Indianapolis overlooked option for family golf getaway

By Kiel Christianson, Senior Writer

INDIANAPOLIS - The Circle City is no more than four hours by car from most of eastern Illinois. After a major renovation and revitalization of the downtown that occurred in the mid-1990s, Indiana's capitol offers some big-city entertainment served up with a hearty helping of Hoosier hospitality.

And surprisingly, Indy also offers some of the highest-quality, most accessible golf of any major metropolitan area in the Midwest.

Big names

Pete Dye, one of the most prolific and imaginative American golf course architects during the latter half of the 20th century, has a home in Indianapolis, and has designed more than a few of the best courses in the area.

Whether you measure by name or by novelty, Dye's Brickyard Crossing Golf Course is arguably the king of the Indianapolis golf scene. The Champions Tour plays an event here, and pros from all tours stop in to play when in town. The course lies adjacent to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and four of the holes are actually located in the infield of the storied track. The course is also home of a golf academy and 108-room inn.

When it opened in 2000, Purgatory Golf Club in Noblesville was the longest non-mountain golf course in the world at 7,754 yards. That title didn't last long, however, with the consequent rush to lengthen courses to protect them from increasingly better technology. Nevertheless, the Ron Kern design, replete with 133 sprawling crushed limestone-filled bunkers, six sets of tees, and endearing underlying tones of dark humor, is well worth the short drive from Indianapolis.

In 1998, Dye and protégé Tim Liddy turned 238 acres of land that had once been part of Fort Benjamin Harrison into a critically acclaimed gem called The Fort Golf Resort. As part of a larger 1,700-acre historical nature preserve, The Fort offers pristine golf along with some of the most unique golf lodging in the state: The Benjamin Harrison House, where visiting military dignitaries used to stay. The park also has miles of hiking, biking, and horseback riding trails.

In 1999, a number of soon-to-be-classics opened to the public, including Whistling Straits and Bay Harbor. Coming in fourth in Golf Digest's 1999 "Best New Course" category was The Trophy Club in Lebanon. Liddy's first solo effort presents golfers with snaking table-top fairways, intriguing and vexing greens and fescue rough worthy of a Scottish links course.

Munis … really!

One great thing about Indianapolis golf is that even the top-flight daily fee courses listed above won't break the bank. But if you really want a deal - and some excellent golf - check out the city's enviable collection of municipal courses. Yes, munis. You see, even here, Dye has had a large hand in building Indy's golf tradition.

Eagle Creek Golf Club offers 36 holes (the second 18 of which have been recently added), a wide variety of hole designs, and a pedigree worthy of far pricier daily fee (heck, even private) clubs. The course was once recognized by Golf Digest as one of the top 25 public courses in America. In 1982, it hosted the USGA Public Links Championship. And at $21-$43 a round, the rates can't be beat.

Coffin Golf Club is another muni beauty. Completely renovated in 1994 by Liddy, Coffin doesn't have the length of Eagle Creek, but it's got another defense: Claustrophobic fairways closed in on all sides by trees, water, and rough. So if you're scared of tight places, this is one Coffin that might give you the creeps.

Out on the town

Compared to the Indianapolis of the 1980s through early 1990s, the Indianapolis of today feels like a completely different city. The famed Circle around which the downtown was built is now home to Circle Centre Mall, which is chock full of upscale shopping, dining, and entertainment. Just to the north of downtown is The Fashion Mall at Keystone Crossing, which houses all the big-name designer brands.

The Indianapolis Children's Museum is the largest children's museum in the world, offering 11 major displays throughout its 400,000 square-foot interior. The Indiana State Museum contains everything from a walking tour through the history of the state to an IMAX theater, to high-tech exhibits on the making of "The Lord of the Rings" film trilogy.

Indianapolis is much more than motor racing, but of course, if you like big engines as much as you do electric golf carts, be sure to visit the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame and Museum after your round at Brickyard Crossing.

Dining options abound - after all, this is one of those infamous Midwestern states that routinely rank as the, ahem, "heaviest" in the nation. Two areas stand out for dining and nightlife. One is the Keystone Crossing area, where two personal favorites are the Bonefish Grill and Sullivan's Steakhouse. The other area is Broad Ripple, where you not only find some of the best ethnic food in town, but also loads of bars and clubs, where students from Butler University and IUPUI party.

Indianapolis has shopping, dining, nightlife, museums, and golf - as much or more of each than several of the "traditional" golf getaway destinations. Tee times abound, and the rates are reasonable. And being the "Crossroads of America," Indy is easily within reach by car of most of Illinois, Ohio and Michigan.

Nightlife and lodging

Indianapolis CVB:

Kiel ChristiansonKiel Christianson, Senior Writer

Kiel Christianson has lived, worked, traveled and golfed extensively on three continents. As senior writer and equipment editor for, he has reviewed courses, resorts, and golf academies from California to Ireland, including his home course, Lake of the Woods G.C. in Mahomet, Ill. Read his golf blog here and follow him on Twitter @GolfWriterKiel.

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