Watch the nation's top club pros tackle ferocious Pete Dye course at French Lick Resort & Casino on The Golf Channel
They are some of the best players not on the PGA Tour or Nationwide Tour.
Even so, the showstoppers at the 2010 PGA Professional National Championship aren’t defending champions like Mike Small (2009) and Scott Hebert (2008). The undisputed star of the show is the venue … the intimidating Dye course at French Lick Resort and Casino in southern Indiana.
If you’re not interested in the nation’s top club pros, check out the Golf Channel’s coverage for a peek at Pete Dye’s latest creation, which opened in 2009. Coverage starts Sunday from 7:30-9:30 p.m. and moves to 3:30-6 p.m. during the week. There’s a lot at stake.
For the players, it’s a berth to the 2010 PGA Championship at Whistling Straights in Kohler, Wis. For the Dye course, it’s a chance to prove that someday it could host a PGA Championship. The 312 club pros from 43 states will play one round on the restored 6,885-yard, par-70 Donald Ross course, built in 1917, before the Dye takes center stage.
Dye took a rugged, almost mountainous, site that is one of the highest points in the state, offering expansive views 40 miles in either direction, and imposed his will to find a course on it.
He molded “volcano” bunkers – sand hazards perched atop mounds – along the fairway of the second hole. He added “church pews,” ala Oakmont Country Club, in the fairway waste bunker on the 18th hole. Three par-5s boomerang left around steep drop-offs filled with juicy rough. Almost every green seemingly rests on stilts, surrounded by shaved collection zones. He stretched the course to a mindboggling 8,102 yards, but it will play a mere 7,174 yards in the tournament.
Even by Dye’s standards, this is diabolical golf at its over-the-top best. Dye, who lives near Indianapolis, admits to being nervous how it will be received by top club pros. At $350 a round, it’s not for everybody.
The 84-year-old architect shouldn’t fret too much about what a few club pros might think. This course should only enhance the legacy of his hall-of-fame career. A statue of Dye guards the entrance to the course and his picture is prominently featured on every tee marker (see photo below).
“This golf course is always in the eye of the beholder,” Dye said. “You always worry how it will be received. The ambiance is so dramatic.
“… I’ve never done anything like this before. We’ll see what happens (at the tournament), for better or worse.”
Todd Smith, who won the 2009 Indiana PGA Championship at the course with a 9-over-par 223 for 54 holes, calls the layout “really special.”
“Mr. Dye gives you a chance to play a hole with ample room in a fairway, but when it comes to making a score on a hole, you have to be precise,” said Smith, a 47-year-old PGA head professional at Rock Hollow Golf Club and a nine-time Indiana PGA Player of the Year. “I love to play his courses.”
The event serves as a coming-out party for the resort, which has undergone a massive $500 million renovation since 2005, spearheaded by the Cook Group Inc. of nearby Bloomington, Ind. The West Baden Springs Hotel, circa 1902, once again shines as “the Eighth Wonder of the World,” thanks to its awe-inspiring six-story atrium and ornate decor. The picture below is a view from a room balcony.
The nearby luxurious French Lick Springs Hotel, another historic building dating to the turn of the last century, now offers a monstrous 51,000-square-foot casino featuring 1,300 slots and 41 table games.
Resort brass hopes the tournament serves as one giant commercial to reintroduce the world to the wonders of French Lick. The boyhood home of Larry Bird is officially back on the map – bolder and better than ever.
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