Our main focus over the past several weeks has been enjoyment of our grandkids. Jill & Matt returned to Iowa for a 3-week visit, bringing Max & Layla with them. Our house is transformed into a play pen during their visits. We stayed close to home with the exception of a short trip for the round of golf in Missouri. The weather was perfect for swimming, visits to the park and playing in the yard. It was really a treat when Jack & Heather’s kids joined in: 2-year old Adley adopted 1-year old Layla as her baby to take care of, even though Layla might outweigh her by a pound or two. At 3-years of age Max liked to follow his 6-year old cousin around like a puppy dog. He tried very hard to imitate everything he would see Ethan do. Madison enjoyed the activity that takes place when all of the kids are together.
Layla taking her bottle from Adley
Ethan showing Max how to set up the croquet game
Madison enjoying the hammock
One rite of passage for every native Iowan is to teach their kids how to eat sweet corn on the cob. This needs to be passed along while the child is in their formative years.
Matt & Layla at the dinner table
Jill & Matt’s visit ended when we dropped them off at Chicago’s O’Hare airport on Tuesday. One day of rest was enough to prepare us to hit the road again. Our first destination was Indiana. A lot of people associate basketball and Indiana but the state’s official motto since 1937 is the “Crossroads of America”. The motto refers to Indiana’s position of being intersected by roads, railways, waterways and highways. It seemed very appropriate that Indiana would be at the crossroad of my golf adventure, crossing over the halfway point in the journey to play in all 50-states.
One requirement attached to playing the golf course I selected was that we had to stay on the resort property. The resort features two large, historic hotels. The West Baden Springs Hotel was built in 1850. It served temporarily as a Jesuit seminary for 30-years following the 1929 stock market crash when the luxury resort business declined. We took a room at the French Lick Springs Hotel, a short mile down the road from West Baden Springs Hotel. Opened in 1845, the hotel’s name refers to the sulphur springs that surfaced naturally in the area. The hotel was purchased by the mayor of Indianapolis, Tom Taggart, in 1901. The hotel became the unofficial headquarters of the Democratic National Party after Mr. Taggart was appointed the Democratic National Chairman. It was at French Lick that Franklin Delano Roosevelt rounded up support for the party’s presidential nomination during a Democratic Governor's Conference.
West Baden Springs Hotel
French Lick Springs Hotel
The veranda at French Lick Springs Hotel
The lobby at French Lick Springs Hotel
Aside from a Who’s Who list of famous people who have visited French Lick Springs Hotel, it was chef Louis Perrin who had a significant impact that continues to touch all of our lives yet today. It was 1917 when he created and served tomato juice for the first time at the hotel. I drank a glass in his memory this morning before I trotted out to the golf course!
Location: French Lick, IN
Golf Digest Best-In-State Rank: #3
Date: 15 Jun, tee off at 8:00 AM
Conditions: sunny skies, 3 MPH wind, 72 degrees
Lost balls: 0
Lost balls: 0
Score: 90 on a par 72
This was not the first Pete Dye designed golf course I have played. Opened for play in 2009, Dye initially thought the property was unfit for golf course construction. His courses are designed to penalize a player for poor shots, which he was able to accomplish quite well at French Lick. The first thing you notice is the length of the course; the course plays 8,100 yards from the back tees (with enough room for future expansion to 9,000 yards if desired). Normally, the average length for a lengthly course is 7,200 yards. I played the French Lick course at 6,700 yards from the 3rd set of tees. In addition to length, the elevation changes and rolling terrain created a significant challenge. A missed fairway shot would often land on a steep hillside in thick rough. A missed shot to the the green would roll into a collection area - leaving a steep, uphill chip shot.
Statue of Pete Dye
Pete Dye's philosophy
I had more than one chip shot fail to stop on the green, rolling off into the collection area 50-feet downhill from the green. The result was a score card with 5 double bogeys - a number that matched the number of holes I parred. This was the first golf course where I encountered volcano sand traps. They did not appear to come into play and I assume they are very difficult to maintain.
Sand traps on hole #2 fairway
Sand traps on hole #7 fairway
Sand traps beside hole #7 green
There were only a few other players at the course when I arrived, and they were already paired up in foursomes. I went out as a single player accompanied by the required fore caddy. A good fore caddy can handle a group of four players, which is preferred since their compensation is tip dependent. The less experienced caddies would typically be assigned to small groups, especially single players as in my case. My fore caddy was a young girl named Kayla who will be a sophomore in high school next Fall. Her lack of experience was quite evident when she failed to follow my ball flight on several occasions, could not “read” the greens for putting, and was at a loss for what to do at times during the round. In spite of her inexperience, I was still glad to have Kayla’s companionship for local flavor. Kayla’s high school activities include band, golf, basketball, softball and track. As if that were not enough, she also played football one year to prove that she could compete with the boys. I asked when she found time for her boyfriend. She looked surprised that I knew she had a boyfriend - - - to which I responded that she had just answered my question!
420-yard par 4 hole #1
191-yard par 3 hole #4
345-yard par 4 hole #5
397-yard par 5 hole #6 (view of the 2nd shot from the fairway)
Kayla attends the Springs Valley High School in French Lick. The school is located on Larry Bird Boulevard. Larry Bird was born in West Baden and played his high school basketball at Springs Valley High School. Larry played professional basketball for 13 seasons with the Boston Celtics, from 1979-1992. He personified hustle, consistency and excellence in all areas of play--as a scorer, a passer, a rebounder, a defender, a team player, and, perhaps above all, as a clutch performer. Larry was so self-confident that he was known to waltz up to the opponents' bench before tipoff and predict a 40-point performance for himself. He was such a deadly shooter that he sometimes practiced three-pointers with his eyes closed. On top of attending the same high school, Kayla’s grandmother used to babysit for Larry Bird during his early years.
394-yard par 4 hole #11
504-yard par 5 hole #14
183-yard par 3 hole #16
431-yard par 4 hole #17 (view of approach shot from the fairway)
The pro shop sat high on a hill next to an old mansion. Kayla was unfamiliar with any of the mansion’s history - I should have expected that from a 15-year old girl. I later learned the turn-of-the century home was was originally owned by Tom Taggart.
The former residence of Tom Taggart