When searching for (or being asked about) great golf travel locations, the heavy hitters that often come up – the Pinehursts and Pebble Beaches and Kiawah Islands of the world – require a boat load of planning, an incredibly long lead time and, in most cases, at least one rather lengthy (and costly) plane ticket (or two if you are making the big trip over the pond).
A golf trip can be an ordeal – you have to coordinate hotel rooms and tee times and course availability, not to mention finding extracurricular post-round activities, renting cars, dealing with weather and finding places to eat that don’t cost an arm and a leg. In the end, more often than not all that planning and leg work is worth it, but it can be draining, and result in fewer golf trips than we all might prefer.
What often goes overlooked, however, are the places right in our own (figurative) backyard. And our neighbor to the East, Louisiana, has the golf, nightlife, restaurants and culture for the perfect golf trip, all within a couple hours’ drive. And you don’t even have to drive all the way out to Baton Rouge or New Orleans to get it – the beautiful city of Lake Charles has everything you could every want.
Lake Charles, Louisiana – only about 35 minutes from the Texas board, located right on the I10 freeway offers you all the amenities to craft the perfect golf trip.
Need some great golf? Lake Charles has more than a half-dozen beautiful golf courses, all set against the backdrop of the bayou, led by Contraband Bayou Golf Club and The Country Club at the Golden Nugget, host to the annual Korn Ferry Tour tournament.
Looking for fun and nightlife? Look no further than Lake Charles’ two premier casinos – The Golden Nugget and L’Auberge, where gambling is only one of the many exciting things to do on the grounds. Or, if you are looking for something more low-key, you can check out the historic Lake Charles downtown area for delicious food and historic sights.
For the outdoorsmen, Lake Charles sits on multiple tributaries of the Calcasieu River, which feeds into the lake of the same name, and is right next door to the Gulf of Mexico. There are dozens of excellent freshwater fishing spots throughout the area, as well as boat and marshland tours and deep-sea fishing expeditions in the Gulf. There are also the Sabine and Lacassine National Wildlife Refuges just south of the city.
Hungry – come on, it’s Louisiana! Home of the crawfish boil and the po’boy. It’s a state where every where you look you’ll find the best cajun and seafood you’ve ever eaten! Throw in a couple local breweries and distilleries like Bayou Rum and Yellowfin and you can keep your stomach happy for as long as you are there.
The Golf Courses
This is a golf trip we are talking about, right, so we are mostly interested in the golf courses – and for a city that plays second and third fiddle to places like New Orleans and Baton Rouge, Lake Charles has just what the golfer needs.
The two crown jewels of the Lake Charles area are located right next to eachother on the properties of the L’Auberge and Golden Nugget casinos – Contraband Bayou Golf Club and The Country Club at The Golden Nugget. Both courses are premium layouts with beautiful views of the bay and wildlife galore, and are located within walking distance of each other, making a 36-hole day a breeze.
Tied into L’Auberge, Contraband Bayou GC is a beautiful Tom Fazio-designed course that boasts fairly wide and forgiving fairways and few forced carries, but is surrounded by waterways and marsh areas, presenting plenty of challenges for all levels of golfer. Stretched out to just under 7,100 yards from the back tees, Contraband Bayou is consistently named as one of the “Best Places to Play in Louisiana” by GolfWeek Magaine, and was ranked as the 9th Best Golf Course in the entire state by Golf Digest.
Just across the parking lot from Contraband is The Country Club at the Golden Nugget. Arguably the best golf course in the region, The Country Club was designed by famed architect Todd Eckenrode and opened in 2016. Highlighted by beautiful views of the lake and the impressive Golden Nugget casino in the background, The Country Club was named the No.1 course in Louisiana in GolfWeek’s Best of 2021. It also hosted the 2022 Lake Charles Championship on the Korn Ferry Tour.
If you are looking to venture away from the casino properties, top on your list needs to be The National Golf Club of Louisiana. Constantly rated as one of the best courses in Louisiana by GolfWeek and Golf Digest, NGCL is a balanced golf course that features a little bit of everything and poses a fun challenge for players of all levels. And after the round, players must grab a bite to eat and a drink at The Max Restaurant, and standout sports bar and restaurant featuring some of the best local Cajun and seafood cuisine you’ll find in the area, golf course or not.
You can also checkout Frasch Park Golf Course and Mallard Golf Club, two local municipal golf courses that are perfect for a quick, leisurely 9 or 18 in the afternoon before dinner.
Where To Stay
If you are planning your Lake Charles golf trip and need accommodations, there is no need to look any further than the L’Auberge and Golden Nugget casinos. Even if you aren’t a gambler, both of these resorts have the classy, upscale feel of a Las Vegas high-end hotel without the noise and crowd of the Las Vegas strip. Both resort hotels are located just off I210 in the south side of the city set on the backdrop of the Calcasieu River and offer hundreds of rooms at each property in which to stay.
