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Indiana's best golf holes: eighteen of the state's finest.

Any listing of this sort must begin with an acknowledgement--the Hoosier state has a whole lot more than 18 great golf holes. It would be easy to spotlight another excellent f8 that's every bit as enjoyable as these, and another and another. What's more, the courses spotlighted here offer plenty of additional challenges to write home about.

Suffice it to say that these 18 holes are among the best Indiana has to offer. To arrive at this list, we contacted golf pros at the state's top courses and asked for suggestions from their courses and others. Just so our golfing readers won't feel left out, for our next golf section we're seeking reader input on the state's best overall courses. See the end of this story or page 42 for more information.

Sycamore Hills Golf Club, No. 8, Fort Wayne

Both length and precision are required on this hole, one of the toughest at the Jack Nicklaus-designed course in Fort Wayne. It's a 455-yard par 4 that moves from an elevated tee down a gentle, tree-lined valley.

"A tee shot left center is important as the fairway slopes left-to-right toward a small stream running parallel to the hole," says pro Tim Frazier. "Large trees as well as the stream running in front and alongside the right guard the entrance to the green. After a medium- to long-iron second shot, a sloping green will still cause problems." Such challenges combine to make it the No. 1 handicap hole from the men's championship tees.

Sycamore Hills, open about a decade and a half, looks more like it's been around for half a century, with stunning stands of mature trees and occasionally troublesome interaction with the Aboite River. Golf Digest concludes its list of "America's 100 Greatest Golf Courses" with Sycamore Hills.

Hulman Links, No. 18, Terre Haute This public course in Terre Haute is one of the state's toughest, designed in the late 1970s by David Gill on land donated to the city by the Hulman family of racing and baking powder fame. Shot placement is critical on its narrow fairways lined by trees or water.

Hulman Links' finishing hole will alarm anyone with a fear of water. "The hole has two lakes," says head pro Jim Peo. "There's a lake you have to miss on the tee shot and a lake you have to carry on the second shot to get to the green."

It's actually possible to be troubled by the second lake on the first shot, thanks to the firm fairway and frequent following winds. Three bunkers also add to the tee-shot challenge, and tour more surround the large green.

Sand Creek Country Club, Marsh No. 3, Chesterton As the name suggests, the Marsh nine of Sand Creek's 27 holes feature plenty of wetlands, creeks and ponds. The 430-yard, par 4 No. 3 is no exception. "You hit over a creek, with a water hazard to the left and a big bunker to the left," says head pro Paul Cornwell.

Needless to say, it's better to favor the right side off the tee, which also offers a better angle into the green. But you're not done with the water. "You hit over a creek with a waterfall to a tough green with another bunker," Cornwell says.

Sand Creek, located in Chesterton, was designed by Ken Killian and Dick Nugent and originally wax created for executives of Bethlehem Steel. Play is affected by bent-grass fairways that eliminate roll as well as Lake Michigan winds that can easily add a few strokes.

Birck Boilermaker Kampen Course, No. 16, West Lafayette "It has plenty of length," golf director Devon Brouse says of this par 5 at Purdue University's golf complex in West Lafayette. From the back tees the Pete Dye designed hole plays 604 yards, often into the prevailing wind.

"The tee has to be hit very solidly favoring the right because there is a large waste area to the left," says Brouse, who's also the university's golf coach. "The green is elevated, with a huge bunker at the right front, a waste area to the left short of the green and a large rolling swale behind."

The Kampen Course, which opened in the summer of 1998, is one of two 18-hole championship courses at Purdue. One of the nation's top collegiate golf courses, Kampen has been picked tot Big Ten and NCAA tournament play.

Crooked Stick Golf Club, No. 18, Carmel The finishing hole at Pete Dye's renowned course in Carmel (ranked 54th on Golf Digest's "America's 100 Greatest Golf Courses") comes with some history, according to head pro Tony Pancake. "It's a famous hole because of John Daly walking up the fairway to win the PGA Championship," held at Crooked Stick in 1991 and won in dramatic fashion by the last minute walk-on.

Aside from that, No. 18's 457-yard, par 4 dogleg right also is a great challenge. "There's a huge lake down the right-hand side, so you can't hit to the right," Pancake says. "But there's not much room on the left side, either, because there's a substantial drop-off or ravine. If you're going to play for par, you're going to have to take a risk. If you play conservatively, you're almost giving up on par."

Get close to the extremely undulating green and the lake still threatens on the right, while the other side is protected by some strategically placed bunkers, including one of Dye's well-known pot bunkers. Make par on this one and you'll almost certainly gain a stroke on the rest of the field, Pancake promises.

Victoria National Golf Club, No. 14, Newburgh Water to the left on the tee shot forces a bit of a carry, but that's not the biggest challenge of this 471-yard par 4. The second shot must pass beside and underneath trees on its way to a very elevated, two-tiered green, says head pro Tom Rose.

