Forget Florida. Postpone Palm Springs. Hold off on Hawaii.
Indianapolis as a golf destination? Believe it. Pack your clubs for a week in the Circle City, and you can play a different outstanding course every day and walk to a different outstanding restaurant every night.
Take it from Jack Barber, the 2009 PGA Golf Professional of the Year. Barber, the president of the Indiana PGA Section, has worked for 24 years as the head professional at Meridian Hills Country Club and has watched the area's golf scene explode. "There has been an influx of great daily-fee courses," Barber says. "For golfers in the Midwest, this a great area to play and have fun and enjoy."
BRICKYARD CROSSING AT THE INDIANAPOLIS MOTOR SPEEDWAY
For a one-of-a-kind golf outing, it's tough to beat playing inside the famous Speedway. The 18-hole layout is a gem redesigned by Pete Dye and the former home of a PGA Champions Tour event. Voted one of America's top 100 public golf courses by Golf Digest and Golfweek, the course features four holes inside the 2.5-mile oval and a three-hole closing stretch that will command a player's attention.
BARBER SAYS: "The finishing holes are just fabulous--eighteen might be one of the best in Indiana. The green looks like there might be three or four Volkswagens buried in it."
PAR 72 // TEES 4 // COURSE YARDAGE 5,038 to 6,994 // GREENS FEES $90 for 18 holes, $45 re-play // CLUB RENTAL Yes // ADDRESS 4400 W. 16th St. // BOOK 317-492-6572
THE FORT GOLF RESORT
Just outside I-465 on the east side of Indianapolis is the former Fort Benjamin Harrison Military Reservation, now a 2,500-acre state park with a breathtaking Pete Dye course unique to central Indiana. The Fort stretches to more than 7,100 yards from the back tees.
BARBER SAYS: "The elevation change is so uncharacteristic to Indiana. You think you're in the Kentucky mountains or the Carolinas. And it's a very challenging golf course. The tree-lined fairways and wooded areas put a tremendous premium on driving the ball in play."
PAR 72 // TEES 4 // COURSE YARDAGE 5,045 to 7,148 // GREENS FEES $49-$69 for 18 holes, $49 twilight rate, $35 re-play // CLUB RENTAL Yes // ADDRESS 6002 N. Post Rd. // BOOK 317-543-9597
HEARTLAND CROSSING GOLF LINKS
Southwest of Indianapolis is a course with a Hall of Fame pedigree. Nick Price, British Open and PGA Championship winner and a World Golf Hall of Fame inductee in 2003, designed Heartland Crossing with Steve Smyers. Enjoy the prairie grasses and wildflowers, but stay out of the sand--Heartland has 69 bunkers.
BARBER SAYS: "It might be as premium of a driving course as we have because of the severity of the bunkers. A lot of greens have great contours, so it's challenging to hit the ball in the right place for your putting."
PAR 72 // TEES 5 // COURSE YARDAGE 5,536 to 7,267 // GREENS FEES $35-$55 for 18 holes, $29 for 9 holes, $17-$29 twilight rate // CLUB RENTAL Yes // ADDRESS 6701 S. Heartland Blvd., Camby // BOOK 317-630-1785
PRAIRIE VIEW GOLF CLUB
Famed golf course architect Robert Trent Jones Jr. was handed an outstanding piece of property in Carmel for his first Indiana design, on the bed of the White River across from Conner Prairie, a historic interactive history park. Since its 1997 opening, Prairie View has hosted U.S. Open qualifiers and state tournaments.
BARBER SAYS: "There are very few trees, and it seems like the wind is always blowing. You can spray tee shots and get away with it, but the green complexes are very well done with the bunkering system. Miss the greens and you're hard-pressed to make a par."
PAR 72 // TEES 4 // COURSE YARDAGE 5,203 to 7,073 // GREENS FEES $90 for 18 holes, $50 for 9 holes, $55 twilight rate, $35 re-play // CLUB RENTAL Yes // ADDRESS 7000 Longest Dr., Carmel // BOOK 317-816-3100
PURGATORY GOLF CLUB
Golf Digest called this Noblesville course "a slice of heaven, despite its name." But Purgatory can live up to its promise if the wind is blowing or you are not at the top of your game--more than 125 bunkers await to eat up any errant shots. Purgatory regularly wins accolades as one of the best courses in the country for women, and it has been named a top 100 public golf course by Golf Digest.
BARBER SAYS: "With that many bunkers, every green is so well-protected. That makes Purgatory a great target golf course. You see where you want to hit it, and you have to use good judgment on how to get the ball in play."
PAR 72 // TEES 6 // COURSE YARDAGE 4,562 to 7,754 // GREENS FEES $60-$75 for 18 holes // CLUB RENTAL Yes // ADDRESS 12160 E. 216th St., Noblesville // BOOK 317-776-4653
Every golf fan knows course designer Pete Dye's work, from the island-green 17th hole at TPC Sawgrass in Florida to the lighthouse hole at Hilton Head's Harbour Town. But did you know the World Golf Hall of Famer was a top amateur in Indiana and started his career here? Not only that, but he also honed his legendary course architecture skills right here in Indiana. With Indiana as the home to more Pete Dye courses than any other place in the world, he handpicked seven of his favorite courses to be part of the Pete Dye Golf Trail.
Dye, 84, continues to work as the country's foremost golf course architect and has a soft spot for his hometown projects. "There are a lot of golf courses in Indianapolis for its population," he says. "In 2012, the PGA Tour will have the BMW Championship at Crooked Stick [where Dye lives], which will bring the professionals back to Indy. The course should be in good shape that time of year." The Pete Dye Course at French Lick Springs Resort in southern Indiana was voted the country's best new public course in 2009.