Pete Dye-redesigned layout routes through iconic Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and the rumbling roar of race car engines reverberates around the course during practice days at the track
If you're the kind of golfer who needs relative silence to hit a shot, perhaps easily distracted by playing partners' conversations or music from the cart of the group up ahead, Brickyard Crossing Golf Course might not be your kind of place.
Definitely not this month.
The Indianapolis Motor Speedway has been humming with motorsports action throughout May, hosting a road course race followed by two weeks of preparations for the 105th Indianapolis 500 on May 30. But racing isn't the only recreation on the grounds — just about every day, golf is also played among the Indy cars that reach speeds north of 230 miles per hour.
The Pete Dye-redesigned Brickyard Crossing — simply The Brickyard to Indy-area golfers — features 14 holes outside the famous 2.5-mile racing oval and four holes inside. Some holes have a direct view of the track and all of them carry the noise when cars are circling.
"People who come to town for the Indy 500 want to see how big the place is, and to be able to play golf inside of it is even more shocking," said Graham Rahal, a 13-time Indianapolis 500 starter who is almost as passionate about golf as racing. "It's definitely super-unique."
The track hosts a number of racing events throughout the year, including IndyCar’s Indianapolis 500 and NASCAR’s Brickyard 400, and the course is closed on race days, but is open for public play on practice days. A refurbished clubhouse and cart paths are among recent course improvements approved by Indianapolis Motor Speedway owner Roger Penske, who knows a little about special golf courses. Rumor is that the renowned car owner invited the head greenskeeper from another club he frequents, Augusta National, to study The Brickyard's greens and offer advice on keeping them perfect throughout the playing season.
Known as Speedway Golf Course when it opened in 1929, the layout first featured 27 holes with 18 outside and nine inside. That eventually morphed into nine holes inside and out, and then a 1993 redesign by Dye brought it to the current 14 inside/four outside configuration.
The course can play as long as 7,180 yards from the back tees, with the drama starting when you enter a tunnel under the backstretch of the racetrack and emerge inside the oval where Ray Harroun won the first International 500-Mile Sweepstakes Race in 1911.
Awaiting is the 181-yard par-3 seventh hole, where an elevated tee plays to an elevated green. If you're there when cars are on the track, they will be a wedge away as they scream behind you. And then you have to try to hit the green. "A bruiser," Rahal calls it.
After that is the 464-yard par-4 eighth, the No. 1 handicap hole, bordered on the right by woods and on the left side by a lake bolstered with old pieces of concrete track wall — Dye found them on his first visit to the property and put them to use. Two scoreable par-4s follow, then you take the same tunnel back outside the oval to the 11th hole and the rest of the round.
"The thing about the Speedway — and Brickyard Crossing — is that when the wind pipes up, it can be difficult," said Rahal, son of 1986 Indianapolis 500 champion Bobby Rahal. "As a guy who hits a fade more than I'd like to admit, it can be tough."
Brickyard Crossing is one of a handful of courses that has hosted the PGA, LPGA and Champions tours — most recently the LPGA from 2017-19. The women played the infield holes as Nos. 15-18 at the behest of television partners who craved views of the Speedway and the iconic pagoda. Incredibly, the PGA Tour's 500 Festival Open in the 1960s was played directly around the Indy 500.
Tournament rounds were held for three consecutive days then off for race day before the final round. The event picked up the nickname "Chicken Bone Open" for the detritus on the grounds after 250,000 race fans left.
"I remember that we were allowed to improve our lies that were affected by race patrons, which sometimes was a great help," said Gary Player, who won in 1964 by a stroke over Doug Sanders and Art Wall Jr. "For most events, the golf tournament itself is the draw, but in Indianapolis that race was what most people came to see.
"Having a tournament around the Indianapolis 500 was a real thrill."
Amateurs can capture a bit of that thrill, too. Just call for a tee time at Brickyard Crossing and ask to play with the noise.
Brickyard Crossing Golf Course
Location: Indianapolis, Ind.