What better symbol of Louisiana golf than native son and PGA champion David Toms smartly dressed in a deep purple golf shirt with the logo of his beloved collegiate LSU Tigers. Then position Toms in the rough holding his sand wedge while straddling an alligator with its crushing jaws wide open and ready to chomp.
Sounds over the top and dangerous, doesn’t it?
Not a bit.
It was the exact image that the gurus for Louisiana’s Audubon Golf Trail (AGT) once conjured up for the attention-grabbing cover of their marketing brochure.
In full transparency, the life-sized gator was stuffed but realistic; Toms, only the latter.
Do not let your guard down regarding the alligators, however. They are not only found in the state’s bayous. Very real ones can be seen slithering across courses even at PGA Tour events such as the Zurich Classic New Orleans played at TPC Louisiana – an AGT course.
Louisiana is better known for Bourbon Street, Tabasco sauce and the dysfunctional Duck Dynasty, but golf has made significant inroads into the Cajun mix.
Inspired by the success of golf course assemblages in other states, most notably Alabama’s Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail, Louisiana launched the AGT in 2001. The AGT is named after naturalist and wildlife artist John James Audubon. Inspired by the state’s inherent beauty, he conducted a number of his famous bird studies in Louisiana. All trail courses are, ironically, members of the Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary for Golf Courses, a program dedicated to protecting the environment and preserving the natural heritage of the game of golf.
The AGT lineup comprises a diverse dozen courses that stretch from Shreveport in the northwest to New Orleans in the southeast with stops including Lafayette, Alexandria and Lake Charles among others. Course designers range from Pete Dye and Denis Griffiths to Louisiana natives and major champions Hal Sutton (Shreveport) and Toms (Monroe).
To launch the AGT, a consortium of the state’s best publicly accessible courses was pulled together. The collection of courses has won a slew of individual awards.
TPC Louisiana was ranked among the Top Five Best New Course in the U.S. by Golf Digest. Atchafalaya at Idlewild in Patterson won the same award upon its opening. The Tom-designed Carter Plantation, featuring live oaks and cypress wetlands, was voted one of the Top 10 Best New Courses by Golf Magazine.
Olde Oaks Golf Club near Shreveport was designed by Sutton, a major champion and PGA Ryder Cup captain.
In the heart of New Orleans you will find Audubon Park Golf Club, located near Loyola University. The par-62 executive course has won awards for Best Places to Play by national golf magazines. The course served the local citizenry in emergency duty as the National Guard’s base camp for search and recovery efforts following Hurricane Katrina.
The AGT courses will keep you entertained in Louisiana during the daylight hours. For spicier night-time diversions, such as the French Quarter, you are on your own.