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Indiana's best golf: our readers pick a collection of 18 of the finest Hoosier courses.

IT'S A TOUGH CHOICE. The Indiana landscape boasts dozens of great golf courses, designed by the best architects in the business, including quite a few by Indiana's own Pete Dye, Golden Bear Jack Nicklaus, Robert Trent Jones and son, the great Donald Ross and Tom Fazio, to drop just a few names. So how can you narrow your choices?

We decided to ask our readers to name Indiana's greatest golf courses. Our readers ought to know--nearly half say golfing is one of their top after-hours activities. The votes are in now, and below, listed in alphabetical order, are 18 prime examples of excellent Indiana golf.

Belterra Golf Club, Switzerland County

Tom Fazio designed this course that meanders through the hills of Switzerland County As you might expect, there are plenty of trees--some 2,200 of them--and you'll have to contend with lakes and the Log Lick Creek. The Belterra course measures 6,910 yards from the back tees.

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Belterra was listed among Golf Digest's five best new upscale public courses when it opened several years ago, and last year was listed by Golfweek among the nation's top 20 casino golf courses. And because it's part of the Belterra Casino Resort Spa, you can bet that there's plenty to do after golf.

Birck Boilermaker Golf Complex, West Lafayette

The highlight at Purdue University's golf complex is the 7,465-yard Kampen Course, which Pete Dye created with the help of Purdue students about a decade ago. You'll be playing through lots of native grasses and trying to steer clear of ponds, wetlands, a natural celery bog and waste bunkers.

With a 143 slope, it's an excellent challenge, and the course has hosted its share of collegiate and amateur tournaments. Hole No. 18 is regarded among the state's best finishing holes, with a waste bunker running up the entire left side of the fairway and more bunkers to the right on the approach.

Blackthorn Golf Club, South Bend

This gem is the work of Dr. Michael Hurdzan, a 7,136-yard layout marked by broad fairways, 94 bunkers, wetlands, ponds, native prairie grasses and bentgrass greens. It's owned by the city of South Bend, and has collected numerous honors including the fourth-best new course in the country when it opened in 1994, according to Golf Digest.

Blackthorn, too, has an excellent finishing hole, a par 5 measuring 534 yards from the back tee. Watch for the woods on the left on the drive, and if you're bold you can go for the green in two. Most people take a look at the water to the left and the bunkers to the right, and opt for a safer strategy

Brickyard Crossing, Indianapolis

The second Pete Dye creation on our list, this one has the unique feature of playing partly inside the famed Indianapolis Motor Speedway. That would be holes 7 through 10; the remainder are set to the east Of the race track, on a lovely piece of ground marked by the meanderings of Little Eagle Creek, which must be crossed on seven different holes.

With a slope rating of 143, this course is good enough for the pros but also within reach of the general public.

The Bridgewater Club, Carmel

Pete Dye again presents another excellent challenge. You'll enjoy each of the 7,098 yards that traverse a scenic, tree-filled 180 acres. Many of the trees were put there by nature, thousands more were planted on the property more than a decade and a half ago.

The Preserve Academy, also part of Bridgewater, is a great place to hone your skills. It includes a large practice range, a short-game area, and a Dye-designed, nine-hole executive course that's outfitted with a wide range of championship challenges.

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Crooked Stick Golf Club, Carmel

Yet another of the Pete Dye courses that Indiana is blessed to host. This one, in fact, has hosted Dye himself--you know it must be a great course if one of the game's top designers decides to buy a house and live there. Golf's best players agree, and they've spent a bit of time at Crooked Stick, including such stops as the 1991 PGA Championship, 1993 U.S. Women's Open and the 2005 Solheim Cup, with the 2009 U.S. Senior Open the next major championship event.

With a slope of 146, expect a challenge as well as a lot of variety. For the most part, each consecutive hole plays in a different direction, so you'll always be adjusting to the wind. Long holes are typically followed by short, and left-to-right paths are often directly followed by right-to-left flights. Hole No. 6 is considered the signature, with its covered bridge, and the 18th hole is where Dye and his wife, Alice, picked a home site.

