Golf: Up on the Bayou

  • George Fuller

“So Boudreaux and Thibodeaux were neighbors down in the parish,” begins Eric Kaspar in that lilting, singsongy way folks have of speaking down heah in Louisiana. The administrator of the new Audubon Golf Trail, Kaspar is standing at the head of a long dinner table in the clubhouse of the Tournament Players Club (TPC) of Louisiana, the latest addition to the statewide network of golf courses. Stretching out before him are platters piled high with bright red boiled crawfish, sausages, slaw, corn on the cob, and chilled beverages, and his audience, a group of golfers here to play the Pete Dye design the next morning, listens to his jokes about the bumbling South Louisiana boys while extracting, with varying degrees of success, the tender meat tucked away in the shells.
 
Although crawfish boils and “Boud and Thib” tales may be age-old customs in these parts, good golf courses traditionally have not been part of the Louisiana landscape. TPC of Louisiana, which opened last April “not a far piece” (about 15 minutes) from New Orleans’ French Quarter, and its sister courses on the golfing trail are helping to fill this void.
 
The Audubon Golf Trail—named after artist and naturalist John James Audubon, who spent many years sketching birds in the bayous of Louisiana—consists of nine courses located throughout the state. In addition to the TPC, the trail includes the new Carter Plantation course near Baton Rouge, Gray Plantation in Lake Charles, and Cypress Bend Golf Resort on Toledo Bend Lake, as well as lesser-known layouts such as Tamahka Trails in Marksville and the OakWing Golf Club in Alexandria.

But the region’s biggest golf news is the opening of the Big Easy’s TPC course, which, beginning this year, will host the PGA Tour’s Zurich Classic. Dye designed the 7,520-yard track with PGA professionals Steve Elkington and Kelly Gibson (the latter a New Orleans resident) acting as player consultants. As does many a Southern course, the TPC traverses flat, marshy terrain and tidal lands, with an abundance of trees—pines, oaks, and cypresses, many draped in Spanish moss—lining the fairways. The course’s distinguishing trait is bunkering that runs in wide swaths from tee to green along several of the fairways. When combined with 69 of Dye’s devilish pot bunkers around the putting surfaces, the waste areas make the course a challenge for any level of golfer, as it promises to prove with this year’s PGA event.
 
Kaspar hopes that, like the PGA tour players, more golfers will discover the challenges and charms of TPC of Louisiana in the coming months. Consequently, as with Boud and Thib or a crawfish boil, golf may soon become a standout tradition in the Bayou State.

Audubon Golf Trail, 866.248.4652, www.audubongolf.com

Photo by James Lipman
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