1964 Burning Tree Lane,
Indiana (IN) 46032,
- +1 317 844 9928
20 miles N of Indianapolis
Members and their guests only
Crooked Stick is situated in Carmel, twenty miles north of Indianapolis. Constructed in 1964 by Pete Dye, it is home to a private members club. The club almost became known as “The Golf Club of Indianapolis” but according to folklore, Pete Dye was walking over the unfinished homeward nine and picked up a knobbly stick and proceeded to swing the stick at some loose stones, “Crooked Stick Golf Club” was the outcome.
There have been several major championships held here over the years: the 1982 US Junior Amateur, the 1984 US Senior amateur, the 73rd USPGA in 1991 (won by John Daly), the 1993 Ladies Open and the Solheim Cup in 2006. The Stick also hosted the Women’s Amateur Championship in 2007 and the U.S. Senior Open Championship in 2009.
Crooked Stick was one of Pete Dye’s first golf course commissions and it was constructed the year after he had spent some time in Scotland playing many of the traditional links with Cruden Bay, in particular, making a lasting impression on him. Consequently, pot bunkers, wooden sleepers, small greens, blind shots and undulating fairways were concepts that were transported across the Atlantic to this, and many of Dye’s other American designs.
Dye lives a wedge shot from the 18th hole at Crooked Stick and in speaking about the acclaimed par three 13th hole, he says that it “is a nice, fairly simple, straightforward hole. But I left a mound in the fairway… so when you’re standing on the tee, you can only see part of the green… and I’ve heard more people complain about that blind hole. But… it sticks in their minds.”
Pete Dye and his wife Alice, when not on golfing business elsewhere, still play seven holes on Crooked Stick together every day – have you ever read a golf course review where someone writes “if there was only one course that I could play for the rest of my life” – maybe Pete Dye has done just that.
Crooked Stick was Pete Dye’s inaugural design. The first hole is a short welcoming par 4. Favor the left off the tee to avoid the right fairway bunkers and the possibility of being blocked out by trees. Big hitters should consider laying up. The 2nd hole is a mid-distance par 4 dogleg left. It has a large bunker on the inside elbow and a couple of pot bunkers as well. Favor the right off the tee, be wary as there are also two fairway bunkers over there as well. The green is [protected by two bunkers right. I was perplexed that the 2nd is rated the 11th stroke hole and the 1st the 9th. Very peculiar, the 2nd is much tougher. The first par 3 can be sneaky. It will play much tougher if the pin is back left and be an easy hole if the pin is up. The green is surrounded by six bunkers and the green is a figure 8 design. The 4th is a long straight away par four with fairway bunkers scattered throughout. However, in the landing zone two bunkers were added to contract the landing area, one left and one right. The first par 5 is long, play it as a 3 shotter. There are half a dozen fairway bunkers right off the tee as well a large one left. For your second shot play for your preferred yardage, but pay attention to the crossing bunkers. The green is protected by three bunkers. The par 3 6th is the signature hole. Short with a carry over water and right greenside with a pot bunker left. Another pleasing visual is the red covered bridge back right. The 7th is somewhat forgettable after the 6th, a par four with 3 fairway bunkers right. Favor the left off the tee. The elevated green also has a large greenside bunker left. The 8th is an awesome par 4. It leans left and has water running the entire side and the green is a peninsula in the hazard. Off the tee bite off as much as you can chew. Hopefully, the pin will not be left. Be happy with a par on the deservedly number one handicap hole. The 9th is a dogleg left par 5 that is reachable and is a wonderful risk/reward hole. There is a creek left off the tee that eventually bisects the fairway. There is also a large bunker on the inside elbow. Depending upon your tees, you can drive through the fairway. The creek cuts through at a 45 degree angle, so on your second shot you have a lot more yardage right, but now you are creating a more challenging third shot with trees and bunkers. Three bunkers right and one left around one of the more undulating greens on the course.
