French Lick isn’t the easiest place to find in Indiana. But if you’re a golfer, it’s worth spending a few minutes with a map or getting the directions from an online source.
Known widely as the hometown of NBA great Larry Bird, French Lick is making a name for itself as a golf destination. It features two exceptional golf courses that will challenge and entertain players of all skill levels and two gorgeous resorts that provide luxurious accommodations and exquisite dining options.
“Our two golf courses offer something for everyone,” says director of golf Dave Harner. “Each one is different and unique and you never get tired of playing them.”
The Donald Ross Course was built in 1917 by the legendary designer and hosted the 1924 PGA Championship that was won by Walter Hagen. The course received a $4.6 million restoration to restore it to its glory days.
The Ross course is a parkland style layout that you should be able to walk – although the rolling hills might get a tad long by the end of the round. Of course you’ll find the traditional Ross elements – the elevated greens with the back-to-front slope, the false fronts and the rollout areas. By the end of the round you’ll understand why it’s important to keep the ball below the hole.
The Pete Dye Course, which opened in 2009, hosted the 2015 PGA Senior Championship and is site of an annual LPGA Legends tournament. It holds the distinction for being one of the longest courses in the country, measuring 8,100 from the tips. (Please don’t try it.) The slope rating is 150.
The Dye course features some dramatic views from one of the highest points in the state. The antebellum clubhouse sits on a hill, with a panoramic view of the course below. The layout is typical of many other Dye designs – without the railroad ties. He makes you hit the ball in the proper place to earn the most desirable approach.
The Dye course requires a forecaddie, which can be most helpful when it comes to explaining the angles and optimizing the position, as well as finding balls and reading putts.
Guests may also enjoy the nine-hole Valley Links course, designed and built by Tom Bendelow in1907 and the only remains of the two original courses that were built on the property. Guests also have access to Sultan’s Run, located about 45 minutes away, that was built by Dye disciple Tim Liddy.
If possible, plan to stay at the French Lick Springs Hotel or the West Baden Springs Hotel. Both are exceptional.
The French Lick Springs Hotel was established in 1845, with the original east wing build in 1901. The hotel was created to attract visitors to experience the “miracle waters” of its nearby springs. It has 443 guest rooms, pool complex and conference center.
The West Baden Springs Hotel, built in 1902, is a circular building that features a breathtaking domed atrium. Rooms rise in six tiers around the dome, which was the largest in the world until the construction of the Astrodome.
The dining highlights are 1875: The Steakhouse, so named for the date of the first Kentucky Derby, and Sinclair’s Restaurant, which offers a romantic and elegant setting. The 1987, located at French Lick Springs, and Sinclair’s, located at West Baden, offer culinary highlights.
There is also a 51,000 square foot casino connected to the French Lick Springs Hotel, where you can go when it gets dark and you’re unable to play more golf. It even has a non-smoking area that makes the experience more enjoyable.
The resort is a seven-hour drive from Atlanta. It is about a one-hour drive from Louisville or two hours away from Indianapolis.