News From Terre Haute, Indiana

On & Off the Course

June 26, 2011

ON AND OFF THE COURSE: The Fort Golf Course: A Walk in the Park…

TERRE HAUTE —  Indiana has some pretty spectacular state parks, but one of them gives you the ability to “spoil a good walk” by chasing a little white ball. The Fort Golf Resort is inside the Fort Harrison State Park on the east side of Indianapolis, at 56th Street and Post Road. It is the only golf course owned and maintained by the Indiana state parks system.

Historically speaking, it hasn’t been a state park for very long. On June 28th, 1904, the War Department issued an order announcing the purchase of land for “Military purposes, about nine miles north-easterly from Indianapolis.” In 1906 the land was dedicated as Fort Benjamin Harrison by President Theodore Roosevelt, in honor of the 23rd president and Indianapolis resident.

The idea had been suggested by Harrison’s son Russell, in order that Indianapolis maintain some military presence to honor the tradition the Indianapolis Arsenal had played in fighting slavery and maintaining the Union. Fort Harrison served multiple purposes during all major conflicts from WWI to Desert Storm.

The fort was shut down in 1991 through the Base Realignment and Closure process. Then in 1995 the U.S. Department of the Interior approved a request from the state of Indiana to convert 1,700 of the 2,500-acre post into a state park and nature preserve.

There was a golf course on the military base, but from what I’ve heard, it was pretty unplayable. It was very hilly and rocky, and balls easily found their way into the creek. It was a private course only for military personnel though, so they were probably happy to have it.

After the State of Indiana got permission to open the state park, Pete Dye and Tim Liddy were commissioned to redesign the decrepit golf course. They evened out fairways, made multiple teeing areas, and incorporated nature preserve areas in their design. The old Officers Club, now called The Garrison Conference Center, serves as the clubhouse, pro shop and restaurant.

The new course opened in 1997, and was named third under “Best Affordable New Public Courses” in Golf Digest in 1998.

The Fort Golf Course varies in length from 5,045 yards to 7,148 yards, depending on which tee you want to play. The Gold tees have a course rating of 74.4 and a slope of 139 while the white tees’ rating is 69.9 with a slope of 128. Rating and slope from the most forward tees is 69.2 and 122.

I played the course recently and kept thinking I’d like to play it a second time because many of the tee shots have a hidden landing area, so familiarity with the course would help with my confidence of where I’m aiming off of the tee and with club selection.

There are tips given on the hole layouts shown on the golf cart, but seeing it in two-dimensions and in real life are entirely different. The greens are big and undulating, and not always very easy to read. Again, playing more than once would probably help with reading greens too.

Luckily, playing multiple rounds at The Fort isn’t too awfully expensive. The 18-hole rate (including cart) on Monday is $49, Tuesday to Thursday is $59, and Friday to Sunday $69. On Tuesdays both women and seniors can play for $39 with tee times before 10 a.m., and discounts are given with a valid military I.D. every day. If you play early enough and want to play another 18 holes, the replay rate is $30 everyday. Or, if you’d like to spend the night, the Fort Harrison State Park Inn would be a great choice.

Originally opened in 1908 as the base hospital, the inn offers 28 uniquely decorated rooms. The Harrison House offers suites and overnight lodging rooms, located just 100 yards from the golf course. You can even rent The Officers Homes, fully furnished 3-bedroom homes on the grounds.

Besides the golf course, the state park offers walking and jogging trails, picnic sites, and fishing access to Fall Creek.

The Fort is a fun course to play, and is in excellent condition. Another thing that I really enjoyed about it, especially this year, is that gnats were not a problem. A welcome relief from the pests that are plaguing golfers in the Terre Haute area. So leave your Absorbine Jr. and insect repellents in the car and enjoy your round. It’s worth the trip to Indianapolis for that alone!

For more information, make tee times and reservations online at www.in.gov/dnr/parklake/inns/ftharrison/index.html or by calling (317) 638-6000.

• Quote of the Day: “What is that, a putter? It looks like a giant staple remover.” — Overheard while unloading clubs at The Fort Golf Course.

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