Review and Rating of Contraband Bayou Golf Club at L’Auberge in Lake Charles Louisiana
Contraband Bayou Golf Club at L’Auberge Casino Resort is a Tom Fazio design that opened for play in 2004. Over 400,000 cubic yards of dirt were moved to sculpture the course and more than 600 trees of 8 different varieties were planted. Fazio did an excellent job of leveraging the natural terrain and the bayou.
This is not your normal Tom Fazio course, which can be very demanding and a true test of every part of your game. Instead, Contraband Bayou is home to wide open fairways and four sets of tee boxes with yardages ranging from 5091 to 7077 yards making it a course that all skill levels can play, not get beat up, and have a relaxing and enjoyable round.
That said, Contraband Bayou Golf Club is no walk in the park – there is water that can come into play on 14 holes, 84 bunkers just waiting for you, and greens that can be demanding. Contraband Bayou is a good quality course and it's not surprising that it's won a number of awards and accolades, some of which include:
- Best Places to Play in Louisiana and Best Casino Courses from 2010 through 2013 by Golf Week Magazine
- Best Golf Course by Casino Player Magazine and Southern Gaming Magazine in 2013
- #2 in Golf Week Magazine's Best of Louisiana Golf Courses
The front nine is the easiest of the nines from our perspective – all of the holes are straight ahead and you can see the pin and what you’re up against, the fairways are wide and forgiving, the rough is also wide, and you need to really spray it to hit the water. You will need to avoid the bunkers of all shapes and sizes and most have pretty steep faces making it tough to get out of them. Pick the right set of tee boxes and don’t bite off more than you can chew and play strategically to avoid the bunkers and you’ll have an enjoyable and low scoring nine. And maybe walk back into the Casino with a little extra money in your pocket to spend on the tables!
Speaking of trouble – you need to stay clear of some of the water because there are alligators that don't like to get bonked by your golf balls. In fact, on one of the holes next to a sign warning about alligators, we saw a 10’ or so gator sunning itself and we actually thought it was fake. So we drove over too it in our cart and when we were 5’ away it quickly scurried back into the water. We also saw several flying fish that would come sailing out of the water and do a nice dive back into the water and then do it again – amazing, were they trying to avoid the alligator?
The back nine is a little more challenging and fun from our perspective. You’ve got water on 6 holes and plenty of bunkers to worry about, a couple risk-reward opportunities, two dog legs, what seemed like more challenging greens, and some fun holes. For example:
- #10 is 373 yards and straight as an arrow except for the green which is set back off to the left side making the approach a little tricky
- #12 is a 435-yard par 4 with a great risk-reward shot if you think you can fly the trees and clear two bunkers where the fairway takes a sharp turn right around 2 bunkers at 130 yards out
- #13 is a very pretty par 3 with a lake, white sand bunkers, and blooming bottle brush in back of the green
- #15 is the #1 handicap hole and it’s fun and challenging – a 557-yard par 5 with a contoured fairly tight fairway with trees and mounds that takes a slight turn left and down to a raised green with bunkers, significant slope, and plenty of contour
When we played in November the Contraband Bayou Golf Club fairways were in very good condition as was the rough, but they were very wet from recent rains. The majority of the fairways are wide and forgiving and the rough is generous but it varied from thin and playable to thick and challenging. Miss the rough and you’re in the Bayou or in a dense natural area and most likely lost. There are no homes on the course and the fairways are well maintained, manicured and landscaped. The magnificent L’Auburge Resort looms in the background on every hole and it’s like big brother watching over your golf game and waiting for you to come back and spend your golf game winnings in the Casino.
The greens were redone with Champion Ultradrawf Bermuda in 2010 and they are a wide variety of shapes and sizes, ranging from a tad small to above average. Most of the greens are raised making bump and runs challenging and all are guarded by steep and deep bunkers, depressions or grass swales. The green's slope and contour varies from minor to manageable. When we played the greens were in excellent condition, held the ball well, and ran true (we found it easy to read the majority of the breaks), at a very good and manageable speed.
Water and bunkers define Contraband Bayou and Fazio likes to build them with very steep faces and it’s significant trouble if you happen to hit and stick on the face. The bunkers ranged from small pot bunkers to some huge long monsters. The good news is that they are very well maintained and the sand is soft and thick and fun to hit out of.
Bottom line – a very good Fazio layout but not typical of most of his designs. Contraband Bayou is a resort course that’s straight forward and traditional, forgiving but can be demanding, and a joy to play – and the rates are very reasonable for such a quality course.
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The pro shop has the basics, the practice facilities are adequate, and the service is very good and friendly. The cart lady shows up every 5 holes or so. There is no grill but the staff can order something from the Resort and deliver it to you. The GPS on the cart is excellent with touch screen functionality and voice fly overs.