When Dave Finn (our Canadian Correspondent) thinks of Louisiana, the first place that springs to mind is New Orleans. He thinks of Bourbon Street, balconies and beads. He can taste the gumbo and beignets served with chicory coffee. He can hear the jazz notes floating in the air, and the beat of feet tapping away to a Zydeco tune, but when it comes to golf, that’s only the beginning of the adventure.
Dave continues the story:
“Imagine sixteen of the state’s top golf courses stretching from New Orleans to the Arkansas, Texas and Mississippi borders. Imagine yourself following a path that will let you explore Northern Louisiana, a Sportsman’s paradise, Cajun Country, the Plantation Region and the Big Easy. Imagine challenging yourself on courses designed by legendary golf greats such as Pete Dye, Arnold Palmer, Hal Sutton, David Toms and Robert Trent Jones.
Imagine yourself following the Audubon Golf Trail as it weaves its way from The Big Easy to Baton Rouge and Monroe through bayous and wetlands, live oaks, cypress groves, and rolling hills.”
Dave followed the Audubon Golf Trail in 2017, beginning his journey at Audubon Park Golf Course. But he saved the best for last, and was thrilled to play in the 2017 Zurich Classic Pro-Am at TPC Louisiana, paired with seven-time European Tour winner Gonzalo Fernández-Castaño. To continue Dave’s story, scroll down this page to read his review.
The 18-hole layout at TPC Louisiana has hosted the Zurich Classic event on the PGA Tour since 2005 where Pete Dye’s stadium course design allows spectators to get up close and personal to the competing professionals.
Measuring an eye-watering 7,425 yards from the tips, many notable champions have lifted the Zurich Classic title in Avondale, including Bubba Watson (2011) and Justin Rose (2015). But in 2017 a new team strokeplay format came into being, featuring foursomes during the first and third rounds and four-ball during the second and fourth rounds. Jonas Blixt and Cameron Smith won the inaugural 2017 team event, beating Scott Brown and Kevin Kisner in a playoff.
TPC Louisiana, designed by Pete Dye, is a nice course. It is not one of Mr. Dye’s best designs but he certainly made a fun and challenging course filled with temptations, deception, and obstacles standing in one’s way to get to small, but nice greens. PGA tour players Kelly Gibson and Steve Elkington provided additional consulting to Mr. Dye.
It is a golf course worth playing if one finds themselves in the New Orleans area. I do not think it is worth making a special trip to play it unless one has a desire to play the courses hosting a PGA event.
The course is built on 250 acres of swampy marshland. The Mississippi River was dredged for the sand needed for fill for the fairways. The course is surrounded on three sides by drainage canals (Main, Labranche and Avonadale – why do they name canals instead of assigning them numbers?). The primary defenses to the course are cypress and oak trees, wetlands, 5 ponds, 13 acres of fairway bunkering, and 70 additional pot or pot-like bunkers, bringing the total to over 100 bunkers. The final defense is relatively small greens with none over 5000 square feet. The greenside bunkers are set apart from the greens to provide a chance of recovery through chipping areas. I consider the placement of greenside bunkers to be the defining architectural feature of the golf course.
One cypress tree on the course is very famous. It is on the thirteenth hole and is over 750 years old. Mr. Dye and Mr. Gibson argued about the tree as it is on the corner of the fairway of the dogleg with Mr. Dye saying, “Son, you can’t be a tree hugger and survive in the course design business.” Mr. Dye later claimed that one of them would be leaving (the earth) that day, and it would not be him. But after walking around the tree from another angle, Mr. Dye saw the wisdom of keeping the tree with its large cypress roots – with its above ground high roots sticking upwards in a semi-circle as a result of being submerged in the swamp and needing its roots above water in order to breathe. I do not know why these two argued so much over this tree as there is a tree in the fairway on the first hole and again on eleven. Perhaps they had three arguments? The course did lose 2000 of its 10,000 trees as a result of Hurricane Katrina with most of these not affecting the holes on the course.
