Gulf Coast Trip, Days 8 & 9: All Over Louisiana

I’m sitting here at the rinky dink Little Rock Airport. I have plenty of time to kill until my flight this evening, so hopefully I can get fully caught up on my reviews for these past two days.

I’ve been all over Louisiana and it turns out there’s more to this state than swamps, though there’s plenty of those here, too. As I’ve played golf in various parts of the state, I’ve experienced a pretty good variety of settings and designs. It started yesterday with a “bonus” round, for lack of a better term.

After playing TPC Louisiana when I arrived in New Orleans Friday afternoon, that gave me some options for Saturday. I had already planned to play at The Bluffs in the afternoon and that was one I didn’t want to miss, but they had a tournament in the morning and wouldn’t be open to the public again until well after 2:00.

I decided to relax and sleep in, but I could only stay in bed so long after looking outside and seeing perfect blue skies. I researched some options that were somewhat on the way to The Bluffs and I ended up choosing the one that was ranked #5 in the state for Golf.com. Well, amongst public courses anyway…

Carter PlantationSpringfield, LA5/3/14

Geographically, it wasn’t too far out of the way to Springfield and I’ll admit I was intrigued by the fact this course was designed in part by PGA Tour player, David Toms, who is a Louisiana native. This is his first design effort, so that made me curious to check it out.

I got there a little after 9:00 and it didn’t appear too busy. I checked in, paid $75 (too much) and they sent me out to the first tee right away to join another twosome. We caught the groups ahead after a few holes and then it was slow going after that. In total, a four-hour weekend pace isn’t bad by normal standards, but I’ve gotten quite used to quick play on this trip. Also, I didn’t want to get up to The Bluffs too late, so that added a little anxiety.

Like Toms, Carter Plantation appears kind of mellow at first glance, but there’s a little more under the surface. It’s a good overall design with a number of water hazards. It runs through a residential community in a nice wooded area, but the homes aren’t right on top of the course and it’s a pretty good setting.

All in all, Carter Plantation is probably the course I’ll remember least from this trip. I don’t want to knock it because it’s a good course, but it was hard to stay engaged with the slower pace of play.

The signature hole here is the par-3 17th, which is a nice one over water. Anything short, left or long will be wet and the green is edged by a small brick wall.

The course was in okay condition, but very dried out. Firm fairways and greens provided a lot of extra roll-out and that often proved to be more troublesome than helpful. The fairways look pretty wide open from a distance, but there’s some subtle undulation and well-placed trouble (bunkers, water, trees) that your ball tends to bounce toward automatically.

The greens are pretty big and feature some significant sloping in places. They rolled true and were pretty smooth at medium speeds. I was in a few bunkers and the flat spots seemed a bit more thin than the sloped areas along the lips, which were pretty soft. I’ve noticed that trend on a number of courses during this trip, which is kind of opposite of how it should be if you ask me.

If I lived nearby like the guys I played with, Carter Plantation would be in the regular rotation as a solid option. As an out-of-towner, it really didn’t thrill me enough to make it worth the price and drive time to get to Springfield from New Orleans.

Some pictures from Carter Plantation (5/3/14/):

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Carter Plantation was a decent warm-up, even if it took longer than I wanted. It was still about a 1.5-hour drive to get up to the main course for the day…

The Bluffs Golf ResortSt. Francisville, LA5/3/14

Golf.com has this course ranked #1 in the state and other lists I’ve seen have it always in the top three. Whereas TPC Louisiana is one I felt somewhat obliged to play and I’m pretty glad I did, The Bluffs is one I really wanted to make sure and play while here.

The course is definitely out in the middle of nowhere, about a half-hour northeast of Baton Rouge. It was designed by Arnold Palmer. I generally like his courses and this one is no exception.

I got there a little after 3:00 and the tournament group was still clearing out. The price was $47 and I was able to head right out to the first tee. I ran into another single and his wife on the second hole, and we joined up after that with a few groups ahead. We had to wait a lot, but it was still a solid 3.5-hour pace. At that point, I was just happy to finish with enough daylight to enjoy the round.

