For Midwest golfers in the know, it’s no secret that Indianapolis has the best collection of public golf courses of any Midwestern metropolitan area. In fact, I think you’d be hard pressed to find another city with its public course quality any where in the United States; certainly not the value at least. The courses that come right off the tongue include Trophy Club, Purgatory, The Fort, and Prairie View. Another great one can be found in the small town of Cicero, Indiana.
Cross the Morse Reservoir and make a couple turns and you’ll find yourself at Bear Slide Golf Club. Opened in the mid-90s, Bear Slide was designed by the late Dean Refram. It’s a shame Refram didn’t have an opportunity to design more courses because his work at Bear Slide is very good. The front 9 is more open than the back 9, which is more of a target golf style. Water comes into play on a few holes and with a steady wind, must be accounted for.
Bear Slide starts off with the 3 Handicap hole. A fairly wide fairway is protected by water all along the right side. The green is protected by bunkers (The back ones resembling bear claws) and mounds. Not an easy start to the round.
The par 4 2nd is probably my favorite on the course and one of the better ones I’ve played in a while. Playing to another wide fairway that slopes left to right, the player can either play safely to the right, but have a blind shot to the green; or, they can aim for the left side of the fairway and have a clear view in. The hole uses the Cicero water tower nicely as an aiming tool.
To reach the par 3 3rd in two shots, a bunker in the middle of the fairway must be contended with, along with a fairway that narrows significantly a few yards later. The green is well protected with a bunker in front, four bunkers in the back, and water long right.
Bear Slide has a fantastic par 3 in #6. The hole is blind in the front and the journey to the back tee is quite interesting.
There’s a bunker about 50 yards out that messes with your head. The false front will reject any short shots. Miss the green and you will face a difficult up and down.
Hole 8 is a par 5 that shouldn’t give players too much trouble off the tee, through protected by bunkers left and right. If one choose to have a go at it, the player must contend with many mounds short and left that can leave a very awkward chip shot. The green is wide, but narrow, and would best be approached with a wedge/short iron third.
While the back 9 has a few holes that are pretty interesting, I consider it the weaker of the two 9s. That being said, 10 and 11 are not any of those weak holes. 10 is a par 4 with a slightly blind tee shot that can get some run if you hit the right spot on the fairway. While the green is probably not in play for the better player, the bunkers right and long are. Pin placements in the far back and be tricky.
The short par 4 11th is a great opportunity for birdie. This hole is target golf personified. Probably no longer than a long iron/hybrid off the tee, the uphill approach is to a green that is narrow in front, but widens towards the back. I’m happy to say I left this hole with a 3 🙂
Maybe it’s just me, but 13 just feels out of place on this course. The green is surrounded by a huge waste area (the only one on the course).
I want to like the short par 4 15th, but I must admit that I can’t see any benefit of laying up. It seems to me the play is the blast the ball towards the green and try to get up and down for birdie. At worst, you’ll probably make par. Miss the layup option, and you’re in serious trouble.
I think 16 is a great drop shot par 3. From the back tees, you can barely seen the green. From the up tees, it’s just a wedge to a pretty big green. Not many bailout options as the green is protected by a creek and stone wall in front. A nervy shot towards the end of one’s round.
Like 13, 17 feels out of place to me. It seems a bit more forced where as 11 felt like a good strategically placed hole. Can be very difficult the first go around.
The course ends with a fantastic hole that was clearly made for tournament golf. A brutal par 4 that will best the golfers skill all around. An accurate drive must find the fairway, followed by an approach that must clear a creek.
The hole is placed in a natural amphitheater and I must image is a fun time come the club championship.
Overall, I enjoyed Bear Slide very much. They have a terrific range which includes hitting tees, a large putting green, and an expansive short game area. The course was in great shape when I played. There was some drainage work being done on hole 7 that was a bit distracting but didn’t take away from the overall experience. I got a discounted tee-time through http://www.golfnow.com and had no problem redeeming it. The staff was friendly and got me out as a single without a problem on a fairly busy Saturday morning in early September 2009.
OINK Rating – 6 (lean towards 6.5)