Golf resolutions for 2017, Part 1: Culver Academies Golf Course
I’ve never been big on resolutions. But recently, I’ve started feeling my age for the first time. And if I don’t set some goals now, the next thing I know, either my golfing days (or the entire civilized world) will be over. Feels like about a 50-50 proposition recently.
In this spirit, then, here is the first of a few golf resolutions for this new year.
In 2017, I resolve to seek out lesser-known courses and give their singular histories their due. Take the Culver Academies Golf Course in Culver, Indiana. If you’ve never heard of the Culver Academies, I won’t go into the long, storied history of one of the nation’s most elite military prep schools. Suffice it to say that the 850 cadets in the student body hail from about 23 different countries around the world, and represent some of the wealthiest, most famous families in the U.S.
This elite, world-renowned prep school is located in northwest Indiana, not really near anything else – and certainly not where you’d expect to find so many scions of industry, finance, entertainment, and politics.
Another thing you wouldn’t expect to find here is a classic 9-hole Langford and Moreau design dating from 1923 – the height of the “Golden Age” of golf course design. According to Mike Vessely, head groundskeeper at the course, Anthony Pioppe, author of “To The Nines,” a book dedicated to unique 9-hole courses, has called the Culver Academies Course one of the top three 9-holers in the nation.
In 2016, the course was re-dedicated after a painstaking renovation and restoration to the original Langford and Moreau specifications by golf course architect Bobby Weed. Prior to the renovation, the course had slowly fallen into disrepair, according to Vessely. All the turf was mowed to the same length, and fairways were covered in crabgrass. The brilliant design was almost lost beneath an overgrown layer of neglect.
In 2009, an alumni drive began to raise the finds required to rejuvenate the historic, private track, and to build an appropriately grand “Golf House” (not a clubhouse) for the cadets, family, and alumni who are allowed play it. Four of these alumni are members of Augusta National, so the academy’s ties to the golf world run deep. (Pete and Alice Dye also have a cabin nearby, as Alice is originally from the area.)
On October 1, 2016, the course was re-dedicated, and the results are quite remarkable. The quirky golden age design combined with the rolling landscape
“offers nothing but uneven lies,” says Vessely. Razor-sharp doglegs and blind shots discourage even the longest hitters from trying to overpower the 3,226-yard track.
Culver Academies Golf Course is a fascinating, endlessly puzzling and challenging “short course,” which any avid golfer should try to play – if you’re lucky enough to be or to know an alum or cadet. Don’t try to just sweet-talk your way on. I had an appointment to look at the course on a windy, cold, blustery day in late October. Mine was the only car in the parking lot aside from Vessely’s, yet I was met before even entering the Golf House by a gentleman who was clearly not inclined to grant passage beyond the front steps.
After explaining who I was, though, I did get a nice guided tour of the course in a covered golf cart in the pouring, whipping rain. Even if it had been a nice day, though, I don’t think I could have played. Nevertheless, the visit was totally worth the trip.
One of the wonderful photos hanging on the walls in the Culver Academies Golf House shows captures the first shot struck on the course in 1923.
The ninth green sits just outside the door of the new Culver Academies Golf House.
The third green at the Culver Academies Golf Course epitomizes the artistry and brilliance of the original Langford and Moreau design, along with the totally rebuilt and reconditioned bunkering.
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