TPC of Louisiana, Tunica National near completion
News and notes from in and around the Gulf Coast as the SEC West waits for football season.
It's been a while since the GC felt this kind of golf buzz. But the fervor coming from Southern Louisiana and northern Mississippi is unmistakable - the Tournament Players Club of Louisiana and Tunica National are nearing completion and the region is "fixing" to add two first rate pay for play tracks to its burgeoning arsenal.
National, designed by Gulf Coast mainstay Mark McCumber (Timberton GC), held a soft opening last month and is expected to open to the public any day now. The TPC of Louisiana, a Pete Dye/Steve Elkington design and future site of the HP Classic of New Orleans, is set to open in May.
The TPC and Carter Plantation Golf Club near Baton Rouge are the newest members of Louisiana's Audubon Golf Trail - the Bayou State's formidable answer to Alabama's Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail. Carter Plantation was the first design effort from local boy made PGA Tour stud David Toms (the course is named for his son, Carter) with an earnest assist from architect Glenn Hickey.The bucolic, bayou layout opened in 2003 and recently landed on GOLF Mag's vaunted Top Ten You Can Play list.
Carter Plantation and the imminent addition of the TPC will bring the Audubon Golf Trail's total offering up to nine championship caliber courses. The Trail stretches the entire length of the state, from Shreveport in the northwest to Naw-lins in the southeast. Unlike RTJ, the AGT was created from the state's existing supply of high end, daily fee courses. The entire circuit is connected by a series of scenic highways and byways.
Historic Pass Christian Isles to undergo renovation
The Pass Christian Isles golf course, an historic Tom Bendelow design in Pass Christian, Miss., has renovated two holes and will start renovations of the remaining 16 on April 26th. The circa 1948 layout (one of the oldest on the coast) is expected to reopen Sept. 1 for outside play.
This isn't Pass Christian's first time under the knife - it was earlier redesigned by Alex Cunningham, a Scottish-born designer and accomplished golf pro. The course's notoriously small greens - tactfully retained by Cunningham to preserve the layout's original flavor - also will be left in tact this time around, according to the Mississippi Gulf Coast Golf Association.
A quick word on Bendelow: the prolific, turn of the century designer is considered one the pioneer's of American golf course architecture and one of the game's most savvy entrepreneurs. He learned golf as a youngster in Scotland and made several trips to St. Andrews, which no doubt left a lasting impression in his mind's eye. Always a good stick, Bendelow took on Harry Vardon in an exhibition match in 1900, shortly before Vardon won the U.S. Open.
All told, Bendelow designed and built more than 400 courses, including the No. 1 and 2 courses at Olympia Fields Country Club, site of the 2003 U.S. Open. He is also credited with many firsts in golf, including a design technique known as "18 stakes on Sunday" - a controversial yet economical system for routing and designing an 18-hole golf course for a whopping $25. He also instituted the first known system for reserving times or "tee-times."
The Gulf Coast Golf Association (Alabama) reports that spring bookings are up 50 percent from last year. Evidently great seafood and affordable golf are catching on. ... Lucy Buffett, sister of one James Buffett, recently relocated her Lu Lu's eatery from Weeks Bay to Homeport Marina in Gulf Shores. The waterfront restaurant and watering hole features the same menu and live entertainment in a more spacious setting. ... WCI Communities, which acquired 400-acres around Perdido Key last October, has announced plans for a new boutique resort hotel and a smattering of golf course condos to serve as stay and play options for the property's 18-hole, Arnold Palmer Designed course. ... The Tom Fazio-designed Camp Creek Golf Club has been recognized for its environmental stewardship through designation as a Certified Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary by the Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary System (ACSS) . Mississippi was cited as the best U.S. golf destination by readers of the Toronto Sun, continuing a long line of kudos as one of North America's hottest emerging golf destinations.