The 10th is a good par four. Water all the way down the right and fairway bunkers left for those whose courage desserts them. The green is protected with two bunkers right and one left front. The 11th is a reachable par 5 and a definite birdie oppty. Favor the left the duration of this hole as the only real defense is the heavy bunkering right and short of the green. The 12th is a reverse S. There is a lot of room left. The green is on a ledge with a steep drop left. The green slopes hard back to front, thus, be below the hole. The short downhill 13th is dogleg left par 3. The left third of the green is hidden behind a knoll. The redan green is cut left to right and protected by a creek. A very polarizing hole, you either like it or hate it. The 14th is a long dogleg left. There is a creek left and you can drive through the fairway. Bite off what you can as you will still have a long approach to a long well protected elevated green. The 15th is the shortest par five and easily reachable for big hitters. What I loved about the hole was the green. It is a backwards C with the back much higher than the front and a bunker in the middle. Fun hole. The 16th is a tough par four. Narrow landing area with bunkers on both sides of the fairway, you want to favor the right side. You will have a tricky approach to a 3 tier green with a bunker left and water hazard right. The last par 3 is mid-length but can be tricky especially if the pin is back left. A redan undulating green with a water hazard left there is not a lot of margin for error. The 18th is a demanding finishing hole. Long dogleg right around a water hazard, too far left and you will roll down an embankment. The water hazard is home to the infamous inaccessible suggestion box. The green is protected by three bunkers and the water hazard.
Superb, albeit pricey, golf course.
Crooked Stick is a delightful pilgrimage for any fan of Pete Dye’s designs. It’s not as visually intimidating as many of his other designs (Whistling Straits, Kampen, The Ocean Course, to name a few) but mainly because it sits on what otherwise would be a so-so piece of land for a golf course. That said, it is expertly routed; I’d only describe a couple of holes (#1 and #4) as unremarkable.
The course begins with a front nine that’s on a slightly more flat piece of ground, which on the rainy morning I played caused some casual water on the bentgrass fairways. In my opinion, the course truly starts on #6, a pretty par three with Dye’s signature railroad ties. The blind #7 tee shot begins a long stretch of holes where angles created by the architect mess with the player’s head. #8 and #12 in particular stand out in that regard: both are par fours where the optimal tee shot is the side of the fairway closest to the trouble to provide the best angle into the well-protected green complexes. The back nine provides more elevation changes and scenery; when the player stands on the back tee of #11, they are able to see quite a bit of the course around them, which is a pleasant surprise after the somewhat more isolated nature of the holes on the front side. The “dogleg” par three #13 is memorable, as is the huge, banana-shaped green on the par five #15. Sadly, I never played the par three #17 before the very artificial-looking pond was added in place of the deep bunkers, but I have to believe it was a better hole prior to that change; the pond is far too penal a hazard for such a long and narrow green. #18 is a classic finish; I summoned my inner John Daly walking up the fairway at the finish.
All in all, Crooked Stick is a special experience, from the Pro V1 practice balls to the excellently maintained greens which played firm and fast despite all the rain. It’s one I would recommend to anyone who is given the opportunity.
Played August 21, 2018
In the middle of that pond was an island of no more than 50 square feet. On that island was a mailbox with a sign on it: “Club Suggestion Box.” Are you supposed to swim to it with your written suggestion clutched in your teeth? I laughed myself silly…
Crooked Stick is where Dye began experimenting with the creation of dips, swales, hollows and undulations throughout the fairways and greens. He also notes an interesting illusion that he created “where golfers appear to be playing down toward an illusionary elevated green. Most of the greens are really at ground level, but with so much earth removed in front, they appear elevated in the mind’s eye.” There is a saying among the members: “Sooner or later the Stick will get you.” Larry Berle.
A player at Crooked Stick will find that no consecutive holes are laid out in the same direction, one must constantly adjust to wind from a different avenue, long holes are followed by short holes, and shots calling for right to left flight are followed by shots requiring a left to right trajectory. Mr. Dye has gone on to create golf courses which all have the same common denominator – FEAR. Have you ever seen anyone walk off Whistling Straits, Kiawah (Ocean) or TPC Sawgrass and shrug their shoulders with indifference? Little do people realize the influence that Mrs. Alice Dye has on Pete’s layouts. Pete lives off the 18th hole at Crooked Stick and can often be found walking his dog around the property, no doubt visualizing how he can tinker with every bunker that catches his eye. But those ‘in the know’ are aware that he may well have to ask his wife permission. They are a magical couple and she certainly weighs in on each creation.
The golf course is like running a gauntlet and the deep cavernous bunkers and never-ending long lakes lead you from danger to danger. I recall standing on tee boxes gazing out in front of me imagining a race-car swerving through a hairpin – you’re always going in a different direction. You’ll see bunker shapes and complexes which will stretch your imagination, and will certainly hone your raking skills. He designed many bunkers to sit well below the putting surface, only adding to the pressure of avoiding them. I don’t remember a green which was circular or forgettable. The greens are small, you can’t always see the entire surface, mostly diagonal with subtle spines - and each green is in love with a hospitable hazard. The course is extraordinarily memorable and you certainly won’t have an easy time forgetting the adventure.