By Carey Hoffman
The flamboyant Louisiana politician Huey Long once ran on the promise, “Every man a king.” While much has changed from his 1930s Louisiana, Long would likely approve of the way that the destination town of Lake Charles reflects his motto today.
Lake Charles has a diversity of diversions, including a collection of golf options, that when packed into a single visit can make anyone feel they are living the high life. In fact, this part of southwest Louisiana would qualify in a category I call a “Golf and …” destination, similar to the logic of “ham and eggs.” For instance, “golf and Cajun culture” or “golf and fishing” could make for unique trips. Also, the obvious – “golf and gambling.”
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L’Auberge’s golf course has one of the more colorful names you’ll find, the Contraband Bayou Golf Club. Plenty of water populates this Tom Fazio creation that opened in 2005, with eight large lakes on the course and several of them coming into play on multiple holes. As you would expect from Fazio, it’s a solid resort track, with big scores to be had if you are hitting it crooked but good scoring available from the fairway.
Across the way at Golden Nugget was another nice surprise in the most recent addition to the Lake Charles golf scene, the Country Club at Golden Nugget. Designed by Todd Eckenrode and opened in 2015, this is one of the better casino-based courses you’ll find in the Deep South. “Golfweek” recently evaluated it No. 2 in the state for 2018.
Despite low-lying, flat terrain, Eckenrode created an experience that offers significant variety, with a nice cadence of scoreable holes followed by major tests. It just seems logical that a course attached to a casino should have significant risk/reward factors, and Golden Nugget’s course provides that in spades, should your wagering spill over from the casino floor on to the golf course.
Our visit also included stops at two more of the six total public courses in Lake Charles, Gray Plantation and National Golf Club of Louisiana.
Gray Plantation is a Rocky Roquemore design that debuted in 1999, and is the only course in the region that is on Louisiana’s Audubon Golf Trail. It, too, is defined by abundant water and it’s a strong enough test that in 2004, it topped all Louisiana courses in Zagat’s annual survey of traveling golfers.
National Golf Club of Louisiana is the farthest north of the city’s courses, and opened in 2009 as part of a residential development. The architect was Dave Bennett, who found his own set of wetlands to route golfers around and across, along with fairly extensive bunkering.
As previously mentioned, there are a lot of other offerings to entice golfers to travel south to Lake Charles – and cocktails and cuisine certainly top the list, just like the rest of Louisiana.
Locally-sourced alcohol is a phenomenon that has seemingly swept most of the country, but Lake Charles has an advantage – it’s in the heart of the largest sugar cane-producing region in the world. That makes for a pretty sweet product from the Bayou Rum Distillery. Tours are available. A local craft brewery, Crying Eagle Brewing Company, also brings interesting flavors to its alcohol.
We enjoyed the offerings at Seafood Palace, a local joint with some of the best fried food and a friendly atmosphere; at the restaurant at the Chart House at the Country Club at the Golden Nugget, a fine dining experience with delicious steaks and seafood; and at the Jack Daniels Bar & Grill at L’Auberge, where the award-winning chef, Lyle Broussard, wowed us with a variety of his creations, including smoked brisket, grilled redfish, boudin balls, gator bites and baked oysters.
Our golf group stayed in tremendous suites at L’Auberge on this trip. They featured large clawfoot tubs, a separate walking in shower, a separate sitting/tv viewing area and floor to ceiling windows.
A final treat not to be missed is L’Auberge’s 1740 Barbier which offered a “Poker Face Luxury Shave” for the guys on the trip. Uncertain what I was getting into, it turned out to be the best surprise of the visit. The process involves alternating hot towels, facial treatments and head and neck massages, along with a shave, and results in the smoothest visage you’ve had since you were 11 years old. Both casino resorts also feature pool complexes with lazy rivers and outdoor lounges, plus full-service spas that can provide just the relaxation you may need after a day on the links. For more information, go to VisitLakeCharles.org