Indiana's big-name golf courses.
The point was made in the movie "Hoosiers." When Coach Norman Dale, played by Gene Hackman, led his young basketball team into the revered Butler Fieldhouse for the first time, he told one player to lift up a teammate to measure the rim.
"Ten feet, sir," called out the player.
"Boys," he said, "that's the exact same measurement in our gym back in Hickory."
Likewise, on a golf course such as Pebble Beach or Pinehurst No. 2, the player will find the cup 4 1/4 inches in diameter, but still may not be convinced that the course is the same as his back home. That illustrates the lasting appeal of golf and why golfers eagerly anticipate the opening of a new course or their first visit to an existing one.
While the setting of a golf course can be attraction enough, to an avid golfer much of the allure is the name behind the course--the architect. And the golf course architect has "arrived" when his work is selected for a major championship or is included in the Golf Digest list of "America's 100 Greatest Golf Courses." Scan the list and the names Donald Ross, Pete Dye, Robert Trent Jones and Jack Nicklaus dominate. The list also includes courses designed by Arthur Hills and the architectural team of Ken Killian and Rex Nugent. All of these top architects have designed golf courses in Indiana.
The 1993 PGA Championship will be played at the Inverness Club, a Toledo, Ohio, course created in 1919 by famed Scottish designer Donald J. Ross. The Ross name is attached to nine other courses appearing on the Golf Digest list, including Pinehurst No. 2 in North Carolina and Oakland Hills in Bloomfield, Michigan, site of four U.S. Open Championships. 1919 also was the year that the first round of golf was played at a Ross-designed course in Indiana at French Lick. A year later, his Broadmoor course--site of the annual GTE North Classic, a PGA Seniors Tour event--opened in Indianapolis.
The "Hill Course" at French Lick hosted the 1924 PGA won by the urbane Walter Hagen. And 67 years after the tournament at French Lick, a bucolic John Daly won at the "Stick." TABULAR DATA OMITTED Crooked Stick in Carmel, venue of the 1991 PGA, is the pride of a man whose name is synonymous with Indiana golf. Pete Dye (see profile on page 66) began his career in Indiana and has to his credit 10 golf courses on the Golf Digest list, including Crooked Stick; Harbour Town in Hilton Head, South Carolina; and the Tournament Player's Course at Sawgrass, in Ponte Vedra, Florida.
Robert Trent Jones, whose accomplishments include Spyglass Hill in Pebble Beach, Calif., and Hazeltine National in Chaska, Minn., picked twice for U.S. Opens, has nine other courses ranked by Golf Digest. Close to home, Jones brought a gem of golf architecture to Indiana in Columbus, a city known for its architecture. Otter Creek, long the flagship of Indiana golf, is consistently ranked by Golf Digest among the top 25 public golf courses in the country.
Another designer, Tom Fazio, has a half dozen courses on the Golf Digest 100, including Butler National in Oak Brook, Illinois. Fazio's brother Jim, who collaborated on the Butler National layout and others, was brought in to design Legends of Indiana, near Franklin, which opened last year. Partners in the venture include a living legend of Indiana University basketball, Coach Bob Knight.
The architectural team of Ken Killian and Dick Nugent laid out the Kemper Lakes course near Chicago, site of the 1989 PGA. In Indiana their creations include Sand Creek in Chesterton, Juday Creek in Mishawaka and Oak Meadow near Evansville. Arthur Hills, known for his marsh courses in the Southeast, has two courses recognized by Golf Digest. The Hawthorns in Hamilton County, designed by Hills, will have 45 acres of wetlands with which to contend. The first nine holes open this summer.
The man whose name is synonymous with golf itself, Jack Nicklaus, has five courses on the Golf Digest list. One is Shoal Creek, near Birmingham, Alabama, which hosted the 1990 PGA. In Fort Wayne, Nicklaus designed the Sycamore Hills Golf Club course, which opened in 1989 and is now ranked by Golf Digest as the best in Indiana.
On our tour of Indiana's designer golf courses, we'll begin with Donald Ross' Country Club or Hill Course at French Lick. This is not an ordinary course that ignores the indifferent shot. Three of its four par threes are back breakers: over 190 yards, uphill to small, crowned greens which receive only a shot that has not touched earth since it left the tee. In chipping to them, if you must see the cup, you will have difficulty in turning three shots into two.
Except for those devilish plateau greens, Ross took complete advantage of the naturally rolling hills of southern Indiana. Although the fairways are wide and generous they require deliberation on the choice of the best line to the green. At the 375-yard 10th hole, the shortest line to the green is up the left side of the fairway, away from a solitary tree on the right side. The level part of the fairway, however, is the right side. From the left side, the golfer has a side-hill lie, and the approach must carry the green-side bunker.