The routing has 9 holes on the east side going out and back clockwise and the inward nine on the west side going out and back in two counter-clockwise loops. On a windy day one will get the benefit or get the hardship. There is no meaningful variation in terrain or interesting land forms as it is a flat course. The fairways are wide offering a decent opportunity to score if one hits the fairways and remains focused on hitting the center of the greens. There is a nice mixture of longer and shorter par 4’s.
The par 3’s are all 200+ yards from the PGA tour tees and approximately 150-175 from the Blue tees. Mr. Dye was known for saying there was no rule that a par 3 needed to be reached in regulation. Thankfully, on the tees we played, none of which was beyond 175 yards, the par 3’s were fairly easy. I disliked that three of them involved water on one side as they felt redundant.
On opening day in 2004, Mr. Dye played the penultimate tees at 7010 yards and at the age of 78 scored a 74. His course record stood for seven months.
I played here as part of an outing where the event counted the two best balls of the foursome. The back tees are 7425 yards rated 76.3/138 with the Dye tees at 6931 yards rated 73.1/137. We played the Blue tees at 6610 rated 72.3/134. The tees go down to 5121 yards.
Due to the PGA tour event you can see most of the holes on tv. My favorite holes were four, five, nine and twelve, which oddly are four of the five hardest holes on the course. Simply put, visually they caught my eye and I thought the greens were better shaped. I typically do not like overly hard holes. I thought the par 5’s to be the weaker holes on the course. The finishing stretch of holes are fun to play. Both nines seem to be balanced in terms of difficulty.
The best stretch of holes on the front side are from four through seven which are also the four hardest holes.
The course begins with a shorter par 4 of 399/354 with trees down the right with a lone tree on the right of the fairway. There is taller grass and a long waste area bunker on the left. The fairway thins to the green with multiple pot bunkers on the left. It is a gentle starting hole.
Two is a par 5 of 548/507 with trees and a waste bunker to the left and a single pot bunker right. This is a straight hole with another waste area near the green and scattered pot bunkers on the left and right. It is an okay hole but not special.
The first par 3 comes next at 221/155 and one should be glad to play the Blue tees as there is water all down the right side with bunkers scattered around the raised green. There is ample room to miss the green to the left and have a chance to recover.
Four is a par 4 of 482/453 rated the second hardest hole on the front nine. This hole spans the entire length of the back of the property with water down about 60% of the right side. There is a thin waste bunker on the right off the tee ending about 180 yards out with scattered pot bunkers on the left side. This slight double-dogleg finishes with a waste area towards the left part of the green followed by four small pot bunkers on the left. This hole is pretty and has one of the better greens on the course.
Five is a par 4 of 438/410 heavily treed on the right with waste area bunkers on the left for the length of the drive. The waste then continues on the right nearer the green cutting into the fairway and making this a dogleg left hole. There are four irregular shaped bunkers on the right side of this green with the left side offering a sizeable area for recovery. This is rated the third hardest hole on the front nine.
Six is a par 4 of 476/440 dogleg right and is the number one index on the course. The fairway is sufficiently wide for the tee shot although the bank on the left will not save your ball from the water. There is a large waste area short of the green with three small pot bunkers of which the front center is particularly difficult. I liked the hole.
Seven is a par 5 of 561/504 double dogleg unless you play for the green in two in which case it is a dogleg right. There is a long waste area on the right with a single small bunker on the left at the point where the fairway narrows to half its width about 240 yards out from the 504 tees. After the narrowing of the fairway there is a centerline, raised pot bunker placed to annoy you. As you near the green the waste area returns on the left with a small pot bunker on the left. I did not mind the use of the centerline pot bunker but felt it should have been there for the second shot since more players would have to consider it.
Eight features driving through a shoot of trees for this par 4 of 372/312 that bends to the right. This hole has a long waste area on the right and then seemingly bunkers everywhere starting about 120 yards in. It also has one of the smallest greens on the course. I probably should have liked the hole more than I did.
