Build it and they will come! And they did, and they still do!
A setting in Indiana’s rolling countryside overlooking the Hoosier National Forest is where you will find the small town of French Lick. There is no doubt in my mind that the town exists because of the resort. For northerners traveling to or from their annual winter pilgrimages to the southern US States take note – making the right turns when you pass through Louisville, Kentucky could have you stumbling across one of the greatest golf destination in Middle America that also just happens to be the hometown of basketball legend Larry Bird.
French Lick Resort is a $600 million historic restoration and casino development spread dramatically across 3,000 scenic acres. It encompasses both the French Lick Springs Hotel and the West Baden Springs Hotel, which have been fully restored to their original sophistication and luxury.
You will be in total awe as you enter the spectacular massive domed lobby space of West Baden Springs Hotel like no other lobby that I have ever entered in the world! Re opened in 2007 after not having used for its original purpose since 1932.
The casino, built adjacent to the French Lick Springs Hotel, opened in 2006. Other facilities and amenities at this world-class golf resort destination include two spas with a 36 treatment rooms (they continue to offer the Pluto Mineral Springs bath), 165,000 of meeting space and a number of dining and entertainment options.
Since the early 1900’s, golf has been an integral part of this resort area. Tom Bendelow designed the first course here in 1907 followed by the great Donald Ross ten years later. In 2009, however, Hall of Fame architect, Pete Dye, has designed a visually stunning masterpiece, which has quickly become one of the most highly acclaimed courses in the country.
This Pete Dye design achieved a double honor rarely duplicated in the industry, as the leading course was selected as America’s best new course by two of the leading golf publications in the country, Golf Digest and GOLF Magazine, when it opened in 2009.
The course is located on a dramatic site that looks more like the rolling mountains of North Carolina than the flatlands of Indiana. The course is situated upon a hilltop – one of the highest points in the state – offering panoramic views in all directions that stretch for 30-40 miles.
Dye himself was very excited about the project and the honors. He indicated that this property was as good for golf as any he has worked on.
“I have spent the past five decades designing golf courses all over the world, including courses on great coastal sites,” Dye explains. “This new course at French Lick Resort has brought great excitement to Alice and me because the course is on arguably the best inland site I have ever worked on.”
“As I built the golf course I tried to get the tees, the fairways, and the greens in position that they have these long views over the valleys and hills,” continued Dye. “The ambience of the course is the look, the vistas from all the different tees, greens, and fairways.”
The Dye course features many distinct features, including stretches of holes on each nine that are vintage Dye. The front nine builds excitement from hole to hole and peaks on No. 6. Then it continues to get more visually dramatic as the outward nine finishes back up toward the clubhouse with one of the best views on the course.
The back nine offers the most dramatic stretch of holes from Nos. 11-14. This culminates with one of the course’s signature holes, No. 14. Stretching nearly 600 yards from the back tees, this par five, with a split fairway, escalates from tee to green over a massive grass hollow that will intimidate even the elite players.
This course has gained national recognition already hosting major golf events.
- 2010 The PGA of America played its PGA Professional National Championship
- 2015 Senior PGA Championship
- Big Ten Mens and Womens Championships
- Annual stop for the LPGA Legends Tour
Complementing the Pete Dye course is the historic Donald Ross course, which underwent a $4.6 million restoration project that has brought the course back to Ross’s original plans. The Ross course brings a rich history to the French Lick Resort. The course was site of the 1924 PGA Championship won by the legendary Walter Hagen and hosted other golf greats and celebrities such as Gene Sarazen, Chick Evans, and Bing Crosby.
The Ross course is a parkland gem, which meanders up and down the rolling hills. The wonderful routing of the holes take full advantage of the many elevation points for classic Ross green sites, which are sloped heavily from back to front.
French Lick is now the only resort in the world that combines the classic history of Donald Ross and the modern day design of the legendary Pete Dye. This combination is a spectacular opportunity for golfers to experience two of the best designers who ever shaped beautiful landscapes into golf courses. Visit www.frenchlick.com
French Lick is the legacy of Tom Taggart: As you drive up the hill to the former Taggart Mansion, which now serves as the Pete Dye clubhouse, you are amazed that this beautiful land is in the Midwest. Taggart is credited for bringing golf to French Lick Resort, as he was responsible for bringing Bendelow and Ross to the area to build the resort’s first two courses. Now, nearly 100 years later, the current owners have brought in arguably the greatest modern day golf course architect to design a new championship course to complement those historical layouts.
Acknowledging the advances in modern equipment, golf balls and player fitness, Dye has designed a golf course that stretches over 8,100 yards from the tips. However, this new creation welcomes all levels of players. With five sets of tees, yardages begin at 5,100 yards from the forward tees. Most players will probably play from either 6,100 or 6,700 yards.
In addition to two world-class championship golf courses, French Lick Resort completes the golf experience with a top golf learning and instruction facility. The Valley Links Learning Center utilizes nine holes of the original Tom Bendelow course. The reconfigured short course features his parkland design with rolling fairways, strategic bunkers, small greens and Scottish-style fescue grasses.
French Lick Resort is truly a world-class golf resort destination and expected to attract golfers from all over the country. Visit www.frenchlick.com.