We just got back from a fantastic five day golfing trip to Lake Charles, Louisiana. You should seriously consider Lake Charles for your next golfing destination or for a fun vacation. Some of the reasons to consider Lake Charles as a golf or vacation destination include:
Doesn't get much better than all of that. Our goal during this vacation was to play and review four golf courses, enjoy the lodging at L'Auberge Casino Resort, try not to lose my life savings in the casinos, get a facial at the L'Auberge Spa du Luc and experience the infamous 1740 Barbier Shop, devour lots of local cuisine, plus sample some locally brewed rum as well as some craft beer.
The romantic 150 year history of Lake Charles involved tales of pirates and buried treasure and began with the arrival of the first French settlers in the 1760's. Early growth was fueled by the lumber boom and evolved to gaming, tourism, and major industrial expansions along the Calcasieu Ship Channel in Lake Charles. The Lake Charles area continues to be one of the fastest growing areas in the nation and one of the reason may be because it is conveniently located in Southwest Louisiana about two hours east of Houston and three hours west of New Orleans.
In Southwest Louisiana the locals "take time to enjoy life, food, music, and good company and they like to describe the area as a place where Cajuns, cowboys, and the coast come together which creates an electric and relaxing atmosphere. "Lake Charles offers it all: attractions; museums and galleries; horse racing and casinos; live music and a variety of unique events; and culinary delights from Cajun food with recipes that have been in the family for centuries to the Southwest Louisiana Boudin Trail. For outdoor enthusiasts Lake Charles is well known for: excellent bird, duck, deer, or alligator hunting (or feeding); crabbing for blue crab; freshwater or saltwater fishing from boats, piers, or the shore for popular catches like speckled trout, redfish, red snapper, black drum, and king mackerel; shelling; birding opportunities with over 400 different species; boating, kayaking, and camping; and miles of beach. Plus there is the Creole Nature Trail All-American Road, Creole Nature Trail Beaches, State and Historical Parks, and lots more. Check out the Lake Charles Visitors Bureau to find fun things to see and do.
Shortly after we checked into L'Auberge we headed down to Jack Daniel's Bar & Grill to taste some of the great Cajun cooking, which was our first goal for this trip! Jack Daniel's award winning Chef Lyle Broussard is legendary for his passion for Southwest Louisiana cuisine with Cajun and Creole flavors. Jack Daniel's Bar & Grill is really cool with a sports bar look and feel (35 flat screens) and 25 craft beers, booths that imitate the back end of a pick-up truck, and a big Freightliner truck with a flat bed trailer that functions as a stage for music. On one evening we enjoyed some late night karaoke and a lively audience and band.
But the highlight of Jack Daniel's Bar & Grill for me was a delicious meal that started with a variety of appetizers - fresh oysters, delicious boudin balls, tasty gater bites, and a trio of Oysters Florentine, Buffalo Oysters, and baked Au Gratin Oysters smothered with shrimp, crawfish, and blue crab in a smoked cheese sauce and bread crumbs - all of which were delicious! The appetizers were followed by a platter with BBQ ribs, sausage, and pork rinds plus redfish on the half shell with fingerling potatoes. Delicious! We somehow managed to top all of that off with a dessert. As I was sipping my third beer and taking the last bite of the dessert, I secretly undid the top button of my Levis and let my belt out a notch.
Our second goal in visiting Lake Charles was to play and review four golf courses. Tuesday we were scheduled to play Gray Plantation which has had a six year run as one of the Top 100 Public Golf Courses by Golf Digest and it is also one of the select courses on the Audubon Golf Trail. We got up early for our tee time, checked the weather report (an unusual cold streak had enveloped Lake Charles Monday night) which had winds gusting to 20 miles an hour, temperatures in the mid 40's, and a light drizzle - a perfect day to sip hot chocolate by a warm toasty fire! But I was shamed into going golfing which means I had to put on long underwear, golf pants and windbreaker pants, a long sleeve shirt, sweater, a jacket, a beanie and a headband plus a left and right hand golf glove. I looked like the Michelin Man and was sure that if I fell over I would never get up. How in the world would I be able to swing a golf club!
It had been raining for several days prior to our arrival at Gray Plantation and the course was soaked, playable but cart path only - and with the wind chill the temperature must have been in the 30s. Much too cold for me, so we headed over to Gray Plantation's Golf Academy for a quick golf lesson and analysis from the TrackMan and Jonathan, the head pro. Jonathan demonstrated some of the functionality of the TrackMan - very cool with over 31 different analysis stats with everything from club speed, to carry, to club face angle, plus you can play 12 different courses, set the wind speed and direction, make the greens firm and fast, and even include birds singing. The TrackMan is the same device that the pros use - no wonder they are so good! The Trackman at Gray Plantation is also the same one that you see used on the Golf Channel. Jonathan gave us some good tips (I think he was thinking that I should stick to tennis!) and then we played 9 holes at Pinehurst on the TrackMan. Fun and informative and warm! Here is a link to a review and rating we did of Gray Plantation Golf Club on a previous visit to Lake Charles.
