Koasati Pines at Coushatta: Away from the tables, you'll find fun, challenging golf

By Steve Habel, Contributor

KINDER, La. - There's no mistaking the potential quality of your golfing experience at the Koasati Pines golf course at the Coushatta Casino Resort here in Southwest Louisiana. If you're up for a challenge - aside from gambling - you'll find it here.

Koasati Pines Golf Course - Par-5
The 613-yard par-5 10th, one of three holes on the Koasati course with a split fairway.
Koasati Pines Golf Course - Par-5Koasati Pines Golf Course - Par-4Koasati Pines Golf Course - 19th Hole
If you go

This 18-hole, par-72 championship course, with 50 acres of lakes, was designed by Kevin Tucker to submerge you in a relaxing, yet challenging, golf experience.

It can be a bear to play, especially because of its taxing length (at 7,617 yards, it's the longest of Louisiana's golf courses) and the seemingly constant wind. But, with its six sets of tees, you only bite off as much as you think you can chew.

The track was ranked Louisiana's No. 4 golf course by Golf Digest for 2007-2008.

Tucker, who also helped design upstate Louisiana's Old Oaks Golf Club, had a blank slate, and it's an amazing achievement to craft this look from a rice field. When Hurricane Rita hit in 2005, the course was far enough inland to sustain only minor damage, and has been put back into as close to its original condition as possible.

Koasati Pines has three holes with split fairways (with routes to the green from both sides), water at virtually every turn and a configuration that gets harder and harder from the first six holes to the second six to the final six.

Koasati Pines even has a 19th hole, not just the place to grab a cold one after the round. It is a 137-yard tester with an island green that can be used to settle ties or just to have a little more fun. The hole plays into the wind, so take enough club.

Befitting a casino-owned course, Koasati Pines offers many risk-reward opportunities starting right from the first hole, a 566-yard par-5 with a split fairway and six sprawling bunkers. The best play is to the left of the fairway, short of the first large bunker; from there you can layup to in the right-side fairway to about 100 yards out or play over a creek and through an opening in the trees to a green pitching back-to-front and guarded up a bunker in front.

No. 2 is a 417-yard par-4 that doglegs left. If you're too far back, you'll have to play an approach over the pond that borders the fairway on the left, so keep to the right. The third hole is perhaps the easiest, but, at 160 yards, this par-3 can be challenging, depending on the placement of the hole on one of three tiers. No. 4 is another dogleg-left that asks you to make a right-to-left shot while being cognizant of the bunker at the landing area.

You can blast away at the 439-yard par-4 fifth, but keep in mind the mounds on the right side of the fairway and the punitive bunkers to the left and right of the green. No. 6, a 446-yard par-4 with a split fairway, ends the "easy six" by giving you an option of playing long and left (where a bunker awaits both in the landing area and by the green) or conservative and right, which will lead to a mid- or long-iron shot to a receptive green. Just stay out of the middle, where there is nothing good.

The next six holes kick off with the 235-yard par-3 seventh, which features a false front, a bunker right and mounds left. It's followed by No. 8, a taxing 460-yard dogleg-right par-4 with a narrow landing area in the fairway that is bordered by bunkers on each side and an uphill green that is tough to hit. You end the front nine with the 624-yard par-5 ninth, a tough bugger dissected by an arm of one of the lakes about midway home and affected by water again on the approach.

I liked the 613-yard par-5 10th, another hole with a split fairway. You can play the left side all you want, but the green is on the right - over a series of 3-foot bridges. Whatever good feelings I had from No. 10 I tried to take with me to the 11th, and the strategy worked, as the 428-yarder with a wide fairway was accessible for a birdie, as long as you stay out of that bunker on the front-right. The "middle six" ends at No. 12, a 198-yard par-3 with a false front and a sloping that plays almost entirely over a pond. There are bunkers guarding each side of the putting surface, making accuracy and club selection paramount.

The "hard six" opens with the 456-yard par-4 13th, which has a wide fairway but usually plays into the stout south wind and feels like a par-5. Following is the 421-yard par-4 14th, another jewel into the wind with the added obstacles of an uphill green and a water hazard that must be played over. Get your ball in the air or suffer the consequences.

No. 15 continues the run of tough par-4s; this one is at 467 yards but feels like a par-5. There are the mounds and bunkers (two guard the putting surface), so be ready. The 235-yard par-3 16th is the last time to take advantage of the wind, but beware of the false front and the bunker on the right, and use one more club than you think, as the green is higher than it looks from the tee.

We turn back into the wind and head for home on the 456-yard par-4 17th, which doglegs left and features a bunker that covers the front of the putting surface to not allow for rollup shots even when you might need them the most. This is the second-hardest hole on the course by handicap, and it shows.

The home hole is one of Koasati Pines' best, as the 588-yard par-5 18th plays into the wind and features the ultimate split fairway. After hitting your tee shot to the widest fairway I've ever seen, you must decide: Sling one straight at the green, a 230-yard-plus carry over water, or skirt the lake to a thumb of fairway on the right or a thumb of fairway on the left. If you don't hit it far enough up either fairway, you'll have to carry the lake again on your third to reach the green. Hit it too far, and you might catch a bunker at the far end of each.

Koasati Pines golf course: The verdict

Director of Golf Matt Jones said one of the best things about Koasati Pines is the Coushatta Tribe doesn't rely on the course as its moneymaker.

That Koasati Pines is a challenge for golfers of all levels is a draw to those who want fun on the links along with their action on the tables and slot machines. The course has a spectacular clubhouse, and an expansive practice area, with three huge putting greens, a 25-station driving range and a private short-game area.

Green fees (which include cart, balls and use of the GPS system) are $50 weekdays and $65 on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. There are reduced rates for twilight play, and your round can be comped if you earn enough points at the casino.

Steve Habel, Contributor

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