I had an interesting exchange with a reader recently. He gave me a handful of places to pick from and asked me my thoughts. I thought I’d share the courses sent to me and what my thoughts were. While most Midwest public courses aren’t going to wow you in the way a Bandon or Pebble Beach will, there are some solid courses to seek out.
The question was to pick two from these 4:
- OSU (Scarlet)
- The Fort
- Wolf Run
Gun to my head, I pick Wolf Run and The Fort.
Wolf Run is the best course on this list. It’s also the hardest. I’m a mid-handicap, and played somewhat respectably at Wolf Run. However, over 3 rounds, I lost a fair portion of balls. Thank goodness we were playing match play. There’s really not one shot on the entire course where you can lose focus.
Another, perhaps more timely, reason to pick Wolf is that its future is in question. I’ve documented this in my Wolf Run post, and other information can be found with a few Google searches. As far as I know, nothing’s final yet. But, I would encourage readers to check it out while they can. Per their website, they will take a small amount of public tee-times.
The Fort is as solid and affordable of a public course as you are going to find anywhere in the country. The course is a Pete Dye and Tim Liddy layout and is on land that was originally the Fort Benjamin Harrison Military Reservation. When the fort shut down, 1,700 of the 2,500 acres available became parkland, and the golf course took up a part of that.
Aside from a strong layout and great conditioning, you’ll find some of the most elevation change in the Indianapolis metro area. It can be a tough walk, but it’s doable. If you’re in the Indy area with your clubs, The Fort is a must play.
Between OSU and Purdue, I pick Purdue. I have not played either of these three courses, but based on what I’ve seen, I would pick Purdue. First of all, Purdue is public. OSU does have a myriad of options that would get you on. If you don’t know one of the 60,000 OSU undergrads, or don’t know anyone in the official Alumni network, then a donation of over $100 to the Buckeye Club will get you on. Still, it’s not like a phone call to the pro shop at OSU will result in a tee-time as it will at Purdue.
Secondly, there are two GREAT courses at Purdue; only one at OSU. The more famous of the Pur-duo (see what I did there?) is the Kampen course, which is a Pete Dye design. All the shots and interesting bunkering one would expect from a Dye course can be found here. On the ground though, I’m hearing the recently renovated Ackerman-Allen course, which Dye also lead, may be even better than Kampen now. Perhaps not as flashy as Kampen, but Ackerman-Allen has seen its fairways widened and turf improved to the point where it may be the better overall course. Either way, you can play all day at Purdue for $149; students play even cheaper.
I’m sure OSU Scarlet is a nice course. The Scarlet course underwent a large renovation by Jack Nicklaus in 2006. At OSU, there are also two courses: Scarlet and Gray. Gray is certainly the lesser of the two layouts, but it’s not trying to compete with Scarlet. Gray is the casual player’s course and Scarlet is the tournament player’s course. Did I mention Scarlet can tip out at 7,455 yards?!
I later got a question about doing Purdue or Cog Hill #4. I haven’t played anything in Chicago yet. I know a lot about the vast wealth of good private courses in the city, but not too much about the public courses. Cog Hill #4 (Dubsdread) is an obvious exception as a PGA Tour and a U.S. top 100 public course. If you need to be in the Chicagoland area, then Cog Hill is probably the choice. However, consider that you can play both Purdue courses in one day cheaper than you can 18 holes at Cog Hill.