It has taken a few weeks to process my experience at French Lick Resort’s Pete Dye Course. I was also slightly sidetracked by a little trip to Scotland in that timeframe. The dust in my golf cranium has settled. I’m ready to try and tackle this big review of a big golf course.
French Lick Location
First off, let’s get the location figured out. French Lick Resort is in Larry Bird country, the towns of French Lick and West Baden Springs in southern Indiana. The closest major city and airport is Louisville, Kentucky. Next would be Cincinnati and Indianapolis. The resort sits on a large and historic estate which dates back to 1845.
The Dye Course is a 5-10 minute drive from the West Baden Springs Hotel and the French Lick Hotel and Casino. The course lies on one of the highest points of elevation in Indiana, producing a 40 mile panoramic view.
Pete Dye Course Key Facts
First off, one must know who Pete Dye is. Pete Dye is a Hall of Fame golf course architect who has built some of the most famous courses in the world. Some of Pete Dye’s most notable courses include Kiawah Island Golf Resort, Harbour Town Golf Links, TPC Sawgrass Stadium (home of THE PLAYERS), Whistling Straits, and PGA West.
Pete Dye and me
The Pete Dye Course at French Lick is certainly one of the most difficult courses in the USA, if not the world. The course rating from the tips is an unheard of 80.0. The slope is a massive 148. It’s hard to translate those numbers for those who don’t understand rating and slope. A skilled professional on average would shoot an 80 on this course, on a good day.
The course plays to a par value of 72. The total yardage is 8,102. Amongst that hefty yardage is par-3 16th hole which measures 305 yards. If the length isn’t tough enough, there’s water down the entire right side.
The views presented to the golfer from the tees are tremendous, challenging, and worthy of not only a solid tee shot, but a solid shutter release of a nice DSLR camera.
1st Tee – The sliver of fairway in line with the cart path is the target
Where to aim from the tee on the Pete Dye course is a tough call on nearly every hole. Visually the landing areas look extremely narrow and seem like they’re miles away. Wait a sec… that’s because they are extremely narrow and miles away. One must know how far they hit their drives or layup shots, exactly. Then execute a near perfect shot to hit that precise spot to keep a ball in the fairway. And I’m talking about the par-3’s! I kid. I kid. Sort of.
Here’s a recap of the first half of perhaps the best single day of golf I’ve ever experienced, the HOG World Tour visit to Royal Aberdeen Golf Club. Royal Aberdeen was the morning session on the 2nd day of the tremendous 2016 “Lads in Scotland” tour. The Lads are my group of good friends who get together every two years to golf in Scotland. The evening session was Cruden Bay. Stay tuned on that one.
About Royal Aberdeen
Royal Aberdeen is a fabulous links course located in the northeast of Scotland, about a 2-3 hour drive north of St. Andrews. Golf was first played on the grounds back in 1780, making it the sixth oldest golf club in the world. The clubhouse, staff, and grounds represent great history and a high class club.
In recent history, Royal Aberdeen hosted the 2014 Scottish Open. During the 2014 Scottish open Phil Mickelson was defending his title. Rory McIlory carded the course record, 64. Justin Rose came away with the victory.
My golf experience at Royal Aberdeen was tremendous. I played fairly well, not losing a ball in fairly high winds. The back nine had some serious teeth as we were coming home directly into the wind.
In the photo above I nailed a solid 4-iron to the par-3 17th green, looking out over the North Sea.
I will post a full review of Royal Aberdeen Golf Club down the blog road. Stay tuned.
Tonight I unpacked my golf bag from last week’s Scotland trip. Honestly, I have no desire to play “American” golf right now. But duty calls, a charity golf tournament tomorrow morning. So I had to get my bag ready. Part of getting ready is installing my new Kingsbarns Golf Links putter cover. Brilliant! Speaking of Kingsbarns… This past Sunday morning the HOG World Tour and my friends “The Lads” spent a fantastic 18 holes on Kingsbarns Golf Links.
Kingsbarns Golf Links – 15th Hole at Low Tide
Kingsbarns is one of the best courses I’ve ever played. Easily in my top five and I’ve played many of the world’s best. The course design combined with the views of the sea are tremendous. Kingsbarns is a must-play for any golfers who are in St. Andrews. It’s just a few minutes away.
Below The Lads (and Lorna the Lass) are enjoying post round wee pints and some fantastic Kingsbarns food for lunch. My favorite is the chili.
Day three of the tour in Scotland was one of the two 18-hole days. The others being all 36-hole days. The reason for only 18 on this occasion is due to the travel time required to get from up north in Cruden Bay down to St Andrews. While we could have played the renowned Carnoustie Golf Links a few hundred yards away, the Lads (our golf buddy group) decided to try a course we had not played before, Panmure Golf Club’s Barry Links. The Carnoustie area was chosen as it was on the way from Cruden Bay to St Andrews.
Panmure (1845) is a historic private club, one of the oldest in the world. The club plays over the Barry Links, a course so old that the course designer is unknown. The course oozes history, tradition, and old-school class. The clubhouse has probably been the same for 100 years. The course certainly has.
Panmure is known as being the course Ben Hogan chose to practice at when he was competing in his only Open Championship (USA translation: British Open) at Carnoustie in 1953. The course plays similar to Carnoustie and Hogan liked privacy. It is said that Hogan wanted the 17th hole to be modified to be more similar to Carnoustie, suggesting the green be cut shorter. The head greenkeeper gave Hogan a mower. Hogan cut the grass himself and cleaned the mower before returning it.
Panmure is a joy to experience from a pure golf standpoint. The holes are soft on the eye visually and feature many wide fairways, dunes, and unique green complexes. Errant shots can be severely penalized however, by long “barry rough,” deep bunkers and dunes.
Despite being a short course at about 6,500 yards, scores at Panmure as an Open Championship qualifying venue, have been the highest.
My personal experience at Panmure was difficult unfortunately. Due to many technical issues I was not able to fully enjoy and soak in the experience and vibe. First, oddly, was that the weather was too good. Yes that sounds odd I’m sure. It had rained all morning right up to our 2:ooPM tee time. Right at 2:oo the clouds parted and the rain stopped. The sun started pounding on the course, and us golfers. Club rules do not allow shorts so I was playing in trousers (known as pants in the USA). I don’t normally wear trousers because of heat issues. The combination of the unusually warm temperature, the trousers, and nearly 100% humidity caused me to sweat profusely. The sweat led to physical discomfort, dehydration, and frustration due to not being able to grip the club with slippery hands. My half Greek half Scottish sweat was like an all-you-can-eat buffet for the flies. I was being attacked.
If the heat and sweat issues weren’t enough, I had some serious foot problems. I had to tape a couple of toes and my right heel by the back nine. I was wearing some new inserts for my feet to give me more arch support. After about five miles of walking in them that day I was hurting from the blisters and general aching from the hard supports in the inserts.
I’ve never actually done it, but I nearly walked off the course between the sweat and the feet. It was a shame to have my focus taken away from the course and its beautiful walk, but I did the best I could to absorb it.
Panmure seems to be a golf course and club that is frozen in time. It’s one of the purest and most unique experiences I’ve had despite my physical struggles. I hope Panmure never changes.