By Jennifer Myers
A couple of years ago I wrote a column about the changes that were going on at the French Lick Springs Resort. My husband and I finally got a chance to go back there, so I can report first-hand on the changes.
My overall impression is, “Wow! What a difference a half a billion dollars makes!”
That’s for the whole complex, including the West Baden Springs Hotel, which used about $200 million of that.
When we first arrived in French Lick we were too early to check in so we visited the West Baden hotel. I had been in it in the past when it was a dilapidated hunk of concrete and tiles.
After West Baden, we met with Dave Harner, Director of Golf, who took us for a drive up to see the work in progress at the new Pete Dye Course.
This course is going to be unbelievably beautiful while being very nasty and mean at the same time. The site is on a hill behind the resorts magnificently appointed with an historic mansion, built in the 1920s by the son of Thomas Taggart, the entrepreneur behind the French Lick Resort.
It will be used as an inn for high rollers and VIPs. The view from the mansion is spectacular, being on the second-highest point in Indiana. The building that was at one time the carriage house and servants quarters will be used as the pro shop.
The course will be one of Pete Dye’s best — or at least most feared — and friends of his have told me that he thinks it is his best. It will be over 8,000 yards from the back tees, with narrow fairways and small greens. If you miss the fairway, you’re not just in the rough, you’re down a steep slope or in a lake.
There are three man-made lakes on the course, with pumps to make a waterfall, making for a gorgeous but intimidating hazard. Another feature of the course is sandstone boulders. Dye used stones dug up from the site to build tee boxes and reinforced areas. He did not use any railroad ties on this course. His new trick is the “volcanoes” that he has placed inside of waste bunkers. They are mounds topped with sand traps. They don’t really come into play on the course, unless you hit a horrible shot, but they are intimidating to see and would not be much fun to have to play out of.
The Pete Dye Course at French Lick is scheduled to open in May 2009. It, like Pebble Beach, will be more of a course that you just have to play once, because the greens fees will be $250, plus a tip for the mandatory caddie for your group.
After spending the night in a very comfortable and beautifully appointed room in The French Lick Springs Resort, following a fantastic meal at the 1875 Steakhouse, Andy and I got to play some golf at the course formerly known as The Hill Course. It was revamped and rejuvenated for about $5 million, going back to the original Donald Ross drawings to get it right.
They restored 35 bunkers to the course, all featuring the Ross flat bottoms and deep faces. All of the greens were restored to their original shape, which was either rectangular or square. They made the eighth green less severely sloped, making a better hole.
The carts are equipped with GPS, which is very helpful, but doesn’t quite let you off the hook. With all of the hills and valleys, you have to do your own addition of yardage when faced with an elevated shot. The course plays to 7,000 yards from the back tees, 5,400 yards from the forward tees, but the elevation changes make it seem much longer.
The clubhouse has been remodeled too, and includes a very nice bar and restaurant. Items of interest in the pro shop that are worth seeing are the original Donald Ross drawings of each hole, and the napkin that Pete Dye used to lay out his original design of his new course.
Of particular interest when you first enter the pro shop is a picture on the wall from the 1924 PGA Championship, played on the hill course. Not only does the picture include many famous and not-so-famous golfers from a bygone era, it includes Walter Hagen and James Barnes in it twice. They ran around behind the photographer as he panned the field from left to right and got in line at the far end before the lens reached them. You can see this picture by going to a Website called oldgolfpros.com.
In 2010 the PGA Club Pros Championship will be played at French Lick. The first 36 holes will be played at the Donald Ross Course then the lucky ones to make the cut get to be humbled by the Pete Dye Course.
Quote of the Day – “You’re only here for a short visit. Don’t hurry, don’t worry. And be sure to smell the flowers along the way.” — Walter Hagen
Vigo County Golf Leagues
Terre Haute Savings Bank Senior Men — National Division standings: SMC 55, Page’s Market No. 1 53, Paitson Bros. 50, Pizza Hut 49, Lough Bros. 39, T.H. Savings Bank 38, Fore Seasons Golf Complex 35, Complete Kitchen and Bath 33. Low gross: Fred Keenan 34. Low net: Charles Montgomery, Keenan, Tom Cundiff 31. American Division standings: Callahan Funeral Home 52, Poplar Flower Shop 49, VFW No. 972 48, Spring Clean Car Wash 46, Page’s Market No. 2 42, Salt of the Earth 39, Pabst Painting 36. Low gross: Darrell Guerin 40. Low net: Charles Miranda 29.
Ft. Harrison Ladies 9-hole — Low gross: Rita Neal. Low net: Carolyn Sweeting. Low putts: Mary Shake. Chip-in: Mary Add Baker.
Mark’s Par Three Men’s Senior — Standings: Tabco 143, Midwest Gas 140, Vigo Bowl 139, Sycamore Chevrolet 138, Dew Drop Inn 136, Mattingly Collision 129, Old National Trust 125, Fuson Cadillac 106. Low gross: James Stricklin 34. Low net: Dennis Hayes 26. Closest to pin: Larry Stewart (7). Longest drive: Marvin Mericle (4). Longest putt: Don McVeigh (1).
Rea Park Women’s Tuesday 18-hole — Low gross: Shelva Gaither 82. Low net: Gaither and Shawn Durand 63. Bridies: Marie Spurr (1), Sandy Stabler (2, 16). Chip-ins: Beth Lowe (4, 11), Stabler (12), Susan Amerman (17).
Rea Park Ladies Wednesday Evening 9-hole — Standings as of 7/30: Meyer-Clements 24, Newton-Petty 23, Swalls-Mozley 23, Padgett-Snow 23, Pair-Bedwell 20, Honselman-Hiatt 19, Cannon-Atterson 18, Mann-Rusk 17, Durand-Hyde 16, Hamilton-Harden 16, Bocard-Luttrell 15, Lanke-Johnson 14, Horrall-Mahalek 13, McCord-Ugo 11. Low gross: Stephanie Meyer 35. Low net: Meyer 31. Chip-ins: Shawn Durand, Eileen Mann, Shirley Padgett, Josie Swalls.