New Orleans. Historically it’s a city known for fun and hardship – both on a grand scale. It’s their reality, their heritage, their accepted way of life.
Mardi Gras, jazz, Bourbon Street, great food, and a culture of resilience permeate here. So too does the threat of natural disaster, something all too fresh in the minds of residents as hurricane season rears its ugly head each year.
They keep on rolling, though, no matter the circumstances. Even when it comes to golf.
I’ve seen it first hand. On a visit for golf a few years back I awoke to a television screaming red warnings about a possible tornado and localized flooding. Concerned, I called the golf course, the TPC Louisiana, to check on the my booking. I was thinking I would be told the course was closed. My mistake.
“Ahhh, nothing to worry about. We might have a little water but we have those warnings all the time,” assured the pro shop staffer.
He was right; it did not seem to phase anyone. The course was packed when our group arrived to play. We had to deal with a few showers but that was about it.
As you’d expect in a town where “fun” comes at you 24 hours a day, golf is embraced here. The southern nature of taking life at your own pace carries well into a lazy day on the links.
One course golfers often seek out in New Orleans is English Turn Golf & Country Club.
Personally I would take the drive from downtown to the club just to hang out in the 43,000 square foot clubhouse and gulp down bowls of their award-winning gumbo, but throw in a golf course that hosted the PGA Tour for many years and you’ve really got my attention.
The Jack Nicklaus design debuted in 1988 but in recent years became more open for green fee playing guests. That’s good news as a lot of visitors were making their best effort to find a spot on the first tee when the club was fully private anyways.
At 7078 yards from the back tees, it can play as a water-lined brute, although you’ll find the wet type of hazards are mostly well off-line and simply running parallel to the fairways.
The main talking point by players after each round is the 15th hole, a place where water HAS to be carried. At 540 yards, this par 5 is not monstrous in length but it is oh so dramatic. That is mostly due to the island green that tempts the player to reach it in two. It can even get your nerves jumping when hitting a third shot approach with a short iron. After you play it once you’ll realize the water-surrounded terrain has ample landing room, but it is sure does not look that way as you hit the shots.
Of course the 15th might just be the largest putting surface on the course. The greens throughout the course are notoriously small (like Pebble Beach Golf Links small) and with a bevy of long par fours, you’ll need accurate approach shots and a great short game to score low. It’s exactly the formula Nicklaus was intending to test the best players in the world.
Choose the correct tee though and even average golfers will be fine.
In fact they’re bound to enjoy the easy walking and great turf conditions, even if they score poorly.
Add in a bowl or two of gumbo in the clubhouse post-round, and they’ll soon forget any struggles on the golf course.
Even with a blemish or two on their scorecard, they’ll be content enough just to keep rolling on.
And they’ll understand just a little but more about the people of New Orleans and why they continue to do the same.
Birdies or bogeys,you’ll learn to take golf, and life, in stride at English Turn Golf & Country Club.
It’s a big reason why reason why golfers return time and again when they make their way to Louisiana.
/ Scott MacLeod @flagstick