Don’t miss these golf getaways, with way more than just miles of greens.
by Greg Wettman
The Golden Nugget Resort and Casino (www.goldennugget.com/lakecharles)
For Houstonians searching for a fun weekend golf getaway, look no further than Lake Charles, Louisiana (www.visitlakecharles.org), only two hours east of Houston, just off I-10. An ideal place to call home while in Lake Charles is the Golden Nugget Resort and Casino, which is perched along Contraband Bayou. Besides incredible golf, there is so much to do at the Golden Nugget, which just opened in December 2014, that you don’t really need to drive your car again until you head home—unless, of course, you are searching for another golf course to play, or a local restaurant, which I do recommend.
The Country Club golf course at the Golden Nugget is located on the edge of Contraband Bayou. It is well designed and maintained, and very appealing to the eye. The greens are as good as any I have ever played on—bar none. When I stepped on the putting green, I felt like I was in golf heaven. The course is outstanding. There are many waste bunkers on the course that stop errant shots from disappearing from play, and the staff treats you like a king.
As impressive as the golf course is, the clubhouse is in the same class. The dining room is exquisite, and the food otherworldly. I had a special entrée of rainbow trout almandine that I’m still savoring.
At the Golden Nugget, the pool complex—the H2O Pool & Bar—is lavish and irresistible, with a lazy river and two flume rides. There’s also an awesome wet bar; multiple “islands” in the pool called daybeds; and a state-of-the-art concert stage, which features live musical performances at various times throughout the year. You can swim up to the wet bar, order your favorite beverage, charge it to your room and then float along the lazy river while listening to a top-of-the-line band nearby. That’s what I call relaxation. The pool area also features 250 chaise lounge chairs, 34 private cabanas, six fire pits and several hot tubs. Bottom line at the Golden Nugget: If you’re not playing golf, the pool is the place to be!
The Golden Nugget Spa & Salon is adjacent to the H2O Pool & Bar, very convenient if you’re craving a midday massage, manicure, pedicure or facial. At the Spa, you will also find a sauna, steam room, whirlpool and a fitness room with state-of-the-art Cybex cardio and weight equipment.
When it comes to breaking bread at the Golden Nugget, you are truly spoiled for choice. Vic & Anthony’s Steakhouse, Landry’s Seafood House, Lillie’s, Cadillac Mexican Kitchen, Saltgrass Steak House, Grotto and Claim Jumper are just a few of the dining options available. When it comes to a spur-of-the-moment dessert, The Chocolate Box offers gourmet handmade truffles and chocolates from around the world.
If you want to relax at a beach, the Golden Nugget has you covered. During the day, you can sunbathe, play beach volleyball, or stroll along the waters of the Contraband Bayou. After sunset, the fire pits on the beach are aglow, providing the perfect place to unwind after a busy day at the resort. The Cadillac Beach Bar & Grille is right on the beach and offers great margaritas and food.
If you have any energy left after a fun-in-the-sun kind of day, there is a large, beautiful place right in the middle of the complex called a casino! Since you have already had the good luck to find the Golden Nugget, you might as well find an exciting table game or slot machine to top off your day.
L’Auberge Casino Resort and the Contraband Bayou Golf Club (www.llakecharles.com)
Next door to the Golden Nugget is another awesome place to play, the L’Auberge Casino Resort and the Contraband Bayou Golf Club. The Contraband Bayou Golf Club is a Tom Fazio design and the only public Fazio course in Louisiana. In 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013, Golfweek named this course one of the “Best Places to Play in Louisiana.” That is a well-earned endorsement. It is a blast to play. Eight spectacular lakes are found on this course. When you record a subpar score on any hole at Contraband, you can say that you recorded a birdie on the bayou. The signature hole is the downhill par three 8th—it’s a visual masterpiece and fun to play.
The resort has a very warm and comfortable atmosphere with a design inspired by the Texas Hill Country, and offers several unique dining options. Breakfast at Favorites Southern Kitchen includes what I believe are the perfect beignets and a stuffed Brioche French Toast like nowhere else. Embers Steakhouse is elegant, romantic and delicious. If you dare, order the 40-ounce bone-in rib eye. I guarantee you will not forget it. L’auberge also has a huge pool area with a lazy river and large, first-class casino. The hospitality shown by the entire staff ensures a return trip will be scheduled.
Gray Plantation Golf Course, The National Golf Club of Louisiana and Mallard Cove Golf Course are three more excellent courses to try in the Lake Charles area. At Gray Plantation, the view of the plantation-style clubhouse from the 18th tee caps off an experience that is filled with many sightseeing and shot-making opportunities. Plantation is impressive, especially its four-par threes, two of which have island greens. Lunch on the veranda after golf was superb. I recommend their Pressed Pork sandwich.
At the National Golf Club, which opened in 2009, there are generous landing areas off the tee. The rolling terrain and over-sized greens give you many different shots during any given round. If you pay attention to pin positions with your approach shots, it’s possible to get up and down for par more often than not.
Mallard Cove is a favorite of the locals and is the site of the annual Lake Charles City Championships. The 18th hole at Mallard Cove is one of the most unique finishing holes in golf, as it has multiple options from the tee. The key to success at the 18th hole is to avoid the water at all costs with your tee shot. There are three routes to take off the tee. Mallard has a very nice new clubhouse with a bar and restaurant. It’s a top-tier municipal facility.
Each of the courses I’ve mentioned is in a class of its own and fun to play. All five courses are as appealing to the scratch golfer as they will be to the weekend warrior. All five are also bargains for their respective green fees, which range from around $25 to $160.
The Lake Charles area has many great local restaurants. Two I have visited are local favorites, The Seafood Palace and the recently opened 1910 Restaurant and Wine Bar. The Seafood Palace is not fancy, just really great food. It has the best fried alligator I’ve eaten, and the boiled blue crabs are delicious. 1910 features Cajun/Creole dishes that are infused with a French backbone. Everything I sampled was worth coming downtown for, and the atmosphere is elegant, but relaxed.
It will take more than one weekend to enjoy all of the top-notch golf, dining, gaming and relaxation options that the Lake Charles area has to offer. But that’s okay. It’s only two hours away. As the locals say: Bon temps! (Let the good times roll!)