The first section of holes at The Bluffs runs along a bluff overlooking a small river. It is lined with tall pine trees. And though it was warm yesterday, there was very little humidity, so the whole vibe of it felt very non-Louisiana-like. In fact, if you would have blindfolded me and dropped me off in the middle of the 2nd hole here, It would have taken me at least 30 guesses before I figured out what state I was in. It felt more like the Sierra foothills in California than anything I ever would have expected in Louisiana.

After that stretch, the course works its way up into the thicker woods and through a nice residential/resort area with some cool southern brick homes. From here on out, the course definitely felt more “southern” in style, but still far from the Louisiana “bayou” vibe further south. I did get to see a gator on the 9th hole and a couple by the 17th green, as well, so that helped remind me what state I was in.

The Bluffs is a very fun and challenging layout that puts a premium on accuracy and sound decision making for your own game. When I joined the other single, I played the green tees with him. That makes the course a lot smaller, so it presented more risk/reward options for a hitter of my length than I might normally have here.

The 17th is a fabulous par-3 with a downhill tee shot, so that’s the hole many will remember. For my money, though, it doesn’t get more interesting than the 9th. This is one of the more unusual, but fun par-5s I’ve ever played. I’ve seen plenty of holes with split fairways, but this one is pretty extreme. To the right, you can go uphill off the tee and then around to the left at the green below. It’s a little longer route, but it’s safer and takes more trouble out of play. Down to the left, the tee shot is slightly downhill to a small stretch of fairway that runs out and into a big pond. However, if you place it properly, you’ll have about a 180-200 yard shot to the green. It is directly over the water, though, so it’s a much less favorable angle of attack.

The Bluffs was in decent condition. It was also very dried out. That first stretch of holes along the bluffs were really thin and firm, but things softened (and greened) up the more we got into the the woodsy/residential areas. The greens were a little bumpy and rolling at medium speeds. The bunkers were good.

The Bluffs was definitely my personal favorite of the Louisiana courses I played. I’d love to play it in better conditions, but the layout and setting are both fantastic no matter when you play.

Some pictures from The Bluffs Golf Resort (5/3/14):

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I stayed in Monroe last night. Some close friends of mine will appreciate that as an inside joke. I had one more course to play this morning before heading back toward Little Rock to catch my flight home this evening…

Black Bear Golf ClubDelhi, LA5/4/14

This was another course that was highly ranked on multiple best-in-state lists I researched and it worked pretty well geographically to play before looping back up north to Little Rock.

What I learned during playing in Louisiana was that all four of the courses I played here are part of the state’s Audubon Golf Trail. I didn’t really know about it, but I guess it’s their lesser-known response to the RTJ Trail that has garnered such attention. Go figure.

I had booked a 7:00 tee time here over the phone, but when I showed up to the course around 6:30, the place was a ghost town. There were some maintenance guys out and about, but the pro shop was all locked up and the sign out front said “Open at 7:30.”

Finally, people started to show up and they eventually opened up around 7:10. I checked in and was on my way. I had to wait on some sprinklers to shut off on a few holes once I was on the course, but I set a quick pace and didn’t really mess around much. I’m just happy my body and mind have survived another crazy trip like this, so I just relaxed and somehow turned in the best score of the trip (78)!

The experience here was marred somewhat by the mediocre conditions. The playability was okay throughout, but it was probably the weakest course I played in terms of conditioning. Fairways were pretty patchy, brown and thin. The greens were a mix. The dry ones were firm and fast. The wet ones (that I had to wait on sprinklers) were soaked and flooded, so putting was ridiculous with big puddles of water on the surfaces.

Otherwise, Black Bear was a very enjoyable course layout offering a good mix of challenge and diversity. There were some more open prairie links style holes and then some very narrow ones going through the woods. There aren’t any major changes in elevation, but the course has a lot of natural contours and tricky angles to force good shots.

This reminded me at times of some other midwest courses I played in the past like Sycamore Ridge in Kansas and the now-closed (sadly) Old Silo in Kentucky.

Delhi is definitely way out of the way related to most places people might travel to around this region. If you are in the area, I doubt there’s a better course to play, but it’s not one you need to put on your bucket list.

Some pictures from Black Bear Golf Club (5/4/14):

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Well, it was another great Golf Nomad trip. I survived some terrible weather early on, but I got in all the golf I wanted and got to see a new part of the country. Thanks everyone for supporting and following the site this week!

Day 7: Fallen Oak (MS) and TPC Louisiana (LA)

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