By Anita Draycott
“The ardent golfer would play Mount Everest is somebody would put a flagstick on top…golf is not a fair game so why build a fair golf course.”
At the entrance to the Pete Dye Course at French Lick Resort & Casino, a plaque bearing these words sits beside a life-size statue of its feisty architect.
Dye, renowned for his challenging courses is being totally out-front about his 8,102 (from the tips) serpentine tract cut out of the Hoosier National Forest in southern Indiana and located on top of a precipice 1,000 feet above sea level, the second highest elevation in the state (xxx). On a clear day you can see 30 mile in every direction.
Dye, who was hired to design the course back in 2006 had some history in this little-known neck of the Indiana woods. In 1957, he won the Midwest Amateur Championship on the resort’s Donald Ross Course and he admits to partying at the French Lick hotel.
The front nine plays down the hill. Imagine an impeccably manicured narrow green ribbon of a fairway that twists along a roller coaster terrain.
The object is to “keep in on the fairway,” advised my forecaddie, Josh England. Because if you don’t you’ll be down in a gully with nary a flat lie. The other goal is to keep it out of a series of what are called volcano bunkers sprinkled over the fairways.
When Dye created his French Lick course in 2009 it was the first time in his career that he extended the length beyond 8,000 yards for the pros. The grand finale from the pros’ tees includes the 301-yard par-three 16th, a 518-yard par-four 17ath and the mammoth 657-yard par-five (looked like a par-seven to me) 18th.
Dye acknowledges that these yardages are “fantasyland for 99 percent of golfers.” That’s why he has given us five sets of tees with the forward ones measuring a mere 5,151 yards.
Dye’s masterpiece is almost tree-free thus allowing unrestricted views of the surrounding forest. Water hardly comes into play and there are no houses, except for the Taggert mansion at the very top of the hill.
Dye describes this as “a resort course with multiple tees so the best and worst golfers on the planet could have the time of their life…”