GRAYWOOD, Louisiana – On a recent visit to Southwest Louisiana, I had the opportunity to play the Rocky Roquemore designed nationally ranked Gray Plantation Golf Club with Director of Golf & PGA Professional Jonathan Jester. Gray Plantation, which opened in 1999, is nestled on the shores of the Calcasieu River in the center of Graywood, a traditional neighborhood of homes with unmistakable charm on the outskirts of Lake Charles, the fastest growing city in the USA. The 7,191-yard, par 72 track comes in with a hefty 74.6/140 rating/slope from the tips but has 5 sets of tees for everyone to enjoy their round on this spectacular layout which garnered Best Public Access Course in the state recognition from both Golf Digest and Golf Week.
The front nine starts out with a hefty 540-yard, slight dogleg left par 5, with a stand of Louisiana Pines bordering the fairway along the left side. It took 3 shots to reach the verdant green which was quick and true. In fact, all the greens were in immaculate condition and a real pleasure to putt. The short par 4, second requires an accurate tee shot to avoid the left side bunkers and the trees right, with a short iron to the well-protected green. Birdie time. The par 4, 3rd is a dogleg left making sure you play away from the fairway bunker as the hole makes its turn. Stay in the short grass for an opportunity for a good score. The 399-yard 4th is another par 4 scoring hole with a slight dogleg right. Remember short grass equals good scores. Rough equals not so good. Another par 4, the dogleg left 5th plays to 372 yards, and if you avoid the bevy of bunkers narrowing the fairway and protecting the green, its birdie time.
Speaking of bunkers, Gray has 94 sand traps dispersed throughout and water in play on 12 holes. The signature hole is the par 3, 168 yard 6th that plays over an inlet from the river to a receptive green with water encircling the green complex. The 7th is a mighty par 5 at 589 yards where you can grip it and rip it off the tee. The next two shots you have to play smart to a good number to cover the water in front of the green. Par is a good score here. The 8th is the shortest of the par 3s at merely 145 yards but you must clear the pond between the tee and green that is well bunkered. If you can flight your wedge high it should stay on the green with a real chance at birdie. You are back on dry land at #9, a par 4 at 439 yards that turns slightly left with a green that will test your putting prowess.
Coming back to the clubhouse Jonathan, who has been at Gray since 2015, pointed out the Golf Academy, a free-standing indoor state-of-the-art facility with Trackman analysis measuring over 25 impact and ball flight parameters, an indoor practice putting surface with club fitting and repair
area. The Golf Academy brings world-class instruction to players of all ages and abilities. Jester and his seasoned staff are ready to develop golf skills and help rethink the fundamentals to strengthen golfers’ games. Academy participants can play the world’s top courses utilizing the Trackman virtual simulator with 3D tracking technology and real-time animation. Jonathan has been developing a strong junior program combining golf and fun activities to keep the young players interested. While we were on our way to the 10th tee, we stopped and spoke to some of the senior members who were working on their short game. I could tell Jonathan is well liked and respected.
The tenth is a straightaway 580-yard par 5 with pines and bunkers strewn throughout. Leave the driver in the bag on the short par 4, 11th, which turns right 90 degrees to set up a short iron over water to an open green. It’s back to driver, getting as much distance as you can to help reach this 463-yard, par 4 to try and save par on the 12th. The longest par 3 is thirteen with almost all of its 213 yards over water. Good luck. Play to the right side of the fairway on the par 4,14th to keep the water out of play on the left and be careful because it comes in even further on the second shot. The par 5, 575-yard 15th is a slight dogleg right with Louisiana pines bordering the fairway on both sides. Keep it in the short grass and a par can be had. Another 90-degree right par 4 where an accurate tee shot is required, the 16th hole is a birdie chance if you can hold the green with a short iron. The easiest par 3 is the 17th, a 168-yard shot over marshland and water. The toughest hole on the back is the finishing straightaway 460-yard, par 4 where a good drive avoiding the bunkers on both sides of the fairway will provide a long second to a well protected green.
After golf we enjoyed a tasty lunch in the Cypress Grill in the clubhouse. Besides the award-winning course, the Plantation has a 7,000 square-foot Sports Club that boasts a state-of-the-art fitness center with the latest exercise equipment, a pool aquatics complex, children’s recreational areas, deluxe locker rooms, sauna and whirlpools. With ten lighted courts(8 hydroclay & 2 hard courts), pro shop, Tennis Pro and Director of Tennis Kevin Gillette, the Tennis Center is next to the Sports Club.