The greens glide over the meadows with a tender brush while the sereneness of its quandry makes one relax. Such is the essence of Lake Charles and its golf courses. Showing a surprising intensity of challenge that breaks down through three distinct play styles experienced in a variety of weather, the reality becomes one of style and smoothness.
The essential element of creating both a challenging and a visually pleasing course is always a distinctified divergence since different players like different challenges. Some relegate with water obstacles or long fairways. The key is making a balance of riches seem effortless.
At the inset, Gray Plantation Golf Course, which functions as a public course, intensifies immediately because of its difficulty. While wind, in distinct presence, creates other obstacles, the angle of the fairways themselves is what helps define the play here in addition to specifically placed water handicaps which leads to the incessant loss of accessories. Hole 2 begins with the inherent presence of an industrial backdrop against the bayou marked by an undulating green that prevents curve. Hole 6 is exceptional as a Par 3 banked on a rolling front that required a full water jump of nearly 200 yards. Hole 7 requires a long fairway shot but tricks with two water jumps that require short tandem shots to prevent landing in the brush. Hole 8 blinds in the best way as a Par 3 which basks in its irony with looming houses in the background, one of which has a stop sign right behind the drop point. Hole 11 allows for a bogie on the angle of a safe play instead of a long drive while Hole 16 incessant swallows shots with almost a complete lake along the side that requires replete strategy. Hole 18 brought the straight hit back home in the form of the club house which billowing through a stark vision of an oak tree gave an auspice of romantic vampire literature as the overhanging clouds gave a dim glow in the setting sun.
Where Gray Plantation’s Pars were more didactic and inherently strategic for the intermediate golfer ready for a bit of thinking, the National Golf Club, which is still fairly new, located in Westlake, offers more of a business approach to the ideal. While the clubhouse is hardly up to poise, the playability of the course allows for more conversational pursuits because many of its hole are so straightlace. The course itself has a streamlined beauty but is almost too angular in that the hits are predetermined in most cases. The driving range offers content warm up yet is removed from the street life. The front nine here offers a dexterity while still not overwhelming the player. Hole 5 is most unique with a Par 3 jump using almost church pew sand bunkers that either require clearance or chipping by experience to heaven while Hole 8 offers a split progression hit which can be deceiving in terms of the location of the hole. Hole 14 on the back nine offers a double back drive with water on either side of each hit culminating with a green titled at a heavy angle.
The Contraband Bayou Course, on the grounds of the L’aurberge Du Lac Resort, combines the necessities of both angles of business and playability into one specific vision. Having talked to the resident golf professional, who initially hailed from the Palm Beach Florida area, the adherence to a very specific guideline shows the building possibility of the area. The course, because of its flowing greens and perceptive visions of the resort area and grounds, make it extremely TV friendly offering the ability for it to become a tournament course which is only enhanced by the pro’s involvement with the PGA.
After ingratiating on the driving range, the first holes, despite a short onslaught of rain, offered a riveting play which in all weather offers both thinking and relaxation. With its position on the edge of the bayou, most of the water ponds, have been adopted each by a single alligator because of its close proximity to the wildlife refuge. While one was not seen, these reptiles are wonder to see and don’t mess with players unless they themselves are messed with. It simply adds another exotic element to the play. While the thought becomes right now to flip the nines because of a road barrier, either interfere with the exception that both the current 17th and 18th hole, offer great closure to the course.
Beginning on the current front, Hole 4 works well because of its water jump but slices undeniably to the right while Hole 9 offers a straight shot with a bending water obstacle looming on the left side heading towards the green. By comparison, Hole 17 on the back offers a satisfying alleeop shot off the tea direct on the green like a drive out of heaven allowing for a bogie curve despite a challenging green. Hole 18 is almost as good with a powerful drive to the front of the green using poised hits to land at double bogie.
One aspect that immensely enhances the possibilities of Contraband is its essential symbiosis with the L’Auberge Resort. Located on a wide swath of land right on Lake Charles, the abilities of the resort defy expectations in an exceptional way. Whereas many times, when one thinks of a riverboat resort, which is required for gambling in this area of Louisiana, there might be a stigma in terms of the level of service. The L’auberge in their prominence proves in their case that this is extremely false. The great aspect is that the casino’s presence does not overcome the rest of the experience as it does in most instances. The check in, shops and restaurants surround the casino but because of its closed construction in terms of the riverboat aspect, it creates a boundary which gives it a relaxed atmosphere without overcoming its guests.
