Lake Charles, Louisiana falls under our category of rediscovering America through golf – an eye opener for anyone unfamiliar with the bayou experience. The airport is small and easy with accessible flights from most regions. Minutes away, L‘Auberge Casino Resort sits on the river to allow for legal gambling. Music piped throughout makes you happy 24 hours a day – in the mood for gaming, dancing in the halls, relaxing poolside or hitting the golf links.
The best golf is right on site, across the parking lot at Contraband Bayou Golf Club. The great initial design by Tom Fazio is even better with upgrades by Bill Belcher, Director of Resort Services. The resident big mama gator makes a special appearance most days. The tourism reps say the gators are friendly on the bayou, yet they warn to use the zoom feature when taking photos. There are plenty of photo ops with or without reptiles, along the course with eight lakes, loblolly pines, hard wood and crepe myrtle in bloom. The casino itself makes an impressive backdrop. Tom Fazio has taken the marshlands of western Louisiana and developed another shining gem with sand and water hazards to challenge skills of the best of players. Steal a good score from Contraband Bayou and feel like you got away with something.
Herb Piert III, the Golf Operations Supervisor, takes pride in the work of the staff as well as the
region’s cultural history. As an authentic Creole family member, he loves Lake Charles for its true Louisiana culture and the best food. Kolaches with beef, shrimp or crawfish are a Creole version of a burrito, empanada or Italian calzone all rolled into one. The problem is you can’t stop at one. Beignets with powdered sugar soak up coffee in the morning as they dust your shirt. Darrell’s great Po Boys are the bomb for lunch with jalapeno mayo. Dinner at the Seafood Palace is the best for sampling all the terrific fried foods you never tasted before. Forget trying to pronounce, let alone spell them your first time out. Ok, maybe Gumbo, which is awesome. Of course you can select fresh grilled fish with asparagus if you must go light and delish. Wash it down with Bayou Rum and your favorite mixer. Rum distilled on the bayou? Who knew? The distillery offers tasting and tours for more fun diversions.
If you are too full to play more golf, head to the lush setting by the L’Auberge pool to relax. The horticulture is artistically manicured with wooden bridges connecting the lazy river to the family and adult sections of pools and Jacuzzis. Water in each area is just the right temp. A green lawn spreads adjacent for summer concerts.
Gaming is a huge draw since this is of course a Casino Resort. Attendees welcome players at each entrance. Unlike the crazy noise of Vegas, the music again sets the mood. Around the corner are boutiques for spending winnings or the Desserts Shop for tasty treats any time. The pastry chef is unreal. Check out the chocolate sculpture delivered to our room.
Dinner at Jack Daniel’s Bar & Grill provides a casual ambience inside and out with cut off pickup trucks serving as booths in the bar area and tons of sports screens. The Asian buffet is a quick in and out for any meal but the Ember Grille and Wine Bar is a truly fine dining experience starting with lollipop lamb chops, bacon wrapped shrimp or the tasty and brilliant ahi tuna presentation for appetizers. Choose from many entrée specialties, the feature being the 40-ounce Tomahawk – a juicy slab of steak to feed the entire table. The Crème Brule surpassed our “oui, oiu, oui test” with the tableside flaming. Paired with the white chocolate martini hiding a piece of Ember engraved candy at the bottom, this dining experience was over the top from start to stop.
More local golf at reasonable rates can be found at The National Golf Club of Louisiana in Westlake – a nice public track. It is pretty straight forward, except for the hidden hazards when knowledge off the tee box pays off. The layout is fun and challenging with a routing that incorporates draw and fade requirements equally.
Golf at Gray Plantation Golf Club presents an astounding Audubon experience. It is wide open, but risk/reward opportunities abound for those wanting to reach par 5’s in two. Multiple water features separate fairways from greens with all the natural fowl inhabiting.
Don’t miss the fishing on the bayou, with country music echoing the experience as the boat floats through the marsh. Contact Capt. Erik Rue of Calcasieu Charter Service for a great day on the water. Reel in the redfish and halibut as pelicans and seagulls
dive for their share.
If all that isn’t relaxing enough, the Spa du Lac (by the lake) at the L’Auberge Casino Resort can seal the deal. The Jacuzzis are large with pulsating jets that hit the right spots. The full service menu runs the gamut of treatment options from skin and body care, cosmetic services, to all types of massages.
Eat, golf, fish, spa, repeat. Year round, there are no blues on the bayou, only fun. www.VisitLakeCharles.org