By Danny and Alice Scott

When the PGA Tour’s Korn Ferry players come to The Lake Charles Championship at the Golden Nugget next month, they, the fans and sponsors will indubitably love it. We sure do. Years back we enjoyed staying at L’Auberge and playing their golf course and others when the Golden Nugget was in the planning stage. It came to fruition only to endure with the rest of the area, Hurricane Laura in August of 2020, Hurricane Delta six weeks later, then the big freeze, and tornadoes, all amidst the pandemic. You wouldn’t know it now, checking in to the Golden Nugget. Accommodations are upscale and the 21st floor balcony view of the massive pool complex below, golf course, bridge and bayou beyond is spectacular. Kids make friends poolside. While floating on the lazy river, a 7-year-old asked an 8-year-old, “What’s your you tube channel?” “I don’t have one.” Then, “Daaaad, he’s a You-tuber. Can’t I now?” Adults meanwhile share and compare golf and restaurant venues that are superior.

The Country Club of Golden Nugget skirts the lake, river, and ponds with fountains. Big barges and little ships steam by while golfers tee off and cars zoom over the long, arched bridge that leads to downtown and the waterfront district which is expanding with the addition of Port Wonder Children’s Science Center, a Lake Area Adventures site and a new location for Crying Eagle Brewery.

The original Crying Eagle Brewery has become a Lake Charles staple serving their own brews of course and great food. Specialty cocktails include the popular tamarind margarita. Anything pairs well with the great variety of grilled oysters and pizzas. Inside and outside seating, music on Sundays, and specials for service industry folks and other events are creatively set by mother and son team owners Fran and Eric with the passionate team they lead.

Other new restaurants are garnering attention as well. James 710 delivers a serious food and cocktail experience with the best bisque ever if you like the spicy side of life.  The most complex cocktail concoctions are developed by Blakely who doesn’t even drink yet nails them.  Owner Ben’s daughter Ann Marie is a natural at shaking and serving them. Close to St. Patrick’s hospital, it is what doctors might order for locals and tourists alike.

The Max is a new restaurant and clubhouse for the iconic National course in Westgate, replacing the trailer that served golfers for many years. Brainchild of Mayor Dudley, it is owned by the city and pays homage to the late high school coach Max. The food is delish, and the course is a fun run through natural vegetation and water with gator warnings. A National turtle convention was taking place in the pond by 18.

The people of Lake Charles are resilient, and the community is unified in rebuilding after the natural disasters. Hurricane Laura left them without power for a month, unimaginable. Some places were structurally fine while others were completely devastated. Angie Manning, VP of Communications at Visit Lake Charles relates how all were pulling together. The big question was, “Can you run a chainsaw?” She says the sense of unity is why people are so friendly which may freak some visitors out who are not accustomed to the Cajun way of engagement. It’s a friendliness anyone can get used to very quickly.

50% of hotel rooms in Lake Charles needed renovating. The businesses heavily hit took opportunity to improve. The result is fresh accommodations and rebuilding everywhere. When a roof was blown off a bar, they decided to make a rooftop bar, making lemonade out of lemons. One of the crown jewels of downtown Lake Charles according to Angie is the Panoramic Music House which is hopefully reopening in time for Mardi Gras. Yes, they celebrate just like N’Awlins. The krewes are ready to begin this week and decorations abound.

Lake Charles is a special foodie and cultural experience. We’ll surely visit again to play more of the great golf courses, get out on the water, savor more Cajun spice and sips, sway to zydeco music and maybe visit the rum distillery. The Korn Ferry Championship takes place March 21-27. According to Assistant Tournament Director Judy McCleary, tickets, sponsorships, and pro-am slots are still available. What a great opportunity to watch or play with future PGA pros and say you did. Or schedule a trip any time to stay and play in Louisiana’s playground, just two hours from Houston and with their own airport served by United. www.VisitLakeCharles.org