The L’Auberge Casino Resort Lake Charles is the only Southwest Louisiana hotel to hold the prestigious AAA Four Diamond Awards and is a full service casino with 70 table games and more than 1,600 slot machines. The 26-story elegant hotel features 1,000 rooms, suites and villas that are all updated with the best amenities and features available. Inside, L’Auberge has a full service spa – Spa Du Lac – a beautiful resort pool and lazy river (with plenty of lounge chairs and a fantastic swin-up bar) and 6 innovative dinning outlets. After lounging at the pool, make sure to check out the Barstool Sports sports bar to watch every sporting event imaginable.
Inside the resort hotel is the L’Auberge Event Center, a 1,400-seat venue that plays host to a variety of live music acts and shows. There is also The L Bar, and small, intimate speakeasy-type bar that hosts live music acts on Fridays and Saturdays each week.
Right next door to L’Auberge is the Golden Nugget Lake Charles. Perched on the picturesque curve of the Lake Charles shore, the Golden Nugget features a private marina, lakefront beach and a sprawling two-acre tropic pool with slides and a lazy river. The hotel features more than 1,100 guest rooms and suites, along with a sprawling casino floor with 87 table games, 1,600+ slot machines and seven live-action poker tables, as well as the Draft Kings sportsbook.
Inside the hotel you’ll find a beautiful Spa and Salon, a traditional barbershop, a dozen restaurants and bars and a concert hall the hosts some of the biggest names in entertainment. Just in the last half of 2022, acts such as Hank Williams Jr., Travis Tritt, Aaron Lewis, Boyz II Men and comedians Tom Segura and Ron White are set to perform at the casino.
Things To Do, Sights To See
Having a well-rounded itinerary is key to any successful trip, even a golf trip, and Lake Charles has a wide variety of entertainment options and sights to see beyond the links and bright lights of the casinos.
The top destination we recommend is the Creole Nature Trail, a 180-mile trail that was one of the first National Scenic Byways in the Gulf South. The Creole Nature Trail All-American Road is a “journey through a wild and rugged terrain unique to Louisiana, America and the world. Once the domain of nomadic Indians, the legendary pirate Jean Lafitte, Civil War soldiers and a host of colorful characters who came to find their fortunes in a fertile land, rich in untapped natural resources and boundless opportunity,” according to Louisiana Travel.
There are over 400 bird species along the trail, as well as alligators and all types of shellfish. You can explore the 26 miles of natural Gulf of Mexico beaches, fish, hunt for crabs or take a guide out into the bay.
There is also the scenic downtown area to visit. The Lake Charles area has a thriving arts community, complete with exhibitions, festivals celebrating the arts, dance, music, concerts, theatre and more. Lake Charles’ rich cultural history makes art and creativity an intrinsic part of life for those living in Southwest Louisiana. You can visit the Historic City Hall Arts and Culture Center or the Brimstone Museum Complex. The 1911 Historic City Hall opened its doors as the city’s public art gallery and cultural facility in 2004, showcasing numerous traveling exhibitions from around the world.
The beautiful historic building features three floors of gallery space, a clock tower, and, added in 2006, a landscaped brick courtyard. The HCH A&C Center has displayed solo exhibitions by artists such as Pablo Picasso, Ansel Adams, Norman Rockwell, and Tasha Tudor, as well as many traveling group exhibitions.
Even outside the casinos, Lake Charles boasts a wide-ranging, vibrant nightlife. Once the sun goes down you can enjoy traditional Cajun and Zydeco music at many of the local dance halls or see live bands at places like Cowboys and Jack After Dark Nighclub. The Crying Eagle Brewing Company, located in the southeast portion of the city, also hosts a spring a summer concert series in their outdoor performance area.
Food, Food and More Food
Its impossible to detail all the wonderful food and drinking establishments Lake Charles has to offer, but the Creole culture has its heavy influences in almost every corner of the restaurant industry across the city.
You can’t really go wrong with any of the hundreds of small, local Creole and seafood restaurants throughout the city, but if you have the opportunity, research on any of the local Creole festivals going on in Lake Charles during your trip to get the full Lake Charles experience. Accorind to Visit Lake Charles, some of the top festivals in the city include the Martin Luther King, Jr. Freedom Festival, the Downtown Lake Charles Crawfish Festival, Boudin Wars: Food Competition and Festival, Calca Chew Food Festival, and Gallery Promenade, and Mardi Gras kicks off the state and local festival season at the beginning of every year.
For those looking to enjoy an adult beverage or two, we recommend checking out the Crying Eagle Brewing Company, a craft brewery with a “unique vision for the entire family.” The taproom is more than 4,000 square feet and the beautiful outdoor beer garden is a great place to relax while playing a game or washers or cornhole. The rotating selection of local beers are some of the finest the state has to offer, and the bistro features weekly specials, delicious hand-rolled pizzas and many Louisiana classic dishes and meals.
Farther and more expensive doesn’t always mean better, and that especially rings true in the case of the beautiful Lake Charles area. With multiple top-level golf courses, two gigantic and exquisite casino resorts and a region rich in Creole culture, entertainment and restaurants, Lake Charles presents the perfect location for your next golf trip. Just grab your keys, toss your clubs in the back of your car, grab a few buddies and make the short drive over. You won’t regret you did.