I hit the road for Louisiana after my round at Shell Landing for one last round of golf on Saturday morning before heading to the airport. Pretty early in the week I realized that the logistics for Saturday’s round would be the most challenging of any round during the trip. My flight was to leave at 1:45pm from Louis Armstrong Airport in New Orleans and I knew that I would need plenty of time to get gas, turn in the rental car, and pack up everything. New Orleans doesn’t have a great selection of public golf for a decent price and it seemed that many of the courses cater to local residents when making a tee time. This made it challenging to find a place to play early in the morning and left me with only a couple options given my limited flexibility. I narrowed it down to Belle Terre Golf & Country Club which is maybe 15 minutes from the airport or Oak Harbor which was on my way back from Mississippi. Both are Pete Dye designs and from what I read Belle Terre has done some work to the course recently so that my first choice. I scrapped that idea though when researching the cost of hotels near the airport. On a Friday night the cheapest that I could find a decent hotel for was ~$90 plus taxes. I found a decent hotel on the other side of Lake Pontchartrain in Pearl River, LA which was ~$60 plus taxes. The hotel was only a 10 minute ride from the Oak Harbor and I booked a 7:32am tee time on Golf18network.com for $55 which seemed early enough to make it to the airport in time.
It all went according to plan until I got to the course and was told that they didn’t get my reservation. I have booked through Golf18network a couple times before and while its not as good as Golfnow, it has worked fine in the past. They threw in some free range balls and got me out with a threesome at 7:45am so in most cases I would say that it worked out fine. But due to the circumstances it hurt the cause to play all eighteen and still make it to the airport on time. I was hoping to get out early by myself, play through a group or two, and be done by 11am.
I started to have some anxiety about playing here when looking at the website and satellite images the night before. As mentioned earlier, this is a Pete Dye design so it comes with many of his usual design elements such as mounding and railroad ties as bulkheads which line many of the fairways and greens. These features, combined with the unique property where the course is located, create a difficult course to play. The course is a community course and from what I can tell, most of the homes were designed with water access to Lake Pontchartrain which is maybe a mile or two away. For those familiar with the Bay Area, I would compare the community to Discovery Bay where the homes have individual dock with access to the California Delta. The course works its way through the homes and around all the waterways connecting the community. So not only is the course challenging because Dye designed it, it is challenging because water is in play on most of the holes.
I played the Blue tees at 73.6/143/6897 and found the opening four holes relatively easy. Three of the first four holes are par 4’s that play between 364 and 386 yards and offer a chance to get the round started off with a few pars. None of the tee shots are very demanding and the only hole of real interest is the 4th which is characterized by high mounds all down the left side of the hole. The 5th, a 210 yard par 3, is where the course starts to show its teeth. The 5th is classic Pete Dye as it it is all carry to a green that is dominated by water. Any miss short or right will end up in the water and the hole reminded me of the 5th hole at the TPC Stadium Course in La Quinta, CA. The 6th is a strong par 4 which plays 424 yards with trouble on each side of the fairway and water left of the green. The 8th, a 476 yard par 4, is the toughest hole on the course and it played as a par 5 for me as it was back into the wind. Like the front, the back opens with some easier holes before becoming more demanding. The 11th is a bit blind off the tee, but there was more room in the fairway than I thought, and allowed for just a short iron approach. The 13th is a 193 yard par 3 which I really liked. It reminded me of a hole that would be found in a desert setting as there are some domestic shrubs which define the hole. The last four holes are a great test with water in play on almost every shot. The 15th is a 174 yard par 3 that plays to another green with water short and right and the 16th has water all down the right side of the hole. Part of the reason that I am not a big Pete Dye fan is that he doesn’t allow for recovery from a poor shot. Many times when I hit it in the water on a Pete Dye course I am left playing virtually the same shot that I just messed up because the ball does not cross much land. I got my iron caught in the wind on the 15th and it drifted right from the beginning. So, I either had to re-tee or drop 25 yards up where it last crossed the hazard. I am not going to beat a dead horse, but it isn’t what I like to see in a course all day long. The 17th has more water in play and the 18th is a 453 yard par 4. I skipped the last hole to make it to the airport on time, but it didn’t look like a hole that I would par too often.
In many ways the course reminded of ASU Karsten in Arizona which is another Dye design. The layout is probably worth $55 if it was in average condition, but the only part of the course that was in good shape were the greens. The greens rolled true and had some speed with the only trouble on them being the some unrepaired ball marks. I would say that the greens actually rolled a little better than Shell Landing. Everything else about the maintenance was in bad shape. There were bare patches and wet spots very close to each other and different sections of the rough was overgrown with foreign grasses. The sand was sopping wet in the bunkers which caused some poor shots and it didn’t look like it was given any attention from the rain that fell 36 hours ago. The tees were in good shape except for some uneven boxes and the fairways gave a decent lie maybe two out of every three times. However, I had to watch where I was walking in the fairways to avoid drainage holes that were deep enough to twist an ankle.
I don’t get any enjoyment from writing a critical review, but because of the conditions I would put Oak Harbor on the avoid list unless it could be found for $25 to $30. The layout is typical Pete Dye with some fun holes to play, but I was hoping that it would be in a little better shape. I didn’t have the course pegged as a premier place, but it had a disheveled appearance which made it tough to enjoy.
#1 green looking back:
#18 looking back: