French Licks new golf course is to Dye for

By Jay CoffinSeptember 11, 2009, 7:03 pm
french lick resort dye course
The par-4 11th hole at the Pete Dye Course

FRENCH LICK, Ind. – Don’t blink when entering French Lick or you may miss it.

On the surface, the 1.6-mile stretch of State Road 56 is underwhelming but if you take some time to tour the strangely-named farm town made famous by Larry Bird you’ll find it charming.

There is much to be overwhelmed by where golf is concerned. For starters, the brand spanking new Pete Dye Course at French Lick stretches 8,102 yards from the gold tees and boasts a par-3 16th hole that is a beast at 301 yards; An old governor’s mansion serves as a clubhouse and can be rented for a smooth $10,000 a night that includes as much golf as you can play; The Donald Ross Course, built in 1917, hosted the 1924 PGA Championship won by Walter Hagen and wreaks of history; The nine-hole Tom Bendelow Course sits adjacent to the French Lick Springs and is a neat track if  you’re looking to kill some time late in the afternoon before dinner.

Add two vintage hotels – the domed West Baden Springs and the massive French Lick Springs – with a new 42,000 square foot Las Vegas-style gaming casino and the elements of the French Lick Resort combine to amass 3,000 acres of entertainment that rival anything in the Midwest.

For the past five years Bloomington businessman Bill Cook has overseen the revival of the community that was once known as a getaway for the hoity-toity who would arrive by train. Al Capone was known to make the trip from Chicago to do “dirty business,” Clark Gable frequented the town, the Chicago Cubs once called French Lick its spring training home and in 1931 Franklin Roosevelt announced that he’d run for President of the United States at a Governors’ Convention.

But now, a reported $500 million later, French Lick is known as a golf destination.

“This place is about stories and the series of them that have happened over the past 10-15 years that have led us to this point,” said Dave Harner, director of golf at French Lick since 1987. “It’s been exciting to be able to be a part of growing it all back.”

Below is a list of likes and dislikes from spending several days in Southern Indiana.


1. The ambiance. The best view in the area is at the clubhouse of the Pete Dye Course, which Dye himself says sits at 900 feet elevation, well above the entire golf course. “The ambiance is what I remember most,” Dye said. “The continuous views you get, I’ve never seen anything like it. Some days you see 10 miles, some times it’s 20 miles. Some days you can only see a mile and a half.”

2. The history. A lot of the elements are either new or renovated but you still feel a strong sense of the past. Along with the aforementioned names, the Reagans and the Kennedys are some other of the nation’s elite that have spent time here for a little R&R. And it’s where Larry Bird learned how to play basketball. Enough said.

3. The Donald Ross Course. The Pete Dye Course is billed as the gem but the Donald Ross Course should not be overlooked. There isn’t a practice range and the four par 3s are similar in length – which will likely irk the traditionalist – but it is pure Ross from beginning to end.

4. Paoli is considered the closest big town. Population of French Lick is nearly 2,000 but neighboring Paoli – which is 12 miles away – is double with a population of 3,933. Big City folk find it comical.

5. Dealers at the casino. They’re all delightful, something that can’t always be said of Sin City dealers. Those tossing cards around at French Lick were helpful, told jokes and made you feel like you weren’t losing any money. Perhaps some would consider that a lethal combination. I call it memorable and pleasant.


1. Difficulty of the Pete Dye Course. “You have to play it two or three times to appreciate it,” Dye said. I did, and I agree. The course is beautiful and is a handful. Playing it twice or thrice is recommended but with a $350 rack rate (and you can only play if you stay at the resort) it’s not a likely option.

2. Very few non-golf related activities. Paoli has all the shops and restaurants that you’ve come to know and love, French Lick has nothing. There is one Dairy Queen, a Subway and a JayC grocery store. That’s it. The WalMart and McDonald’s are in Paoli. Although, 33 Brick Street, a restaurant with neat Larry Bird memorabilia, sits just behind the French Lick police station. Not bad.

3. The $10,000 a night fare to stay in the Governor’s mansion. The bill is a little more than this editor’s budget could afford but I was able to get a detailed tour of the digs. It is an ideal spot for high-rollers to buzz into town, play some good golf with great accommodations, and get out. The place will see some action during the week of the Kentucky Derby.

4. Losing several bucks to those friendly dealers. Seriously, they really wanted me to win and I feel like I let them down.

5. Location. It’s not near a big city like many other great golf resorts but it is within a 5 hour drive of six major cities – Louisville (70 miles), Indianapolis (110), St. Louis (210), Nashville (240) and Chicago (275).
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Van Rooyen holes putt after ball-marker ruling

By Ryan LavnerJuly 20, 2018, 4:50 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Erik van Rooyen was surveying his 10-footer for par, trying to get a feel for the putt, when his putter slipped out of his hand and dropped onto his ball marker.

