Clubhouse, restaurant open at The National

Published 1:46 pm Saturday, December 25, 2021

The National Golf Club of Louisiana’s clubhouse is completed, and the restaurant, The Max, is finally open to the public.

“We opened last week,” said general manager Gerry Pocket, during a tour of the new facility Tuesday, “But I’d call it a soft opening. I didn’t want to put the news out there until I was sure we’re ready for the public.”

The restaurant, bar and pro shop is not only for the men, women and youth golfers who play at The National, rated No. 5 by the national publication Golf Week in 2020. The upscale casual dining experience and new pro shop are open to all.

“It’s a restaurant for the whole community,” said Pocket and it’s “much grander” than The National golf pro Dave Casper envisioned. “It makes me giggle to get up in the morning and come to this.”

Previously, the pro shop was a temporary manufactured building.

More parking near the front of the building is being added at the start of the year.

It’s possible for restaurant guests to enter the at the rear, screened-in portion of the building via the stairs. However, there is an elevator at the front of the building, as well as stairs.

Underneath the clubhouse is cart storage. New golf carts are on order, too, according to Casper.

“I heard the steering wheels are stuck somewhere out on the Pacific,” he said.

Jerry and Jackie Webb of Moss Bluff were dining at The Max on Tuesday around lunchtime.

“We didn’t know this was here until a friend told us about it and how good the food is,” Jackie Webb said. “So, we came Friday for the first time for lunch.”

They enjoyed it so much, they brought a couple to dinner the next day. They were back Tuesday with grandson Gunner.

“We’ve had the seafood and it was all good,” Webb said. “Today we’re here to try the steaks.”

Chef Michael Richard said the Angus beef, top-tier, hand-selected charbroiled steaks are seared at 1800 degrees to seal in the flavor, using a Montague infrared broiler, the same equipment used by some of the country’s finest steak houses.

“They’re butter-knife tender,” he said.

Seafood starters and entrees include shrimp cocktail, fried alligator, crab cakes, oysters on the half shell, baked oysters, gumbo, bisque, etouffee, crawfish grilled cheese, fried catfish or shrimp (in a poboy or dinner entree), blackened catfish, shrimp and grits and redfish on the half shell.

“Who better than a Richard from Thibodaux to create a standout menu of Louisiana cuisine,” Pocket said.

The Max pays homage to Max Caldarera who coached at Westlake High School for 38 years, including 34 as head coach before retiring after the 2011 season with more than 200 career wins. He lead the Rams to the Class 3A finals in 2007 and earned American Press/Southwest Louisiana Coach of the Year honors in 1993 and 2007.

He was elected school board member for the Westlake area after he retired from coaching. He died in March 2016.

Some artwork depicting Louisiana and Westlake scenes plus the New Orleans Saints, LSU Tigers, McNeese Cowboy and Westlake Rams hasn’t been delivered and hung.

Seating is for 150 diners inside. Outside dining isn’t open yet, but when it does, it has heaters for cooler temps, very large fans overhead and the screen is supposed to block UV rays and reduce temps significantly, Pocket said.

The nines have been switched, according to Casper. The view from the clubhouse is great and will soon be even better.

A drainage pond will be reworked to create a large water feature with a fountain.

Casper, who has been a head pro or general manager at multiple courses over 30 years and is on the La. Golf Association Board of Directors, credits the stellar upkeep of the 110 acres to grounds superintendent Chance Walker.

With the addition of the new clubhouse, Casper says The National will have more tournaments, including multiday events for couples, men and women.

“We probably have the largest driving range in the area,” Casper said. “At 400 yards deep, you’ll never reach the end. I’d like to say at 100 yards wide, you’d never hit the sides, but some just can’t hit a straight ball.”

Casper said only 10 percent of the population plays golf. That’s not just in Westlake. That’s nationwide.

“We’ve always had a great course,” Pocket said. “You know where they like playing best? Where they can have the most fun. That’s here.

“We have lessons for all levels and all ages.

“If you’ve never hit a ball and always dreamed of being able to knock one down the driving range, play for the exercise or to enjoy the company of other golfers on a beautiful day, don’t let fear or intimidation keep you from learning the basics.”