Host to the PGA Championship in 1952, the course at Big Spring Country Club has been altered a number of times down the years by the likes of William Diddel, Larry Packard, Arthur Hills and, most recently, Rees Jones in 2004.
The club merged with Harmony Landing Country Club, located half an hour’s drive to the north, in 2014, offering the combined membership the choice of two 18-hole layouts, fourteen tennis courts and two Junior Olympic-sized swimming pools.
fairways are routed around the MIddle Fork of Beargrass Creek, with several holes
affected by the flowing waters of this natural water hazard. The
new millennium remodel of the layout by Rees Jones – which involved
rebuilding greens and adding fairway bunkers – now provides players
with a tougher test.
Big Spring is a standard country club course that is mainly flat with some terrain changes where the course gets closer to the Middle Fork Beargrass Creek.
The club recently completed a renovation/addition of its clubhouse that makes it the number one country club in Louisville as it has outstanding facilities and pro shop. The negative of the clubhouse is that the clubhouse and pool area impinge on the “solitude” feeling of the fourteenth, fifteenth, sixteenth and eighteenth holes. But if one likes to hear the excitement from the happy shrieks/yells of children swimming in the pool, as well as the laughter from the outside bar and dining, then one will have a smile on their face. It did not bother me, but I know other people who would have said it bothered them.
The course has been changed from its days of hosting the PGA by interstate 64 which took away some of the land where holes were played over Middle Fork Beargrass Creek. Rees Jones was the most recent architect to renovate/restore the golf course.
My feeling is that the bunkering could be much better than done by Mr. Jones. His bunkering, with the exception of a couple of holes, could be more interesting. The placement is fine, but they are relatively boring. Some holes need more bunkers.
Several of the holes have good greens, but most of them are relatively straightforward. The course could use additional contouring in the greens.
Trees are very prevalent on this course although not thick. They serve to define the playing corridors on many holes.
Three of the par fives are similar. These are holes where more interesting bunkers and greens would enhance the golf course.
There are several good holes here but overall the course feels a bit bland. In addition to four good holes, there are a couple of fun holes. The main excitement comes from the airplanes flying low overhead landing or taking off at Bowman Field next to the country club.
The course is par 72, with the back tees at 6958 yards, rated 74.3/138. The Blue tees are 6578 yards, rated 72.5/136. We played the Blue tees. There are six sets of shorter tees as they club has an active membership and a very good junior golf program.
1 – par 5 562/528. A slight dogleg left with an inner bunker. Trees are the primary defense on both sides. About 60 yards short of the green is a bunker on the right followed by flanking bunkers left and right. The green is flattish. This is an average hole that needs more shaping around the green and contouring on the green.
2 – par 3 169/159. Playing parallel to Dutchman’s lane, a pretty busy road, this par 3 has a bunker left and right at the front. The green has some nice shape to it but overall another average hole.
3 – par 4 395/370. Turning the other way, this hole plays parallel to Gannons Lane, another fairly busy road. The hole is straight with scattered trees down the left and a collection of trees down the right. There is a single fairway bunker right. The green has a bunker on the right side and has decent shaping with higher ground on the back right. This hole should have another bunker on the front left about 30 yards short of the green.
4 – par 4 417/399. Another relatively straight hole offering scattered trees down both sides with a single bunker on the left side of the fairway. At the green there is better bunkering as it surrounds much of the green. The green has a nice back to front tilt.
5 – par 4 417/399. This hole plays slightly longer as the tee shot is downhill followed by a steep uphill. There is a large collection of trees to the left to discourage people from cutting this dogleg left too aggressively. There is a speed slot for balls hit to the middle of the fairway. The fairway offers a generous right side but no speed slot. The green is sharply sloped back to front and left to right towards the lower ground. A single bunker is on the right side of the green with a valley off to the right. This is the second best hole on the front nine and one of the five best holes on the course.
6 – par 3 179/161. Playing downhill, the green is sloped sharply back to front with a big fall-off front of the green. A bunker is placed on the right side leading to a difficult recovery shot to any pin placed on the upper third of the green. It is an okay hole. The green used to be located on the other side of the creek.
