Gray Plantation Review
A Beauty in the Bayou
By Mike May
On your next golf trip to Lake Charles, Louisiana, check out the 'Best Kept Secret in Louisiana.' I am not referring to what's on the breakfast menu at Favorites Southern Kitchen at the L'Auberge Casino Resort or the dinner menu at the Seafood Palace. Instead, I am referring to the Gray Plantation Golf Course.
This par-72 layout (grayplantationgolf.com; 337-562-1206) is built like a female super hero -- she has beauty, strength and staying power. The last two attributes became clear following the two hurricanes - Ike in 2008 and Rita in 2010 - that roared through the area that destroyed 5,000 trees on the golf course. Despite those windy body blows, many of Gray Plantation's tall pine trees survived, as did the 94 bunkers. The golf course has come back stronger than ever and she's ready to test your mettle and golfing mindset. Did I mention the 60 acres of lakes that come into play?
Opened for play in 1999, Gray Plantation came out of gates with a very strong endorsement -- ranked #3 on Golf Digest's Best New Course in 1999. Gray Plantation remained on Golf Digest's list of Top 100 Golf Courses from 2002 until 2007.
With five different tees that range from 4,814 yards (red tees) to 7,191 yards (black tees), golf course architect Rocky Roquemore designed a course that is as appealing and fair for the scratch golfer as it is for the weekend warrior. The course has wide and forgiving fairways, which helps with pace of play. It's also imperative to monitor pin positions on the large, undulating greens, otherwise three-putt experiences will be the norm rather than the exception.
The 'Signature Hole' at Gray Plantation is the 6th -- a par three to an island green. It's only 168 yards from the tips. What makes such a short par three the 'Signature Hole' at a first-class venue like the Gray Plantation? The 6th has been compared to the 12th at Augusta National because the putting surface is situated diagonally to the teebox and the green raises above the nearby water hazard - the Calcasieu River. A false front demands that you must carry the ball to at least the middle of the green. Because of an ever-present breeze in your face, it's a good idea to take an extra club for your tee shot. A par at the 6th is always a very satisfying result, as is a par at Augusta's 12th.
"It is southwest Louisiana beauty at its finest," adds Gray Plantation golf professional Tyler Kuhn.
While the 6th hole may be the 'Signature Hole' at Gray Plantation, the 7th hole is considered by many as the most memorable hole on the course. Frankly, it's a rather fascinating piece of real estate. According to Kuhn, "there's no safe way to handle this monster."
This 7th hole - the most diabolical par 5 in the South -- requires a strategic approach for your second and third shots. With a strong drive, it's possible to get home in two, but it's not always the most practical choice, unless you can hit a long, high towering fade that lands softly on the green. While it's easy to find the fairway from the tee, you must avoid the marsh on the left and out of bounds on your right as you hit your second shot. Because of the unpredictable and ever-changing winds off the nearby Calcasieu River, it's a good idea to take an extra club or two for your layup shot which will travel close to the unforgiving water hazard. Believe it or not, but your third shot to the green must also be hit over the marsh. Without a doubt, the key shot at the 7th is the second shot, whether you hit a good tee shot or not.
"I like the fact that you have to think about every shot you take (at the 7th) and can't just slap a layup shot down the fairway or beat a fairway wood down and make an easy birdie," adds Kuhn. "Every birdie here is hard earned and requires great golf shots. That's why I like it."
The back nine at Gray is on par with the front nine, as you are forever in pursuit of birdies while trying to avoid bogeys and bayou-like marshes and lakes.
At the end of the round, the view of the plantation-style clubhouse from the 18th tee caps off an experience that is filled with as many sight-seeing opportunities as there are shot-making opportunities.
At the conclusion of play, a visit to that course's equivalent of the 19th hole is the next order of business. According to Kuhn, the best and only item to order is the Pressed Pig, which is barbecue pulled pork, roasted ham, and provolone cheese pressed on a French baguette. After you digest that delicacy, I think that you will have discovered another one of the 'Best Kept Secrets in Louisiana.'
Revised: 09/28/2016 - Article Viewed 19,026 Times - View Golf Course Profile
Written By: Mike May
Mike May is a Wellington, Florida-based freelance golf and sportswriter, who is also a 25+ year public relations and communications executive in the sporting goods industry. He is also a veteran high school soccer official, an experienced high school basketball coach, an avid athlete, a part-time personal trainer, and a passionate golfer who is forever in pursuit of Old Man Par. He is a member of the Golf Writers Association of America.
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