"There's a huge grass depression fronting the green to the center and left, and to the right is fairway," Rose says. "If a ball doesn't carry all the way to the top it'll roll all the way back down."

Victoria National is located on a stunning piece of property east of Evansville in Newburgh that once was a strip mine and became a Tom Fazio design marked by numerous deep lakes, ravines and hills. Golf Digest ranks Victoria National 49th on its list of "America's 100 Greatest Golf Courses."

Ironwood Golf Club, Lakes Course No. 6, Fishers Length and accuracy are both at a premium on this 425-yard par 4. Play from the back tees, set on an island, and you'll need a long carry over water in order to hit the slender fairway on the other side. If the water doesn't consume an errant shot, the woods will, but stay focused on the target line, advises head pro John Scott. "Mentally, you have to block out all of your danger."

The lake continues to threaten along the left side of the fairway, and the second shot poses as much challenge as the first. Once you sink your putt on No. 6, turn around and marvel at the view back toward the tee, Scott recommends, but don't get complacent because you're now on the way to No. 7, a challenge that ends on an island green.

This Fishers course designed by Bob Thompson and Art Kaser offers 27 holes for a total of three 18-hole configurations.

Purgatory Golf Club, No. 17, Noblesville Architect Ron Kern dotted this links-style Noblesville-area course with bunkers, 133 of them, and he created what is said to be the longest regulation course in the world, measuring 7,754 yards from the back tees. On Hole 17, nicknamed "Hell's Half Acre," the bunkers pose more of a challenge than the length.

At 173 yards, it's the course's shortest par 3, but the green is surrounded by bunkers, more than two acres' worth of sand. The good news is that it's a big green, a bigger putting surface than it looks from the tee, but with three tiers. A solidly struck shot will be well-rewarded on this hole.

White Hawk Country Club, Blackhawk No. 6, Crown Point Attempt this hole in Crown Point and it's easy to imagine that you're playing the famed No. 17 at Tournament Players Club at Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla. At 146 yards from the back tees, the distance is nearly identical, and like the often-photographed Sawgrass hole, White Hawk's premier hole ends (if you're lucky) on a small, kidney-shaped island green.

"It's very difficult," notes director of golf Darren Galgano. "It's a downhill par 3, which almost always has a prevailing wind blowing right to left." White Hawk has 27 holes (another nine are on the way), and the Black nine are typically played on the back side. That means Blackhawk No. 6 is usually the 15th hole a goiter encounters, adding fatigue to its challenges and giving it one more similarity to Sawgrass No. 17.

Architect Dick Nugent incorporated seven lakes in his design for White Hawk, built on more than 250 acres of woods, prairies, creeks and wetlands. The course features bent grass from tee to green.

Wolf Run, No. 18, Zionsville This 462-yard par 4 in Zionsville is full of challenges, beginning with a ridge that must be carried on the drive. Fail to do so and you're left with a 200-plus-yard shot from an uneven lie to a well-protected green (for most people, the bail is as good as lost at this point). "If you are able to carry your tee shot beyond the ridge, your ball will roll downhill and you will be left with a manageable shot of 150 to 180 yards to the green," says head pro Stan Burton.

But there's still the matter of the 40-foot ravine running in front of the green and along the left side. "If that isn't enough, there are bunkers on the green side of the ravine and the green itself is small and fast," says Burton. "A par on this finishing hole will win most bets and send your opponents in search of the 19th hole."

Steve Smyers designed Wolf Run in the late 1980s on a heavily wooded 218-acre tract also marked by meadowlands, a large bluff and the meanderings of Eagle Creek.

Eagle Creek Golf Club, Sycamore Course No. 18, Indianapolis This 435-yard par 4 is a good, hard finishing hole, a remnant of the original championship course designed by Pete Dye (with the help of Dye protege Tim Liddy, the Indianapolis course added another nine for a total of 36 holes). No. 18 is a dogleg left, with the tee shot dropping into a valley protected on the left by trees.

"A creek runs along the right side of the fairway and then cuts across right before the green," says head pro Brad Beck. "That puts a premium on the second shot." The creek wraps around the left side of the green and a bunker protects the right.

Eagle Creek consistently ranks among the nation's top public courses. It's connected to Eagle Creek Park, one of the nation's largest city parks, and the course features nature areas, wetlands, animal habitats, tree-lined fairways, undulating greens and rolling terrain.

The Legends of Indiana, Middle Nine No. 4, Franklin Sand and water threaten throughout this 27-hole course designed by Jim Fazio in Franklin. The home of the Indiana Golf Association, the semiprivate course also features an 18-hole par 3 course.

An especially rewarding hole is No. 4 on the middle nine. "There's out-of-bounds to the left, a creek to the right along the whole side of the hole, and a large pond in front of the green," says head pro Ryan Ford. By the way, this 428-yard hole also plays into the wind most of the time.

