Lake Charles courses, casinos create a win-win situation
LAKE CHARLES, La. — There is no secret that golf courses and casinos fit together quite well.
Casinos need more gambling patrons, and offering the option of quality golf is a way to get them there. A quality course, meanwhile, is also an enticement for golfers willing to travel, and casinos across the United States offer plenty of those. So, it’s a win-win situation. Las Vegas, with its abundance of casinos with courses, is the best example of that.
Still, all the good casino golf isn’t in Las Vegas. Take Lake Charles, for instance. It’s certainly no Las Vegas, but good things are happening there because of a collaboration between casinos and golf courses.
Lake Charles' two casinos — Golden Nugget and L’auberge Casino Resort — are within walking distance of each other. Both have 18-hole courses on their respective premises, and there’s more. The National Golf Club of Louisiana and Gray Plantation Golf Course aren’t far away and have gotten into the action as well.
"As everybody knows, the golf business now is tough to make money at," said John Hurt, director of golf at The Country Club at the Golden Nugget. "But, with the casino, our owners don’t necessarily look at our numbers. They give us credit for the people we bring in to the casino that come because of the golf course. They make money across the street at the casino because of this amenity. Amenities are what sets casinos apart. Golf is an amenity which brings people in."
Tillman Fertitta owns the Golden Nuggets casinos and hotels as well as the Landry’s restaurant chain. In 2017, he purchased the National Basketball Association’s Houston Rockets for a reported $2.2 billion.
Fertitta was quick to make his presence felt at The Country Club when it opened five years ago. Hurt had expected the clubhouse music to be kept at a level that would not impact golfers. Fertitta disagreed.
"We’re not as stuffy as a private club. We have music," said Hurt. "Our owner tells us to kick up the music. He wants a party atmosphere."
So, the sounds of music are part of the golfing ambiance at this Golden Nugget. And even bigger things are coming. In March, the Korn Ferry Tour's Lake Charles Championship will debut at The Country Club. A five-year agreement is in place.
Contraband Bayou, a Tom Fazio design, opened 12 years ago and has served its casino well.
"There’s not a drive for revenue here," said Scott Davey, golf operations manager at Contraband Bayou. "It’s for the high rollers to come and play. It’s a well-maintained course, and the service level is high. Ours isn’t your typical Fazio. Our course has to be playable for all levels of players. The greens are flat and the fairways are wide open. It’s built for 4-hour, 15-minute rounds — so the players can get back to the casino. What do golfers like to do? They like to gamble, so our course is a great tool to get people here."
Like Contraband Bayou, Golden Nugget draws heavily from the Houston area. Course architect Todd Eckinrode designed that course with gamblers in mind, as well. It has wide fairways, rough that’s not very thick and of moderate length.
"The main thing is the playability," Hurt said. "The majority of our play is from groups of 12 to 20 players. They’re having fun at night gambling and drinking and staying up late. They don’t want to be beat up by a hard golf course."
On those occasions when the casino courses aren’t enough, Lake Charles visitors have the option of going to the National Golf Club of Louisiana, a municipal course in Westlake, or the semi-private Gray Plantation. Both are quality layouts — very much on par with the casino courses — and they have been making big plans for the future as well.