The Donald Ross Course, French Lick

What used to be known as the Hill Course is a course with some history--originally designed back in 1917 by the legendary Donald Ross and the site in 1924 of the first of Walter Hagen's four consecutive PGA championships. For decades, people have talked about hole No. 8, where the tee shot must reach a plateau just short of a ravine that protects the green. Make it to the green and you're still in danger--it slopes nearly eight feet from back to front.

The great news about this course, now called the Donald Ross Course, is that it has been faithfully restored with the help of the Donald Ross Society. It's truly back to Ross' original design, with more of the original bunkers and bigger, traditional square and rectangular greens. And next year the golf options at French Lick get even better, when an all-new 18-hole Pete Dye course joins the lineup.

The Fort, Indianapolis

The golf course at Fort Benjamin Harrison was always known as a beauty. When much of the fort was transferred from military ownership to the state, Pete Dye and Tim Liddy were given the opportunity to make it even better and create a signature feature of Fort Harrison State Park.

The course cuts through beautiful, wooded hills that seem out-of-place so close to the bustle of the capital city. It measures 7,148 from the back and ranks among the state's toughest courses, with a slope of 139. Bentgrass grows throughout, and wetlands come into play on a couple of holes, including No. 5, where the downhill tee shot has to carry a stream, a ravine and a bunker.

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The Legends of Indiana, Franklin

Lots of sand, lots of water on this 27-hole championship course known for playability as well as great course conditions. It's a Tom Fazio design that measures as long as 7,177 yards and carries a slope rating of up to 134, depending upon which three combinations of nine you choose.

Also on the property is The Niblick, an 18-hole par three course, along with an excellent practice facility that features the state's largest grass hitting area.

Otter Creek Golf Club, Columbus

A perennial entry on lists of the nation's best public courses, otter Creek is a collection of three exceptional nines that are all in the Jones family. Robert Trent Jones designed the original 18 in the early 1960s, and his son Rees added another nine in 1995.

Try combining the East and West nines for a father and son grouping that carries a slope rating of 137 and a yardage of 7,126 from the back tees. The East course is a Scottish links-style course designed by Rees, while his father's West course gets its challenges from the natural contours of the rolling southern Indiana hills.

Prairie View Golf Club, Fishers

As its name suggests, this course along the White River is nearly within view of Conner Prairie, the living history museum that's just across the water. Prairie View is a fine entry from another Robert Trent Jones son, Robert Jr.--a layout marked by rolling prairie, spectacular oaks and sycamores, and five lakes.

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Pick the back tees and you'll play 7,038 yards and be challenged by a 138 slope. If you need a bit of a skills brush-up before heading out, stop in at the Prairie View Golf Training Academy, open year-round for instruction, fitness and fitting.

Purgatory Golf Club, Noblesville

With a name like Purgatory, you can guess that you're in for a major golfing test. And that certainly can be true, but this club really has a set of tees for everyone's skill level. From the back it's an astounding 7,754 yards, which was for a time said to be the longest in the world. But the front tees measure a manageable 5,683 yards.

Ron Kern designed the links-style course, adding 133 bunkers for good measure. His No. 17, dubbed "Hell's Half Acre," actually has two acres of bunker surrounding a three-tiered green. The hole's just 173 yards from the back, but making it in three strokes is anything but a piece of cake.

Rock Hollow Golf Club, Peru

Here's an amazing piece of land reuse. The president of aggregate manufacturer Rock Industries wondered what to do with a piece of land the company mined out some 40 years earlier. He loved golf, and two sons were pursuing golf careers, so he had architect Tim Liddy turn the old quarry into a golf course in the early 1990s.

Rock Hollow opened to great praise and has continued to earn kudos from golf writers. It's marked by old-growth forest, lovely wetlands--and lots of rocks. It plays 6,944 yards from the back tees.

Sand Creek, Chesterton

Here's another group of three nines that can be combined into different combinations for 18 great holes of golf. The course was originally intended for executives of Bethlehem Steel. Ken Killian and Dick Nugent are responsible for the environmentally friendly course design.