Not to worry, says Ford. "Don't think of all the trouble," he advises. "Try to concentrate on hitting the fairway." With positive thinking, and perhaps a lull in the wind, you'll make it in 4.

The Fort, No. 11, Lawrence Pete Dye's course on 238 acres of Fort Harrison State Park in Lawrence takes full advantage of wooded and hilly terrain that resembles southern Indiana more than metro Indianapolis. This 547-yard par 5 is a great example. It begins from an elevated tee with a first shot that falls into a valley. "It's woods on the right and woods on the left, and it narrows if you hit it too far," observes head pro Scott Larson.

The second shot leads from that valley up another hill to a difficult-to-spot landing area. "Very few people get home in 2," Larson notes. The good news is that the going gets a bit easier from this point on, as the terrain levels a bit on the way to the green.

The Sagamore Club, No. 17, Noblesville "Jack did a good job on this one," says Tom Ellefson, head pro at this lack Nicklaus Signature course in Noblesville. No. 17 is a 235-yard par 3 that, because of ubiquitous water and other hazards, is quite difficult to actually play in 3. Says Ellefson, "4 is about what most people look for. It's very difficult."

A bunker about 20 yards in front of the green appears closer than it really is, and a bunker behind the green catches any shots the roll through. "You've got to have your best stuff, your best swings," Ellefson says.

The Sagamore Club is the newest addition to Indiana's roster of premium courses, built on 420 acres of roiling, wooded terrain. Nicklaus makes good use of the numerous lakes and water features found throughout the property.

The Hawthorns Golf & Country Club, No. 18, Fishers Find this Arthur Hills course in Fishers. The Hawthorns takes part in the Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary program and meanders through 279 acres of woods, lakes, preserved natural areas, bird sanctuaries and wetlands.

On the brutal finishing hole that plays 458 yards from the back, the tee shot must carry wetlands. It's a hard dogleg left with bunkers down the right side, so a ball hit too hard will roll through the fairway into the traps.

The fairway bunker in front of the green eliminates any run-up shots, and the quick green is protected on the right and left by bunkers and hazards.

Prairie View Golf Club, No. 9, Fishers This 433-yard par 4, says head pro Darren Thomas, "can really set the pace as you enter the back nine. If you get out of it with a par or a bogie at worst, you're doing well." Easier said than done, because No. 9 constantly threatens with water and bunkers.

An accurate tee shot is required, favoring the right center of the fairway, to avoid the lake on the left and the huge bunker and out-of-bounds on the right. But it's the second shot that's the real killer. It must carry about 120 yards of a pond to reach the green on the other side. "It's a two-tiered green that slopes down," Thomas points out. Hit the wrong spot and the ball will roll back into the water. "Many rounds are broken on this hole."

This Robert Trent Jones Jr. masterpiece can be found on 206 acres in Fishers. The stunning site on the banks of the White River is marked by rolling prairie, towering oaks and sycamores, five lakes, natural wetlands and a stream that wanders through four holes.

Brickyard Crossing, No. 18, Indianapolis Pete Dye redesigned the old Indianapolis Motor Speedway golf course in the early 1990s to create what's now known as Brickyard Crossing. Four holes play inside the famed Speedway racing oval, with the rest laid out to the east, where a number of holes intersect with Little Eagle Creek.

The 417-yard, par 4 finishing hole is one of those where the creek comes into play. The creek crosses underneath the tee shot and hugs the right side of the fairway and green, nearly a mirror image of the situation already encountered on 16. Advice from the touring pros who have played 18: Aim for the barn, which lies just beyond the open green, and bit as hard as you can. Beware the deep pot bunker in front of the not-terribly-big green.

Grey Goose Golf Course, No. 16, Decatur On this par 5 that measures some 524 yards from the back tees, a wide range of scores is possible, says director of golf Bob Goulet. "It's fairly tight, and the second shot goes straight into the woods." Indeed, not only is there woods on both sides of the narrow corridor, but it's out-of-bounds just past the trees on the left.

To reach that tricky second shot one must avoid a pond on the tee shot. And even past the second shot the golfer is not out of the woods, figuratively speaking. The green is protected by a large bunker in front and a variety of other hazards.

Grey Goose is a relatively new facility in Decatur, crafted by Ernie Schrock from 240 acres of woods and wetlands.

Wanted: Reader opinions about Indiana's best courses. Indiana golf pros have identified some of their favorite holes. Now it's our readers' turn. For an upcoming golf issue, we're seeking input from our readers on the best golf courses in the state.

To cast your vote, visit, and fill out the online form (one vote per subscription, please).
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Comment:Indiana's best golf holes: eighteen of the state's finest.
Author:Kaelble, Steve
Publication:Indiana Business Magazine
Article Type:Cover Story
Geographic Code:1U3IN
Date:Apr 1, 2004
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