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

WE HAVE POLLED MANY of the state's leading golf professionals to help come up with this list of great golf holes. Readers may have others to add, but suffice it to say that great golf can be found across Indiana, from Newburgh to Fort Wayne to Chesterton and many points between. Indiana boasts more than its share of courses designed by one of the best architects ever--our own Pete Dye--but the collection spotlighted in the following pages also includes the handiwork of other greats, including Jack Nicklaus, Tim Liddy, Tom Fazio, Arthur Hills and the legendary Donald Ross.

Birck Boilermaker Golf Complex, Kampen Course, No. 18, West Lafayette

"Hole No. 18 is the signature hole," says head pro Daniel M. Ross at Purdue University's Birck Boilermaker Golf Complex. For starters, it's a Pete Dye design, a par 4 measuring 484 yards, and true to Dye form there's a large waste bunker guarding the entire left side of the fairway.

More bunkers lie to the right on the approach, and those alongside the green were carved out by a young Purdue grad. Says Ross, it's "one of the best finishing holes in the state."

Blackthorn Golf Club, No. 18, South Bend

Rich Love thinks the same thing about the finishing hole at Blackthorn Golf Club in South Bend. "I don't think you'll find a better finishing hole in the state," says the head pro, who calls it a reachable par 5 for a big hitter.

Measuring 534 yards from the back tees, No. 18 threatens from the tee with woods on the left. "For the second shot you have two options: swing hard and go for the green, which drops in elevation about 25 feet, or lay up safely to the landing area," Love says, and most golfers choose the latter route. "The green is guarded by a pond on the left and bunkers and fescue on the right. A truly great, beautiful finishing hole."

Brickyard Crossing Golf Course, No. 18, Speedway

The finishing hole at this Pete Dye course alongside and partially within the Indianapolis Motor Speedway requires a strong drive, thanks to the prevailing winds that often are not in your favor. The creek that passes underneath the tee shot and hugs the right side of the fairway and green doesn't help, either. And, says head pro Jeff Schroeder, "if you miss left, there are deep depressions."

That said, take advice from the pros who have played this hole--aim for the barn just past the green and hit the ball as hard as you can. "There's a nice bunker that guards the center left side of the green on an approaching shot," Schroeder adds. No. 18 measures 457 yards from the back tees, he says, and is listed as a par 4.

The Bridgewater Club, No. 15, Carmel

Yet another Dye design, Bridgewater claims No. 15 as its signature. "The hole is located on a beautiful part of the property, surrounded by a lake that is stone-lined and adds to its beauty," says head pro Dave Carich.

The lake adds to the challenge, too. The hole measures 187 yards, and reaching the green requires a total carry over the water. It may be just a par 3, but as Carich notes, on this hole "a par is a great score."

Crooked Stick Golf Club, No. 18, Carmel

Of all the holes Dye has designed in Indiana, this one must be one of his favorites, as he and his wife, Alice, built a home along Crooked Stick No. 18. "It's a 460-yard dogleg right from the back tees," says general manager Joyce Maher. "Mr. Dye intimidates you off the tee with the large lake just off the fairway on the right, but he does not allow you to bail out on the left because of a large grass hollow with deep rough."

The second shot is no picnic, either. "The green is guarded on the right by the lake and there is a challenging pot bunker on the front left," Maher says. A ridge running through the green makes chipping and putting a challenge. As a result, the 18th hole has ruined many otherwise good rounds at Crooked Stick, which ranks 81st on Golf Week's list of best modern courses. "However, John Daly proved in 1991 that it can be an incredible finish if you hit some great shots under pressure."

Donald Ross Course at French Lick, No. 8, French Lick

"The 8th hole is and has been one of the most talked about holes in Indiana golf for many years," according to Dave Harner, head pro of the course that has been restored to its original, 1917 Donald Ross design. "The hole is 366 yams and is a 90-degree dogleg left. The tee shot required is a 225-yard shot to a plateau just short of a deep ravine in front of the green. Tee shot placement is important so the player has a chance to hit mid- to short-iron to the treacherous green." Beware the trademark Ross bunker on the inside of the dogleg.