Each of the nines' name gives a hint of its character. The Lake Course is marked by its interplay with Lake Morgan. The Sand Creek winds through the Creek Course and feeds into another lake. The Marsh Course has wetlands, creeks and rolling terrain--one hole is guarded in front by a creek and waterfall, another has a green that is nearly surrounded by water.

Sultan's Run Golf Club, Jasper

Supreme Sultan did not play golf. He was a legendary horse, who sired a record number of World Champion American Saddlebred horses. And he lived and ran on a piece of land in the Jasper area that now hosts excellent golf, thanks to a Tim Liddy renovation in 1996.

Regulars are quite fond of the 18th, which starts with a shot down a hill and over a small lake. From the landing area; you'll play toward a rocky waterfall just past the green and near the steps leading to the refreshments in the Nineteenth Hole.

Sycamore Hills Golf Club, Fort Wayne

This is the handiwork of Jack Nicklaus, crafted among rolling hills, tall sycamores and the winding Aboite River, which comes into play more than once. In fact, players must cross the river four times on the signature hole No. 15.

Elsewhere, you'll encounter lakes, wide fairways, peninsula greens, waste bunkers and lovely white sand. This is among the very toughest courses in Indiana, or anywhere for that matter. From the back tees, you'll play 7,275 yards and experience a slope rating of 149.

Victoria National Golf Club, Newburgh

Like Rock Hollow, Victoria National is another example of stunning land reuse, in this case a reclaimed mine, ushered into new use by architect Tom Fazio. It's a private, members-only club, and it's been drawing praise from golf publications ever since its debut in the late 1990s. From the back tees, it plays 7,239 yards, and every one of those yards offers a breathtaking view.

Because of the land's former use, fingers of water can be found throughout the property. In fact, 15 of the 18 holes deal with water in one way or another. The course is in excellent shape all the time, thanks to advanced technology that controls the temperature and moisture of all the greens and an irrigation system that can fertilize as it waters.

Wolf Run Golf Club, Zionsville

Local dentist Jack Leer was an avid golfer, and his vision was to create challenging golf on a 218-acre Zionsville site. He called upon architect Steve Smyers to do the honors. Smyers had the benefit of Eagle Creek, lots of woods and a bluff running through the property, so not much earth needed to be moved.

The course opened in 1989 and by the end of its first year, plenty of pros had played and offered praise, and the course had earned a daunting slope rating of 151 from the back tees (it has since been tamed a bit to 143). Wolf Run features narrow fairways and fast greens, all surrounded by dramatic bunkering. It's perennially rated high on the lists of modern courses.

RELATED ARTICLE: U.S. senior open comes to Indiana.

by Erik Hromadka

CROOKED STICK GOLF Club in Carmel will host the 2009 U.S. Senior Open and organizers say the event is already attracting attention from businesses and corporate sponsors. The 30th U.S. Senior Open is expected to feature top players including Tom Watson, Nick Faldo, Fuzzy Zoeller and Mark O'Meara.

That may explain why 75 percent of the event's corporate hospitality opportunities have been already been sold and only a limited number of on-course chalets are available in what organizers say is one of the fastest starts in U.S. Senior Open history.

Crooked Stick, which was designed by Pete Dye and opened in 1964, most recently held the 2007 U.S. Women's Amateur and the 1991 PGA championship won by John Daly The course also hosted the 2005 Solheim Cup, a biennial tournament for professional women golfers from the United States and Europe.

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The 2009 U.S. Senior Open will be held July 27 through August 2 and is expected to attract more than 150,000 spectators throughout the week. Championship director Max Novena predicts the event will create a direct economic impact to Indiana of approximately $12 million. The event will also be broadcast to more than 50 countries, including 16 hours of live television coverage on ESPN and NBC. Novena expects some 500 media representatives from around the world will visit Indiana to cover the event and plans to recruit 3,000 volunteers from across the United States to assist with tournament activities.

For corporate sponsors, such as Clarian Health Partners, Duke Realty, Browning Investments and Elli Lilly and Co., the event is an opportunity to showcase the both top golf talent and Hoosier hospitality.

