Indiana University Golf Course Review

Indiana University Golf Course Review

Grade: C+
Teacher’s Comments: It’s essentially a municipal course, owned and operated by Indiana University. Nice enough, but it was in very poor condition on the day I played.

This past summer I was able to sneak out of Boy Scout Camp near Bloomington, Indiana to play the Indiana University Golf Course. It’s a nice course, but somewhat short of the standards set by the University of Michigan’s “Blue” and Michigan State University’s Forest Akers, the other Big 10 courses I have played. The word that keeps coming back to me is ordinary.

In fact, overall, the course has the feel of a nice municipal, on a par, perhaps with Ann Arbor’s Leslie Park or Jackson’s Cascades. It’s cheap—the general public pays just $24 to walk—and open to all. I simply walked up, and walked on. The first couple of tees were jammed, so the starter drove me out to the tenth and I started there. Very friendly.

The muni feel was reinforced for me by the old timers with whom I was paired. By their account, there aren’t a lot of courses in the area, and the U’s track is the local favorite. Ahead of us were a guy and his elderly mother hacking their way around; ahead of them were two groups of women who apparently were Wednesday morning regulars. You don’t see that sort of thing at the University of Michigan’s course.

An interesting story I got from the two guys I played with: Apparently a few years ago, Indiana University toyed with the idea of taking some spare acreage and building a semi-private course for the athletes and faculty with a big name designer. The idea was shot down by the conscientious citizens of Indiana. They apparently weren’t going to put up taxpayer dollars for a course that wasn’t open to all.

Good for them.

So the old course remains.

The Indiana University course plays to a par 71, thanks to a par 35 back nine with eight fours and a three. It’s not short, though; from the blues, it’s 6,813 yards. It also has a relatively unusual layout in that the ninth does not return to the clubhouse. That’s because a few years ago, the original clubhouse was abandoned, and a new one built. The new location required a change in the routing so that the tee nearest the new facility was designated as the first.

The eight par fours on the back make it a hard course for The GolfBlogger. I simply don’t have the length to hit driver-short iron into a long four. To score well, I have to take advantage of the threes, and fives (driver, three wood, short iron). But even the threes at Indiana University were tough, measuring 226, 210 and 218 from the back. I had to hit a three wood into all of them.

From start to finish, the course is hilly, tree-lined and demands accuracy. Compounding the difficulty are the numerous dog legs, and several blind shots. But if you hit the ball straight, you won’t find any real trouble. I suspect that once familiar with the course, decent players can really go low on this track.

I heard another interesting story about the building of the course—confirmed by the school’s website. It was constructed on University land in 1954 from a design by former IU golf coach Jim Soutar. Soutar was traditional in the design of his layout, finding the holes as dictated by the land, apparently moving very little dirt or trees. Soutar would walk the land and sketch out his ideas, when then were detailed by University draftsmen. The entire course was built for $175,000, with former coordinator of Indiana University’s athletic facilities, Paul “Pooch” Harrell often manning a bulldozer.

Best of all: not a dime of taxpayer money was used, with all expenses paid by University student fees.

At the height of summer, the course was not in good shape. Terrible is a better description. Grass in the fairways was alternatively dead from too much water in low spots or from a lack of water in the high and rough. Greens were patchy.

Still, I had fun. And it gave me an idea for another GolfBlogger series: Courses of the Big Ten. I’m definitely going to have to get to Columbus next year.


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