Ladies and gentlemen, start your carts! We’re off and racing to two of the most famous forums for cars and horses, chasing golf balls in between. When Pete Dye re-designed the Brickyard Crossing he incorporated the infield of the Indy 500 racetrack. He lined streams along the course with recycled concrete, drivers’ names still intact. AJ Foyt stood by at a pre Indy 500 golf tourney. The Brickyard Crossing is a must play if you want to “be on the inside track.”
In southern Indiana The French Lick Resort won the Best Historic Resort award by USA Today readers. In the good old days people flocked there to soak in the sun or mineral spas, chasing purported health benefits. Today there is something for everyone. It is a two for one resort since The Cook Group combined the French Lick Springs and the West Baden Springs Hotels. The first is stately with rocking chairs on the outer deck, a spa with stained glass windows, pools, a casino, bowling alley and restaurants. 1875 The Steakhouse commemorates the first Kentucky Derby with a fine dining experience. Thomas the Train chugs with passengers to the West Baden Springs Hotel considered the eighth wonder of the world for its atrium dome. Bedroom balconies instill a sense of royalty overlooking the circular expanse. A piano player sets the mood by the atrium bar for a promenade around the perimeter to another spa, more shops and eateries. Shuttles transport between all locales including three golf courses, stables, a winery and 33 Brick Street where hometown hero Larry Bird’s memorabilia is displayed. Varied venues and high capacity make French Lick ideal for conferences and events. The upcoming Willie Nelson concert sold out quickly.
At former musician promoter Jerry Fuhs’ little hillside mansion, a diesel pickup pulled up. When Jerry went to check it out, a man was kneeling with a sheet of paper and petting the heads of Jerry’s dogs. He turned and said, “Hi, I’m Pete Dye.” Pete completed his design and Jerry sold the mansion to The Cook Group. Now he is chasing his safari dream at nearby Wilstem Ranch, previously owned by a circus entrepreneur. It is a retirement Taj Mahal for three pachyderm maidens as people of all ages come to take part in the elephant encounter showering, scrubbing and polishing the giants’ toes while learning all about them.
Some might feel that the Pete Dye course is like a circus. It is probably his most diabolical design in one of his most spectacular settings. The geographical dimensions are extraordinary. Greens are zero edged like infinity pools. Narrow fairways slope to steep hillsides with tall grass. You must have a lot of balls to play this beauty and beast. Jerry’s mansion is now a magnificent clubhouse for events and serves as the 19th hole of the Pete Dye course. After a grueling round the patio serves a striking view for libations most golfers need. Foursomes receive a tin box decorated with course photos and filled with Woodford Reserve and cigars, nice!
The Donald Ross Course at French Lick is more fair but with his usual false front greens. The redesigned Valley Links Course provides a warm up for the more challenging 18s.
To drive to French Lick, you can fly into Indianapolis or Louisville, the home of the greatest – Muhammad Ali. At the Visitor’s Center pick up a passport to the Urban Bourbon Trail. Historic architecture amazes along the way. On the corner of the new 4th Street Live Entertainment complex that lights up the night, The Old Seelbach Hotel is central to all the action. Ten minutes away, the best place for a mint julep is Churchill Downs, which turns into a red carpet for the well-hatted who’s who, during the most famous horse racing event, the Kentucky Derby. Numerous distilleries within an hour of Louisville deliver rich history of before, during and after prohibition along with tastings. Woodford Reserve boasts the oldest still house of 1840. Buffalo Trace produces Weller, Blanton’s and more with complimentary tours and tastings. Jim Beam produces the most bourbon while Makers Mark lets you dip your bottle in red wax to make your own mark.
For the final stretch Quail Chase Golf Club on Chapel Road is one of many courses around Louisville. 27 holes designed by David Pfaff roll through the woods over creeks and Kentucky bluegrass for pure country golf.