Reader John Collier Thornton, a single father from Louisiana, has three boys ages 8, 10 and 12. They all love golf and are pretty "decent," said Thornton, and they know golf etiquette. For Christmas, he'd like to surprise them with a father-son golf trip, to be taken during the Mardi Gras week-long school break, Feb. 8-12. He reached out to Golf Advisor for a little help.
"We normally play a scramble, and they move up to tee off based on age, so we play fast rounds of golf," Thornton wrote. "I guess my question is where would you suggest playing golf, in February, that doesn't frown on kids playing and isn't outrageously expensive?"
To Thornton we say, first off, congratulations on putting together a fine foursome with three outstanding junior players. That's a group that should be playing together for decades to come. It's also great that you and your boys have no problem with pace of play.
With that in mind, there's really not a course that you can't play. And fortunately, even in February, there's a good chance you can find some decent golf weather, especially if you head south along the Gulf Coast.
Lake Charles, La. offers several golf options
My first recommendation would be the Lake Charles area, just on the eastern side of the Texas/Louisiana border. There are several great options, and for the most part, neither the golf nor the accommodations or eats are pricey.
In fact, unlike Florida or Arizona, for example, winter rates tend to be lower than spring and fall. And yes, you can get some blustery days in February, but the same can happen in parts of Florida and Arizona as well. With that said, the average high in February is 65 degrees, so chances of finding some decent golf weather are pretty good.
If you don't mind your kids being near a casino, you can usually find some good lodging deals at places like L'auberge Lake Charles or the Golden Nugget. And both of these locales also offer pretty fair golf, although you might find, especially with your youngest, that you'll have to play around a few forced carries.
L'auberge is the home to Contraband Bayou Golf Club, the only Tom Fazio design open to the public in Louisiana (I've never played a bad Tom Fazio-designed golf course). Contraband Bayou is publishing winter rates of $49, and you might be able to do better than that with Internet specials in February.
The new Country Club at the Golden Nugget, a 7,000-yard Todd Eckenrode design, is somewhat pricier -- around $150 for adults -- but it does offer junior rates of $79 if you're willing to splurge.
Fortunately, though, these are probably the two most expensive options in Lake Charles, an area that was certainly better known for its refineries and fishing in years past than its golf resorts.
Gray Plantation, which is part of the Louisiana's Audubon Trail, would be an excellent choice. Regular green fees are $49 and might be even less if you book online, plus the rate for juniors (15 and under) is $30. Best of all, this championship course, designed by Rocky Roquemore, has six sets of tees, ranging from 4,800 yards to nearly 7,200 yards.
Another quality option is the National Golf Club of Louisiana, which offers five sets of tees and rack rates less than $40, and $24 for juniors. The course also has outstanding practice facilities if you'd like to work with your boys on their games.
Or head east to Mississippi
Like Lake Charles, the Mississippi coast's golf scene has also benefited from the presence of casinos. A couple of courses in the area -- Fallen Oak (where you have to stay at the Beau Rivage Resort & Casino in Biloxi) and The Bridges are $100 or more, but some others might be affordable. And like Lake Charles, the Gulfport/Biloxi area also has mild weather in February.
You could try Grand Bear Golf Course or The Bridges Golf Club, where you should be able to get green fees in the $50 range or less, especially if you look online that time of year. But both courses are a little bit on the difficult side, and they're not super walkable. They do, however, offer a wide variety of tees, and there's no reason why you can't have one or more of your boys hit their tee shots from the fairway when necessary.
Another option is Davis Love III's Shell Landing Golf Club in Gautier. It's one of the best public golf courses in Mississippi. It also has a good bit of wetlands, but the forward tees do make the course quite a bit easier. Winter rates are generally less than $50, and juniors can play this fine golf course for $36.
But if you want your kids to see a little history, then Great Southern Golf Club in Gulfport might be one of your best options anywhere. Not only is the oldest golf course in Mississippi imminently playable, but it was designed by none other than Donald Ross in 1908. There are even a couple of views from of Gulf of Mexico from a few holes, you won't pay more than $30 for your green fee, and your boys get a junior rate for about half that. Best of all, the course is very walkable.