Nine is a longer par 3 of 207/174 with water down the left side and the green slanted towards the water. There is plenty of room to the right but one will face a speedy chip.
The back nine kicks off with a par 4 of 390/355 playing straight and the least interesting hole on the golf course. This presents a real birdie chance. There are long waste areas on the right and another one left of the green. This has perhaps the easiest green to putt.
Eleven is a par 5 of 575/530 with a long waste area on the left and two thin bunkers on the right. About 100 yards from the green there is a large oak tree left center of the fairway with a small pot bunker opposite it. The waste area returns on the left about 70 yards short of the green which has three small pot bunkers. This is a nice par 5.
Twelve is a par 4 of 492/450 rated the hardest on the inward nine. There is a large waste area on the left that picks up again on the right side. This fairway feels a bit narrower than the other holes playing as a slight dogleg left. The green has two pot bunkers to the right side and is nicely framed by trees behind the green.
As mentioned previously, thirteen is a short par 4 of 403/331 and is rated the easiest on the course. There is a forced carry over a waste area that continues down the left on this sharp dogleg left with the large cypress on the left corner. On the front left of the green are two deeper pot bunkers and another one left. Two more pot bunkers are off to the right but there is ample room for recovery to this thin green. The tree is pretty and I am glad they left it there. One has to get unlucky for the tree to affect one’s play into the green.
Fourteen is a longer par 3 of 216/178 with a sandy waste area that does not come into play but a large bunker left and three bunkers on the right. I like this par 3 the most because I felt the others to be repetitive with their use of water.
Fifteen is a long par 4 of 490/433 that has a long series of waste area down the left and scattered bunkers on the right. There is another waste area on the right nearer the green which has a nasty grass bunker on the back right. The hole has trees behind it making it one of the more attractive holes on the golf course.
Sixteen is a par 4 of 355/323 dogleg right. There is a large waste bunker on the right with islands in it reducing the fairway to half its size. A pond then comes into play from the left from 150 yards out continuing through the length of the green. This is the most undulating green on the course with four plateaus in it. I did like the hole.
Seventeen is a par 3 with water on the left and plays to 215/153. The green has good mounding on the right side and is sloped back to front. The miss on this hole is short right. There are two pot bunkers right of the green which is long and thin. This hole is much better the farther back one goes. However, this hole is too similar to the ninth hole which detracts from the hole.
The eighteenth hole is one that everyone should know. This par 5 of 585/548 plays as a dogleg right with water down the entire right side. A key is to avoid the two raised bunkers left. On the drive there is a thin waste area between the fairway, rough and the water. This waste area ends about 300 yards from the PGA tee. Nearer the green is a centerline bunker and two bunkers left. At the green is another centerline bunker that is deep and can lead to a blind shot to the left side of the elevated green. Behind the green are two small gathering pot bunkers. It is a nice hole that demands either two or three good shots. The green has a central spine in it. It is a classic finishing hole and the best green complex on the course. It is a pity there are not more interesting green complexes on the course.
TPC Louisiana does not have the topography to be interesting. While the cypress and oak trees are pretty as are the ponds, it is not a course that will stay in one’s memory due to the flatness of the terrain and the over-use of waste bunkers. There is not a single outstanding hole but there are several good ones. Unlike English Turn where the entire course feels the same, TPC Louisiana does make one feel as if they are playing different holes. However, due to the overuse of long waste areas and many bunkers looking the same, they will not feel as if they are playing unique holes. One will definitely remember the eighteenth hole for its green complex. The greens are perhaps the distinguishing feature of the course due to their size and the placement of bunkers usually away from the immediate side of the green. As mentioned, one would not fly into to play this course unless one had a desire to visit New Orleans and add this as part of the trip.
I played in the middle of summer and the course was still in immaculate shape. What a treat. Too expensive but what an amazing golf course. Worthy of having the Zurich Classic. I hope the go back to a regular format.
