Sitting on the back porch of the renovated, early 20th century, weekend home of former Indianapolis mayor and French Lick owner Tom Taggart, it is easy to forget the purpose of this trip. Perched 1,000 feet above the rolling hills of Southern Indiana, this home is now the centerpiece of the new Pete Dye Course at French Lick.
When the entire French Lick resort was purchased in April 2005, the private ownership car insurance group realized they also had acquired this beautiful home and an undeveloped piece of land ideal for a golf course. Tapped to undertake the project, Indiana's own Pete Dye was not an early believer in the tract. "I walked over the land and didn't think there was a chance to build a golf course on it," said Dye. "They let me push the dirt where I wanted so I could get the job done."
Opened in Spring 2009, the new Pete Dye Course at French Lick has created a lot of excitement. Working toward long views, Dye wanted the vista from the clubhouse to be the same as it is from the fairway. "I've never had a golf course that had this ambience," says Dye. "The trees, the leaves; the ambience of this area constantly changes and you get a different perspective from each hole."
Realizing weekend warriors spend the bulk of their time in the rough, Dye planted turf type fescue because of its forgiveness.
With incredibly tight fairway lies, most will find the rough easier to play out of. At 85 feet wide, the fairways can be difficult to find from the tee box, but with the forgiving rough, the penalty for missing is not severe.
While greenside, volcano and fairway bunkers are plentiful, there are no bunkers in front of greens, per the demands of Pete's wife, Alice Dye. A champion amateur golfer, Alice also is keenly aware of John Q. Public.
There is tremendous change in the size and contour on all the greens, but they are fair and puttable as long as the greens staff isn't feeling vindictive. Most of the greens have tightly mowed sides with collection areas so if the greens get hard and fast, it could be diffi cult to hold an approach shot on the green.
When pressed for a favorite hole on the new layout, Dye is uncommitted. "I believe golf courses should build up to the last three holes," says Dye. It appears he has accomplished the mission.
The inward nine starts out innocently with two short par fours. For Dye purists, #14 is where you will fi nd his signature railroad ties shoring up the tee box from the tips.
Hole 16 is the longest par 3 on the course. Golfers need only swat the ball to an uphill, 3,500 square foot green artfully situated between a lake on the right and high fescue on the left.
From the tips, hole 17 is a 517 yard, challenging par 4. The hole favors a left to right shot. Those who overdo it will be in the long waste bunker to the right. The approach shot is into a small green well guarded on the right by bunkers.
The final hole is a 670 yard par 5. Players who are able to land a tee shot between 330-350 yards will feel confi dent enough to go for the green in two. With a 13,000 square foot green completely guarded by bunkers, most golfers will opt to take advantage of all three shots to reach the green.
When asked if the course is his crowning achievement Dye said when the course hosts 312 PGA Club Professionals from across the country in the 2010 Club Professional Championship, he will have a better idea.
Since it is nearly impossible to label a resort "A Golfer's Paradise" with only one superb golf course, French Lick doesn't disappoint with its other 18-hole track. Originally constructed in 1917, the Donald Ross Course underwent an incredible restoration a few years back. The result is the golf course Donald Ross originally designed over 90 years ago.
With his trademark deep, flat bottom bunkers and severely undulating greens, each hole presents a new set of challenges.
Additionally, the Tom Bendelow Course is what remains of the original Valley Links course. Now a 9-hole course, the course is designed for golfers of all skill levels and is perfect for beginners.
For duffers craving even more, reserve a tee time at neighboring Sultan's Run in Jasper. With dense forests and rolling hills, each hole is framed on its own, allowing golfers to feel like they have the course to themselves.
For more information:
The Pete Dye Course at French Lick
8670 West State Road 56
French Lick, IN 47432