RURAL BUT ACCESSIBLE
French Lick takes some effort to get to — about two-hour drive from the Indianapolis airport, an hour and a half from Louisville, Kentucky. But it’s actually quite centrally located, within a day’s drive from half the nation’s population.
Once you’re there, you’ll find a big helping of Mayberry spiced with a slice of old-school Vegas.
You’ll find state-of-the-art casino gaming machines within a Koepka tee shot of a movie-set downtown core chockablock with shops, restaurants and bars.
You’ll find a fleet of shuttle buses and trolleys ready to get you where you need to go, including both golf courses, constantly and conveniently.
In the French Lick Springs Hotel, the original version of which was built in 1845, you’ll find one a classic and ornate lobby that actually invites you to hang around and just … relax.
At the West Baden Springs Hotel, you’ll find a much different lobby sprawled beneath perhaps the resort’s most recognizable landmark — its soaring 200-foot-high atrium dome, which also dates back decades but was revived in 2006, housing the rooms themselves, a fascinating golf Legends Hall of Fame, a museum, bar and restaurants.
So, is French Lick an adult retreat? Yes, with the requisite spa, casino, and gourmet dining spots.
Is it also family friendly? Sure — swimming pools, ice cream parlor, casual eateries, all kinds of indoor and outdoor activities no matter the season, including the original Valley Links tucked behind the West Baden.
But for me, as you’d expect, French Lick carves its deepest memories into the mind of the Serious But Fun-Loving Golfer who is always looking for the next great place to be surprised, challenged and thrilled.
On that score, with its two “big” tracks — the century-plus-old Donald Ross Course and decade-plus-old Pete Dye Course — put southern Indiana on equal footing with just about any golf destination you can think of, especially between the East Coast and Mississippi.
Figure in the tournaments each has hosted over the years — including the Symetra Tour’s Donald Ross Classic (which I attended in July, teeing it up in the pro-am on the Donald Ross Course with straight-striking Swedish player Elin Arvidsson), the Senior LPGA Championship (which returns to the Pete Dye Course Oct. 14-16), and the 2015 Senior PGA Championship, won by Colin Montgomerie, also on the Dye — and we’re suddenly in Pinehurst or Pebble Beach territory.