Each week this season, TravelGolf.com is highlighting a key college football matchup and looking at the golf around the home team's campus. This Saturday, top-ranked Alabama and LSU meet in Death Valley. Bring your clubs and check out the golf courses in Baton Rouge and the surrounding area, including LSU's course, Carter Plantation, Bluffs Country Club, Santa Maria Golf Club and more.
BATON ROUGE, La. - Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge, better known as Death Valley, may be the site of the only spontaneous, man-made earthquake in history.
In 1988, the LSU crowd reaction at the end of a heart-stopping 7-6 win over Auburn registered as an earthquake on a seismograph in LSU's nearby science building.
You want earth-shaking, ear drum-breaking, cover-your-ears-and-cringe loud, go to a Tiger football game in Death Valley.
"It's like being inside a drum," famed Alabama Football Coach Bear Bryant once said.
It's generally acknowledged as the most hostile environment in the country for a visiting college football team.
Except for Alabama, which has a winning record in Death Valley.
LSU-Alabama doesn't have the murderous hostility of some of the SEC border-war rivalries, like Florida-Georgia or Auburn-Alabama, it's just two of the most successful programs in the country going at each other. Year after year.
Alabama has the Bear, Joe Namath, Kenny "Snake" Stabler, six national championships - 'Bama claims 12 - and 21 SEC titles.
LSU, currently ranked 15th, has Billy Cannon, four national championships - including 2007 - and 10 SEC championships.
This weekend, Tiger Stadium, which holds more than 92,000 fans, will become the sixth largest city in Louisiana.
Don't worry if you can't watch on TV. You'll hear it.
If you 'Bama fans are going to roll, Tide, roll all the way to Baton Rouge, you might want to consider stopping along the Audubon Golf Trail.
You're entitled to a small sneer, since the Louisiana golf trail is a watered-down version of the highly successful Robert Trent Jones Trail in Alabama, but be aware there are some good Audubon courses near Baton Rouge and on the way as you approach from the east.
• The Carter Plantation, near the historic town of Springfield, is about 30 miles from Baton Rouge. It was designed by native son David Toms and Glenn Hickey, who just started cutting and whacking without the inconvenience of a blueprint or anything so formally restrictive.
Toms and Hickey moved more than 600,000 cubic yards of Louisiana soil to get the elevation changes they wanted. It's an excellent course, deserving of all the awards various golf magazines have bestowed upon it.
Carter Plantation is no resort pushover. It's officially listed at 7,049 yards, but they've added about 200 yards, and the slope comes in at a healthy 140 from the back tees.
Carter Plantation is a daily-fee facility, with green fees in the $75-$95 range.
It has the quality stamp of the PGA Tour's TPC collection, which means beautiful facilities, a big budget, excellent service and careful attention to detail.
And, of course, it has the usual concoction of Pete Dye design eccentricities that both infuriates and compels golfers from the professional to the duffer level.
In the TPC Louisiana's case, that means sand and plenty of it. So much sand, in fact, you might think King Abdullah was a consultant instead of Steve Elkington and Louisiana native Kelly Gibson.
The golf course stretches out to a whopping 7,520 yards, but that's only for the pros. The Dye tees are a touch over 7,000 yards, and there are three other sets of tees to choose from.
The greens, none of which measure more than 5,000 feet, are always in good shape, according to locals. Green fees reflect that, ranging from $50-$160 depending on the season and residency status.
• Tide fans, once they get in town, may want to take a divot out of the LSU Golf Course. It had a major overhaul in 1998: 11 new holes were built, and a nine-hole, lighted chipping course was installed. In fact, the school relocated the whole shebang across the street to make room for a new clubhouse and driving range.
• The Bluffs Country Club is an Arnold Palmer design, a well-regarded layout that has won an impressive collection of awards, including being ranked No. 2 in the state by Golf Digest. Women particularly enjoy this course.
• If munis are more your style, Baton Rouge has a handful, the best of which is probably Santa Maria Golf Club. Others are Webb Park Golf Course, City Park Golf Course (nine holes) and Howell Park Golf Course.
Baton Rouge is a far cry from the sumptuous, exotic collection of eateries in New Orleans, but the city does have some good ones.
Chimes Restaurant and Tap Room (www.thechimes.com) serves alligator - marinated and fried or blackened - and it has a good selection of beer and a nice Sunday brunch.
Juban's (www.jubans.com) is a fancy, Creole restaurant with dishes like Veau Foie, sautéed liver medallions with applewood smoked bacon and caramelized onions set over grits cakes.
Louisiana Lagniappe (www.louisianalagniapperestaurant.com) has fresh seafood and prime steak. Try the jumbo Gulf shrimp or oysters lagniappe, baked in their shell with jumbo lump crab meat.
For burgers, cheap seafood and Po' Boys, try George's II (225-343-2363).
Any nightlife comparisons with New Orleans will undoubtedly suffer, but there are some places to get primed for the game.
Churchhill's (www.churchillsbatonrouge.com) serves fine wine and scotch and has what is generally acknowledged as a fine cigar lounge. The bar gets high marks for a very knowledgeable staff.
The Fox and Hound English Pub & Grille (www.fhrg.com) is a good beer pub, and the Spanish Moon (www.thespanishmoon.com) has an excellent and eclectic collection of live music, drink specials and an upstairs bar.
November 3, 2008