Land properly and you'll be left with a 140-yard approach to an old-fashioned square green that slopes nearly eight feet from back to front, the most severe slope on the course. Says Harrier, "three putts or more are certain if you are above the pin."

Eagle Creek Golf Club, Sycamore Course, No. 18, Indianapolis

A 430-yard par 4 finishes out the Sycamore Course at Eagle Creek in Indianapolis, consistently ranked among the state's top public courses. Blessed by abundant wetlands, animal habitats, tree-lined fairways and undulating greens, Eagle Creek is still another Pete Dye contribution to Hoosier golf, boosted to a full 36 holes when Tim Liddy added a fourth nine.

Sycamore No. 18 is a dogleg left, but don't hit too far left off the tee or you'll land in the trees. A creek borders the right side of the fairway and then cuts across just in front of the green, wrapping around the left side of the green. Bunkers await to the right of the green.

The Fort Golf Resort, No. 5, Lawrence

When the U.S. military turned most of its Fort Benjamin Harrison in Indianapolis over to private developers and the state, its gem of a golf course became a public asset. And the course's stature increased through a makeover from Dye and Tim Liddy. Among the highlights is No. 5.

"Hole No. 5 at The Fort Golf Resort is a beautiful par 3," says head pro Jon Chapple "The length from the championship tees is 170 yards. The downhill tee shot is all carry over a running stream, ravine and large bunker. An errant tee shot that is long or left will put you in the woods. Placing the ball in the proper area on this large green is essential if you don't want to three-putt!"

The Hawthorns Golf & Country Club, No. 18, Fishers

Architect Arthur Hills calls The Hawthorns one of his best layouts, and No. 18 is a significant challenge. From the back, the hole measures about 450 yards. The tee shot must carry wetlands, but hit it too hard and you'll roll into the bunkers where the hole takes a dogleg left.

"Our 18th hole is a strong hole as a finisher, requiring two good shots to hit the green in regulation," says head pro Alan Schulte. Watch for the fairway bunker protecting the green, which also has hazards on the right and left. The Hawthorns is a spectacular sight, winding challenging golf holes through wetlands, woods, nature preserves and bird sanctuaries.

Hulman Links Golf Course, No. 18, Terre Haute

Make sure you still have a spare ball by the time you reach the finishing hole at Hulman Links, because there's a good chance you'll lose one--or two. A pair of lakes threatens here, one that must be carried on the tee shot and one that stands in the way on the second shot but also occasionally captures a shot hit too hard from the tee.

If the water doesn't consume your tee shot, a trio of bunkers just might. And more bunkers surround the green. Needless to say, there's little room for errant shot placement at Hulman Links, one of the state's toughest public courses.

Purgatory Golf Club, No. 12, Noblesville

This rural Noblesville-area course boasts something for everyone--from outlandish challenges to experiences just right for those with only marginal golfing experience. From the back tees it's the longest regulation course this side of the Mississippi, and its many acres of sand have given some of the best players fits, but a moderate challenge is also possible.

A great example is No. 12, called "Valley of the Kings." "It reflects the characteristics I like best about Purgatory Golf Club," says pro Jon Stutz, "flexibility and a variety of options. It can be played using a fairway metal to a sand wedge. There are eight different tee stations representing distances that range from 235 yards to 89 yards." A half dozen bunkers plus bentgrass hollows guard the gently rolling green.

Rock Hollow Golf Club, No. 5, Peru

Tim Liddy crafted this beauty from a mined-out stone quarry, featuring old-growth forests and cattail-lined wetlands along with plenty of leftover rocks. The 412-yard No. 5 is a challenge. "It requires a tee shot over a cattail-filled marsh to a fairway that bends and slopes slightly from left to right," says head pro Bob Rothgeb. "A bunker on the right and woods on the left pinch in the landing area 130 yards from the green to a very narrow 15 yards."

