Location: French Lick, Ind.
Course architect: Pete Dye
Tee — Yardage | Rating / Slope:
Gold — 8,102 | 80.0 / 148
Black — 7,254 | 76.2 / 139
Blue — 6,701 | 73.3 / 135
White — 6,115 | 70.6 / 130
Red — 5,151 | 65.4 / 118
White — 6,115 | 76.9 / 130
Red — 5,151 | 70.5 / 120
Saturday morning green fee: $$$$$ ($350, plus $30 forecaddie fee before tip)
Caddie service: Yes
Walker friendly: Yes
Fairways: Penn bentgrass
Greens: Penn bentgrass
Starter: Pete Dye is among the world’s preeminent golf architects. His works include Whistling Straits, Harbour Town Golf Links, Ocean Course at Kiawah and “the most terrifying shot in golf,” i.e., the par-3 17th at TPC Sawgrass. A resident of Carmel, Ind., Dye set out to make something special at French Lick and, in his uniquely excessive and diabolical way, he succeeded. The Pete Dye Course is the No. 1-ranked ballyard in Indiana and recently checked in at No. 19 on Golf Digest’s list of “America’s 100 Greatest Public Courses.” Narrow in fairway, deep in bunker, varied in elevation, absent of tree and deceptive in appearance, the golf course demands length, management, touch and accuracy. Falter in any of those areas and penalties will be delivered — often with extreme prejudice.
Play because …: You can. This is one of those experiences that fall into the category of “once in a lifetime.” Carved into the highest elevations of Hoosier National Forest, the golf is almost as spectacular as the big skies and panoramic vistas. The course will test every bit of your game and will take all of your breath away. Take a picture or two … at just about every hole.
Takeaway: There are two ways to enjoy this seductive beauty, which Dye considers his best inland work. Low handicap players should enjoy the challenge, a risk-reward thrill ride. High handicap players should focus on the scenery, not the score. The amenities are fabulous right up to a post-mortem seat on the patio for a cold beverage, perhaps a Pete Dye cigar and the honorary licking of the wounds. But at $400 a pop (including forecaddie), this is a resort experience to be savored, not overly scrutinized.
RATINGS [1 to 10 scale, 10 being the highest]
Food | Beverage: 9.5
Pro Shop: 9.5
Pace of play: 10.0
Best par 3: No 16 (301 | 183 | 113 yards). This is the only hole on the course that — reasonably — brings water into play, as it skirts the right side of the hole. This knee-knocker plays 301 yards long from the tips, but no matter where the tee, it’s a demanding shot with little margin for error.
Best par 4: No. 1 (519 | 420 | 314 yards). Honestly, No. 9 is the lower-ranked handicap, but No. 1 stands out because it truly sets the tone for the round. From an elevated tee box, it’s a little difficult to pick a line to what looks like a dental-floss-thin fairway. But the middle of three bunkers (on the right side of the fairway) is best to set up the second shot to an uphill, contoured green. If you get out with a par, you’re off to a great start, and you know what’s coming.
Best par 5: No. 18 (657 | 589 | 447 yards). No question, Pete Dye’s finishing par 5 is memorable. The right-to-left curving fairway asks that as much be bitten off as possible with the drive. Stop to say a prayer at the church pew bunkering on the right. If the left side is hugged, the hole plays shortest, but it’s still a long walk to an elevated green.