"With the Dye Course, you get a lot of dramatic visuals but all the trouble is right there in front of you." said French Lick Resort PGA Director of Golf Operations Dave Harner. (The PGA of America)
A Closer Look: The Pete Dye and The Donald Ross courses
The two host courses at French Lick Resort are sure to provide the field for the 2010 PPNC with a challenging contract between classic and modern design styles.
By Don Jozwiak, Senior Editor, PGA Magazine
Though both are part of the french lick (Ind.) resort, the Donald Ross Course and The Pete Dye Course are a study in contrasts. The Ross Course opened in 1917 and has hosted major championships, multiple Indiana PGA Section Championships and U.S. Open qualifiers, while the Dye Course opened last year and has co-hosted a single Section Championship. The Ross Course is a classic parkland design that plays just under 7,000 yards from the tips, yet is a true test of golf from as little as 6,500 yards. The Dye Course is a thoroughly modern layout that can be stretched to 8,100 yards, though a more likely tournament configuration is 7,174 yards with dramatic elevation changes. And both courses demand a different mindset from competitors.
"The Ross Course doesn't look that difficult from the tees, but there's a lot of subtle strategy involved and places you can get in trouble around the greens," said Scott Hebert, the 2008PGANational Champion, after a practice round on both courses. "With the Dye Course, you get a lot of dramatic visuals but all the trouble is right there in front of you."
What the courses have in common, however, is the ability to present a stern challenge to the best PGA Professional competitors. When Todd Smith won the Indiana PGA Section Championship contested on the two courses last August, his winning score was 9-over par. During the event, the Ross Course yielded a single under-par round, while none were carded at the Dye Course.
French Lick Resort PGA Director of Golf Operations Dave Harner says PGA Professional National Championship competitors should be ready for more of the same.
"I've seen the Ross Course played in a lot of Section events and U.S. Open qualifiers. People look at the course and say ‘At that length, as wide open as it is, somebody will shoot 61 out there.' Well, nobody shoots 61 on the Ross Course. In fact, nobody breaks par to speak of. I think we've had two rounds under par in the five U.S. Open qualifiers we've hosted," says Harner, who notes the modern course record at the Ross Course is a 65 shot by 1994 PGA Assistant Professional Champion Wes Short.
"As for the Dye Course, Todd Smith won our Section Championship there in a sudden-death playoff with Brett Melton. Todd's been a great player in this Section for a lot of years, and he told me at the end of the event that the Dye Course is by far the toughest -- and by far the best -- golf course he's ever played."
The 312 competitors in the 2010 PGA Professional National Championship will need steady nerves and a pair of distinct game plans to have a chance at hoisting the Walter Hagen Cup. Each will play a round on both courses to start the National Championship, and, following a cut, the final two rounds will be played on the Dye Course. Harner says competitors should work on their short game -- and their course management -- in anticipation of their round on the Ross Course.
"At the Ross Course, every hole has to be played with a certain strategy. But the most important thing, like any time you play a Donald Ross course, is that you want to make sure your misses are short -- you never want to miss it right, left or long," Harner says. "For that reason, having a little bit of a bump and- run/chip shot works very well at the Ross."
The Ross Course Preview
The collection of sturdy par-3 holes on the Ross Course will play a large role in the scores shot by PGA Professional National Championship competitors. Three of the four par-3 holes play close to or longer than 200 yards, and all of them play from elevated tees to elevated greens -- over deep valleys and fully exposed to the wind. Any competitor who cards a quartet of pars on these four holes will have a leg up on the field.
On the front nine at the Ross Course, No. 8 stands out as a hole that can make or break a round. The 390-yard par-4 hole is a 90-degree dogleg left that demands an accurate tee shot with a fairway wood, hybrid or long iron over a valley. The fairway slopes toward the green, forcing players who take an aggressive line to hit from a downhill lie. The approach shot, is typically a short iron, but the large green falls more than eight feet from back to front, putting a premium on accuracy.
"You don't want to get on the wrong section of that green; I've seen a lot of scores go bad there," Harner says of No. 8. "Just like the par-3s on the Ross Course, that hole is one you just need to get by without much damage."
Players needing to make par or pick up a stroke on the 18th hole at the Ross Course will also have their work cut out for them. The 418-yard par-4 closing hole requires players to hit over a fairway bunker to a landing area that slopes toward the right -- where tall native grass lurks 20 yards right of the landing area. That leaves an uphill, sidehill approach shot to a raised green that falls away in every direction. Depending on the pin placement, there's not much room for error.
"I think the 18th hole is as good a finishing hole as you'll find on any Donald Ross golf course," Harner says. "You don't want to miss the green anywhere but short, and even then you can have some real difficulty if you get short-sided by a front pin."
The Dye Course Preview
While the Ross Course will force competitors to focus on the par-3 holes and their short games, the Dye Course requires more accuracy and distance off the tee. A trio of par 5s and a behemoth par 3 are among the holes that could decide the outcome of the National Championship.
An excellent example of what players face at the Dye Course can bee seen at the par-5 third hole. The 574-yard dogleg left is meant to be a true three-shot par 5. The fairway narrows dramatically at 270 yards, pinched by a tremendous fairway bunker on the right. A tee shot played smartly leaves 280-plus yards across a 100-foot deep ravine.
"The safe play with the second shot on No. 3 is to the corner of the dogleg to leave yourself a short iron in," Harner says. "But I'm sure that at the National Championship, some of the bigger hitters are going to try to go at that green -- and I don't know that it's going to pay them much dividend."
No. 7, the next par 5 on the Dye Course scorecard, is another difficult test. Players face a 240-yard carry to reach the fairway, followed by an uphill second shot. The best play is to leave yourself 140 yards for an uphill approach to a small green surrounded by bunkers and mounds.
On the back nine, No. 16 could be the site of a final-round lead change. Played from the back tees, the par-3 hole plays 301 yards. However, during the Championship it will play at 215 yards. As Harner says, "I tell Pete all the time it's the first par 3 I can remember that has three fairway bunkers." Rocks and water are perilously close to the right edge of the green, and the prevailing wind blows in that direction.
The home hole at the Dye Course provides one final test -- a 568-yard par-5 that gives a leader a chance to play safe and gives a pursuer a last opportunity to make a move. A series of church-pew style fairway bunkers guard the landing area on the tee shot, and the hole has a hard dogleg left as you approach the green.
"It's a great finishing hole, and it's a great view when you're standing out there on the tee looking up at the clubhouse," Harner says. "And there's lots of room around the green for a big crowd to watch the winner come in."
Whoever that winner may be, it will be the player who has managed to overcome the contrasting challenges of the two toughest courses the Hoosier State has to offer.
This story appears courtesy of PGA Magazine, the official publication of The PGA of America.