Golf in Indianapolis

Drive carefully:  the 420-yard 11th hole at Brickyard Crossing
Ken May
Brickyard Crossing, 420-yard 11th hole
Indiana is the Hoosier State, but no one seems to know what the heck a hoosier is. One theory suggests the term was a pioneer greeting: Knock, knock. "Who's here?" Others say it refers to the so-called hushers -- rugged river men known for "hushing" adversaries. Former Gov. Joseph Wright contended that the moniker was derived from hossa, a Native American word for corn. But it turned out the Indians had no such word.

This much we know: Indiana is more than the Colts, the Pacers and the Indy 500. The state boasts a golf heritage that includes the designing Dye clan, the irrepressible Fuzzy Zoeller and the best golfer to get within a heartbeat of the presidency, former Vice President Dan Quayle (Secret Service code name: Scorecard). Here's a bumper crop of worthwhile Hoosier golf.

Friday

From Indianapolis International Airport, drive 20 minutes on Interstate 465 to Coffin Golf Club, a 1931 muni that has hosted three national public links championships. Coffin was redesigned in 1995 by Pete Dye protege Tim Liddy, who brought the White River back into play on six holes and added strategic ponds to the fairways of the 372-yard 8th and 484-yard, par-5 15th. The closer rates the No. 1 handicap, and you'll feel every bit of it if you opt for the 447-yard back tees.

Brickyard Crossing Golf Resort & Inn sounds upscale, but the lodging is just a motel behind the Speedway's second turn. You'd be better off staying downtown. The upscale Canterbury Hotel and the comfortable Omni Severin are ambling distance from St. Elmo Steak House -- a local landmark since 1902 -- where the shrimp cocktail with horseradish sauce is sure to start your engine.

Saturday

Motor over to the Brickyard Crossing Golf Course, formerly the Speedway Golf Course, which Dye overhauled in 1992. The cramped "Inside Nine," as they used to call it, within the famed racing oval was more novel than challenging. Dye built four tough interior holes amid stretches of crash wall that was recycled into creek bulkhead, plus high mounds that double as cheap seats during the Indy 500. (The course will be closed May 15-16, 27, 29 and 30. The race is May 30.)

The 193-yard 7th hole offers a commanding view of the 2.5-mile racetrack. A trio of short par 4s follows, but golf, like auto racing, is all about how you finish. Beware of Dye's last five holes, which all feature shots over water. After a pit stop, you can take a second lap for half price: $45.

Coffin Golf Club
Greens fees $21-$23; 317-327-7845
coffingolf.com

Brickyard Crossing Golf Resort & Inn
Greens fees $90, $70 for resort guests (includes cart); 317-484-6572
brickyardcrossing.com

The Fort Golf Resort
Greens fee: $52; 317-543-9597
golfus.com/thefort

Next door is the Indianapolis Motor Speedway's Hall of Fame Museum. Among the permanent exhibits are the Marmon Wasp that Ray Harroun drove to victory in the inaugural Indy 500 in 1911; the Duesenberg No. 12 Murphy Special, the only car to win both the Indy (1922) and the Grand Prix at Le Mans (1921); and a 1957 SS Corvette that will stir the pulse of any car-loving American.

Sunday

Gas up with a fried-chicken brunch at The Garrison Restaurant at decommissioned Fort Benjamin Harrison, then tee it up at The Fort Golf Club, named one of GOLF MAGAZINE's Top 10 You Can Play in 1998. The Fort plays through 238 bucolic acres of state park and nature preserve on the east side of town. Come prepared for battle on this 7,148-yard beast where the par 5s average 550 yards and the 17th is a punishing 247-yard par 3.

On your way to the airport, make a pit stop for take-out at Shapiro's on South Meridian Street. This cavernous old-school deli is renowned for Dagwood-size sandwiches and Hoosier Mud Cake.

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