Wednesday, February 21, 2007

For Cajun food, jazz and potent cocktails, New Orleans is Babylon on the Bayou. Now visitors have a reason to pack golf clubs with the aspirin and Alka-Seltzer: Two new courses designed by Pete Dye and former PGA champion David Toms are making a big splash in the Big Easy. With three fine tracks within 15 minutes of Bourbon Street--and two more a short drive away--golfers can squeeze in 36 a day and still be quaffing Hurricanes by sundown. Just don't forget the aspirin.

The Golf

Ten environmentally sensitive courses make up the Audubon Golf Trail. Three of them are near New Orleans. 866-248-4652; audubongolf.com

Where to eat
Bayona
Great Cajun food, especially the roasted duck breast sandwich.
504-525-4455; bayona.com
Bourbon House
The special at this Bourbon Street staple is oysters raw on the half shell with caviar for $16.
504-522-0111; bourbonhouse.com
Acme Oyster House
The best deal in town is Acme's $8 Peace Maker Po' Boy, a fried shrimp and oyster sandwich with Tabaco-infused mayo.
504-522-5973; acmeoysterhouse.com

Carter Plantation par 72; 7,049 yards; $75-$85

Louisiana native David Toms and architect Glenn Hickey created this gem 45 minutes northwest of downtown in 2003. Like the gators that inhabit its water hazards, the course has bite, notably hefty par 5s at the 13th and 15th holes. 225-294-7555; carterplantation.com

TPC of Louisiana par 72; 7,520 yards; $155

This Pete Dye course opened in 2004 on a reclaimed swamp just across the Mississippi, and has plenty of punishment for the foolish. Vijay Singh defends his Zurich Classic title here this month (the course is closed April 22-May 3). Be sure to try Chef Dwight Sherman's great seafood gumbo. 504-436-8721; tpc.com

Audubon Park Golf Course par 62; 4,220 yards; $30-$38

This executive course is only a short streetcar ride from the French Quarter. Audubon opened in 1898, but recently underwent a $6 million renovation. 504-212-5290; auduboninstitute.org/park

English Turn par 72; 7,078 yards; $155 This longtime PGA Tour stop, designed by Jack Nicklaus, is private but welcomes visitors on a limited basis. English Turn's best hole is the 15th, a 540-yard par 5 with water on the right and an island green that is neither big nor easy. 504-391-8018; englishturn.com; e-mail the pro shop at englishturngolfshop@yahoo.com with your travel dates.

Money Hill Golf and Country Club par 72; 7,131 yards; $100-$110
This great Ron Garl-designed course an hour north of town is also private, but don't let that deter you: call and politely ask for a tee time on a day when the football-crazy members are watching the Saints or LSU play. The concierge at many local hotels can also arrange a round. 985-892-8250;moneyhill.com

Local Knowledge

Take a Mississippi paddleboat cruise on the Cajun Queen ($15) or board the Creole Queen Dinner Jazz Cruise ($53 with dinner; $30 for the cruise and music). audubongolf.comneworleanspaddlewheels.com

Hook up with Bourgeois Charters for a Bayou fishing trip. Their guarantee: no catch, no pay. Otherwise its $400 for two. neworleansfishing.com

Recover from the night before over a cafe au lait and beignets (fried dough) at Cafe du Monde on Decatur Street.

Get up close and personal with a gator on a 2-hour guided tour of the Bayou. The adventure costs $20. cajunpridetours.com

Sample a Sazerac at the Bombay Club on Conti Street. Locals insist the delicious $12 mix of rye whiskey, anisette liqueur and Peychaud's bitters was the world's first cocktail.

Where to stay
Ritz-Carlton Maison Orleans
If you want first-class, this French Quarter landmark is for you. Double rooms cost $519 per night in high season; $269 from June to August.
800-241-3333; ritzcarlton.com
Maison Dupuy
I ain't as grand as the Ritz but it's close to Bourbon Street. Rooms from $99.
800-535-9177; maisondupuy.com
Carter Villas
Located at Carter Plantation, doubles start at $99 a night.
877-811-5295; carterplantation.com
Bed & Breakfast
A typical quaint B&B in the French Quarter starts at $85. Prices vary widely.
800-729-4640; historiclodging.com

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