It is always fun to get a chance to play a golf course that you have seen on TV and that is why I looked so forward to playing English Turn Golf & Country Club. As host to the PGA Tour’s Zurich Classic from 1991 through 2004, I can recall many blustery days watching the Tour’s best try to hit the small island green on the Par 5, 15th hole year after year.
Just 10 miles from Bourbon Street, English Turn provides the ability to enjoy the New Orleans Nightlife and the best golf it has to offer with a short drive. With January temperatures in the 60’s and 70’s New Orleans is a great spot for a quick golf getaway as well and that is just what we did on the Monday of the National Championship game between Oregon and Ohio State.
First impressions as you drive on property is how big English Turn is, from the land around it to the clubhouse and practice facility, you can see the infrastructure that successfully hosted a weeklong party with the PGA Tour. The Staff at the Club were extremely friendly and helpful, which always gets the day off to a great start.
From the first hole you can see that there is some room for your tee shots, but plenty of trees to get in the way and turn a clear shot into a punch out. The other thing that stood out immediately is the size of the greens. With smaller than average putting surfaces accuracy with your approach shots and wedges were going to be vital. It also featured some fun mounds and bumps around the greens to force your creativity into play with errant approaches.
While you see water from most holes, it really comes into play on the short Par 4, 4th hole. From our tee, only 300 yards, but with water guarding the front, left and back of the green, a 200 yard lay-up off the tee made the most sense. Don’t get lazy or the two pencil thin but tall palm trees just right of the fairway will get in the way as one of our foursome found out the hard way. A short wedge approach seems simple, but with a green with several slopes, requires judging the spin crucial as the ball tends to just move away from the hole on the right side or middle of the green.
The Par 5, 6th hole was what I consider a classic English Turn hole. Into the wind the entire way, the 6th featured a narrow, diagonal green that is protected by water from about 120 yards out up the right side. Play aggressively and you bring trouble into play but lay back and you have a mid-iron in like I did. I luckily found the green from 140 yards out and made a nice comebacker to save par, but it was tough on every shot.
Right out of the gates on the back nine you have a tough hole at the Par 4, 10th. At only 380 yards it seems benign but add the wind in your face and an approach shot blocked by large mounds in the center and right side of the fairway, just locating the flag is not enough. Water follows the fairway up the left side all the way to the green and even guards it from shots that come up short. If you miss the green left and are lucky not to be in the water, one of the most unique bunkers comes into play. Only about three feet wide getting up and out with a tricky lie is almost impossible.
The 11th, 12th and 13th holes are a great combination of risk reward holes that are well protected but in the back of your mind it is all building to the famous 15th hole. At only 500 yards it is reachable or at least gives you the delusion that you can reach. Well placed bunkers down the left side of the fairway force you to take on the water that guards the entire right side of the hole. Unfortunately I could not handle the pressure and dunked two on the hole and had to watch my playing partners. If you navigate the fairway better than I did, you can have a hybrid or long iron in to one of the largest greens on the golf course. No matter how large, a green completely surrounded by water is a daunting task. Nobody reached in two but we did have two players with reasonable birdie putts.
The sunset behind the 18th hole as we finished was a terrific way to finish even if 18 was a bit much to handle at 430 yards into a stiff wind. English Turn provides every challenge you can ask for and really puts an emphasis on your approach shots and short game. Definitely a stop you should make when next in the Big Easy.
For more information visit www.englishturngolf.com.