From the guest room on the 14th Floor, which beyond offering a recessed reading area, a large and intriniscally decorated bathroom and uber comfortable beds, the landscape permeated below leads out from the fairways of the golf course to the flowing ebb of the lake to the distant industrial plants. From above, one can see the outline of the riverboat structure, perfectly symmetrical along the water floating effervescently along with the commerce surrounding it.
Before moving to the essence of food within the resort, the specific importance and effectiveness of the Spa Du Lac, located steps away from the guest elevators, is both easy to find and user friendly. Entering in, the Spa itself is not overly endowed with space but uses its possibility to wonderful conclusion. The Spa itself will be expanded next year in a new construction project billowing the resort by an additional 400 rooms. However in its current format, it is more than pliable. Functioning more as a health spa with an added elegance, the staff is very indicative. Arriving for a deep tissue massage, after 36 holes of golf where driving against the wind required more power than usual, the lower back and hamstrings on the back of the left leg screamed with tightness. The masseuse, understanding the problem areas, took a more sports medicine approach which allowed for relaxation of the muscle using both heat and segmented pressure. Afterwards the compacted space and easy accessibility of the jacuzzi in relation to the sauna offered a very precise progression. Sitting afterwards in the lounge area, watching the plasma, the lack of need to move showcased the effectiveness of said treatment in addition to the extended hours of the spa itself which is open until 9pm in an age where many similar places close nearly two hours before.
The diversity of food within the resort within easy walking distance of each other is undeniable. From the early morning viscosity of hot chocolate and a heavenly creme cheese pastry at Lattes to a late night expresso and creme brulee sorbet at Desserts, there is an angle for every kind of taste.
For high end fine dining, the Snake River Grill heightens by its selection of beef and wonderful appetizers. Starting off with the Peking Duck scallion enriched crepes, the paradox of the two possibilities melds in a very sound and hearty aftertaste. Reflecting in its barometric allowances, the richness of the bite size steak taco ensconced in avocado sauce binded with finger licking essences of small but succulent lamb chop lollipops prepares the progress for the Big Daddy. Rocking out at 22oz with very little fat, the Snake River Porterhouse, cooked medium well, fired with flavor on all cylinders vindicated in droves by the addition of a cognac and peppercorn sauce highlighted by a smatteriing of Louisiana crab meat and a loaded baked potato which settled the synpases into a virtual food coma. For those brave enough to venture on, the home made Eskimo Bars wrapping ice cream and a deep rich brownie into heavy chocolate for dipping in a caramel sauce need apply.
For the lighter in structure, two other establishments within the resort, again located in the circle realm around the riverboat frame, offer different libations for dinnertime.
At Asia, which is open late until 4am, the briskness of an early evening bowl of wonton soup looms large with a hearty bowl filled with a plethora of succulent dumplings in addition to pork and scallions, all of which can be made to order. Add a order of shrimp filled spring rolls with a light tangy peanut butter sauce and the time is right to saunter back to the tables for some early evening temptation.
For those with a latter appetite resting within the 10pm hour, the branded Jack Daniels Bar & Grill offers chill, roadhouse style hanging. Beginning with a couple draft Shock Tops (thanks to Michelob) which has the effervescent and encompassing taste of a citrus brewed Hiefeweisen, and blended in tandem with a JD Roadhouse burger lathered in swiss cheese and bacon along with a side of steak fries, contentment becomes a state of being. While finishing up the pint as a mosaic of beads creating the American Flag hangs above the bar, a rockabilly band, half Everclear/half Nirvana bust out everything from Pearl Jam to Sublime to Lynryd Skynyrd.
In keeping with the all night purveyance, Le Cafe is great for the early morning breakfasts, especially if one is in a hurry to hit a tee time. With an exceptionally efficient staff, even a hearty meal like country fried steak topped with gravy and sided with cheese scrambled eggs and butter topped grits comes out in a heartbeat, replete with flavor and a glass of milk.
