Brickyard Crossing GC – A Pete Dye masterpiece!
By Rick Drennan
There’s something capricious and cruel and just right about the game of golf.
- It’s drenched in history.
- It can be played by anyone and in any place.
- It’s a sublime sport, and next to impossible to master.
- It also creates a special kind of yearning in players.
- We get to play where greats of the game once played.
If you’re a fan of the Toronto Maple Leafs, chances are you’ve never skated at Maple Leaf Gardens or the Air Canada Centre. How many played baseball as a kid but never got the chance to perform at Yankee Stadium, Fenway Park, or Wrigley Field? I was a tennis fan, but chances of me playing at Wimbledon were about the same as growing a palm tree on the prairies.
But golf is different. Cool and different. In my life, I’ve played multiple times at the ancestral home of golf, St Andrews, in Scotland. The same course Bobby Jones, Sam Snead, Jack Nicklaus, and Tiger Woods lifted the Claret Jug. I played Muirfield, home to 16 Open Championships. Ditto Glen Abbey, hosting its 29th Canadian Open this year.
You get my point: Golf allows regular Janes and Joes to play where the best pros played. It’s the most democratic of sports.
That’s why players bask in its profound history, and plunder our bank accounts to over-pay to play Pebble Beach, or TPC Sawgrass, or any of the iconic courses that dot the golfing world.
Yes, most true-blue golfers have a bucket list branded on their souls.
I still have a few unchecked boxes, like a trip to Augusta National, or an 18 at Pebble, Carnoustie, or Royal Melbourne.
This yearning is off-set by a realization that at my age, I’m probably running out of time to complete the rota.
Then last month, I played a course that should have been on my list, but wasn’t.
On a sublime Wednesday afternoon, April 26, our next stop on the Pete Dye Golf Trail found us teeing it up at Brickyard Crossing, one of Dye’s most fanciful layouts, an 18-hole championship layout that is like nothing else in golfdom. Brickyard Crossing dips its toe ‘inside’ the world-famous Indianapolis 500 Speedway, the 2 ½ mile oval that, come race day in late May, seats 300,000+ fans and is the largest single-day sporting event in the world.
How big is the Speedway? You could fit the White House, Vatican City, the Taj Mahal, the Roman Colosseum, Yankee Stadium, Rose Bowl Stadium, Liberty Island, and Churchill Downs inside its 253 acres – and still have room to squeeze in a small golf course.
That’s what Dye did. The most successful course designer in the world created a championship layout with four holes – Nos. 7, 8, 9, and 10 – routed inside the track.
For me and my playing partners – Claudio DeMarchi, the Traveling Golfer, and John Blackwell, a logistics manager at Silver Ships Inc., a Mobile, Alabama boat-building company – it was as if we were all Alice falling through the Looking Glass.
The Pete Dye design weaved its way to the back of the 6th green in typical fashion. Then everything changed. We dipped our golf carts beneath the famed speedway and emerged inside the track, at No. 7, a par 3. It was as if the opening credits of the infamous old black-and-white TV show Twilight Zone was playing in the background: “You are traveling through another dimension, a dimension not only of sight and sound and mind. A journey into a wondrous land whose boundaries are that of imagination….”
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To the right of the tee block was the long Indy backstretch where high-powered test cars zoomed along at breakneck speeds, hitting 200+ mph. Golf, a silent game, a mannerly game, was now played with a high decibel backdrop of whining engines and unmuffled exhaust systems.
Blackwell wasn’t as startled as his Canuck playing partners. He’s a self-styled motorhead who grew up with Pennzoil running through his veins. Both his father and grandfather were racers, and for 12 years he ran on the Limited Modified Dirt Track circuit in his home state of Louisiana. About two years ago, he plowed his car into retaining wall (for the second time) and traded in his roll cage for a set of golf clubs.
“It was a whole lot cheaper,” he laughed, as we poured through beers in the Brickyard Crossing bar after our round. He should have added: “…and safer.”
Sure, I like cars. I once owned a Dodge Dart 340 GTS with a Hurst shifter and jacked up tires. But I bought it off my big brother in the early ‘70s only because he was in a financial fix. I sold it and bought a VW bug with a peace sign on the back window because at heart, I was a peacenik, and the Vietnam War protests were in full bloom at the time.
I never had a need for speed. When I put the petal to the metal these days, it’s to transpose a flower from one metal pot into another. Over my long driving career, my car choices have gotten progressively blander. Today, I drive a beige Toyota Camry. When I need to blow off a little steam, I don’t watch a Fast & Furious remake, but do 30 minutes of yoga, or read Kierkegaard.
My Canadian playing partner, DeMarchi, grew up playing baseball, liked to go fishing, and drove a Camaro.
The transition from race driver to mild mannered golfer is still a work in progress for Blackwell, 68, a 31-handicapper. He’s been playing the game for just two years, with mixed results. During our round, he had trouble keeping his ball inside the racetrack.
But our scores at Brickyard Crossing went unmarked. We were caught up in the moment. Shot after shot went by in dizzying repetition as cars zoomed away in the background. The grandstands as a backdrop behind holes was otherworldly.
Perhaps the coolest moment came at the very end as we drove our carts up to the clubhouse. We literally crossed over some of the red bricks that were part of the original track that gave the speedway and the golf course their name (Brickyard).
Piling our clubs back in our cars, we joked that we can now check another item off our bucket lists – even it wasn’t on our lists in the first place.
Yes, golf might be capricious and cruel, but on this special day, everything was oh so right. We proved that yes, the game can be played anywhere – even inside the world’s most famous racetrack!
To wind your way onto this marvelous track visit:
For Stay & Play Packages – Visit Hamilton County – www.visithamiltoncounty.com
Brickyard Crossing Golf Course – www.brickyardcrossing.com
Visit Indy – www.visitindy.com
Visit Maple Leaf – mapleleafonlinecasino.com
Pete Dye Golf Trail – www.petedyegolftrail.com
Rick Drennan is a writer with The Traveling Golfer and ProShop Magazine. He can be reached at email@example.com.