The Indianapolis Motor Speedway – nicknamed The Brickyard – opened as an automobile racing circuit in 1909 and it’s rather fitting that the highest-capacity sports venue in the world is also home to the world’s oldest major car race, the Indy 500.
The Speedway Golf Course opened for play in 1929 and this 27-hole layout was in use for more than sixty years, with 18 holes located outside the track and 9 inside. A major reconstruction then took place in 1993, when the new course was renamed as Brickyard Crossing.
Pete Dye converted the old layout to an 18-hole championship course, with fourteen holes situated outside the track and four (#7 to #10) positioned inside, next to an infield lake. Measuring almost 7,200 yards from the back tees, this course plays to a par of 72.
The old course hosted nine editions of the 500 Festival Open on the PGA Tour during the 1960s and Mickey Wright won the 500 Ladies Classic on the LPGA Tour when it was held here in 1968. After the redesign, the course was used for the Comfort Classic event on the Champions Tour from 1994 to 2000.
Professional women’s golf returned to the course in 2017 with the Indy Women in Tech Championship on the LPGA Tour. For spectating purposes, the course is re-sequenced for this event, with the front nine comprising holes 11 to 18 then hole 1 and the back nine consisting of holes 2 to 10, which allows the infield holes to be played as the four finishing holes.
The Brickyard is a unique course in that 4 holes are located inside the Indy Speedway. Originally, 27 holes, the course was redesigned by Pete Dye into the current championship 18 hole configuration. The course is tree lined, so I will not mention that in the hole descriptions.
The first hole is welcoming. Pretty straight with a couple of fairway and greenside bunkers. The 2nd is an S shaped uphill par five. The green sits on a ledge with a steep fall off right. The green has a significant slope back to front. The 3rd is a short peekaboo par 4. The hole tilts left and the green is hidden behind a small hill from the tee. Favor the right off the tee. There is a railroad tie bunker right that may create a visual mirage. Fun hole. The first par 3 is a good one. A creek down the left side with a narrow bunker between it and the green and two small bunkers right side. The number 9 handicap hole. The 5th is a long S par 4. There is a really long and narrow bunker down the right side, probably 100 yards long and a couple of green side bunkers left. The 6th is a par five. Favor the left off the tee. There are a couple of fairway bunkers on the left and the green side bunkers are also left. After 6 make your way through the tunnel and onto the infield of the racetrack. One would expect this part of the course to be pretty flat. This hole is not, an elevated tee to a table top green. It is the shortest hole on the course and somehow ranked the 7th toughest. If you do not hit the green you are looking at a bogey. The 8th is a really good golf hole. Long. Leaning left and water all the way down the left side, it is the number one handicap hole. The 9th is a birdie oppty if you can avoid the 20 plus bunkers that are scattered about randomly.
The last hole inside the racetrack is a great birdie oppty. A short par four dogleg left with a huge fairway and greenside bunker running all the way down the left side. The redan green is long so club selection can vary 1-3 clubs. A fun hole. After going back through the tunnel, the 11th tee is on the left. This is a long difficult par four that leans left. There is a water hazard down the left side that ends about 180 yards from the green. There is a large greenside bunker short right. The 12th is an S shaped par 5 that should be played as a 3 shotter. There is a bunker on the inside elbow and another at the outside left elbow where the hole twists right. There are two greenside bunkers, short, center and right. The bunkers in the sky can really affect your approach when the pin is back right. Good hole. The 13th is mi-distance par 3 that heads back towards the racetrack with a water hazard right and front bunker. For those of you who have a desire to hit a golf ball into the speedway, the 14th tee is your best oppty, not that I would ever condone such behavior. The 14th is a birdie hole, short and straight. There is a fairway bunker inside the fairway on the right side. You fly this and you have a flip wedge. However, this redan green is protected by a triumvirate of bunkers and is quite narrow. The par 5 15th is a heck of a golf hole. OB left and a ravine right, the key, surprise, surprise is hitting a decent drive into the fairway. This is the easy part. For your next shot, you can lay short of the creek that bisects the fairway at a 45 degree angle or try to carry it. If you lay up your angle is not as good and you will have about 180 yards to the green. If you choose to carry the creek you will need to be able to carry it approximately 175 yards. I would aim at the right fairway bunker. This is a really good golf hole. Par or better here is earned. The 16th is a long par 4 that tilts left and has the creek running down the entire left side. On the tee the trees create an optical illusion that they are closer than they appear and may block out your second shot. Hit it right down the middle. I did not care for this hole, perhaps, because it was my only double. The last par 3 is over the creek to a green with three bunkers left and one right. This green probably has the most undulation on the course. The 18th is a long demanding par 4. The creek runs down the entire right side. I would suggest aiming at the billboard in the distance off the tee. There is a front middle sod bunker greenside. Good finishing hole.
The Brickyard is memorable for many reasons and is a fine test of golf.
Brickyard Crossing is a very nice option for public golf. Re-designed by Pete Dye with holes 7-10 inside the Indianapolis 500 race track, it offers a surprising amount of interesting land forms in its routing.