The question, then, was whether that accident caused his coin to move.

The rules official looked at various camera angles but none showed definitively whether his coin moved. The ruling was made to continue from where his coin was now positioned, with no penalty.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

This was part of the recent rules changes, ensuring there is no penalty if the ball or ball maker is accidently moved by the player. The little-used rule drew attention in 2010, when Ian Poulter accidentally dropped his ball on his marker in Dubai and wound up losing more than $400,000 in bonus and prize money.

After the delay to sort out his ruling Friday, van Rooyen steadied himself and made the putt for par, capping a day in which he shot even-par 71 and kept himself in the mix at The Open. He was at 4-under 138, just two shots off the clubhouse lead.

“I wanted to get going and get this 10-footer to save par, but I think having maybe just a couple minutes to calm me down, and then I actually got a different read when I sat down and looked at it again,” he said. “Good putt. Happy to finish that way.”

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Lyle birdies last hole in likely his final Open start

By Ryan LavnerJuly 20, 2018, 4:32 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – If this was Sandy Lyle’s final Open appearance, he went out in style.

Playing on the final year of his automatic age exemption, the 60-year-old Scot buried a 30-foot birdie on the last hole. He missed the cut after shooting 9-over 151 over two rounds.

“I was very light-footed,” he said. “I was on cloud nine walking down the 18th. To make birdie was extra special.”

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Lyle, who also won the 1988 Masters, has missed the cut in his last eight majors, dating to 2014. He hasn’t been competitive in The Open since 1998, when he tied for 19th.

To continue playing in The Open, Lyle needed to finish in the top 10 here at Carnoustie. He’d earn a future exemption by winning the Senior British Open.

“More punishment,” he said.

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DJ, Thomas miss cut at Open; No. 1 up for grabs

By Ryan LavnerJuly 20, 2018, 3:35 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – The top two players in the world both missed the cut at The Open, creating the possibility of a shakeup at the top of the rankings by the end of the weekend.

Dustin Johnson became the first world No. 1 since Luke Donald in 2011 to miss the cut at the year’s third major.

Johnson played solidly for all but the closing stretch. Over two rounds, he was 6 over par on the last three holes. He finished at 6-over 148.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Thomas added to what’s been a surprisingly poor Open record. Just like last year, when he struggled in the second round in the rain at Royal Birkdale, Thomas slumped to a 77 on Friday at Carnoustie, a round that included three consecutive double bogeys on Nos. 6-8. He finished at 4-over 146.

It’s Thomas' first missed cut since The Open last year. Indeed, in three Open appearances, he has two missed cuts and a tie for 53rd.  

With Johnson and Thomas out of the mix, the No. 1 spot in the rankings is up for grabs this weekend.

Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm all can reach No. 1 with a victory this week.

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TT Postscript: Woods (71) makes cut, has work to do

By Tiger TrackerJuly 20, 2018, 3:32 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Here are a few things I think I think after Tiger Woods shot a second consecutive even-par 71 Friday in the second round. And yes, he made the cut:

• Tiger said all 71s are not created equal. On Thursday, he made three birdies and three bogeys. On Friday, he made four birdie and four bogeys. Which round was better? The first. His theory is that, despite the rain, conditions were easier in the second round and there were more scoring opportunities. He didn't take advantage.

• This is the first time since the 2013 Open at Royal Lytham & St. Annes that Tiger shot par or better in each of the first two rounds of a major. That’s quite a long time ago.

• Stat line for the day: 11 of 15 fairways, 13 of 18 greens, 32 total putts. Tiger hit one driver and two 3-woods on Thursday and four drivers on Friday, only one which found the fairway. An errant drive at the second led to him sniping his next shot into the gallery


Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

• In his own words: “I could have cleaned up the round just a little bit. I got off to not exactly the best start, being 2 over through three, but got it back. The golf course was a little bit softer today, obviously. It rains, and we were able to get the ball down a little bit further, control the ball on the ground a little bit easier today, which was nice.”

• At some point Tiger is going to have to be more aggressive. He will be quite a few shots off the lead by day’s end and he'll have a lot of ground to make up. Hitting irons off the tee is great for position golf, but it’s often leaving him more than 200 yards into the green. Not exactly a range for easy birdies.

• Sure, it’s too soon to say Tiger can’t win a fourth claret jug, but with so many big names ahead of him on the leaderboard, it’s unlikely. Keep in mind that a top-six finish would guarantee him a spot in the WGC: Bridgestone Invitational in two weeks. At The Players, he stated that this was a big goal.

• My Twitter account got suspended momentarily when Tiger was standing over a birdie putt on the 17th green. That was the most panicked I’ve been since Tiger was in contention at the Valspar.