7 – par 5 552/536. This is one of the hole changed as the tee box was on the other side of the creek leading to a straighter shot into what is known a sharp dogleg right. Bigger hitters can fly over the trees and the Creek which snakes its way down the right side of the dogleg before it cuts across the fairway nearer the hole. There is a bunker on the left side to catch the longer players. After getting across the Creek, average length players will play uphill to a green with a large bunker on the right. This green has two tiers and good shaping back to front. My member host thought I would not like the hole but after the round I told him it was my favorite on the course despite forgetting about the Creek crossing the fairway. Longer hitters can reach the green in two shots.
8 – par 4 389/365. One of the niceties about the club is that you have multiple chances at the halfway house and one of them is here. This hole plays uphill with a single fairway bunker on the right. At the green is a single bunker left. The green is large for the length of the hole, although narrow at the front. I felt the hole needed another bunker to the right of the green as the hole felt bland to me.
9 – par 4 452/427. There is a fairway bunker right and a narrow fairway as well which then widens as you near the green. The green has a difficult, long bunker on its left side to another green with different tiers. Two trees about 70-50 yards short of the green on the right can block a line into the green. It is a good hole.
10 – par 5 515/484. This par 5 sits parallel to the first hole (with eleven laying between ten and one) and feels the same although it has a pond fronting the green that begins about 90 yards short of the green. Opposite the pond on the right side of the fairway are two bunkers. The green has a large bunker behind it with a flat green. The hole did not appeal to me. Perhaps they should remove the trees on the right before the pond to create more possibility for the risk-reward play.
11 – par 4 494/470. Easily the longest par 4 on the course, this hole bends off the right with a long inner bunker. The left side is tree lined all the way to the green. The green has two bunkers left and one to the right and is slightly raised. It is a pity there are not more holes like this as the green complex is good.
12 – par 4 329/307. A downhill shot that must stay left and short of the Creek snaking its way down the right side before crossing in front of the green. The green is raised with a significant fall-off front and left. On the right side are two long bunkers. It is a fun hole but I think the club should move the green as close to the river as they could, adding 25 yards. This would require cutting down trees for the thirteenth tee and making that hole play straighter but I think the trade-off is worth it. I was told this hole ended on the other side of the creek as well.
13 – par 4 423/403. The second most difficult hole on the course due to playing across a large pond on this dogleg right. The fairway looks very narrow but is actually pretty wide. I put my tee shot in the water trying to cut the corner. For the longer hitters, there is a fairway bunker to the left. Opposite the fairway bunker is a collection of trees that could also catch the longer hitters who clear the pond. The green sits well above you and has flanking bunkers. The green is tilted back to front and left to right. This is a nice golf hole.
14 – par 4 335/322. This hole plays uphill with a lot of sand down the left which the bigger hitters will carry. There is also a lot of sand 40 yards out at the front of the green continuing to the green. Another bunker is at the rear. This is the most visually pleasing hole on the golf course. The green has a spine running diagonally through it. This and twelve are the “fun” holes.
15 – par 3 164/145. A slightly uphill par 3 with two bunkers left and one to the right. It is an average hole.
16 – par 5 551/538. A slight dogleg left with out-of-bounds down the left side. There is a good placement of bunkers on this hole with one right and two on the left. As you near the green there is another bunker on the right about 130 yards short and then one on the right about 60 yards short. The green is surrounded by bunkers and runs away from you. It is the one green that is not receptive to shots that are not hit high. It is a better par five than the first and tenth, but lacks the character of the land of the seventh hole.
17 – par 3 208/192. Bunkers right and left with the left one cutting across most of the front as well as the left side. The back left is a particularly difficult pin position due to the thinness of the green which is what we had. I like the hole even if it does not offer anything unique.
18 – par 4 436/406. This slight dogleg left offers three bunkers on the inner corner and a single one on the right corner. At the green are flanking bunkers with a somewhat narrow entrance. The green is sloped back to front. Yes, you hear the children at the pool and you see the pool and clubhouse facilities, but I think it is a nice finish to the course.
The best holes are where there is good variation in terrain which are holes five-seven and holes thirteen and fourteen. There are a few fun holes. The par 3’s and par 5’s feel too similar.
Overall I liked these holes: five, seven, eleven, thirteen, fourteen, and eighteen. Some might add the sixth, twelfth and sixteenth as well. But the other holes are relatively dull due to vanilla bunkering, lack of good green surrounds, and relatively flattish greens.
The course is a very good member’s course and combined with their second course (Harmony Landing receives a lot less play) offers a very compelling reason to be a member at Big Spring. This is not a course one would go out of their way to play unless they are trying to play the courses that have hosted a PGA. However, it is a course that you will enjoy.