With numerous title sponsors, the PGA Tour’s New Orleans Open or "Classic" was held at English Turn Golf and Country Club on multiple occasions between 1989 and 2006. Designed by Jack Nicklaus, the course has water in play at each and every one of its 18 holes.
“It possesses plenty of Jack’s traditional strategic flair – as well as one of his higher predictability quotients,” remarked Daniel Wexler in The American Private Golf Club Guide. “Best known is a set of oft-televised finishers that includes the 442-yard 16th (with sand everywhere), the 207-yard 17th (water and sand left), and especially the 471-yard 18th, a visually impressive par 4 (water and a 300-yard waste bunker define its left side) which annually ranked among the Tour’s toughest…
... and the 540-yard 15th, a conceptually interesting par 5 played to an island green – a hole that pops up regularly within the Nicklaus portfolio. Hardly Jack’s best, but not without a few good moments as well.”
If you are in NOLA, the two must plays are TPC Louisiana and English Turn. Golf at the Turn is fun for all levels, but better players will find their game particularly challenged with numerous risk/reward holes and strategic tee-shot requirements to score low. The island green on the back nine makes for something to write home about if you can stick it close. Conditions are typically top notch, and beware that many greens feel like postage stamps on the tougher holes. Really enjoyable golf.
I prefer golf courses that are links or links-like that have kept natural land forms, with interesting green surrounds, well-placed and the right amount of bunkers, wide open views, very little water, a variety of terrain, and well-shaped larger greens. English Turn does not offer much of the above other than the fairways are usually generous and the small greens are decently contoured. This is a course built at sea level with no meaningful change of elevation between it. Water is present on all eighteen holes.
One can see how this course went from being private to becoming public (semi-private is public) because I think one would get tired of playing this golf course repeatedly. There simply is not much unique here other than the fifteenth hole with its island green off to the right of the fairway of this par 5. If creating a hole like this is a good idea, I suspect we would have seen it done more often. Yet I do not recall playing this elsewhere.
This Jack Nicklaus course essentially presents the same hole with the only real difference being the direction of the hole and the placement of bunkers. For example, three of the par 3’s are essentially the same hole. The same applies to a couple of the par 5’s and many of the par 4’s. Many of the holes are simply “target golf” which I find extremely boring. I will not blame that on Mr. Nicklaus as this is a very unexciting piece of land where the primary goal was to sell homes. As part of the enticement to purchase a home here, a massive clubhouse was built which is ill-suited as it is much too grand for the size of the property, although perfect for weddings. The routing goes out and back on either side of the clubhouse and parking lot in a clockwise and then basically counter-clockwise fashion. The entire course is contrived. The par 3’s are perhaps the most exciting holes on the golf course but do not take that as a compliment. The back nine is better than the front nine with eighteen being a very difficult golf hole when the wind is up.
One might think they are in Florida when they play English Turn, but I also played TPC Louisiana and it is nearly as flat.
Despite the sometimes wide fairways, the presence of water on every hole combined with excessive waste areas, bunkering, and the smallish greens make this a difficult golf course. From the back tees the course is 7078 yards par 72 but rated 75.0/142 and the tees we played are 6484 yards rated 71.9/134. When the wind blows, the course plays much more difficult.
English Turn begins with a gentler hole with the first playing as a 398/362 yard par 4 with water down the left and a narrow fairway lined by bunkers on the left at 235/270 yards and higher rough on the right. This small, shallow green is positioned diagonally left to right. The biggest danger on this hole is two giant bunkers short right of the green. It is an okay starting hole only because it is not overly long.
At 539/517 yards, the par 5 second provides a good scoring opportunity if one can find the fairway. Water lines the entire left side after a short, forced carry over water. A long waste area bunker sits between the water and fairway providing a chance for recovery. This hole has a narrow fairway with a collection of bunkers on the right. There are also trees on the right side but spaced out so a recovery shot can be played. The slender green has two bunkers on the right with grass bunkers on the other side. The green is slightly raised with the left half very thin. Thankfully the green is not close to the water.
The third is the first par 3 at 199/145 yards. With water both left and long, this shallow green is also guarded by a wraparound bunker to prevent a ball hit too long or left from going into the water. I felt the green to be okay in size from my tees but too thin from the back tees.
The fourth hole is a par 4 of 345/301 yards. This reachable par 4 requires one to either hit down the right side into the rough or to carry to a landing area that begins about 160 yards out and ends about 240 out. The bigger hitters can have a go at the green from the tees I played, but with water on three sides of the peninsula green there is absolutely no reason to do so. This hole would be a decent risk-reward hole if the water was not in front of the green. It is a silly hole. For those laying up in that 160-240 area, the second shot must go over water to a green on this peninsula that is very undulating. There are railroad ties on this tiny green. I did not like any part of this hole except walking off the green.
The straightaway fifth par 4 of 445/412 is one of the longer par 4’s at English Turn but also has a generous fairway. Water is down the entire left side. This fairway is guarded by rough and contrived mounding. The green complex is one of the better ones with the two-tiered green having two bunkers left and one on the right.