Since it was a cold afternoon, we decided to head to Bayou Rum Distillery for a tour and to warm up with some samples of their rum. The tour was informative and sampling of four different rums and three premium rums was well worth the stop. Bayou Rum Distillery was named the #1 Attraction by the Louisiana Travel Promotion Bureau. Bayou Rum is distilled from sugarcane grown in southern Louisiana and their signature “sugarhouse” recipe uses a blend of 100% natural, unrefined Louisiana sugarcane and molasses. Every batch of Bayou Rum is copper pot-distilled and bottled by hand. Some of what we sampled was: Bayou White Rum, a "signature ‘sugarhouse’ recipe that imparts a vibrant taste and aroma for a multi-layered flavor experience;" Bayou Spiced Rum, a "complex yet delicate spice blend inspired by the Creole baking traditions that Louisiana is famous for;" and Bayou Select Rum which is "matured in bourbon barrels for up to 3 years using the Solera aging method (take the tour to find out what that entails!)." My tummy was warm and satisfied after all those sips of superb Bayou Rum.
From the Distillery we headed to dinner at Blue Dog Cafe, home to Chef Ryan who is known as the King of Louisiana Seafood, King of American Seafood, and winner of the Great American Seafood Cook-off. He serves some superb Cajun and Acadian cuisine. Blue Dog Cafe was founded in 2000 by Louisiana's most famous artist (George Rodrigue) and the restaurant features several of his depictions of Cajun culture and his iconic Blue Dog series of paintings. The paintings were inspired by a werewolf creature - the loup-garou - from a Cajun legend and quickly became an enduring pop art icon. Our dinner was superb and consisted of several appetizers (Boudin Balls, Pork Rinds, Corn & Crab Bisque) followed by unbelievable Crawfish Enchiladas, Blackened Redfish, and a Chappapeala Farm Pork Chop. Wow, what a delicious feast! I now had only two notches left on my belt and I was worried that my belly might pop a button on my shirt!
Wednesday was warmer by a little bit (I shed one layer of clothes) but still chilly as we set off to nearby Westlake to play The National Golf Club of Louisiana, which is the newest and most affordable premier golf course in Louisiana. In fact, the course was selected as one of "America's Best New Courses" by Golfweek. After my lesson with Jonathan and playing well on nines holes on Pinehurst, I was ready for a low scoring round. However on the first tee, I tried to remember what Jonathan taught me and I swung and missed the ball, then swung again and dribbled the ball to the ladies tee. So I went back to my normal swing and hit the ball out of bounds! I hate golf! The National Golf Club plays through a mature pine forest, around preserved wetlands, and along fairways with 14 lakes and 80 bunkers. The forest, lakes, and wetlands are now home to a few of my golf balls and the bunkers are missing a lot of sand. Great course - read our review of The National Golf Club of Louisiana to learn more.
After golf it was time to sample some local craft beer at Crying Eagle Brewing Company. When I ask where they got their name, the answer was "we are named for a parish, named for a river, named for a chief, and named for a battle cry - Ca-CAWWWW!" We enjoyed a very informative tour of the brewery and it's brewing process, which is much more complex than the process I used in brewing beer in my garage. And I wasn't surprised that all the beer I sampled was much better than my home brew. I loved the flight of five of their lightest beers - delicious. Some of the names of their beers were interesting: Ready to Mingle, Pistol Bridge Porter, Hop Blooded IPA, and Dibbel Blind Date (figure that one out!). I could have stayed here a couple more hours but my tummy was growling and I never disappoint a growling stomach.
Dinner was at a highly recommended restaurant called the Seafood Palace, a laid-back restaurant with an array of seafood options and fried fare such as crab, gumbo, fresh fish and shrimp, and po' boys. As usual, we stuffed ourselves on appetizers - a delicious gumbo, boudin balls, gator bouletttes, and crab stuffed jalapenos. That was followed by an outstanding seafood platter with fish, shrimp, and oysters. But best of all was fresh caught Blue Crab - tender, sweet, and delicious!!!
For golf this morning I was down to golf pants (which seemed to have gotten smaller after the great dinner and a breakfast with Eggs Benedict!) and a light wind breaker for our round at The Country Club at the Golden Nugget which is across the street from the Golden Nugget Resort and Casino and a quarter of a mile from the L'Auberge where we were staying. We knew we were in for a special treat as we explored the very well done club house with a well stocked pro shop, the excellent Chart House restaurant, plush men's and women's locker rooms, a cool bar, and an outside patio with fire pit and unbelievable view of the 18th hole, the Bayou, and a stunning sunset.
