When making a list of things to do in New Orleans, golf isn’t an activity at the top of most lists. During the pandemic, courses all over the city have seen more players than ever. One course in particular, Timberlane Golf and Recreation, has made quite an impressive comeback.
A Classic Course
Located on the Westbank in Gretna, the small country club (open to the public) has made an incredible effort to revive a beautiful course. In the late 50s, Robert Trent Jones laid out the 18 hole stretch measuring over 7000 yards. Over the years, the small oak trees planted along the fairways have become one of the many unique features of the course.
Easily one of the best-designed courses in the city. A different challenge every round.
The course was incredibly popular but fell into disrepair following years of bad storms and fewer players. The first time I played the course was in 2017. I’d never heard of it before. My friend called the pro-shop and talked them down to a $20 green fee and a free bag of range balls. Once out on the course, my first putt came up a bit short and covered in the painted sand that used to make up most of the greens.
Situations like this kept the visitor numbers down at Timberlane, but anyone who did show up was there to enjoy a round without the pressures that come with a busy course.
Reviving a Lost Gem
Many things have changed since then. Arnold Palmer’s golf course management company came in and began revamping the Westbank’s forgotten course. Gone are the days of negotiating with the clubhouse attendant, but that’s not all that bad considering the improvements.
The lit range has new artificial mats and hitting bays that keep it open, even after a big storm. The practice areas offer two practice sand bunkers—something that you can’t find at any other course in the city.
New hitting bays are one of the many renovations at Timberlane.
The large putting area is never crowded, even with a full course. Chipping is allowed and even encouraged. A bag of range balls is always spread out on the green and the club provides a large sweeper to help make your pre-round practice more efficient.
The large putting green has a big bunker area as well.
All over the course, you can see evidence of the work put in by the team at Timberlane. There are several new fairway bunkers added to the dogleg par 4s and 5s. The greens are now better than what you will find at Audubon, Joe B, or City Park.
The improvements haven’t made it an easier course by any stretch. There are still more trees on the first 4 holes than the entire South Course at City Park. If you miss the fairway, you won’t probably find the green on your next shot. Timberlane is a course that plays differently every time and rewards good play. If you reach one of the par 5s in two shots, take a picture because it might be a while before it happens again.
Worth a Trip
You may still clip a tree on a tee shot, or two. But for golf in New Orleans, it’s hard to beat a round at Timberlane. The prices for a round have increased, but with respect to the players. A weekend round will now run you $40, more or less, depending on the time of day. There is still no starter and no beverage cart. But grabbing a bucket of beers for you and your partner will only cost you $15.
Leaving Timberlane, there are always a couple of missed chances that will bring you back.
With all the material improvements that have happened over the last few years, you would expect a change in attitude, or clientele. But, just as always, the people who work and play at Timberlane are welcoming and accommodating. The stubborn and grumbling members that haunt other courses around the city are not found here.
Timberlane continues to be a place where golf can be enjoyed by anyone. It is wonderful to see their open door getting bigger, even if the fairways aren’t.