The sixth is a par 5 at 554/526 yards. Water is now down the entire left of the course. Playing straightaway from an elevated tee, this hole is open with a centerline bunker at 190 yards and a bunker on the right at 230 yards. This is a true risk-reward with a lay-up to a fairway that progressively narrows to almost nothing. Water is on the right for the final 140 yards with a bunker right of the green and one behind left. This has another shallow green angled left to right. This is likely the best par 5 on the course.
Seven is a par 4 of 446/423 dogleg right with a long waste area running down the entire left side of the hole to stop balls from entering the water hazard on the left. This hole is a slight dogleg right with trees lining the right side. The approach shot plays to green guarded by a bunker on the right and two bunkers well short that appear much closer to the green than they actually are. This is my favorite hole on the front nine.
The eight is a par 3 of 176/146 yards. The green is shallow and is another peninsula green surrounded on three sides by water. The green is also surrounded by bunkers with the only acceptable bailout being short right. I felt the green to be too small from either tee.
The ninth is a short par 4 of 371/341 and a sort of double dogleg slightly left off the tee towards the water on the left with the second shot hit into a green set off slightly to the right. This hole has another long waste bunker similar to the second hole. The fairway begins to narrow at 260/290 yards cutting the fairway by about 60%. This is another elevated, shallow green with water fronting it with bunkers front and back. This is the definition of target golf much like many of the other holes on the golf course. The routing of the hole is fine but the green is disappointingly small and uninteresting.
The back nine begins with another target golf hole as a 423/382 yard par 4. Although the fairway is configured differently with some land going out to the left and two fairway bunkers on the right built on mounds about 230/270 yards out, the hole still feels the same as the ninth due to the water on the left. The green feels the same as the fourth and eighth as it is another peninsula green with water on three sides. Additionally, once again it is another raised, shallow green requiring one to carry your approach over water.
The eleventh is a 534/494 yard par 5. After a draw over water for the first 180 yards, this fairway bends left with a long waste bunker down the left for almost its entire length similar to holes two and nine. There is a series of small irregular-shaped bunkers that split the fairway into left and right portions for the final 130 yards. The green feels like it is the highest point on the course at perhaps six feet of elevation and is angled away from you right to left. Thankfully, the green is not located near the water as there is the opportunity to do so. This is an okay hole.
A mid-length/short par 3 is next at 158/134. This hole plays along water on the left and the green angled away left to right with water on two sides and fronting bunkers on either side. The green has a horizontal hump in the middle. It’s an okay hole. This par 3 has its water on the opposite side of the other par 3’s.
A short par 4 follows at 376/360 beginning with an elevated tee. While water and trees are on the right there are also manufactured grass mounds and bunkers also right of a fairway that is too narrow. The waste bunker on eleven can come into play off to the left. This green is angled left to right with a fronting bunker and is the thinnest green on the course. The green is too small even for this short of a par 4.
The fourteenth is a challenging dogleg left at 467/427 with a wider fairway lined by six tiny bunkers on the right between 195 and 295 yards. Finding these bunkers offers no chance of recovery although they are less penal than going into the water on the right. The green is sloped back to front and is two tiered with bunkers to either side. I liked this hole the most on the course but do not take that as praise.
At 540/505 yards, the par 5 fifteenth is considered to be the signature hole at English Turn. There is water down the entire right side of a narrow fairway and a set of large bunkers on the left at 220/265 yards. I suppose those who like a risk-reward par 5 will like the island green off to the right with a bunker front left and a large one across the back to provide a chance for reducing the penalty for going long. If you decide to play conservatively and lay-up, you will have a 50 to 100 yard carry over water. This green is perhaps the largest on the course but relatively uninteresting once on it.
As one gets to the sixteenth and sees the clubhouse one is ready for the round to end given the repetitive nature of the holes. Sixteen is a par 4 of 430/363 dogleg right where the water on the left should not be in play. The fairway might be a bit too thin. There are bunkers on the left and another long waste bunker the length of the right side. There is a large cross bunker fronting the shallow, circular green. This is my second favorite hole on the course.
The seventeenth is a par 3 of 206/193 and is almost a mirror-image of the third hole with water on the left and behind the green. Also similar to the third is there is a bunker on the left side and one behind the green, although not as long as the one on three. This is the most undulated green on the course but it certainly felt like one had already played the hole as even the yardage is similar to the third. It is also very similar to the eighth hole.
The closing hole is the hardest hole at English Turn at 471/418 yard par 4 with a fairway first bending left to avoid a collection of bunkers on the right. There is water down the entire left side as well as another long waste bunker running the length of the fairway all the water to the green. The fairway is very narrow for the hole yet on the right side of the fairway are five bunkers forcing one to aim left. The green is angled right to left and surrounded by bunkers. This is another green that is too small for the hole. I took a triple bogey here without going into the water as my confidence was beaten down by the wind of the day that was right in our faces as well as I had lost interest in the course.
English Turn could be the poster child for target golf of the 1980’s. It could be the poster child for a golf course that is overly difficult on a windy day due to the presence of too much water, too much sand and greens being too small. There are too many holes that look and feel the same. If in New Orleans, this would be a good course to play if there is some sort of “deal” including lunch or dinner. It is a decent course to play in a “scramble” or best ball type of outing or if one does not mind running up high scores. There is nothing that will captivate your eyes on the golf course other than the clubhouse and a few nice homes (most of them look the same across the water).