Nor does this course reward the complacent approach that settles for any landing spot on the green. The 17th green, for example, might as well be two greens; there is a three-foot variation between the left and right sides. Most of the greens severely punish the shot that comes to rest above the cup, but none more than No. 8. When the green is fast and the cup is cut in the front, it is not unusual for a 15-foot down-hiller--if it misses the hole--to leave the green and not come to rest until it reaches the bottom of the hill you just climbed, 40 yards away.
The storybook 1991 PGA at Crooked Stick won by Daly launched the hitherto unknown pro into the national limelight and drew large crowds in his wake for weeks afterward. His convincing victory was attributed to his prodigious length off the tees.
Crooked Stick does demand long and accurate driving. The best example of this may be the 14th hole. At 468 yards from the championship tees, it is only three yards from qualifying as a par five. To many golfers it may be more strokes than that. The fairway follows a small creek away from the tee on its left for about 285 yards, whereupon it takes a 45-degree left turn. This is the landing zone for golfers who aim to play this hole in regulation. This carry was too much for some very big--but here, nameless--professionals.
Robert Trent Jones believed pars should be difficult and bogeys easy. The par fours at Otter Creek are true to this creed. Of the 10 par fours all but two are doglegs. On the tee, the golfer must make up his mind how close he wishes to flirt with the corner. At the 11th, from the high tee, a huge flat fairway opens below. Some golfers perceive that if more of it is used, the creek in front of the green will come into play for a longer and more difficult shot. The urge is to make it an even shorter shot by shaving the woods on the left. Once down the fairway, the golfer will realize it is a short second shot from anywhere on this fairway. Risk-taking should be saved for the longer doglegs.
Jim Fazio was not blessed with natural golfing terrain when he was summoned by "The General" and his partners to build a world-class course near Franklin. Yet, the Legends of Indiana has the flavor of the links courses of the British Isles. While its heavy fairway bunkering places a premium on good driving, the British influence is strongest on the 13th, a par three which can play from 167 yards or as short as 125 yards. It is a bold design, because the left half of its large green is obscured by a tall mound. When the cup is cut left, the golfer sees only the top of an extra tall flag stick. When the wind is out, it calls for real judgment. The green is very wide and deep and an approach to its visible side will seldom yield a birdie. Not until the next tee does the first-time visitor realize that there is also a pond directly behind the green. Next time you play it, you will remember and hope the wind is at your back.
Although Killian and Nugent are not clubhouse words to weekend golfers, their work received acclaim when Kemper Lakes hosted the PGA. True to its name, Kemper Lakes has a liberal supply of water around the course. Sand Creek in Chesterton is no less aptly named. Its challenging closing holes begin with the 16th, a par five of 530 yards. The fairway consists of sand from tee to green with three grass islands. The 17th is a par three of 123 yards in a grove of trees. The pressure to capitalize here mounts. A par or birdie here would be good security to take to the 18th tee, but once there, you are still not out of the woods.
And there it finally is: the test of your golfing pride. A lake stretches directly away from the tee for 200 yards. The further left and safer the drive, the more demanding is the second--with the lake still in play on the right. This hole passes the test for greatness; namely, you worry about it before you get to it. Fortunately, the course also includes four warm-up holes as part of its practice facilities.
In all sincerity, Jack Nicklaus told the owner of Sycamore Hills that it was one of the finest sites that he had seen for a golf course. On the back, or western, nine the modest Aboite River winds its way through, affecting both carries from the tee and approaches to the green. At the 10th tee, there it is, flowing along the right side of the fairway. The further down the fairway one's target, the greater the likelihood of an added stroke to the score. At the 12th, the Aboite discourages any attempt to reach this 519-yarder in two due to the river passing 50 yards in front of the green.
Sycamore Hills' signature hole is the par five, 494-yard 15th. The Aboite snakes through the fairway four times. The golfer can choose to carry them all in two leaps, or if the first bend cannot be carried (205 yards), negotiate the dry spots one at a time.
There is more to golf architecture than providing a challenging and varied arena on which to play the game. The first- and last-named architects, Donald J. Ross and Jack Nicklaus, demonstrate the continuity architecture brings to this ancient game. Ross, Scottish born, St. Andrews educated, moved to the United States and was hired by a group of businessmen to build a course in Columbus, Ohio. It was called Scioto Country Club. Jack Nicklaus, the future winner of 20 major championships, would learn his golf on it. Good golf courses will make good golfers.
Mike Schaefer, an Indianapolis attorney, is author of a book on golf in the British Isles titled Across the Pond, A Day on the Links, scheduled for release this summer.
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|Title Annotation:||architects for popular golf courses|
|Publication:||Indiana Business Magazine|
|Article Type:||Cover Story|
|Date:||May 1, 1993|
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