Golf Advisor Getaway report: French Lick Resort

FRENCH LICK, Ind. - One thing we learned during our first-ever Golf Advisor Getaway, June 17-19: there’s nothing like hearing from the guy who designed the course you just played.

Okay, Tim Liddy’s name isn’t on the Pete Dye Course at French Lick Resort in Indiana. That’s because he’s not as famous as the fellow he’s worked for the last 25 years. But Liddy’s the guy who has steadily been putting Dye’s notes, thoughts and rough field sketches to paper so that there’s a document trail and a set of detailed plans for the dozens of courses they’ve worked on together – everything from this high-end resort to the exclusive Ford Plantation community south of Savannah and an affordable municipal layout in Bloomfield, Conn. called Wintonbury Hills Golf Course.

There’s no question the Pete Dye Course at French Lick is a tough track. Temperatures in the 90s didn’t help, but as Liddy explained, the real issue was how his boss, Dye, created a sense of sharp lines and the feeling of impending doom right alongside the safest, most receptive part of a golf hole. Here was a course that kept you on the edge the whole time. Standing in front of a white board and drawing simple but elegantly illustrative lines, Liddy showed the group that “golf design is all about creating angles.”

I had started off the event at dinner the first night with a PowerPoint presentation about modern architecture. But all the pretty pictures in the world can’t come close to the wisdom of a first-hand account from someone who works in the dirt.

The next day on the resort’s Donald Ross Course we got a more relaxed version of the angles that make for interesting golf. Here was a century-old layout, home to the 1924 PGA Championship (won by Walter Hagen), with all sorts of interesting pathways to the greens and some really intense putting surfaces.

By coincidence or design, we got to experience one of the great hole locations in all of golf – way back, top shelf, on the par-4 eighth hole. This is the famous green that’s 45-yards deep and falls eight feet (!) from back to front. From 200 yards out, one of our attendees, Ted Lipon from Houston, hit the shot of the entire event, an elegant 4-iron that landed halfway onto the green and rolled steadily upwards towards the hole, just missing the cup by a few inches and winding up 12 feet behind.

From there, he barely tapped his birdie try, knowing that if he were a touch too strong his comebacker would be from 100 feet away. Talk about strategic decisions. He wisely “settled” for a four. It was a lesson for all of us, and one of many we learned over those three days.

Next up on the Golf Getaway calendar: Arcadia Bluffs, Arcadia, Michigan, Aug. 27-29 , where I’ll be joined by designer Dana Fry as he debuts his new course there. Hope to see you there.

Video: Klein and Ginella on the new Golf Advisor Getaways

Veteran golf travel, history and architecture journalist, Bradley S. Klein has written more than 1,500 feature articles on course architecture, resort travel, golf course development, golf history and the media for such other publications as Golfweek, Golf Digest, Financial Times, New York Times and Sports Illustrated. He has published seven books on golf architecture and history, including Discovering Donald Ross, winner of the USGA 2001 International Book Award. In 2015, Klein won the Donald Ross Award for lifetime achievement from the American Society of Golf Course Architects.
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Elevated tees, narrow ribbons of fairways and hardly a flat lie await golfers who take on the 8,000-yard beast that is the Pete Dye Course at French Lick Resort in Indiana.
You will never stay at another hotel quite like French Lick Resort's West Baden Springs Hotel, whose enormous atrium could practically host a Major League Baseball game, and you will never play another course quite like the resort's Dye Course, which from day one could host a PGA event. It is no exaggeration to call French Lick, Ind. the most unique golf destination you've never heard of, Kiel Christianson writes. It is certainly worth the trip.
Opened in 1917, The Donald Ross Course continues to test the game's best a century later. View photos of this former PGA Championship and LPGA Championship host in southern Indiana.
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Golf Advisor Getaway report: French Lick Resort
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