Is it possible the good folks of Indianapolis have been holding out on us? Sure, Hoosiers are famously warm and polite; they're quick to boast of the region's attractions. Funny, though, how they rarely brag about Indy's bountiful golf offerings. Could there be a ruse here in the Heartland?
Nowhere during the 1990s did golf boom more thunderously than in central Indiana. Could it be the locals covet their easy-to-secure tee times, their relatively unrestricted access to an excellent variety of new and established courses? Perhaps Indianapolis golfers, fearful they'll be overrun by the nation's golfing hordes, have conspired to button their lips on the subject. It's a cunning and eminently practical plan -- but it won't work!
I've been to Indianapolis, Senator. I've played the courses there, and I'm here to tell visiting orgiasts what I've learned: This is no cow town, especially when it comes to golf. In terms of quantity, quality, and accessibility, Indy stacks up with any metropolitan golf destination in America.
WHERE TO PLAY
Prairie View Golf Club (317-816-3100). Lush conditions complement a strong, strategic Robert Trent Jones Jr. design replete with yawning, multi-lobed bunkers and exacting greens. Subtle amphitheater settings are framed by native prairie-grass rough. In a word, primo.
The Fort Golf Course (317-543-9597). Former military course retooled and spiffed up by Pete Dye, with help from Tim Liddy. Great mix of long holes (which appear to require heroism, but are actually quite playable) and shorties that look straightforward but demand astute shotmaking.
Bear Slide Golf Club (317-984-3837). Outrageously shaped by man (architect Dean Refram) and bulldozer. Some of the faux Ballybunion holes on the front nine seem purposely over the top -- but they work. The course can be terrifying on a windy day.
The Trophy Club (765-482-7272). An exhilarating, roller-coaster layout from Tim Liddy, who displays a real talent for creating stunning, thought-provoking holes in a bold, neo-heathland style. Deft use of considerable elevation and wetlands on a nearly treeless site.
Brickyard Crossing Golf Club (317-484-6570). Thoroughly entertaining golf from the Dyes, including four holes inside the Speedway oval itself. Good enough to host Senior Tour event, perhaps too demanding for average players.
The Links at Heartland Crossing (317-630-1785). A tough track if you choose the wrong tees, but a marvelous Steve Smyers design nevertheless. More than 80 Mackenzie-style bunkers outline and define strategy throughout.
THE SECOND TIER
Twin Bridges Golf Club (317-745-9098). New Bob Lohmann design routed over varied terrain. Enormous, cleverly sculpted greens may be the region's best.
Plum Creek Golf Club (317-573-9900). Yet another thought-provoking, enjoyable Pete Dye design. This one features water hazards on 15 (!) holes.
The Legends of Indiana (317-736-8186). Twenty-seven beautifully kept, well-bunkered holes from Jim Fazio, Tom's older brother. Best practice facility in the state. (Creek/Middle, Creek/Road, Middle To Road)
Golf Club of Indiana (317-769-6388). Before the recent spate of course development, this gracious Charles Maddox layout was the region's best daily-fee layout.
Hanging Tree Golf Club (317-896-2474). Another fine layout -- designed by Gary Kern and his son Ron -- overshadowed somewhat by the 1990s building boom.
Eagle Creek Golf Course (317-297-3366). Top-notch, 27-hole municipal facility designed by Pete Dye in 1974. (Championship, West Nine)
BEST OF THE REST
Coffin Golf Course (317-327-7845). Staid Bill Diddel-designed muni, revised by Liddy in 1995. Loads of fun.
Smock Golf Course (317-888-0036). Another established Indy muni with several fine holes.
West Chase Golf Club (317-892-7888). Ron Kern designed this picturesque layout. Back nine a real treat.
Fox Prairie Golf Course (317-776-6357). Solid 27-hole muni. Greens are meticulously maintained.
WHERE TO EAT
Indy's cow-town roots are evidenced by its plethora of superb steak joints, ranging from downtown fixtures like St. Elmo (est. in 1902) to newcomers like Ruth's Chris. Also downtown, the Palomino Euro Bistro offers engaging Mediterranean victuals in a lovely setting, while Mama Carolla's dishes out the city's best home-style Italian. Feeling adventurous? Check out Ethiopian fare at Queen of Sheba. Micro-brew mavens should visit the Alcatraz Brewing Co., though Anglophiles will be happier at the Elbow Room Pub & Deli.
Circle Center is Indy's ground zero when it comes to evening entertainment. Thriving bar and music scenes can also be found in the vicinity of Butler University and University of Indianapolis. Jazz aficionados shouldn't miss live sets at The Chatterbox (where the vittles are Jamaican) or The Jazz Kitchen, where the bee-bop is served up alongside killer Cajun cuisine. Less intimate experiences can be had at the RCA Dome (home of the NFL Colts) and the sparkling new Conseco Fieldhouse, where the NBA Pacers reside.
If you can't find something at the Shadeland Antique Mall -- with its 99 dealers under one roof -- there's no hope for you. East of town, check out Firehouse Antique Mall, a restored fire station in Zionsville. While there, drop by Lady of the Links, which specializes in golfing attire and equipment for women. For the motor sports lover, there is always Brickyard Authentics near the Speedway.
The 500 takes place each Memorial Day Weekend, but Indianapolis offers racing diversions all year long: NASCAR's Brickyard 400 in August, the National Hot Rod Association U.S. Nationals in September. Forget your earplugs? Visit the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame Museum. For those in search of something idyllic, Indy offers more than 25 miles of canoe trails on the White River and Fall Creek.
The Fort Golf Resort & Conference Center (317-543-9597). Stay-and-play packages make use of the base's large, refurbished officers' quarters, ideal for groups of four. They offer three-day/two-night packages if you book as part of a foursome; ditto for two-day/one-night deals. Call for current rates.
Brickyard Crossing Golf Resort and Inn (317-241-2500). This resort offers a package (based on double occupancy) where you get a round of golf, driving range access, Hall of Fame Museum access, lunch at the Pit Stop, logoed pro shop gift, and accommodations. This is a good deal. Call for current rates.
Prairie View, Plum Creek, Bear Slide, and Purgatory (pending opening) all have arrangements with the following hotels: Doubletree Guest Suites in Carmel (317-844-7994), Frederick-Talbott Inn in Fishers (800-566-2337), Holiday Inn Express/Holiday Inn Northeast in Fishers (317-578-9000), and Wyndham Garden Hotel in Indianapolis (317-574-4600). Prices don't vary greatly from hotel to hotel. All deals include breakfast. Call for current rates.