In this blog post we’re going to take a deep-dive into the best public golf courses in Indianapolis.
The thriving city is located in the heart of Indiana state. Most locals would even argue all roads in the eastern U.S. lead to Indianapolis, so popular and well positioned it is. Hence the nickname the “Crossroads of America”!
A city oozing Midwestern charm, it is home to a dynamic arts scene as well as having a rich sports culture.
And one thing it has a lot of, are public golf courses. There is a great choice of courses dotted around the city. All the more reason we need to highlight the best ones out there.
The best public golf courses in Indianapolis
|1||Purgatory Golf Club|
|2||Brickyard Crossing Golf Course|
|3||Bear Slide Golf Club|
|4||The Fort Golf Course|
|5||The Trophy Club|
|6||Prairie View Golf Club|
|7||Eagle Creek Golf Club (Sycamore Course)|
|8||Plum Creek Golf Club|
|9||Golf Club of Indiana|
|10||Fox Prairie Golf Club|
|Value for money||The Trophy Club|
|Groups||Bear Slide Golf Club|
|Clubhouse||Purgatory Golf Club|
|Views||Brickyard Crossing Golf Course|
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1. Purgatory Golf Course
Up in Noblesville, some twenty-five miles north of Indianapolis, is the sensational Purgatory Golf Club.
What a great name for a golf course. But more importantly, what a top class course. Every now and again you encounter a quality layout, which is as unique as it is fun to play. And Purgatory ticks both those boxes.
On an unblemished rural setting of 218 acres, you’ll find an inland links-style course, absolutely covered in bunkers and long prairie grass.
In fact there are over 125 bunkers waiting gleefully to swallow up stray shots. Although the majority of those bunkers sit outside the optimum route to the hole.
The routing was the sadistic work of Ron Kern, a name well respected in the world of golf course architecture.
Length is another talking point. You could go as short as 4,562 yards from the front tees. Or jump back six tees to the tips, where the course measures a beastly 7,754 yards.
Along with the ample risk and rewards opportunities, you do wonder whether Kern was trying to compete with Pete Dye, a man responsible for many designs in the state.
Regardless of what Kern was thinking, he smashed it out the park here at Purgatory. Without doubt, one of the finest public golf facilities in the state of Indiana.
2. Brickyard Crossing Golf Course
“One of a kind”. “Awesome!”. This is the type of adulation and feedback you’ll hear having played Brickyard Crossing, one of Indianapolis’ finest public golf courses.
Of course the city is famed for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. But this is a destination for avid golfers as much as for racing fans.
The racetrack has existed since 1907, with the original golf course name Speedway Golf Course, opening in 1929.
What was originally 27 holes, with 9 holes playing within the speedway, was completely remodeled by Pete Dye in 1993.
Dye completely transformed the layout, to the point where 9 holes were effectively removed, to create a top-class 18-hole championship layout. It was also at this point the course was renamed Brickyard Crossing.
Today, you’ll find four of the eighteen holes within the speedway. But what the course may have lost in quantity of holes, it has more than made up for in quality.
Being a public golf offering, you won’t find all of Dye’s usual features and the challenge was kept reasonable. That said, if you tee up from the back tees, you’ll be playing nearly 7,200 yards.
This is a fantastic Pete Dye design, in a unique location, offering a great test of golf. There are better courses in Indianapolis, but Brickyard Crossing is arguably the most unique.
3. Bear Slide Golf Club
Arguably one of the most underrated public golf courses north of Indianapolis. Bear Slide Golf Club consistently gets highly rated and many would argue it should be placed higher on this list.
Not that I disagree. But that’s all part of the subjective preferences of one individual to another! Either way, Bear Slide is well positioned here and for good reason.
The course is located in Cicero, a small town in Jackson Township. Lurking in the distance just to the east of the site, is the large Morse Reservoir. Whilst aside from the odd residential homes, you’ll mostly see fields and patches of woodlands.
The routing is hugely impressive and was designed by the relatively unknown Dean Refram, a Florida native and former PGA Tour pro. What’s more impressive is the fact Bear Slide was one of only a handful of original designs he undertook.
