Tuesday, May 26, 2009


Pete Dye Course at French Lick
This course just opened April 24. It is so new that it has not even had 100 rounds played on it yet. It is also so new that it has not been sloped or rated yet. And if Pete Dye and the developer have their way, it should be rated as the toughest course in America, if not it will be damn close. Their goal is to attract major golf competitions and they should be successful at that.
The rack rate for this course is going to be $350, but they gave the media a break, to get some of the press it deserves. Have I mentioned its length yet? Its 8102 yards from the tips, with a 301 yard par-3 and the finishing hole a 657yard par-5. If that is not the longest in the world, it has to be close. The GPS on the carts clearly recommends that you be 5 or less handicap to play the tips, 6-12 the blacks at 7200 yards 13-20 to play 6700 yards and over that play 6100. I thought 6100 was short- but it turned out to be the right length for me. The GPS screen has very helpful tips on how to play each hole, that are so insightful they could have been written by Pete Dye himself.

Pete Dye moved over 20 million cubic yards of dirt to build this course. I can’t envision how much that is, but it sounds like a lot. This course sits on the second highest point in Indiana, which isn’t really that high, but it has lots of elevation changes and apparently they had to clear lots of trees for this course. The pro told me of Pete’s first trip here trudging through the tree and brush at his spry age of 83. “Some of the younger people working with him had trouble keeping up with him, as he made his way through the dense trees and brush on his first site visit” said Deven Trueblood, the assistant golf professional. Many trees were cleared and it is a links style course now with hardly any trees, and holes that are framed by a vast horizon that challenges your depth perception, especially on the doglegs, trying to figure out how much to cut off. The good news is you have views for miles, perhaps 30 miles in some cases. Quite the panaoramas.

The cart paths are white sand and gravel, which as you look from above makes a beautiful contrast with the course and saves from the large bounces you can get from blacktop paths.
# 2 is a short par 4 with plenty of mounding and bunkers #3 is a twisty turny, rolly pollie, ribbon of fairway all leading to a green that hangs on the precipice of the hill. Many of the narrow fairways sit up on a ledge and if your shots are off line you are either in fescue up the hill or 10-15 feet below the fairway on the other side. Ouch!!!
#6, has 20 bunkers lining just the left side of the fairway and the par-5#14 has a split fairway. One of them (unfortunately the one I hit to) is 50-75 feet below the pin; I was hitting a wedge up over a tall wall of grass. I made bogie and was proud of it.

I lost lots of balls on the front and shot 47 yikes!! But on the back I hit more fairways, made a few pars and shot 42 that’s more like it. For all the elevation change, they told me it is quite walkable and there is only a 5% grade differential on the entire course if you walk. I guess I will have to come back and try that. They had suggested I take a caddie or at least a forecaddie, and after I finished, I wished I had. Knowing where to aim is a big factor here.

If you want a challenge, this will be a good place for you, but don’t play tees that are too long for you or you will regret it
Deven shared with me an interesting observation from Brett Melton, an outstanding player who played from the tips “I could play this course with 4 clubs; driver, 3 wood, wedge and putter, because you are hitting 3 wood into almost every green and then your short game takes over.

I did ask about the course record and so far it’s 82 from the tips--- so go out there and let me know if you can beat that. Visit www.Frenchlick.com

If you go: stay at the French Lick resort and Casino (I guess the casino qualifies as a riverboat but don’t ask me how since it’s inside the bldg.) The restaurants are wonderful the spa is first class. Or stay at the West Baden Springs hotel which has an amazing atrium (worth a visit even if you don’t stay there)

Thursday, May 21, 2009

New Golf products and Golf Network conference

May 19,2009
I am at the ING conference in French Lick IN. This conference is a networking conference of Golf writers, Golf Publications, and Golf Manufacturers. I have never been to French Lick before, but I know I have heard of it and was trying to figure out why. Then I was talking to a friend of mine on the phone, when I told him where I was he said “Oh the birthplace of Larry Bird” which it is… there is even a street called Larry Bird Way. All this in a very poor town with a population of less than 3,000.

It is also home to the French Lick resort and Casino which is a very big resort with two golf courses, One by Donald Ross and a brand new course by Pete Dye. This new course is why our meeting is here. More on the course at my next entry.

I tried a couple new products while I was here, both of which are interesting. One was the Air force driver, which is filled with Nitrogen, making the club head a bit lighter and the pressure of the nitrogen, makes it possible to manufacture the club head with a thinner face, Thinner face, better response and longer hits, in some cases 20-30 yards.

I also spent some time with a new putting training device called Clockworx putting. (www.clockworxputting.com ) . This is a training aid that is basically a level that you place on the hole and it shows which way the green is sloping. The concept is you find 3,6,9, and 12 o’clock place the 6:00 line to indicate where the putt is exactly up hill. Then you take 4 ball marks at 3,6,9,and 12 directly around the hole and then place a dozen balls in a 3-4 foot radius of the hole and putt. Each putt has a slightly different break and your slowly learn where to aim to play the break properly and it also trains you in learning to interpret subtle breaks. If you use it enough and properly, it works wonderfully.
Larry Berle