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New Golf Mecca | Pete Dye Golf Trail

Forget the doom and gloom. This gotta-play region hasn’t thrown in the golf towel, choosing instead to invest in the game, add new courses and places to stay, and reach out to traveling golfers. It's where to go now.

By: Brian McCallen

Appeared in Spring 2014 LINKS

Here’s your chance to cross swords with the game’s greatest living architect in the state where he did most of his work. Established in 2011, the Trail honors the aw-shucks designer who once sold life insurance in Indianapolis. Sprinkled in both urban and rural sections of Indiana and spanning nearly 40 years of output, Dye’s creations provide a fascinating cross-section of his unique “gotcha” approach to golf design.

At the Trail’s north end is Mystic Hills, its sand-based, links-style front nine reprised by a parkland-style back nine, with tall prairie grasses framing a pleasant (for Pete) layout. With green fees ranging from $20–$45, it’s the Trail’s best bargain.

On Purdue University’s campus is the Birck Boilermaker Golf Complex, its Kampen Course a pro bono makeover of a pre-existing layout. Built to test top collegians, this brawny, 7,465-yard course routed around a celery bog has hosted the Men’s NCAA Championship. A paragon of environmental stewardship—every drop of rain is monitored for quality, recycled through created wetlands, then used for irrigation—the Kampen Course doubles as a laboratory for budding agronomists.

Four Trail courses are in and around Indianapolis. Plum Creek is a solid layout that relies on water features and well-contoured greens for its challenge; after the round, explore the Carmel Arts & Design District on the city’s vibrant north side.

Revered for his well-defended courses, Dye built a battleground of his own at The Fort, which occupies the thickly wooded site of a former U.S. Army base. The Fort is unusually hilly for central Indiana, with Dye’s topsy-turvy greens a match for the sharp elevation changes.
Maple Creek, opened in 1961, is labeled Pete’s first 18-hole design. Working closely with his wife Alice, he built a lovely course marked by tiny greens, tree-lined fairways, and trench-like bunkers, with a spidery creek meandering across the front nine. It’s a charmer.

For a full-throttle experience, head to Indianapolis Motor Speedway, where Dye moved 1.5 million cubic yards of dirt on a dead-flat site adjacent to the iconic track to create Brickyard Crossing. Fittingly, fairways and creeks on this pedal-to-the-metal course are rimmed by large slabs of the track’s old concrete crash wall. With its bold mounds, giant swales, and yawning bunkers, Brickyard presents a roaring challenge. Expect everything but a checkered flag on the four holes sprawled across the infield of the famous 2.5-mile oval race course.

Unveiled in 2009 as part of the $500 million restoration of French Lick Resort, the Pete Dye Golf Course marks the Trail’s southern terminus. An 8,102-yard behemoth grafted onto treeless hilltops at nearly 1,000 feet above sea level, this awesome course offers 40-mile views across Hoosier National Forest. Given free rein (and a big budget), Dye emptied his bag of tricks here, incorporating “volcano” bunkers, twisting fairways, and grassy chasms, not to mention optical illusions and enticing options. Arguably Pete’s finest inland creation, this epic track has it all, including a turn-of-the-century mansion for a clubhouse and an eye-popping $350 green fee.

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