Old English Golf Course first opened for play in 2002. The course was designed by Dr. Michael Hurdzan.
There's a big and interesting story behind this course, Kathy McKimmie tells it very well..
By McKimmie, Kathy Indiana Business Magazine, Date: April 2003
Move the town to higher ground. That's what the residents of English--population under 1,000--decided with federal help after periodic flooding from swelling creeks and the Little Blue River had ravaged their homes and businesses for generations. But what would become of their old town?
Cary Hammond offered his vision in a business plan drafted as part of a course at Indiana University's Kelley School of Business in 1988; he would transform the bones of his hometown into a golf course.
Fourteen years later, after buildings were demolished and the services of a world-renowned golf-course architect were arranged, an 18-hole championship course opened in 2002 on 300 acres. Old English Golf Course is now the pride of the town and the fulfillment of a college kid's dream.
English clerk-treasurer Wayne Carothers credits a lot of people for seeing the voluntary relocation project through, but he gives kudos to former U.S. Rep. Lee Hamilton and U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar for guiding local officials through the maze of federal programs. "Hamilton, Lugar, and the regional planning agency kept our chins up, so to speak."
Carothers estimates that more than $6 million in state and federal funds were spent acquiring more than 100 parcels of property, demolishing old buildings, performing environmental cleanup, preparing infrastructure and handling other move-related tasks. In the long run, though, millions will be saved by not having to rebuild the town after each flood. The move was completed in 1999.
"It took eight years to move the houses out of the way," says Hammond, so if his project had been just a golf course locals would probably have said "the heck with it" long ago. "We wanted to see something happen here in our hometown. To be the project that gives hope to your hometown is the thrill." He was able to squeeze in five years in marketing and sales at WTPI-FM in Indianapolis and another five in marketing at Hoosier Energy before assuming the general manager's job in 2000 when course construction began.
On the site of the former town sit three holes of the new golf course, says Carothers. "We lease it at fair value of what it would cost for leased farmland." Some might think it's strange to lease public land for a privately owned golf course, he says, but the town gets green space and actually saves money by not having to maintain the property.
Old English Golf Course LLC was formed in 1996 to begin work on the course. Hammond and friend Mark Megenity, a local fourth-grade teacher, began raising money. "We went to friends and neighbors and would sit in their kitchen and tell them the story. We needed money to do it. We needed to buy land for an 18-hole course."
The initial goal was to raise $800,000, all from small local investments (no more than $15,000 per person), and they attracted the 150 investors they needed to get it done. "In contrast, most golf courses today may have guys that plop down $1-2-3 million apiece," says Hammond, who serves as president as well as general manager. But what kind of course can you build on a shoestring?
ENTER DR. HURDZAN
"I heard the story of English," says golf-course designer Dr. Michael Hurdzan, "These guys had no money and were trying to put together a golf course. They were trying to save their town." He decided to give back to the sport he loves by donating the design services of his Columbus, Ohio, firm, Hurdzan-Fry. "Anyone who earns a living from the game of golf has an obligation to make it grow."
"When Hurdzan came on board and donated services he started a movement," says Hammond. "Other suppliers and vendors called. Bulldozers, earthmoving equipment, further donations and discounts--$1 million of donations came in and it all started with Dr. Hurdzan. We now have a $4 million to $5 million golf course and our investment is in the $2 1/2 million to $3 million range."
Hurdzan, a 23-year Green Beret commander who specialized in survival techniques and guerrilla warfare, has been a golf-course designer for more than three decades, with a master's in landscape architecture and a Ph.D. in environmental plant physiology. Among his honors are the 2002 Donald A. Ross Award from the Golf Course Builders Association of America and Golf World Mag azine's 1997 Architect of the Year Award. Working with partner Dana Fry, Hurdzan has created numerous courses on "best of' lists, including Naples National Golf Club in Florida and Devil's Paintbrush Golf Club in Ontario.
Hurdzan is best known for his environmentally sensitive designs. He encourages would-be golf course designers to study environmental science in addition to landscape architecture. The latter teaches "graphic skills and design approaches that are good for zoos and housing developments," he says, not necessarily for golf courses. What's needed is learning the environmentally correct way to use the land, using the least amount of water, fertilizer and pesticides.
On Old English's budget "you can't move much dirt or blast a lot," says Hurdzan. So using available U.S. Geological Survey maps to guide the designers they put together a plan to use the existing bridges as much as possible, and work around the wetlands and creeks. "The primary thing we did was to move the tees and greens above the major flood areas and put in ponds and drainage areas."
The drainage is so good, "we play golf when others are closed in the area," says Hammond.
READY TO PLAY
The course was playable last year but the grand opening happens May 10-11, says Hammond. It keeps getting better and better, thanks to course superintendent Steve Olson, formerly with Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville, site of the 2000 PGA Championship. "If he can get Valhalla ready for Tiger Woods, then he can get Old English ready for golfers down here." He expects to add a PGA golf professional next year.
"I love to have people come and have their best round of golf for the year," Hurdzan says of his courses. "I try to make it fair and fun by having multiple tees a person can choose." There are five sets at Old English. From the back you'll hit 7,048 yards on the par 72 course and face water on 13 holes. It's a much easier 4,884 from the front.
Many holes are named in honor of a special person or event that shaped the town or the course. The "monster par 5" No. 6, running 605 yards from the hack, is dubbed Civil War Reunion for the annual fall gathering to celebrate veterans, first started after the Civil War. President's Landing, the par 5 No. 9, marks the spot where President Jimmy Carter flew in on the Marine One helicopter to inspect flood damage in 1979. And the course honors its pioneer past by naming the par 4 No. 13 Homestead after the first homestead built there in 1808.
The most dramatic views are from two par 4s that tee from a ridge above the course. No. 4 is True Gravity, from Michael Murphy's mysterious book Golf in the Kingdom, set in a world where extraordinary powers are unleashed in a backswing governed by "true gravity." Cliff Top, No. 7, bits over the bend in the river and looks more difficult than it is, giving golfers a great sense of accomplishment.
You'll finish on Hurdzan's Solution, a 580-yard par 5 he planned while standing deep in the woods.
$26 (cart included), played on Tuesday, June 2010 at 2pm
This course has one of the best layouts I have ever seen. The fairways are in wonderful shape but the greens are suffering from the heat of the year. The greens are playable they just arent very appealing to the eye. Once the greens recover( They were working very hard on them while I was there) This will be a top 5 golf course in the southern Indiana area.
Latest Golf Course Reviews