A tale of two halves is what you’ll experience here, with the front nine spread across flat terrain and offering a Scottish links style challenge. Whilst the back nine is more of a traditional parkland layout.
Interspersed throughout you’ll encounter some impressive elevation changes as well as occasional water features.
But these aren’t small insignificant water features. Three huge lakes come into play whilst the snaking Bear Slide creek seems to get in the way in regular intervals.
4. The Fort Golf Course
Approximately nine-miles northeast of Indianapolis, tucked away in Fort Garrison State Park, is the outstanding Fort Golf Course.
So good is this layout, it has regularly been voted one of the best public golf courses in the country, let alone the state of Indiana.
Municipally owned, the course occupies the site of the former Fort Benjamin Harrison Military Reservation. And way before the creation of the fort, it had been home to the Indianapolis Arsenal, which played a crucial role in supplying munitions to the federal troops.
Fast forward to today and 240 acres are home to this fine layout, which was completely renovated by Pete Dye and Tim Liddy in 1998.
One of seven courses promoted as the Pete Dye Golf Trail, it is one of three Dye designs within Indianapolis.
As you would expect, the routing is supreme, climbing through the woodland endemic to this area. You won’t find all of Dye’s typical design features. But as you get further into your round, design quirks will reveal themselves which can only belong to the mind of one man.
The split fairway on the par-5 sixth, which also splits opinion! The fourth hole which is a killer where avoiding the bunkers is nigh on impossible. Fifteen is also fantastic, a par-4 which doglegs left and has some interesting challenges.
All-in-all, this is Dye brilliance working in a plot which can’t have been too forgiving. It’s easy to pick apart the problems, of which sometimes the conditioning is found wanting.
But remember this is a municipal course. And for well under one hundred dollars, great value.
5. The Trophy Club
Just a thirty-five minute drive north west out of Indianapolis, past the town of Lebanon, is the fantastic Trophy Club.
Like many of the courses on this list, the club occupies a huge plot of land located far from the hustle and bustle of modern life. That is except for the I-65 which runs along the eastern side of the property…
But let’s move on swiftly as freeway aside, Trophy Club is a much liked and well designed layout.
The routing was devised by Pete Dye’s right-hand man, Tim Liddy, a man who has plenty of experience working on courses in Indiana.
So it won’t come as much of a surprise that The Trophy Club is a big, bold and expansive layout which from the back tees reaches well over 7,300 yards. The rolling terrain is relatively open, giving the course a links style feel.
Clearly the routing favors big-hitters, as do the wide fairways. But a bit more delicacy is required as you get closer to the greens, which can be fast and widely undulating. You won’t want to have to take on too many up-and-downs here.
Tall fescue grasses line most fairways, although with many fairways 60 yards wide, you’ll be cursing if you end up there.
There are doglegs, more bunkers than you care to count and aside from the snaking Prairie Creek, a handful of lakes to contend with. Take plenty of balls and be patient!
6. Prairie View Golf Club
The Trent Jones surname is well known and highly respected amongst golfing circles. Hundreds of golf courses have been crafted by the genius that runs through their bloodline.
Yet the state of Indiana is surprisingly underserved with Trent Jones layouts. In fact Prairie View Golf Club is the only one.
It was designed by Robert Trent Jones Jr. and opened for play in 1997.
The club occupies a serene plot of land which is surrounded on three of its four sides by the White River. Amongst the rolling prairie is plenty of dense vegetation, wetlands, majestic oaks and sycamores.
This is another blissful experience where the course is at one with nature. A fact further enhanced by the five lakes on the site.
What further complements the changing landscape, is the wide variety of holes on offer. The design is traditional in style and it certainly offers plenty of challenging moments.
These include numerous occasions where water is all pervasive. Narrow tree-lined fairways, dog-legs and huge numbers of bunkers. There are also plenty of times where a strategic head is needed. You can’t just drive your way to a low score here.
For those looking to stay post-round, you’ll get to relax in the large 1830’s inspired clubhouse, named the Big Lug.
