Pete Dye, Donald Ross and a Historic Hotel that was once looked upon as the 8th Wonder of the World.

So, So Much …and it’s Where? What?  Indiana…really??…REALLY!!

By: Claudio DeMarchi

Walk through the doors of French Lick’s West Baden Hotel and it’s not uncommon to stop, drop your bags and pull out your camera!  REALLY!! It’s truly spectacular and no surprise now that it was one looked upon as the 8th Wonder of the World!

Not to worry that you may have never heard of French Lick Resort or French Lick, Indiana for that matter, you are not alone!  When I was first invited to visit, my thoughts were similar – Where the heck am I going and with a name like that there must be something naughty about it!

The fact of the matter is that for those of us around the Great Lakes States, including Ontario, who make their annual pilgrimages to the warmer winter golf destinations by car – you are passing one of the finest golf resorts in America’s Heartland located slightly over an hour northwest of Louisville, Kentucky.

Pete Dye Course – Hole 9

Where to begin?? The golf of course! There are three courses – two of which are multi award winners, ranking with some of the finest in the nation, by legendary designers Pete Dye and Donald Ross.  12 restaurants including the elegant 1875: The Steakhouse. Do you know where Tomato Juice was invented?  Yes, here!

Two hotels nothing short of spectacular remind me of the Hotel California tune, “where you can check out but never leave” – once here, believe me, you do not want to leave!  Did we touch on the award winning spa here yet?  The casino, conference facilities and a winery are close by!

Just a wedge away from the resort you will find that in addition to eagles and birdies on the course, the quaint little town of French Lick West Baden was once home to one of the biggest birds of all, NBA superstar Larry Bird.  This little town is loaded with options to wine, dine and shop!

Let’s start with getting rid of any thoughts of French Lick having anything to do with naughty!  The name French Lick came about as the valley in which the resort is situated has an abundance of mineral springs.  The mineral water left a residue of salt on the surrounding rocks which attracted deer and buffalo to lick the salt off the rocks!

The resort is recognized on Conde Nast Traveler’s Golf List as one of the “best places to stay in the world.”  In addition, the Historic Hotels of America have named French Lick as “Best Historic Resort.”

Anything But Ordinary

The West Baden Springs Hotel is an architectural marvel and one of many crown jewels of the resort.  The National Historic Landmark was originally built in 1902 and restored in 2007.   The hotel features six circular stories with rooms and suites that offer views of the spectacular atrium.  The hotels atrium was the largest free-span dome until the Houston Astrodome was built in the 1960’s.  Thus dubbed the “Eighth Wonder of the World.”

French Lick Springs Hotel was originally built is 1845 and in the day attracted guests from around the world to experience the “miracle waters” of its nearby sulphur springs.  Renovated in 2006 it now combines the original historic charm with modern conveniences and amenities and, for the gamers, a casino within.  Both hotels offer the absolute in relaxation and rejuvenation with spas named on Conde Nast’s Travelers Top Spas.

The Golf

Donald Ross Course

Pete Dye calls this course his “Crown Jewel” built on his best inland site!  Host to the 2015 Senior PGA Championship where it proved to be more than enough for best of the 50 plus.  No surprise that in 2013 Golf Digest named it 17th on its list of America’s 100 Greatest Public Courses with the Donald Ross course making it a daily double!  Just for fun and macho men and PGA professionals, Dye stretched this layout to 8,100 yards making it one of America’s longest courses with one of the highest USGA ratings – 80, and one of the highest slope ratings – 150.

Situated on one of the highest elevation points in Indiana you know that you are in for a day that has more ups and downs than a toilet seat!  From just about any spot on the course spectacular panoramic views can been seen in every direction.  When your day on the Dye Course is over your foursome is greeted with a nice gift of cigars and Woodford Reserve.  Come find out for yourself…I am now hooked on Woodford!

The Donald Ross Course is just good old fashion golf on a parkland style course originally built in 1917.  Rejuvenated in 1996 and was the site of the 1924 PGA Championship won by Walter Hagen.  Don’t let the views and the rolling hills get the best of you.  You will need to be on your game with the classic Ross greens which are heavily sloped from back to front!

You need to add French Lick to your Bucket List…a MUST STOP…One Resort with two courses that have made it on to Golf Digest’s Top 100 Public Courses in America!

The Traveling Golfer saving par on the Pete Dye 14th.

What do golfers like to do as much as golf?  Eat and drink, at least for me and my friends.  Here’s a small sampling for you…

Not long after we arrived we found ourselves in 1875: The Steakhouse in the French Lick Hotel oozing with history and class and scents of garlic.  I thoroughly enjoyed my Blue Cheese martini, not to mention the mouth-watering ribeye.

Just so you know – Yes, Tomato Juice was invented here at French Lick way back in 1917 when out of orange juice Louis Perrin served up a combination of squeezed tomatoes, sugar and his own special sauce.  It was an instant success with Chicago businessmen…the rest is history!

The Atrium within the West Baden Hotel with music in the background makes an ideal setting for pre-dinner cocktails under the dome …and not to be overlooked for dinner.

A visit to French Lick would not be complete without a night on the town of French Lick / West Baden.  For sports fans, 33 Brick Street sports pub has it all when it comes to wings, burgers, salads, etc.  If you like craft beer you are in heaven.  Basketball fans will be in awe of the quasi Larry Bird museum of collectables.

33 Brick Street

There’s no shortage of anything at French Lick so breakfast can be a smorgasbord of options at the Grand Colonnade buffet or quaint and cozy in Sinclair’s which, by the way, would make a romantic dinner option.

Nine & Wine in Indiana…Wine is another thing that does not come top of mind when you think of Indiana.  We were treated to a fine sampling by the French Lick Winery one evening and then low and behold a bottle appeared in our rooms.  It was too good to leave behind, although risky to pack in luggage for air travel!  Our late morning chauffeured road trip back to the airport was a perfect setting for one last sampling!

Soo much more to tell!

But I just ran out of time.  I did not make it horseback riding, zip-lining, to the Water Park, the Marina or even to visit the Elephants – Yes, the Elephant Retreat Wilstem Ranch.

You will have to find out the rest for yourselves…

Come and enjoy the hospitality that the heartland of America has to offer.  It will be memorable!