One wouldn’t suspect the state of Indiana to be such a public golf mecca. Throughout the state, there are plenty of real quality options. As Indianapolis is the state capital, it goes to reason that a lot of Indiana’s great golf resides in and around this town. There are the high-profile private courses like Crooked Stick that garner deserved attention, but the number of quality public courses within the Indy metroplex is quite astonishing. Courses like The Fort, Purgatory, Prairie View and Bear Slide come to mind.
Located about 30 miles northwest of downtown Indianapolis, Trophy Club is a fun, yet strategic course. The land is fairly wide open and doesn’t have a lot of trees. Any defense lost by this is made up for with the wind factor. Travel I-65 towards Chicago, and you’ll understand the power of wind in this area (literally).
I guess I’m a Tim Liddy fan boy, so to speak. I’m a big fan of his work at Sultan’s Run and Rock Hollow. Closer to home, he has done renovation work at Hyde Park Country Club. He’s a Pete Dye protege, but yet has his own unique style.
Needless to say, I came into my round at Trophy Club with big expectations. Everyone I know who’s a fan of GCA loves this course. Would I like it as much?
The first hole presents the user with a wide fairway. For the most part, this is a common theme at Trophy Club. The hole slants right to left. The player can play safe by aiming right, or cut a bit off and go left. Too far left and one contends with a dropoff and an awkward angle at the green. A couple bot bunkers around the green serve as protection. Not the most difficult start to a round, but not the easiest.
The second hole begins one of the finest stretch of par 5 holes you will find on a single course. Players must decide how much they want to chew on the tee shot. A conservative fairway wood or hybrid will stay behind the creek that runs through the hole. Only the bombers can think about clearing the hazard. The second shot is protected by bunkers right on the approach and bunkers front left into the green.
Holes 3 and 5 are very similar, yet different par 4s. Both are uphill, dogleg left holes, with bunkers far right in the fairway and small pot bunkers by the greens. While 3 (pictured immediately above) is more or less a straight forward hole, 5 offers the chance to drive the green.
On 5 (pictured above), the fairway is quite wide for those that decide to play it safe. Those that choose to go for it will need to clear the bunkers in front of the green. The green on 5 is much smaller than that of 3, so players need to take that into account when choosing their options.
The standout hole on the front 9 is the long par 4 6th. Measuring 464 yards from the tips, and playing into a stiff wind the day I played, this hole was a brute. Liddy makes good use of bunkering to give the player a guide on where they should position their tee-shot. The approach to the green is protected by a large waste area to the right and OB left. Around the green, you’ll see a Biarritz-style green with a lot of contour to it. Easily the best green on the course.
While hole 2 brought a running stream into play, water really comes into play at 7 and 8. 7 (pictured above) is a mid-length par 4 that doglegs sharply to the right. The fairway is fairly wide, and one only needs to check the wind before hitting their tee-shot. The approach is a bit trickier, with water and bunkers to the right. There is some bailout to the left, but a sharp bounce could send your ball OB.
The front 9 concludes with the par 5 9th. This whole is littered with 17 bunkers, and all are in play for every shot to the green. As we’ll see shortly on the 11th hole, the player must make a choice with their tee-shot. A shot to the right will provide a more narrow fairway, but a better angle to reach the green in to (for those of us that can reach a 572 yard par 5 in two). Bailing out to the left is more safe, but probably dictate a layup. Around the green, there is a big bunker in the front, and 4 small bunkers immediately behind the green.
For me, the back 9 at Trophy Club is superior to the front 9. The par 4 10th is a great testament to that statement. A drivable, dogleg left par 4 where the golfer must decide how much they’d like to chew. The landing area is wide, inviting and offers a great angle at the green. Those attempting to go for it must carry two fairway bunkers on the left, but watch out for bunkers left and right of the green. The slope to the left of the green can make a tricky up and down for those that don’t quite make the green.
On a course with great holes, 11 is my favorite. A reachable par 5, the fairway is fairly wide, though protected by bunkers to the right and high grass to the left. The fairway narrows in the driving zone, so a decision off the tee must be made. Those choosing to layup have 2 options: The high-right is more narrow, but gives the golfer the best angle at the green. On the other side of the massive bunkers in the middle of the fairway is a lower and wider path. The later approach results in a blind, uphill approach. Around the green, there is a slope to the right and a shaved collection area to the right, where chipping can be made quite difficult depending on the line. Really good strategy on this hole, from tee to green.
Things narrow a bit at 12. Water is in play along the entire right side of the hole. The player must decide how much they want to chew off the tee, as things narrow a bit around the left-side fairway bunker. A bunker in front of the green protects run up shots.
13 is a blind drive, and despite a couple of fairway bunkers, this is a green light for the driver. Favor the right side to get extra roll down the hill.
The par 3s on the back 9 are much better than their front 9 equivalent. The par 3 14th may not have any bunkers, but is well contoured and protected by water short and left.
The par 5 16th rounds up a fine collection of par 5s at Trophy Club. Don’t expect too much relief (sorry, had to use a pun there).
The hole doglegs to the left and is mostly flat, elevating a bit closer to the hole. The fairway is fairly wide, though protected by a creek on the left and OB on the right. A wise choice would be a layup, as those going for it in to will meet many obstacles by the green. Anything left or long is death into the hazard.
I know a lot of fans of golf course architecture aren’t found of uphill par 3s. I don’t mind them as much, and the 17th at Trophy Club might be my favorite I have played so far. The hole gets out of the trees of the 16th and back into the open area most of the course is on. The hole is protected by deep bunkers around most of the hole.
The course concludes with a 467 yard par 4. I like 18th holes that provide a summary of the previous 17, and this one fits the bill. The tee-shot is protected by two big bunkers to the right and two smaller ones to the left. Those using driver off the tee must contend with the bunker in the middle of the fairway. The approach is protected by another bunker about fifty yards from the hole, as well as bunkers front left and right. Anything long and left will contend with a sharp downward slope on the amphitheater style mound.
Not only were my high expectations met, but they were far exceeded. Bottom line is The Trophy Club will be the standard by which I measure all public courses in the OINK area. The course is an excellent and very interesting design, and best of all… completely walkable. I could play this course every day and think of different ways to play it. The greens are very interestingly contoured, but not to the point of being unplayable. The staff was very friendly and was able to accommodate all my needs. There is a putting green, and expansive driving range, and even a 19th hole to settle any all-square matches.
I payed $38 for 18 with cart in April. While rates go up in the summer time, the high weekend rate is worth it. Play this course if you want to play a strategic golf course that’s a lot of fun!
OINK Rating – 10