Courses & TravelMay 12, 2009

French Licked

French Lick.jpg

Matt, I drove up to the new Pete Dye course Sunday April 26th before the course opened. It is unbelievably beautiful up there. Almost surreal. Went back last Sunday. Gate closed, no one admitted without a tee time. Drove down to the pro shop at the Ross course. $350 per person to play the Dye course, BUT, it's for hotel guests only, no outsiders . . . PLUS, you must have at least one fore-caddie. Loopers optional. Ouch.

I hear you, Jim. I went to French Lick a few weeks ago. I loved the people and the two towns of French Lick and West Baden Springs with a combined population of 2,600 and only one traffic light. I shot around in the same gym Bird built, had lunch and dinner with his high school coach, played multiple rounds at the new Dye Course (pictured above) and the recently restored Ross Course, where Bird caddied as a kid. I was in awe of the amount of time and money Bill Cook and his investors spent fixing up the place. At $500 million in 15 years, you wonder if it will take 500 years to see a profit. I couldn't help but leave there rooting for them to make it, but I was also scratching my head over the $350 green fee to play the new Dye Course. I look at Bandon Dunes, which isn't easy to get to in Oregon. Mike Keiser drew people in with moderate green fees in the late 90's and in 2001, when he opened Pacific Dunes. Now that they have over 30,000 rounds a year on all three courses, Keiser has gently increased green fees to $265 in the peak season on public courses all ranked in the top 21 in the country. What is French Lick thinking??? (That's what we are all thinking.) And if Cook sticks to that price, and he makes it work, then I'll be the first one at his front door, which is probably a big front door, and I'll say I was wrong. I'll have to hand it to him. As other courses are closing, as the biggest and best resorts in the country are lowering rates and offering package deals they never dreamed of offering, Cook grabbed a microphone and stood at the gates of the Dye Course. On the top of the second highest peak in a fairly flat state, Cook announced to Indiana and the rest of the golf world that he would be charging more than Spyglass Hill and six other courses in the top 10 on Golf Digest's list of America's 100 Greatest Public Courses. And he'd be doing this in French Lick.

Jim, I wrote about the new Dye Course, Cook and French Lick in Golf World last week (here's the link) and I wrote an Away Game for the July issue of Golf Digest (hits the newsstand the first week of June). I'll also be posting video on this blog talking basketball and Larry Bird with the old high school basketball coach, Gary Holland.

I don't know what to tell you other than if I was made of money I'd play the Dye Course again some day. But I'm not, so if I find myself back in French Lick, the new water park, casino, sports bar and the Ross Course will have to do. And at a $115 green fee with a $20 replay rate, I might even stay a few extra days.

--Matty G.

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