And The Country Club at the Golden Nugget was equally as impressive - an immersive experience with a natural native look with the contrast of the bayou, bunkers, greens, and native grass. What an outstanding layout that's located on the Bayou, has 41 huge waste sand bunkers covering 15 plus acres, 38 white sand bunkers, and water that comes into play on 14 of the 18 holes. Needless to say, I spent a lot of time in the sand and probably more time in the sand than David Hasselhoff spent on the beach filming Baywatch. We loved this course and rated it 9.5 out 10 - read our review of The Country Club at the Golden Nugget.
After our round of golf we had one of the best sandwiches I've ever had - a po-boy from Darrell's, a bar and grill loved by locals and now me! Their saying is "Unless You Use at Least 10 Napkins, You're Doing it Wrong!" I did it right as I devoured their specialty - a po-boy stuffed with roast beef, ham, turkey, beef gravy, lettuce, tomato, and mustard and I topped it off with spicy jalapeno mayo. Not only did I use 12 napkins but I also discovered my shirt now had a messy combo of brown gravy, yellow mustard and white jalapeno mayo - but I looked very colorful! I could have eaten two of those sandwiches and I wanted to go back the next day for another one.
After lunch we were back at L'Auberge for an enjoyable facial for Mrs. Texas Outside at Spa Du Lac while I got the special at 1740 Barbier shop. Mrs. Texas Outside loved her Spa du Lac Customized Facial which is "A rejuvenating signature treatment customized to your needs, this facial utilizes luxurious products and advanced techniques." She looked beautiful and radiant after her treatment. I got the "luxury shave" which included a neck and shoulder massage plus something like a facial with lots of creams and scrubbing and hot and cold towels. That was followed by a very close shave. I was red in the face and didn't need to shave for two days. A special treat!
Speaking of treats, that evening we took a short shuttle ride from L'Auberge to the neighboring Golden Nugget Casino's Chart House restaurant which overlooks The Country Club Golf Course at the Golden Nugget and offers a terrific view of the sun setting over the Bayou. The food was even better than the sunset: appetizers (Kim Chee Calamari, lobster bisque, coconut crunchy shrimp, and peppered tuna tar tare Ahi tacos) which was followed with delicious lamb chops, jalapeno mac and cheese that was outstanding, and a prime rib that had been smoked for hours, was cooked to perfection, and melted in my mouth. I began to wonder if this fat boy would be able to fit in the elevator doors and the elevator would be able to carry all of my extra weight - I hoped that no one else would get on the elevator with us!
Still full from dinner we were ready to tee off on the first hole at Contraband Bayou at L'Auberge Casino Resort. This 7077 yard championship course was designed by world renowned golf architect Tom Fazio. The course leverages the lowland marshes of the natural Louisiana environment and the numerous bunkers, natural vegetation, and eight lakes make this a scenic, challenging, and fun course to play. Contraband Bayou was voted one of the "Best Places to Play in Louisiana" six years in a row. The weather was warmer and I was down to one layer of clothes, but the former Michelin Man still couldn't strike the ball very well. I think I'm much better at eating and drinking. Here is a link to our review and rating of Contraband Bayou at L'Auberge Casino Resort.
As soon as we walked into the lobby of L'Auberge Casino Resort we knew we were in for a special treat. The vestibule's architecture was inspired by the Texas Hill Country and is a three story beamed ceiling with a ring of balconies and skylights providing natural light. Two massive stone fireplaces define the lobby which includes warm woods, natural stone, and rich inviting furniture groupings. Walk straight through the lobby and you're in the Casino - 70,000 square feet of non-stop Vegas-style gambling including 70 game tables, more than 1500 slot machines, a five table live poker room, a high limit salon, and a circular bar in the center of all the action.
The 26 story L'Auberge Hotel has 1000 spacious rooms, private villas, and 147 luxury suites. We had a fantastic 750 square foot suite with custom designer furnishings including a huge couch and two leather sofa chairs, a tall comfy king bed, a bar and refrigerator, a large screen TV, a huge bathroom with a walk in shower and a cool tub tub with no water spigot - it took us a few minutes to figure out how to fill the tub and I was just about ready to call the maid when water came pouring down on my head from the ceiling!
Some of the other amenities of L'Auberge Casino Resort in Lake Charles include:
I was ready to move in and live in our room at L'Auberge but after our round of golf on Contraband Bayou we sadly packed our bags and made plans to come back again. We would highly recommend that you consider Lake Charles for your next vacation or golfing destination.