"The Senior Open not only brings some of golf's greatest players to Indiana, but also a great deal of national and international exposure to our state," explains Duke's chairman and CEO, Dennis Oklak. "In addition, it provides the opportunity to treat our clients and employees to a first-class entertainment experience."

RELATED ARTICLE: The links lifestyle.

by Kathy McKimmie

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WHO DOESN'T LOVE THE look of manicured lawns and endless green space? Golf community developers are making the choice to live on a course more attractive all the time by offering a wide variety of housing options, social and dining amenities, additional sports activities, walking trails and even convenient retail nearby.

The residential development surrounding the Sand Creek Country Club in Chesterton has seen steady planned growth over 17 years, and is now in its fourth, fifth and sixth phases with homes valued from $400,000 to several million dollars. Future development will occur through phase 10. The homes in the 1,100-acre development, adjacent to its 27 holes of world-class golf, are just five minutes from the beaches of Lake Michigan and 45 minutes from downtown Chicago.

Sand Creek is the only gated country club community in northern Indiana. It was the first golf course in the state to be certified for environmental stewardship by the Audubon Sanctuary and is still the only course that is certified in northern Indiana.

"Family oriented" is a good way to describe Sand Creek, and its signature family event each year is the Labor Day celebration, where more than 800 residents enjoy a fireworks show and live orchestra music. Sand Creek also features a children's nine-hole golf course, playground, soccer field and basketball half-court and three swimming pools. In addition, adults enjoy golf and practice facilities, lighted tennis courts, a fitness center and spa services. Its 50,000-square-foot clubhouse includes a separate grill room, formal dining room and grand ballroom.

In Hamilton County, two relatively new and exclusive golf communities continue to develop. The Bridgewater Club, located between Carmel and Westfield, is a 750-acre development with a 240-acre golf course and preserve at its heart. It features 17 unique residential communities, suited to a wide variety of tastes and lifestyles. Five of the communities are gated to add an additional level of security. Homes range from a townhouse at $200,000 to homes on more than two acres for several million.

Bridgewater permits the use of personal golf carts throughout the community, adding a touch of a resort and the feel of a close-knit neighborhood. Every home site comes with a sports and social membership, while homeowner membership in the golf club to access the private Pete Dye-designed 18-hole championship golf course is $39,000. The course opened in 2003. The Preserve Academy offers a practice range with covered and heated stalls for winter and inclement weather, instruction, and state-of-the-art computer and video equipment to help your game. The clubhouse features a pro shop, indoor and outdoor swimming pools, tennis courts, full-service fitness center, dining and banquet facilities.

In the fast-growing northeast section of Hamilton County is Sagamore in Noblesville, featuring an 18-hole Jack Nicklaus Signature golf course. Golf has been serious business here since the course opened in 2003. Members at the private Sagamore Golf Club can enjoy reciprocal privileges at more than 100 other Jack Nicklaus designed host clubs and resorts. And as a Troon-managed course and club, golf members can access more than 40 other Troon-managed courses around the country at special rates.

A long list of premier builders is approved to create the custom home of your dreams around the golf course. Sagamore has 332 home sites, 249 sold, with lot prices from the mid-$80s to $375,000, and homes ranging from the mid-$400s to more than $2 million. The clubhouse offers dining and space for your special events as well as the pro shop and locker rooms. A separate but nearby Family Activity Center offers a fully equipped fitness center, swimming, tennis, food service, and as a special feature for adults wanting to partake in the array of sports activities--a child care center.

RELATED ARTICLE: Options for outings.

by Kathy McKimmie

WHETHER YOUR GOLF outing is a one-day fundraiser or the end of a couple days of business meetings, you have many choices in Indiana. Courses at casino resorts offer dining, entertainment and gaming after the round.