7. Eagle Creek Golf Club (Sycamore Course)
Eagle Creek Golf Club is located a short drive from central Indianapolis, just the other side of Eagle Creek Reservoir to the north west. Although the reservoir runs all along its eastern side, sadly at no point can you see it from the course.
But there is plenty of greenery to keep you occupied in this beautiful natural setting. Wetlands, large nature areas and animal habitats all occupy the rolling terrain.
And it is here that the great Pete Dye was commissioned in 1975 to design two championship courses.
The two superb layouts are the Sycamore Course and the Pines Course. But the Sycamore is the one which takes the plaudits and makes this list above the Pines.
The Pines is a great course but the lack of challenge means it is far more accessible to golfers of all levels. Whilst the Sycamore Course has a lot more which will appeal to accomplished golfers.
The terrain is hilly so expect plenty of change in elevation. Whilst the links style layout features a number of water hazards contrasted with some tight tree-lined fairways. Throw in a few blind shots and you’ve got yourself a collection of really tough holes.
8. Plum Creek Golf Club
Close to Carmel, north of Indianapolis, is the semi-private Plum Creek Golf Club.
This is yet another Pete Dye and Tim Liddy design, which opened for play in 1997. Since then, it has been regularly listed amongst the best public golf courses in Indiana.
As a testimony to its quality, the course has hosted numerous high-level events. Both college and professional golf tournaments have been hosted here.
These include amongst others, the Indianapolis Open Championship, the Indiana Open Championship and the IWGA Mid-Amateur Championship.
And it’s obvious why so many high profile competitions have been held here. The is a superb layout which will challenge the best out there.
7,000 yards from the back tees consisting of copious amounts of water. As you would expect with Dye and Liddy, they’ve made this into a real grind. Tight fairways, small greens, huge bunkers, bunkers in the middle of fairways, doglegs…you name it, they have it.
But boy is it fun and it is also fair. Well worth playing and a great clubhouse to relax in after your round.
9. Golf Club of Indiana
In southern Boone County, north west of Indianapolis, is the fantastic Golf Club of Indiana. It’s just ten minutes drive from Zionsville and around twenty minutes from central Indianapolis.
Having opened in 1974, the club is nestled in a stunning verdant plot made up of mature woodland. There is also a scattering of lakes and water hazards.
If there was a word which encapsulates the Golf Club of Indiana, I’d suggest ‘elegant’.
Why? Because the conditioning is more often than not to be complimented. The course is beautifully landscaped and the ancient trees add a touch of grandiose to the environment.
The routing was designed by Mickey Powell and Charles Maddox, who must have been delighted when being shown the 175 acres.
Yet don’t think this is going to be a walk in the park. The layout is challenging with water in play on fifteen of the eighteen holes. From the back tees, you’ll need to cover over 7,000 yards.
And if you do decide to play here, you’ll be following in the footsteps of numerous ex-PGA Tour pros. The likes of Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Gary Player, Fuzzy Zoeller and Greg Norman have all graced the fairways here.
10. Fox Prairie Golf Club
Another municipally owned course, this time by the town of Noblesville to the north of Indianapolis. Coming from the city, Fox Prairie Golf Club is about a forty to forty-five minute drive.
Having opened in 1970, there are 27 holes of golf to be enjoyed here. These are the East, Central and West nines.
All three are great options although the longest combination matches the East and Central nines. Playing off the Blue tees, the course reaches 6,801 yards with a slope of 130.
The style of the course is a traditional parkland layout, which features occasional water hazards and plenty of mature trees. This is especially noticeable on the East Course, which plays through mature woodland.
It also features a fair number of blind shots and some tricky little elevation changes.
Fox Prairie isn’t necessarily the longest, but the tight fairways keep things interesting. Arguably one of the more underrated public golf courses near Indianapolis.
What is the best public golf course in Indianapolis?
In my view, the best public golf course in the city of Indianapolis is the superb Purgatory Golf Club. Designed by Ron Kern, the course is located in Noblesville, forty-five minutes drive north of Indianapolis.