The third course in our French Lick series was actually the first to be built. Prior to the original owner of French Lick Springs Hotel commissioning Donald Ross to build the Hill Course, Taggert commissioned Tom Bendelow to design the Valley Course near the Hotel. The years had not been kind to Bendelows’ original design until Mr. Cook came in and helped bring French Lick up from the ashes. This once proud eighteen hole course was renovated into a nine hole course that is in the best condition in the courses 100+ years of existence.
The Valley Links often is over looked by many, I am guilty of overlooking the Valley; however, there are reasons that you should take the time and stroll on these hallowed grounds.
Unlike the other golf facilities that French Lick has to offer, Valley Links was renovated with entertainment and family in mind. Tom Bendelow would be happy with this decision as it was his vision to have a layout that would allow for golfers to learn the game that can also provide some challenge. On the course, a partnership with U.S. Kids provides a great opportunity for the kids in the family to have an enjoyable course within a course. There are four sets of tees that range from 3,478 yards to 2,519 yards to accommodate all skill levels along with an additional two set of tees for the kids, level one measures 1,100 yards while the yellow tees measure to 1,900 yards.
Foot golf has become an enjoyable way to have some family entertainment out on the Links as well. This game, where the rules of golf and soccer combine, has been sweeping across the nation for the past five plus years. These are just some of the ways in which you can have a fun entertainment filled time with the family at French Lick.
LEARNING THE GAME
The Valley Links course is a great facility to learn how to play golf. The layout is fairly flat with inviting fairways and accessible greens. The four tees on each hole provides you with great distance variety for all to play comfortably to their skill level. Prior to stepping on the course there is a large practice facility which includes a driving range and a short game area where you can really hone your skills. The services that are provided by the PGA staff along with other experienced staff are hard to beat. The French Lick Resort Golf Academy provides you with ample opportunity for learning.
- Private Lesson 45 minutes
- Private Video Lesson 1.5 hours
- Course Instruction 2 hours
- Quick Recovery Lesson – Included in a one night stay package 4 hours
- Game Change Academy – 3 day/ 3 night package
While a lot of the media attention is targeted at the Championship Courses provided at French Lick Resort, the Valley Links facilities really is a fantastic place to learn how to play the game of golf.
WALKING WITH HISTORY
Golf really is about walking with history. Here at French Lick you get the opportunity to do this at the Donald Ross Course and also the Valley Links Course. Tom Bendelow was known as “The Johnny Appleseed of Golf” as he is credited with over 300 golf courses around the nation. He designed and helped operate the countries first eighteen hole municipal course at Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx, which still exist to this day. He is best known for designing Medinah course #2 and is credited as the original designer for Medinah course #3, East Lake Golf Club, and the South Course at Olympia Fields. Tom Bendelow was the first architect to touch the ground at French Lick approximately between 1904 – 1907.
The original eighteen is no longer in play, yet when you play the nine holes that were renovated at the Valley Links history still remains. Your first hole of the day is a short par 4 playing around 360 yards from the back tees, this hole was originally the fourth hole. The very next hole is a long 465 yard par 4, this hole was originally the sixth hole. And your final hole of the day was originally the fifteenth hole. The renovation does a great job of molding the new holes with the original three that still remain.
There have been many celebrities and professional golfers walk these grounds at the Valley, including the one and only Walter Hagen. The picture below was provided to me by Dave Harner, the Director of Golf and Operations at French Lick. This is Walter Hagen playing in an exhibition match at the Links.
FRENCH LICK INDIANA
There is so much history at French Lick. I could not have been able to write this article without the help of Dave Harner and Andy Fortner, Head Golf Professional at the Pete Dye Course. They provided me with some great historical information and all of the older pictures you see above and below. The staff at French Lick are absolutely amazing and I am very thankful for them taking their time and helping. Next week we will be talking about the new, big boy on campus, The Pete Dye Course. Until then go check out and learn some more about what French Lick Resort has to offer.
Until Next Time, Enjoy!