After scheduling a business trip which forced me to fly into New Orleans with an afternoon arrival in late May, my thoughts immediately turned to finding a golf course to play after I touched down. Not only was TPC Louisiana one of the closest public courses to Louis Armstrong International Airport, it was very highly ranked, so it was an easy decision. Although I had never watched the Zurich Classic on television, I figured I would be very interested in doing so in the future after playing the host course.
I arrived in a rush from the airport and proceeded to make a mess of the front nine; between the heavy amount of caffeine I drank, the adrenaline from rushing to the course, and the fact that I was playing with my old driver, I struggled to keep the ball in play off the tee. It was a hot afternoon with thunderstorms in the area, so the course was empty, and by the time I completed a very ugly first eighteen, there was still an hour or so of daylight left so I decided to play a few more holes. A few more holes turned into completing the back nine again despite a brief downpour, which was great since most of my favorite holes were on that side.
My appreciation for the subtleties of this Pete Dye design is substantial. This piece of land is about as flat and uninspiring as it gets, but Dye created some marvelous holes. Massive waste areas, nasty pot bunkers, and wild green complexes abound. The best holes include #8, a devlish short par four that tempts the player to attack the green with the prevailing wind when the prudent play is to lay back, #11, a reachable par five with a strategically placed tree roughly 100 yards short of the green, #13, another wild short par four with options galore, #16, a medium length par four with the typical Dye misdirection leading to a difficult approach, and #18, a classic long par five finisher along a lake with stadium mounds galore. Dye doesn’t typically finish his courses with a par five – it’s usually a long par four – so it’s a refreshing change from the template.
Having played nearly 20 different Pete Dye layouts, I have to rank this one as one of my favorites given how unique it was. It’s well worth playing if you’re in the New Orleans area.
Played May 29, 2018
Imagine the thrill of playing in the Zurich Classic Pro-Am.
When we pulled up to the stately clubhouse at TPC Louisiana, I realized I was about to do what most golf fans only dream of doing. You see, for the first time ever, I would be playing in a PGA Tour event. Truly, I was so taken in by the entire scene that all I could think to do was snap pictures. Before I knew it, it was time to find our teams and at this point, I think I was honestly vibrating. Let’s face it, playing a Dye course is challenging in its own right, but playing with a pro ups the ante.
As I slipped ‘behind the ropes’, I realized how privileged I was to have this chance to get a taste of tournament life, something you can’t really witness from the gallery or appreciate watching the big screen. I was out of my comfort zone but excited at the same time. Fortunately, we were paired with Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano, a seven-time European champion who was not only a great golfer but also a real gentleman. From the moment we stepped onto the first tee to pose for our individual pictures with him, he put us at ease. The best advice he gave us was to not focus on our scorecards but simply enjoy our day and I did! The only way I can describe how I felt when we finished our round was this was an experience of a lifetime!
Pete Dye was given the task to design a course worthy of a tour event, on 250 acres of wetlands that border the Mississippi River delta. What transpired in 2005 was a stadium layout that consistently ranks in the best golf courses you can play in America.
Even though the terrain is relatively flat, there over 100 bunkers and five ponds to contend with. The fairways are framed by tall stands of cypress and oak trees and the enormous waste bunkers will definitely catch your attention.
As a proud member of the Audubon Golf Trail, TPC Lousiana is dedicated to using indigenous vegetation and responsible management to protect the natural environment.
There are many signature holes here but my favourite stretch would be 15 through 18. The finishing hole here maybe one of the stongest on the tour. Two giant waste bunkers and a large pond protects the entire right side on this dog-leg right par-5. But there are eight more sand bunkers to avoid in order reach this peninsula green unscathed.
This semi-private course offers tee-times and packages for the general public. Golf where the pros play and I’ll guarantee you’ll see a gator or two!
To read more about golf in Lousiana visit Dave Finn's website at: http://golftravelandleisure.com/category/united-st...