I had the first tee time and played with a member (the course is semi-private) who left after the fourth hole as the rain began to fall hard. It would eventually become a downpour on the twelfth through fourteenth holes. I was able to play the course in two hours but felt I was able to get a good sense of the course.
As this is a public course, Mr. Dye did not use too many of his “tricks’ to make the golf course overly difficult. Therefore, it is more playable than many of his courses. It expertly incorporates Little Eagle Creek, Falcon Creek and the racetrack. There are also two man-made ponds of some length as well as three man-made hills.. If one wants to experience some of the genius of Mr. Dye, this is a good place to start as several of his features are found here, although I do not think I saw any railroad ties/sleepers. I did see greens hard against water, greens angled to create thinness with difficult bunkers fronting the greens, and long carries over ponds similar to the eighteenth at the stadium courses at TPC Sawgrass and PGA West.
From the Gold tees the course measures 7180 yards and is a par 72, rated 75.1/149. From the Blue tees the course is 6621 yards, rated 72.2/142. There are three shorter tee options. I played the Blue tees. With the rain, the course likely played another 150 yards longer.
The course is in good condition both in the fairways and the greens.
There is good bunkering throughout the course although none of them are overly deep. The fairways are reasonably wide leading to a an overall good balance of defense and penalty. The course offers a good mixture of easier holes and more difficult holes.
Many of the greens are sufficiently undulated and there are good mounding/contouring around many of the greens. Some of the greens could have more shape to them.
1 – par 4 378/353. The weakest hole on the course so it is good that it is quickly out of the way. The hole is basically straight although the green is set off to the left. There is a long waste bunker off the tee to the left that does not come into play. This fairway has a few rolls in it. Farther up the left side is a bunker for the longer hitters but should not be in play for others. Down the right side is a line of trees. About 40 yards short of the green are flanking bunkers with a single bunker left of the green. There is a chipping area on the right side of the green, which is straightforward.
2 – par 5 570/510. This is a nice par 5 with scattered trees and two bunkers set apart down the left. Down the right side for the second shot are two scattered bunkers. The green is set off to the right side atop a man-made hill of about fifteen feet creating a large fall-off on its front/right side. There are no bunkers at the green and it does not need it on this steeply sloped back to front and right to left green. It is a nice par 5.
3 – par 4 369/342. This hole requires a drive to the right side in order to see the green tucked behind a sizeable man-made hill off the left side of the fairway. There is a collection of trees opposite the hill on the right side for those who play too conservatively. For those trying to play left of the hill there is a single tree and the land slopes toward Little Eagle Creek. The green has chipping areas around most of the thin green which is angled left to right mirroring the angle into the green. It is a very clever hole with the hill to consider and the green set consistent to the fairway. I had a blind shot over the hill and after having a look at it around the hill I determined the green was basically straight with my line into it. I managed to hit a good shot that stuck on the green due to the rain that had already started to come down heavier. I like the hole although some might consider it too contrived for its length. I consider it one of “three” fun holes.
4 – par 3 215/194. This is a difficult hole with the green set against Little Eagle Creek on its left side, separated only by a thin, long bunker. While one might hope for a bailout area to the right side of the green, Mr. Due put two small bunkers on the right before the start of the green. There is a false front to the green. It is a fine par 3.
5 – par 4 465/405. This is a nice par 4 with the exception of the cart path crossing the fairway. There is a line of trees on either side with a long, thin bunker down the right side of the fairway. The hole plays as a slight double dogleg, first left and then right. The green has two long bunkers left with a slight false front. It is also back dropped by trees creating a nice visual. The green has good inner contouring.
6 – par 5 542/518. This hole is another cleverly routed hole with the tee shot playing out to the left to avoid the tree line on the right. There are scattered trees also on the left. Again there is a pesky cart path bisecting the fairway. Further up there is a single bunker left for the second shot for average length players. The green is set below a mound on the right with a long, thin bunker on the left. There is another chipping area front and right of the green. It is a nice hole.
7 – par 3 181/174. Crossing through the tunnel under the race track you arrive at a very contrived hole. From an elevated tee you play across a valley to a green on higher ground than the tee of perhaps seven feet. The green is about twelve feet high and has severe fall-offs on all sides. There is a single small bunker on the left back of the green. If you miss the green you will have a blind recovery shot. The green is very long and I under-estimated the length of it resulting in a three putt. While some may like the volcano-style hole, I did not appreciate the “all-or-nothing” aspect to it due to the size of the green.
8 – par 4 464/430. This hole has a long pond paralleling the left side of the fairway. Due to the placement of the tees it plays as a gentle dogleg left. Trees go down the entire right side of the fairway to the green. The first bunker on the right is about 50 yards short of the green with two bunkers greenside right. There is no relief on the left side of the green to the water. The green is contoured back to front. It is a nice hole which some players will find to be difficult.
