Saturday, April 7, 2007

New Orleans City Park Golf Course: Once a TOUR Stop, Always a TOUR Stop?

New Orleans City Park
Week of March 15, 2007
New Orleans
, La.

Family and Friends--

The New Orleans City Park, massive and pre-KATRINA wonderful, is one of "America's Great Parks."

Post-KATRINA, people frisbee, dogs walk, and the solitude of a sunset is still an experience that hundreds of New Orleans' residents experience daily.

But you won't find golfers, anymore. Well, I take that back. A rinky-dink driving range still operates.

But what used to be in City Park? Three championship-length golf courses. One, with a world-class pedigree and former host of the PGA TOUR stop in New Orleans from 1939-1962.

Also, the golf courses were the City Park's largest revenue generator.

Today, on the roof of the Bayou Oaks columned clubhouse, a blue tarp covers much of the structure's left side. The green front door swings open.

I go in. I have a sand wedge in my hand--for the rats.

The clubhouse is massive. When a structure is gutted to its planks, you can really get a feel for square-footage, for the true size of it.

It looks like the Bayou Oaks clubhouse had several rooms: a proshop, male and female locker rooms, a bar and restaurant, and possibly a bag room/caddy shack.

The only sense of organization around this place is actually outside. It's a Xerox machine. One of the big ones that once was capable a major collations, copies and faxes. The glass underneath the lid is cracked badly, wires and chips obviously flooded.

As I walk out the back door down the path that Ben Hogan and Arnold Palmer used to take to the Championship Course's first tee.

I have to step around the cracked concrete and into the unkempt bush. The course is totally overgrown now. Crabgrass. Weeds. Dandelions. You name it, it's there. I walked out to the blue 200 yard line painted on the first hole cart place. I could see what this place used to look like.

What Palmer and Hogan used to see. What thousands of amateurs had seen before August, 2005.

The first tee waiting table and starter booth still stand. All the signs remain. I wonder where the starters, typically old retired military or school teachers, have gone. I'm sure many of them evacuated hoping their golf salvation would be the same when they came back.

As it turns out, several thousand people have not been able to return to New Orleans. Going off of evacuee statistics, many people who love this place more than I can know haven't seen what I'm seeing.
And that's sad.

The marble first tee marker is cracked in half. The 150-yard marker in what looks like the 18th fairway is being overcome by grass.

Hardly the same walk Hogan or Palmer made up the old-18th.

I'm sure people walk through and say, "This used to be the Bayou Oaks golf course."

Soon I hope, it will be a course again. Then someone could check it off as another "used to be" revitalized from the post-KATRINA rebuild list. It'd sure be nice to see people out here again.

At least the sunset is beautiful tonight. And somewhere on these grounds a frisbee game is finishing and a woman walks her dog. A man reads his book.

It's a start.

Best to you,


To donate to the rebuilding of the 1,300 acre New Orleans City Park, visit:

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