We have all seen the capabilities of Ventrac equipment, but when you see a Ventrac being used at one of the top golf courses in the country, it brings chills down the spine! Back in September, a few of us from Ventrac were granted an exclusive sneak peek behind the scenes of the Pete Dye Course at French Lick. We were welcomed by an amazing grounds crew that showed us how they used Ventrac and how it handles on a course of this caliber.
Our visit to this prestigious golf course began on a cool, breezy fall morning in Indiana as the sun beamed over the Pete Dye Course at French Lick Resort. The quiet shadows created an ambiance across the course highlighting every intricate detail of its design. Golf champion and World Golf Hall of Fame course designer, Pete Dye, showed considerable passion when building the course and the results speak in pure Dye fashion.
Avid golfers come from miles to get the Pete Dye Course at French Lick experience…and an experience, it is. Nestled atop Indiana’s highest peak sits this creation of poetic symmetry in landscape with grand panoramic views. The 18 hole course depicts Pete’s signature style with a heavy influence from great Scottish courses that feature small greens, pot bunkers and undulating fairways. Each green features challenging shot-making holes strategically designed and sketched into the severe terrain of the Mt. Airie property that is now the home of the Pete Dye course at French Lick.
Pete made his first visit to the site and said there was no way to build a golf course on the property – the rugged terrain and severe slopes would be almost impossible to work with. But within 24 hours, Pete was back scheduling a second visit. The tough landscape couldn’t stop his passion for designing and he was awarded the contract for the project, which became the biggest project he had ever done.
Construction began in 2006 as every inch of ground was selectively placed by the direction of Pete and his course architect and construction manager, Chris Lutzke. Pete and Chris were meticulous in where every hill, slope and mound of dirt was pushed, moved and shoved. They embellished the beauty of the natural site to give each hole its own personal identity with Pete’s style of fashioning each hole out of the ground. The course boasts rolling, winding gravel cart paths, wild grassy areas and water sites for an architectural layout that replicates nature. Together they took a nearly impossible landform and turned it into a world class championship course.
Maintaining a course of this caliber has many challenges, yet course superintendent, Russ Apple, has maintenance under control. Russ and the grounds crew make certain that each green , tee box and fairway are meticulously groomed for precise play action. The grounds crew love what they do and pay particular attention to the care they give the grounds, tapping in to Pete’s advice and guidance along the way. Given the course was built with many sculpted slopes and bunkers as well as steep hillsides, equipment that could handle the terrain was necessary. To maintain the dynamic landscape, the French Lick grounds crew turned to Ventrac to help assist them in the daily grooming and maintenance of this course. Given the massive number of undulations and steep inclines, the Ventrac contour mowing deck is able to mold itself to the basins and over the bunkers without scalping or tearing up the terrain, saving the grounds crew hours of hand trimming and sod repairs.
The grounds crew relies on the unbelievable traction of Ventrac when grooming the course, allowing them more maneuverability around the hillsides and up steep grades, taking them where other equipment can not safely drive. To mow the rough native grass areas of the course, the grounds crew uses Ventrac tractors exclusively – mowing these natural habitats about twice a year. One massive hill of native grass in particular they mow with Ventrac surrounds the highest peak on the course where the stately clubhouse resides.
Voted “Best New Course” of 2009 by Golf Magazine and Golf Digest, the Pete Dye Course at French Lick continues to receive rave reviews by all. Truly a grand work of art, Pete feels it is the best inland course he has built yet. And to think all of it was started with a simple sketch scratched on to a paper napkin….all from the creative mind of Pete Dye.