished fourth at U.S. Open last week (three shots behind Koepka)

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Day 'disappointed' in USGA's handling of course, Phil

By Will GrayJune 19, 2018, 5:16 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – Jason Day had the weekend off following a missed cut at the U.S. Open, but that didn’t prevent the Aussie from keeping an eye on all the drama that unfolded at Shinnecock Hills.

The former world No. 1 found it “disappointing,” – with “it” being both the deterioration of a major championship setup and the fallout from Phil Mickelson’s putter slap during the third round.

Day is hoping to bounce back from an early exit at this week’s Travelers Championship, but before turning his attention to TPC River Highlands he shared that the brunt of his disappointment stemmed from the USGA’s inability to keep Shinnecock playable during the third round and their subsequent decision to water it down for the tournament’s conclusion.

“It’s more the course, about how they set it up. Because Saturday was a total, it was like two different golf courses, practically, on the greens Saturday versus Sunday,” Day said. “I just wish they would leave it alone and just let it go. Not saying to let the greens go and let them dry out and make it unfair, I’m just saying plan accordingly and hopefully whatever the score finishes, it finishes, whether it’s under par or over par.”

Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos

But Day’s frustration also tied back to Mickelson’s head-turning decision to hit a moving ball on the 13th green during the third round, and the USGA’s subsequent ruling that the actions merited a two-shot penalty but not a disqualification.

“It’s obviously disappointing to see what Phil did,” he said. “I think a lot of people have mixed reviews about what he did.”

USGA officials explained over the weekend that Mickelson’s actions explicitly fell under Rule 14-5, which called for a two-shot addition and turned his score of 8 into a 10, rather than Rule 1-2 or Rule 33-7 that could have resulted in disqualification for a “serious breach” of the rules.

Day felt it was unfortunate that all of Saturday’s drama deflected attention from a world-class performance from Brooks Koepka en route to a successful title defense, but when it comes to the handling of the Mickelson controversy he believes the USGA could have made good use of a mulligan.

“It’s just unfortunate that it happened at the USGA’s tournament, where they enforce the rules, like the R&A. And I think they may have, they probably should have enforced a different outcome for Phil,” Day said. “But it is what it is. It’s done. It’s just disappointing that that is overshadowing the winner of the whole week. I think if they had it back again, they may have chosen a different outcome.”