Now dining is, of course, not only available within the resort, but as a “one stop shop”, L’auberge has the ground pretty well covered but the same progression can be experienced in the outside world with nary a little driving involved.
In terms of fine dining, Mazen’s offers a elegant, refined hoist of Southern hospitality while lingering with flavor and creativity in the aquatic culinary space. Beginning with a looking glass of Oysters, both Rockefeller and Bienville, glistening with shrimp, cheese and spinach, baked on the half shell with a spicy afterbite, the inset of “Kibbies”, a pasty type concoction filled with ground beef, pine nuts and onions, despite its wantonness, is quite delicious like a Southern calzone of sorts. The main course of Fish Aladdin, toasted for perfection, brings out numerous flavors in its lemon and butter sauces through the sheer preciseness of its preparation while still engulfed in rich crabmeat. After dinner, despite an absence of expresso, a Grand Mariner chocolate souffle hit the spot with dexterity, verve and a bit of sweetness.
A variety of other tastes populate the town in droves. Directly across from the Lake Charles Visitors Bureau across Interstate 10, the legendary Steamboat Bill’s waits to heaps its treasure of crawdads upon the willing. Armed with only napkins, sweet tea and wanton fingers, a tray replete with five pounds of critters along with potatoes and corn offer the dexterious a welcome challenges. Highlighted by their steaming broth that place the fires of Hell into the crustaceans with a mix of Creole seasoning and cayenne pepper, the aftermath is not for the faint of heart.
Chastain’s Seafood Shack jump starts the cables with the appropriate “Louisiana poppers” mixing shrimp and cream cheese before satisfying with a simmering bowl of savory chicken and sausage gumbo and a hilarious staff that leaves you with a family feeling and more than a joke or two. Darrell’s, for lunch as well, excels in the simple but nevertheless brilliant sandwich known as the “Surf N’ Turf” which seamlessly blends Louisiana roast beef and shrimp on a crispy hero roll with a rich tangy mayonaisse sauce peppered in jalapenos. The place was packed with good reason as revelers come from as far as 4 hours away to get their sandwiches.
On the lighter side of the dining outlay, Luna’s in downtown has a great bohemian feeling while being just cool enough to be unaware of it through its undeniably laid back staff and interesting culinary paradoxes. While the Abita Special Brew Pecan Harvest combined with a before dinner appetizer of spinach and artichoke dips with especially tasty and luscious crisps offered the semblance of recognizable bar food, the main course of Luna Tuna steak was a puzzling and ultimately gratifying outlay. Consisting of an encrusted slab of tuna, seared in one large swath, the taste remains consistent despite the distinct numbers of sauces and spices running through its electric center.
Not to be forgotten, breakfast is a meeting place of importance in this town with regular meetings among a variety of groups which keeps the conversations vivacious even in the morning hours. Southern Spice, like Le Cafe but with a little more grease, does it right with a rib eye seasoned to perfection surrounded by salty hash browns, cheese filled eggs and the requisite and always reliable butter honed grits.
Lake Charles is a bountiful area of work and play. If simply approaching for a golf getaway, within a small radius, the city offers undeniable access and value. In addition to the three courses played, there are an exceptional number of public courses with different range levels that have possibility. Mallard Cove, situated on the edge of the old Naval Base, has a great old school feel to it while arranging over a vast amount of land. Pine Shadows, aided by the steady hand of PGA Professional Todd Boudreaux, is great for beginners getting their first shot at golf or those intermediate enough who want a level of steady play. Last but not least,Frasch Park continually changes their perceptions of play with numerous grand obstacles to challenge the player masterminded with skill by Golf Pro George McInnis. Surrounding this course is a massive sports complex replete with aquatic center, softball fields and numerous other activities that make the intent of the area very family and sports friendly, highlighted by the fact that junior golf and training are very important to this area which gives the implement to the young in a sport that in cyclical fashion is now becoming cooler by the day.
With its food and sport is direct corrolation buoyed by an exceptional central resort complex in the form of L’Aurberge, Lake Charles is one of those secret golf hideaways that your friends want to hear about but didn’t know where to look.