Review: Joseph M. Bartholomew Sr. Municipal Golf Course

Course Name: Joseph M. Bartholomew Sr. Municipal Golf Course

Designer: Joseph Bartholomew Sr. (1956), Garrett Gil (Redesign, 2011)

Location: New Orleans, Louisiana

History: Originally designed in 1956 by famous African American golf course architect Joseph Bartholomew Sr., the course was named Pontchartain Park Golf Course. In 1979, the course was renamed to honor its late architect. After extensive damage from Hurricane Katrina, the course shut down for several years before it was redesigned by Garrett Gil in 2011. It is currently owned by the city of New Orleans.

Conditions: 7/10, For a course in the low-laying New Orleans area, Bartholomew drains remarkably well, making it the play of choice after a rainstorm. The course has lush fairways and teeboxes, and very playable bunkers. The only complaint would be the greens; while fast, they are usually pretty bumpy.

Value: 9/10, At just $25 on weekdays and $30 on weekends, Bartholomew offers great value and has even more discounts for juniors and twilight.

Scorecard:

Tee             Par         Yardage         Rating          Slope

Blue          72           6854                72.2               123

White       72           6380                70.0               117

Gold          72          5714                 67.0              110

Red            72          5321                70.1               115

Best Score: 82 (White Tees), 3/31/2016 with Robby J.

Front 9 Best: 36 (White Tees), 3/31/2016 with Robby J.

Back 9 Best: 40 (White Tees), 3/31/2016 with Robby J. and 2 La. Tech kids and 5/7/2016 with Mike K.

Hole Descriptions: These holes are pretty straightforward, but its length (6823 yards) and the fact that nearby Lake Pontchartain supplies steady gusts make Bartholomew a formidable challenge. I will also note that many of these holes are surrounded on both sides by water hazards.

Playing 374 yards, the slight dogleg left opening hole gently eases you into your round. Lined by trees and a road on the left, this hole is wide open on the right and features no bunkers. A narrow, fast green leaves many awkward greenside chips. At 421 yards, the 2nd hole is a long, straightaway par 4 that requires two well-struck shots to reach in two. Generous off the tee, the only real dangers are two bunkers on the sides of this fairway about 245 yards from the tee. The 3rd hole is one of my favorite on the course. Playing only 361 yards, this hole is a thinking man’s hole, with the right side of the fairway turning into water 240 yards off the tee. While the left side of the fairway continues to the green, risking the water hazard makes driver an unintelligent play for most players. This large green is guarded by a deep bunker short right. The number 1 handicap hole, the 4th is a long 533 yard par 5 with several hazards to note. Out of bounds lines the left side of the hole, while the right is treelined. The most difficult aspect of this hole is undoubtedly the layup shot, as water covers the left fairway from 200 to 100 yards to the green and from 100 yards to the green on the right. Navigating these hazards requires great accuracy and precision.

The 5th hole is one of two fantastic par 3’s on the front side. Although it only plays 141 yards, water surrounds the front, behind, and right of this green like a moat. At just 480 yards, the 6th hole is a great short par 5 with a carry of at least 100 yards over water to reach this fairway. Water lines the entire left side of this hole off the drive while the right side is wide open with the 7th fairway. A bunker 260 yards out on the right side of the fairway necessitates a layup, but most players will have a chance to reach this narrow green in two. The 7th only plays 328 yards, but water lines the entire lefthand side of this slight dogleg left. The right side is wide open, and the hole is short enough that you should have a shot in no matter what from the 6th fairway. This narrow green is guarded by water to the right, and bunkers short and left. The 8th hole is my favorite par 3 on the course at 159 yards. Complimentary to the 5th hole, this medium length par 3 is guarded on three sides by water with the only acceptable miss being to the right. The 9th hole is a strong 377 yard par 4 that closes out a great side. Tight and treelined on both sides, this hole follows a similar script with a narrow green and water hazard just left of it.

I would argue that the 10th hole is perhaps the most bland at Bartholomew. Playing just 341 yards, this straightaway short par is treelined but pretty open. The only protection this hole has is a difficult, undulating green. The 11th is one of the most complex holes on the course. At only 334 yards, this is another short par 4 that requires some local knowledge to do well on. Water lines both sides of this narrow fairway, and the elevated green is also guarded on three sides by water. Take out whatever club you can here to guarantee you hit the fairway, as the water comes into play more than you’d think. If you look carefully, you can see a bald eagle’s nest in a tree on the right side of this hole. The 12th hole is another reachable par 5 playing only 486 yards, even though it plays a bit uphill. This hole features a tight fairway lined by trees on both sides, and long, diagonal green guarded by two short right bunkers.

The 13th is the first of several long par 4’s on the back side. At 409 yards, there is little danger on this open hole but making par still requires two well-struck shots. After the medium length 159 yard par 3 14th, you reach the best hole on this course – the par 5 15th. This 497 yard par 5 is definitely reachable, but there is plenty of danger to beware of. Water lines the entire left hand side of this dogleg left while a pond looms on the right side near the driver landing area. This green is directly behind the water and a long carry is required to reach the putting surface in two. While going for two is tempting, there is plenty of layup area to the right of the hole, making it a smart play. There is a bird sanctuary island left of the water with thousands of beautiful (and noisy) birds.

IMG_0648
The approach shot on the par 5 15th.

The only par 3 to not feature a water hazard, the 193 yard 16th is also the longest by a large margin. This elongated, narrow green features several undulations and is protected by a bunker short left. The 17th is another long par 4 playing 418 yards with water guarding the left side. Bunkers 250 yards on the right of the fairway are good aiming points for players who can’t reach them. The 18th is a solid finishing hole. A medium length 371 yard par 4, water looms about 260 yards off the tee on the left side of this fairway. If you decide to take out driver, I recommend aiming right, as the 1st fairway leaves a good angle into this large green.

Best Par 3: 8th Hole, 159 yards, 15th handicap. Surrounded by water on three sides, this long, narrow green offers only one bailout – right. A bald eagle nest just right of this teebox adds even more beauty to an already picturesque hole.

Best Par 4: 17th Hole, 418 yards, 4th handicap. Running parallel to the 15th, but separated by a bird sanctuary, this long par 4 usually plays into the wind. With water lining the entire lefthand side and trees on the right, this is one of the most difficult teeshots at Bartholomew. Two bunkers on the right side of the fairway between 240 and 270 yards off the tee are popular destinations. This elevated green features no bunkers, but uphill pitches make up-and-down a difficult feat.

Best Par 5: 15th Hole, 497 yards, 2nd handicap. Their signature hole, this beautiful short par 5 is a fantastic risk/reward hole. Featuring easily the most claustrophobic teeshot on the entire course, this narrow fairway is lined by water on both sides. Even moderately long players will have a chance to reach in two, but this green is left of the fairway and requires a carry over water and reeds to reach. This shallow green is one of the hardest on the course as it runs hard back-to-front towards the water. Like most good short par fives, this hole can yield anywhere from eagle to triple bogey.

IMG_1343
Note the bird sanctuary on the left of 15

General Comments: The driving range is grass and long enough to hit driver, and the practice green is massive and very similar to the course’s greens. The clubhouse is large and modern, with a great place to eat and watch players approach 18. Unfortunately, pace of play on this course is usually on the slow side, and players don’t have great etiquette. I’ve also encountered rangers and starters who have an attitude problem.

Verdict: If you’re looking for a fun round in New Orleans with great value, I would recommend Bartholomew over Audubon Park and TPC. If the greens and pace of pace of play were better, then this course would be a must-play.

IMG_1356
Our team’s victory photo in front of the beautiful clubhouse.
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