Golfers in the Baton Rouge area should revel in the fact that they have a number of high quality municipal golf courses in the area. And those two words – quality and municipal – are not often used together when talking about golf courses, but BREC has done a great job to quell that myth.
In case you’re not familiar with them, BREC is the agency that puts people and parks together and helps people enjoy their time communing with nature in the East Baton Rouge Parish. BREC is a political subdivision of the state of Louisiana and was created in 1946 to develop, maintain and operate public park and recreational facilities. Throughout its 70-year history, BREC has been among the first park agencies to earn national accreditations. BREC is a two-time National Gold Medal Award winner and 13-time national finalist.
Whether you’re just learning the game of golf, a high-digit handicapper or a seasoned player, there is a BREC course in Baton Rouge that will provide you with hours of golfing enjoyment while taking in the natural surroundings as you chase around that little white ball.
For single-digit handicappers and seasoned players, BREC offers two courses that will challenge every facet of your golf game. The Santa Maria Golf Course is a Robert Trent Jones, Sr. course with a history of being recognized as one of the best public golf courses in southeast Louisiana. Santa Maria consistently receives Golf Digest’s highest ranking for a municipal course. The course is built on 150 acres of rolling terrain that winds its way around and through 15 lakes and two natural waterways. Majestic ancient oak trees line fairways and guard greens and grass and sand bunkers keep you honest. Four sets of tees have the course playing anywhere from 6,969 – 5,153 yards, providing a distance that is suitable for golfers of all levels. Inside the Spanish-style clubhouse you’ll find a well-stocked pro shop, a private conference/dining room and a fitness center. The Champions Grill overlooks the beautiful par-five finishing hole. Greens fees at their peak are never more than $45 on weekdays and $55 on the weekend. Making Santa Maria not only a fun and challenging golf course, but also affordable. There’s also a full-length driving range and practice facility as well as a learning center.
Speaking of the par 5 finishing hole, Number 18 is a 520 yard par 5 around a lake. Off the tee, you’ll need to avoid the fairway trap on the left side of the fairway. You’ll have to contend with two large oak trees on your layup shot; most likely you will be far enough back to play over them. Success to this point will leave you a pitch shot into a long, narrow green guarded by sand on either side. Miss the lake to the right and all is not lost. In fact you may have a shorter route to the green, providing you don’t mind a 200+ yard carry over water. Par is a great way to finish your round.
Another top-tier BREC golf course is Beaver Creek Golf Club in Zachary, LA about 20 minutes from downtown Baton Rouge off Hwy 61 and was designed by Craig Schreiner and Associates. Depending on how big a challenge you are looking for, Beaver Creek is a par 72 and can play anywhere from 6,950 yards from the Gold Tees to 4,955 from the Red Tees. A moderate slope rating means this course can be enjoyed by the masses! The course weaves its way through woodlands and wetlands, which provide a challenge all the way around. The front nine is fairly wide open and allows for some errant tee shots but you best have it figured out as you make the turn. The back nine has more water hazards and some tight driving holes as well as several forced carries over wetlands. A double green makes up the putting surface for both the 5th and 7th holes and gives Beaver Creek a little bit of Scottish flavor. On both the front and back side you’ll find gently rolling fairways with mounding on the peripheries as well as strategically placed bunkers. The course is perfect for beginners and will challenge even the most seasoned player. For practice, there’s a lighted driving range, a large putting green, and a short game chipping area. If you’re hungry, visit the Creekside Grill inside the clubhouse.
Another challenging BREC course is Dumas Memorial Golf Course, located in Greenwood Community Park, approximately 15 miles north of downtown Baton Rouge and only five minutes from the Baton Rouge Metro Airport. This 18-hole layout measures 6,403 yards from the back tees but can play as little as 4,650 yards from the forward tees. From the back tees, the front nine plays almost 500 yards longer than the back and provides one of the best tests of golf in the parish, with 4 par 4s playing in excess of 400 yards. Most players will find that the front nine is more forgiving with wider fairways and larger greens while the back nine’s fairways are narrower and the greens are smaller. You’ll need pinpoint approach shots if you want to score well on this side. Players wanting to warm up before their round use the driving range next door at Clark Park.
The Webb Memorial Golf Course has a storied history. Built in the 1920’s and in one of Baton Rouge’s most affluent neighborhoods off of College Drive, Webb Memorial was originally a private club. The course officially opened in 1924 and didn’t become a municipal course until 1941. It is by far BREC’s most popular course which you will discover when you go to book your tee time. Tee times can booked up to 6 days in advance, something it may be wise to take advantage of since the course stays rather busy throughout the season. The course plays 6,349 yards from the back tees with a modest slope of 121; the forward tees measure 5,203 yards, with a slope rating of 106 for men and 116 for women. You’ll find large oak trees lining many of the fairways and one very unique feature on the back nine – a drainage culvert that comes into play on a couple of holes off the tee; especially on the short par 4, 16th hole.
The J.S. Clark Golf Course is an executive style, 9-hole layout built on 36 acres of land. This course is perfect for both golfers that are new to the game as well as experienced player seeking game improvement. The course is entirely irrigated and the 419 Bermuda grass tees and fairways and Tifdwarf greens are always in excellent condition. There are four sets of tees for players to choose from and the course is ideal for walking. BREC’s J.S. Clark Golf Course offers three sets of tees and plays anywhere between 1,281 – 1,861 yards. As you make your way around the layout, you’ll find the land fairly flat, making it perfect for hose just learning the game. The back tees are perfect for better golfers looking to improve their short game skills as a couple of the holes play less than 100 yards. The J.S. Clark Golf Course is located just minutes from the Baton Rouge airport. It is also the home of The First Tee of East Baton Rouge Paris, an authorized chapter of a national youth development program, that teaches juniors ages 7-18 life skills against the backdrop of the game of golf.
In addition to the golf course, there is also a wonderful PGA-style practice facility that includes a full length driving range that is lit for night use, a large putting green and a short game practice area. It’s the perfect place to stop by and hit a bucket of balls during your lunch break or play a quick nine on your way home after work.
The Historic City Park Golf Course was designed by world-renowned golf course architect Tom Bendelow. Nicknamed “The Johnny Appleseed of American Golf,” Bendelow is credited with over 600 course designs over a 35-year career during the first half of the twentieth century. From the Purple (back) tees, City Park plays 2,300 yards; from back here, there are a couple of par 4s that play over 370 yards and a par 3 that plays in excess of 200 yards. Even the most seasoned player will be challenged. Beginners will be challenged from the Gold Tees at 1,876 yards. Whether you walk the course or ride, you’ll be treated to rolling hills and elevation changes upwards of 25 feet. You’ll see mature trees, lake vistas and a small bayou with a wide variety of Louisiana wildlife. City Park has something for everyone.
The best way to enjoy all of the courses BREC has to offer is with an annual pass. For a mere $1,700 a year, you can enjoy all of the BREC courses, 7 days a week. You’ll also receive two tokens for a couple of buckets of range balls before each round, a 15% discount on food, beverages and non-sale merchandise in the pro shop. The pass is good for 365 days from the date of purchase. Visit the BREC website for a complete list of annual pass plans that are available. www.golf.brec.org.