A PGA pro's guide to New Orleans

Monday April 25th, 2011

My hometown of New Orleans, the Crescent City, is a great place to play golf, eat at world-class restaurants, and hang out at bars that never close. We have warm weather, great museums and an awesome zoo, but everyone knows the No. 1 attraction in the home of the WhoDats is the world famous French Quarter.

The first thing to do before visiting is get the lingo down pat. We prefer Crescent City to Big Easy, and no local says "N'Awlins." We say "Noo-allins" or "Noo-aw-yens" or "Noo-arlins." We are not predominately Cajun, even though we have plenty of Cajuns who live here. We are French, Spanish, Irish, African-American and, of course, Italian. (And just about everything else, too.) When you see someone on the street, don't say hello, say "Where Y'At?" A local might call you dawlin' and not be flirting at all; it's just how we roll — casual, comfortable and friendly.

We have some great hotels, and many of them are located either in the French Quarter, in the CBD near Harrah's Casino, or near the Convention Center. All of these areas are very close to each other, and close to all the action. My personal favorites are the Roosevelt Hotel, The Monteleone—where I got married—Harrah's Hotel, and Loews. If you are on a budget, the Country Inn and Suites on Magazine Street is a great place, and both the Hilton Garden Inn or Hampton Inn near the Convention center are great spots convenient to everything you'll be doing.

One of those things is taking a streetcar ride down St. Charles Avenue to see the wonderful old mansions in the Garden District. There is also a Canal Street streetcar that'll take you to the New Orleans Museum of Art in City Park, and one of my favorite spots for a cool treat, Angelo Brocato's Italian Ice Cream Parlor on Carrolton Avenue. The third streetcar line will take you from near Harrah's to the French Market, home to the famous beignet and cafe au lait proprietor, Cafe Du Monde. As you eat one of the wonderful square doughnuts covered with powdered sugar and drink real New Orleans-style coffee and chicory, you'll be right across the street from the St. Louis Cathedral and Jackson Square, the most famous spot in town.

Nearby Central Grocery in the French Quarter serves the original classic version of the definitive New Orleans sandwich, the muffuletta. It's a big Italian round loaf, stuffed with a variety of Italian hams, salamis, and cheese, and topped with olive salad. A full one serves at least two.

When you are ready to play golf, New Orleans has an assortment of really good courses at reasonable rates. Recently renovated Lakewood Country Club and the Jack Nicklaus-designed English Turn Golf and Country Club, the home of my Golf Academy, have both hosted our PGA Tour event numerous times. They offer plenty of challenges without beating you up on score or price. TPC of Louisiana, the current home of the Zurich Classic, is a Pete Dye track full of old cypress trees and signature Dye green complexes. If you want a quick round, Audubon Golf Course, in uptown's Audubon Park, home of our famous zoo, is one of the best executive courses in the country. (For more recommendations, see Travelin' Joe's advice.)

But any local or experienced New Orleans tourist knows the best thing about the city: It's the food! Here is a quick list of my personal favorites for each meal of the day:

Breakfast: If you want or need more than a beignet, Camilia Grill on Carrollton Avenue is on the St. Charles streetcar line, and usually has a wait, but is a classic worth the trouble. Mother's, on Poydras Street, is solid for breakfast and always has a line at lunch as well.

Lunch: The po'boy—a large sandwich on New Orleans' own crusty French bread—is the local favorite for lunch. There are several varieties, with roast beef, fried oyster and fried shrimp being the three most requested, and Parkway Bakery in Mid-City on Hagan Avenue is one of the best places for them. So is Frankie and Johnny's in Uptown on Arabella. Mother's does a nice job with these sandwiches and their own creation—the Ferdi.

Dinner: You really can't go wrong with any of Emeril's restaurants, but Nola in the French Quarter is my favorite. Tommy's Cuisinet on Tchoupitoulas is a great spot, and so is Mr. B's on Royal Street, also in "The Quarter." Order the barbecued shrimp at Mr. B's and thank me later. If you want an authentic New Orleans spot that locals love and keep packed, go to R & O's in Bucktown, only 10 minutes from downtown. They have the best boiled shrimp and seafood gumbo in town, and you can't dress down enough to fit in with the Y'ats like me who love the place.

After dinner, it's time to enjoy the best nightlife anywhere. A stroll down Bourbon Street is a must do, and while on the famous walk, stop in and sing a tune at the Cat's Meow, one of the world's best Karaoke bars. Just one block over from Bourbon is Royal Street, where you can have a drink and a slow spin at the Carousel Bar at The Monteleone Hotel. The Hermes bar in famous Antonie's Restaurant is a classic spot as well.

The French Quarter is the home of jazz, and no trip to my city is complete without a visit to Preservation Hall, where they still play it the authentic way.

Just a few blocks from the heart of The Quarter is Faubourg Marigny, but everyone here just calls it "The Marigny." On Frenchman Street you can have a beer and listen to great music at Snug Harbor, The Spotted Cat or Blue Nile.

So, bring your clubs, your most comfortable shoes, and a thirst for food and fun, and come visit the city that care forgot, my New Orleans.

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