Purgatory Golf Club in Noblesville, Indiana has been tops of my OINK must play list for years. I don’t know exactly why. The 7754 yard length deters more than it attracts. It has been described to me as a very tough course that perhaps would be too much for a mid-capper like me. The “Purgatory” theme doesn’t really do it for me (see below).
I guess I’ll have to go with intrigue.
I’ll list the length of tees by the Purgatory tees (i.e. the tips) and from where most mortals will play, the whites, which still play at 6422 yards.
For a name like Purgatory, I expected a brutal opener like that of Oakmont. Instead, you get the #18 handicap hole on the course.
The fairway on this hole (373/328 yards) is one of the widest on the course, and helps the player ease into the round. For those looking to be a bit more aggressive, there are fairway bunkers to the left of the dogleg. The approach leads to a slightly elevated green. There are over 120 bunkers on the course, and you’ll likely find one of them during your round.
Water comes into play for a few holes on the front 9, but none more than the 462/394 yard par 4 2nd. For a faux links style, the hole seems like it belongs more to a South Carolina resort course than an Indiana farmland course. The tee shot must carry the pond and the player can bite off as much as they feel comfortable with. The approach is no slouch either, though there is some room to the left to bail out.
For me, Purgatory’s best set of holes are its 3 pars. The third (197/142) is a good uphill par 3. There’s plenty of room to bail out short.
As you can see from the picture above highlighting the undulations in the green, getting a GIR is no guarantee of par. The player must hit the right quadrant.
If the 2nd hole didn’t scare you, hole 4 is where things go from heaven to purgatory. A long par 4 (473/408) that played into the wind when I played. The fairway is wide enough that the trees really shouldn’t affect play. Trees really do not come into play at Purgatory much, although there are a couple at 10 and 11 to look out for. The green is slightly elevated and has fairway cuts to the left and right. The 3 bunkers in front of the green might catch layups, but the back bunker really shouldn’t be in play given the hole’s length.
5 is the first par 5 (551/489) of the course. The set of par 5’s at Purgatory is decent. This one requires a carry over a guiding bunker. A safer shot is played to the right, but must contend with a bunker. Things get real interesting in the layup zone, with a very narrow fairway and water about 100 yards out. The player needs to carry about 25 yards longer to get in the wide part of the fairway.
A very good hole awaits the player at 6 (434/372). Water really shouldn’t be in play for most players, but the surrounding bunkers in the landing zone will. The approach plays slightly uphill to a green well protected by a large bunker in front.
For some reason, I didn’t find the water to be out of characteristic on the 231/156 par 3 7th. This one’s a monster from the Purgatory tees, with a forced carry to a very undulating green. You can see the undulating from the picture above from the tee box.
You can see it even better in this picture just off the green. As the tees go forward, less of a forced carry, if any, is required. The player must simply keep their tee shot from hooking into the water.
The long 8th (par 4, 487/423) contains a forced carry over water off the tee. I like how the designer set it so the back tees have the longest carry over water, but more forward tees have a much more limited carry. Things narrow in the driving zone. Higher handicaps might need to lay up on this one, in which case the bunker on the right approach the green can come into play. Another green with nice undulations.
The outward 9 concludes with a long par 5 (579/519). Nothing too fancy here. Most likely a 3-shot par 5 for most golfers. Keep it between the bunkers.
Trees once again come into play at the 10th (473/396). There’s OB far left which is really only in play if you snipe hook it. Approaching the fairway from the right side gives the best view of a left pin placement. However, the tree shown above could conceivably come into play with a right pin position.
Go ahead and take a breath a the short par 4 11th (406/328). At least on the tee shot. The approach is guided by a rock wall that requires a forced carry.
There really is no easy par 3 at Purgatory. The 12th requires a carry to reach the green, though there is an ample fairway area short and right for a more conservative shot.
Supposedly, there is a 741 yard tee box at hole 13. I couldn’t even find this. I wonder if it’s back by the 12th tee. The back tee I found for this par 5 at 624 (528 from the whites). Not much too this one. Very long, especially if you actually play its full 741 yards.
I posted this picture of 14 (469/430) to show the deepness of the greenside bunkers. It’s a fairly wide fairly sloping from left to right. The approach is uphill and surrounded by deep bunkers.
15 is another par 4, but this fairway slopes right to left. Somehow, I was able to find a flat spot for the approach, which is protected by a large bunker on the left.
16 (474/384) is listed as the number 1 handicap hole, although I don’t think it’s the hardest hole at Purgatory. The fairway is a bit more narrow than others. If you can’t reach in regulation, there is a wide layup area about 100 yards short of the green.
17 (173/120 yards) gets all the attention due to its massive bunker complex around the hole. Above is the look from the tee, and the shot below is more zoomed in. I have to think there’s an homage to the 15th at Cypress Point somewhere it its design.
I have seen many pictures of this hole before, and I guess I expected the hole to be dead flat, but there is a bit of elevation. If you don’t like or can’t play out of bunkers, you’re out of luck on this hole. There is a sliver of fairway to the front-left, but you do need to carry your tee-shot a bit to cover the bunkers.
I decided that on this hole, I would try out the “Purgatory” tees. Likewise, I ever get the pleasure of playing the 17th at TPC Sawgrass or the 16th at Cypress Point; I’m going all out and playing from the tips. Luckily for me, I hit one of my better shots of the day; hitting the green in regulation and making a boring, two-putt par. Considering the number of bunkers I had already found in my round, I was feeling good about avoiding “Hell’s Half Acre*”.
The round ends with the shortest par 5 on the course (543/457) and a realistic look at birdie to close things out. When I played, I got the wind to my back, which gave me a shot to hit the green in 2. There is a split fairway, but I don’t see the benefit of taking the left side. The right side is wider and gives you a better approach to the green. If you have to lay up, the fairway constricts at about 125 yards. It opens up again for those going in two, but then gets really tight around the green, with bunkers on both sides short and 2 in back. And yes, I found one of these bunkers; unfortunately not getting up and down for birdie.
Purgatory is a great CCFAD (Country Club For a Day) experience. The practice facility includes a large driving range, a putting green, and a short game area. The clubhouse is very spacious and as a great bar room to hang out after the round. The course is well conditioned from tee-to-green. If you have trouble with bunkers, you’ll have a tough time out here. Despite its name, I found Purgatory Golf Club to be quite playable from the right set of tees.
I really wanted to give this one a 9, but I just can’t. I think it needs another short par 4, and holes like #2 just feel out of place with the rest of the course. It’s definitely in the top 5 of Indy publics, but it’s not quite as good as Trophy Club and The Fort. That said, you could make a very good 36 hole day playing Bear Slide and Purgatory. They’re just 8 miles from each other.
OINK Rating – 8
* Really?! All golf architecture nerds like me know there is only one “Hell’s Half Acre” in golf. It’s the 7th hole at Pine Valley. I expected better word play for this hole. Surely there is something else in Purgatario that could have been substituted in.