9 – par 4 383/371. This hole has ten bunkers down the left. If you think that is a lot, it has thirteen bunkers down the right. About 50 yards short of the green sit three of the bunkers on the left and one on the right pinching the fairway to about ten yards wide. Four of the bunkers are off of the left side of the green while two are off on the right side. I found the green to be uninteresting. Despite the rain, I drove down both sides of the fairway to ensure I could count all of the small bunkers that are relatively shallow.
10 – par 4 353/340. One of the three “fun” holes on the course as there is a very large waste bunker on the left side to prevent those trying to drive the green. Two small bunkers sit behind the green. The green is long and thin creating a one-two club differential as it is angled right to left. There is good inner contouring on this green as well as good mounding surrounding the hole.
11 – par 4 462/425. The course begins to get more challenging on this hole. You cross under the race track through the tunnel to a dogleg left. There is a pond once again set off to the left side of the fairway and a line of trees on the right side. Bigger hitters can carry the length of the pond but the wise play is to hit the center of the fairway as there is a large tree on the left at the end of the pond. Farther up is a bunker about 110 yards short of the green on the left that can catch those who have hit their tee shot too meekly to the right. At the green is a long bunker on the right side. The green has a chipping area on its left side and has two tiers in it. It is another nice hole.
12 – par 5 581/520. This hole plays out to the right to accommodate a building connected to the speedway. There is an inner bunker at the corner. The hole then goes back to the left for the second shot with a single bunker on the left. Then green is then set off to the right behind a set of trees with a small middle front bunker and another tree hanging over the right side of the green. I found the hole to be very clever and wondered whether Mr. Dye was creating his own race track on this hole due to the twists and turns. I like the hole.
13 – par 3 193/175. This is the hole I remember the least as the rain was very heavy. However, a member of the maintenance team was mowing the tee! The green is angled left to right with a large fronting bunker and one set on the back left. The green sits on slightly higher ground with a horizontal spine in it and a tilt back to front. In dry weather, I think I could appreciate it more.
14 – par 4 311/298. This is the third of the three “fun” holes. There is a centerline bunker and trees off to the right. Left is a tree line and out-of-bounds. The green is angled right to left and is relatively thin with two fronting bunkers and one at the rear of the green where there is a fall-off. I felt the green could have been placed a bit closer to Little Eagle Creek despite my birdie.
15 – par 5 551/531. This is likely the best hole on the golf course and starts a decent finish. You tee off near Falcon Creek where there is out-of-bounds down the entire right side. The fairway plays a bit back to the right with lower ground off to the right. The second shot requires a decision whether to try to cross Little Eagle Creek. There is a long thin bunker just after the creek as well as trees off to the right. For those clearing the creek there are rewarded both with a shorter shot and a better angle into the green. Near the green are two bunkers left and two right. The creek comes back towards the green. I decided to lay up before the creek leaving a third shot of about 125 yards to the green that is long and thin. I was rewarded with a good chance for birdie which I did not convert. I do like the hole.
16 – par 4 465/415. The other contender for the best hole on the course is this par 4. You tee off across Little Eagle Creek which then continues down the entire left side all the way to the green. The hole plays to the right and then back to the left. The only bunker is at the front right of the green which is slightly raised and has good undulations in it. It is another long and thin green. I like the hole.
17 – par 3 206/183. Playing from an elevated tee one plays across the creek which is now on the right side of the green. There are three bunkers left built into the side of man-made knobs and one front right to the most undulated green on the course due to the humps on the interior. This is easily the best par 3 on the golf course.
18 – par 4 491/437. Little Eagle Creek goes down the entire right side but the fairway is generous and the obvious safe play is to the left side. There are no fairway bunkers. The barn behind the left side of the green presents a wonderful contrast. There is a small center bunker at the front and then two on the left side. The finishing green is much like the previous four holes with good undulations to it. It is a fine finishing hole.
Despite the rain which ended as I putted on the eighteenth green, I found Brickyard Crossing to be an enjoyable course. It is an attractive option for golf if one finds themselves in the Indianapolis area. There are holes that create a challenge with the tee shot, there are holes where the challenge is in the approach shot, there are fun holes, and there are some interesting greens. The course is not as contrived as a typical course designed by Mr. Dye other than the hills used to create the raised greens on the second, third and seventh holes. If in the area, it is well worth a stop. There is more here than the novelty of playing inside one of the most famous auto race tracks in the world.
My guess as to the reason behind the lack of railroad ties at Brickyard is due to the use of the old concrete exterior wall to the racetrack as a bulkhead along several water features, as cited by Dye in his writing.
Very fun course. My friend calls it a Novelty course, but I think it is much more than that. Long holes, anjulating, up and downs, water all over, and just a good day of golf when playing this beautiful course. Very well taken care of. People there treated us well with respect, which is very much appreciated and goes a long way.
Even though 4 holes are inside the track, which is awesome, it is not a gimmick course. It is the real deal. The thick thick grass around the greens seems to be a common phenomenon for Donald Ross, Brick is not exception.
This is a Pete Dye route, but I would argue Ross had as much an influence on Dye as anyone. Hmm. Now I'm questioning myself. Quite a few of those Golden Agers had a hand in creating Dye!