French Lick Resort Casino hosts about 100 golf outings a year on its Donald Ross Course. Originally opened in 1917 and previously known as the Hill Course, a $4.6 million faithful restoration in collaboration with the Donald Ross Society began in 2005 and was completed in 2006. The Scottish course designer's work never looked better. Back are the 35 original bunkers featuring his trademark flat bottoms and deep, gnarly faces, and greens were expanded by up to 30 percent to accommodate his vintage square and rectangle shapes. Plan to play a challenging game here, with the addition of longer tees playing at 7,000 yards.

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Many Indiana statewide associations, as well as some from Kentucky, have held their annual meetings at French Lick with golf outings a part of the program. They include the Indiana Academy of Family Physicians, Indiana Chamber of Commerce, Indiana Motor Truck Association and the Indiana Petroleum Marketers. This year the resort will cater specifically to women with some three-day, mid-week golf outings, which will include LPGA instruction and spa services.

The old Valley Course by Tom Bendelow, adjacent to the expanded resort was by necessity scaled back to nine holes. It's the place to head for practice before the outing at its indoor and outdoor driving ranges and outdoor putting greens. In 2009, an all new 18-hole course designed by Pete Dye will open between French Lick Springs and its sister facility West Baden Springs for the exclusive use of hotel guests. Plan for a two-day outing and play both courses.

In southeastern Indiana, near New Albany, Caesars Indiana offers a 503-room hotel, gambling, dining, entertainment, a fitness center and an 18-hole golf course called Chariot Run.

Unlike many courses with grasses that turn brown in the winter, Caesars uses bent grass that's green almost year-round. As a result, the course is open year-round and it averages 100 to 150 rounds a month in December, January and February.

The golf course is more than 7,000 yards long from the back tees. Corporations are the main customers for group outings, with charity events and bachelor parties growing in numbers. About 45 golf outings are scheduled a year, with an average of 75 players. Half of the groups stay at the hotel, combining with business meetings and enjoying the other amenities.

RELATED ARTICLE: Tips from the pros.

by Kathy McKimmie

VISUALIZE YOUR GOALS and you'll be taking a big step toward achieving them. It's a technique that's been discussed for years in books, on talk shows--even showing up on YouTube. But have you applied it to your golf game? "The best tip I ever got was don't ever play a shot or make a putt where you haven't imagined it in your mind first," says Pat Bayley, director of golf at Swan Lake Resort and the United States Golf Academy, in Plymouth. "See it in the air; see it roll out."

That's a big help in general, but when it comes to specifics, the No. 1 problem that needs correction is the Slice, says Bayley The position of the club face at impact will determine the path of the ball for those tee shots and long iron distance shots. The Golf Academy has the latest and greatest whiz-bang technology to correct that slice and improve the rest of your game. TrackMan radar technology translates your shots--from short pitches to 400 yard drives, into a 3-D flight pattern to analyze what's going right and what isn't. The Science and Motion PuttLab analyzes the 28 most important parameters of your putting stroke and displays the results. "Don't be afraid of the technology that's available," he says. "Embrace what's going on. It takes half as long to learn."

At Prairie View Golf Club in Carmel everyone can take advantage of the No. 1-rated public course in the state in 2007 as ranked by Golf week magazine. But the year-old jewel in the club's crown is The Prairie View Golf Academy. "The academy and Prairie View are set up to have students come in for a morning of instruction, fitting and fitness evaluation and training, enjoy lunch at the Viewpoint Grill and then play," says John Dal Corobbo, director of the academy. "This is where the facility is best experienced." He's the former director of golf instruction for Michigan State University, and winner of the Indiana PGA Professional Championship in 2007.

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Becoming a student of your swing makes it easier to make adjustments, Dal Corobbo stresses, and that's helped along with a video analysis. "Things happen too fast and the swing is too complex not to use it," he says. "It takes about a full hour to fully break down the student's swing and implement the changes to their movement."

Another tool to help that swing is the use of plane sticks. "This is a fiberglass rod put into the end of the club to properly position the club throughout the entire swing," says Dal Corobbo. "If the plane stick and club point in the proper positions the student will always be training the proper positions of the swing."
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Publication:Indiana Business Magazine
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Geographic Code:1U3IN
Date:Apr 1, 2008
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