The PNC visits golf’s modern marvel

Nos. 11 and 12 at the Pete Dye Course at French Lick Resort in Indiana.

Nos. 11 and 12 at the Pete Dye Course at French Lick Resort in Indiana.

FRENCH LICK, Ind. – In the case of It’s Possible to Build a Golf Course Anywhere With Enough Time and Money, we offer Exhibit A: the Pete Dye Course at French Lick Resort.

On a partially manufactured hilltop some 425 feet above the famed resort, one of the country’s most popular tourist destinations when it was built at the turn of the 20th century, the 14-month-old course is the centerpiece of this week’s Professional National Championship. If nothing else, it is a tribute to modern earth-moving equipment and the foresight of those in the business of golf course design.

“No one knows exactly how much dirt Pete moved,” says Steve Ferguson, chairman of the board of the Cook Group, owner of French Lick Resort. “Two million cubic yards might be a pretty good estimate.”

From virtually anywhere on the course, one of the highest points in Indiana, the views are spectacular.

photo

No. 6 at the Pete Dye Course at French Lick Resort in Indiana.

“When we walked it,” explained Ferguson, “out where the seventh hole now goes out and the ninth comes back, Pete said, ‘We’re going to put two fairways here,’ and I remember saying to him, ‘You can’t do that, Pete. People will be hitting into each other all the time.’ But he didn’t pay attention to me, as Pete does. He went though with his plan and it turned out there’s absolutely no problem. He had a vision for what he was doing here and it’s nothing but a tribute to Pete and his team.”

The two finishing holes were built on ground some 80 feet higher than the original terrain, and in fact the par-5 18th hole was graded, then lowered some 20 feet to its present position. Such work, however, doesn’t come without a price.

“We went from a budget of about $6 million to about $20 million,” said Ferguson. “We had a little cost overrun there.”

In addition to Dye, four other design companies were invited to submit proposals for the course, which can be stretched to more than 8,000 yards, a monster that weighs in with a Slope rating of 148.

“When Pete came out here the first time, I was going into a meeting,” remembered Ferguson, “so I gave him a topo and an aerial map. When I came out of the meeting, he said, ‘I don’t think I can build a course here.’ But he began to get more interested and the next time I saw him, he had taken that aerial and topo and he had a golf course laid out on it.

“I asked him one time, ‘Pete, can this be a great golf course?’ And he said, ‘This can be one of the best courses in the world.’ ”

That probably is the case if it’s the people at Caterpillar that you’re polling.

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