Mature cottonwood trees behind the green frame the target for the second shot, and there's sand short and right. "The best thing about No. 5 is how natural it appears," Rothgeb says. "Even though Rock Hollow has only been open 11 years, the 5th seems to have been here forever and just needed someone to find it."

The Sagamore Club, No. 17, Carmel

Jack Nicklaus designed this 235-yard par 3 to be both beautiful and challenging, according to director of golf Ross Smith, who calls it "the embodiment of a risk and reward par 3." It curves to the left, and there's water all down the left side. Players must decide whether to aim straight for the middle of the green and carry the water, or play it a bit safer and try to avoid the water.

"When designing this hole, Jack Nicklaus was gracious enough to include a landing area short and right of the green," Smith says. "From there, a player would have a great opportunity to save par with a chip and a putt." There's a lot less risk from the shorter tees, which steer a bit further from the water.

Sand Creek Country Club, Marsh Course, No. 3, Chesterton

Sand Creek, designed by Ken Killian and Dick Nugent, boasts three nines. The one called Marsh has--you guessed it--plenty of water. No. 3 requires a tee shot over a creek that must avoid a water hazard and bunker to the left. Land to the right of the fairway and you'll have a nice angle toward the green.

But there's still more water to avoid. The green is protected by a creek with a waterfall, along with a bunker to the left.

Sycamore Hills Golf Club, No. 15, Fort Wayne

The tree-lined, par 5 No. 15 at this Jack Nicklaus course was designed with total risk versus reward in mind, says head pro Tim Frazier. "The Aboite River crosses the play areas four times, creating some fantastic target golf."

The daring can elect to reach for the green in as little as two shots by driving over a 241-yard carry, he says. "The green is a beautifully difficult setup, stretching 63 yards deep with two sand bunkers and the Aboite River running along the right edge, complemented by another sand bunker and severe grass mounding to the left. Eagle three and double bogey seven can be common scores for the accomplished golfer on this beauty."

Victoria National Golf Club, No. 14, Newburgh

This stunning course used to be a strip mine before Tom Fazio got his hands on it. Now it's a big-time challenge for golfers, ranking 22nd on Golf Digest's list of 100 greatest courses and 48th on Golf Week's list of best modern courses. The 471-yard par 4 sports multiple threats, including a slight carry over water off the tee, followed by a second shot that must pass beside and underneath trees.

An elevated two-tiered green is not terribly easy to reach, thanks to the depression to the center and left. Fail to reach the top and your ball will roll all the way back down.

White Hawk Country Club, Blackhawk Course, No. 6, Crown Point

This picturesque signature hole is one of only a few island greens in the nation, according to head pro Drew Brining. A par 3 measuring about 145 yards from the black tees, "it is very shallow from front-to-back, therefore making it very difficult to judge the distance."

Because its layout as an island green is so unusual, "people come from all over to get a chance to play that hole," Brining says. "A good golf hole in my opinion has to have the perfect balance of aesthetics and difficulty, and Blackhawk No. 6 definitely accomplishes that."

Wolf Run Golf Club, No. 13, Zionsville

What's the signature hole at Wolf Run in Zionsville? Don't ask, says head pro Stan Burton, who quotes architect Steve Smyers: "'Golf holes are like your children, you really can't pick a favorite.'" That said, Burton observes that the par 3 No. 13 is the most photographed, and may well be the toughest par 3 in the state.

It's 245 yards, "hilltop-to-hilltop, with 11 bunkers, one of which is greenside and 10 feet deep," Burton says. Wolf Run ranks 15th on Golf Week's list of best modern courses.
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Author:Kaelble, Steve
Publication:Indiana Business Magazine
Geographic Code:1U3IN
Date:Apr 1, 2007
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