Pete Dye designed Bulle Rock, which was named for what is believed to be the first thoroughbred horse to be brought to the United States. Tim Liddy, perhaps sensing an opportunity to one-up his mentor, designed Sultan’s Run, named for Supreme Sultan, who sired more world champion American saddlebred horses than any other.
This area of southern Indiana is noted for its horses (nearby to Louisville, KY) and it also offers an excellent array of golf options. Sultan’s Run was acquired by the French Lick Resort, which already hosts championship routes from Donald Ross and Pete Dye. This course requires less muscle to wrestle with than those two steeds (at “just” 6,900 yards) but offers a worthwhile warmup for those other courses.
Players will find a range of risk-reward holes with plenty of opportunity for penalty as well (water is an imminent threat on all four par three holes). That said, the water that inevitably gathers the most discussion is at the closing hole, although it’s unlikely to gather any shots. The clubhouse sits above the green and below the building there sits a massive waterfall installation that is sure to distract your approach.
Sultan’s Run is a fun golf course. Not that long, but there are plenty of challenges. The first hole is relatively straight forward. The key is to hit your drive straight. It drops off into the woods on the right and left is a little more forgiving. However, if you do come in from the left you have now brought the three bunkers that are front left into play on your approach. The second is a pretty mid-length downhill par 3. There is a water carry and bunkers short left and middle protect the green. The 3rd is a good birdie oppty. Short but tight, there is more room right off the tee, consider hitting a utility. The 4th is a bombs away par 5. Definitely reachable in two, but you must avoid the fairway bunkers right. There are four large bunkers on the left side inside of 200 yards. The green sits on a ledge, long is NG. The fifth is a slightly downhill par 3. You must carry a creek to a redan green with multiple bunkers left. The 6th is another reachable par 5, dogleg right. Off the tee you will be tempted to cut the corner. Don’t do it, there is no benefit, unless you like hitting out of the deep rough with a downhill lie. It did not work out so well for me. Aim down the left side of the bunkers on the right elbow. The 7th is a driveable dogleg left. The 8th is another short par four, favor the right off the tee and on your approach as everything wants to go left. The 9th is rated much easier than the 7th and 8th, which makes no sense to me. It as about 30% longer dogleg left with bunkers on the inside elbow and woods right.
The back starts off with a downhill dogleg right par 5. The best line to is the left side of the right bunker. Too far left and you can drive thru the fairway. On your second shot left of center is best. The par 4 11th sneaks left and you want to favor the right side to ensure that you are not blocked out by the big ass tree on the left. The 12th is a cool long downhill par 3 with the green as a peninsula in the water hazard. I am amazed that it is rated as the easiest hole. It is fun if you hit the green, not so much, if you don’t. The 13th is a long par 5. Downhill off the tee and then uphill approach. Don’t even think about trying to clear the left fairway bunkers. Hit your normal drive down the right side. Take an extra club on the approach. The 14th appears long, but the last 160 yards are downhill. The smart play is probably to lay up to the top of the crest. If you hit driver you will probably end up with a pretty severe downhill lie. I was not smart, but in this particular instance it worked out. The dogleg left par 4 15th is the number two handicap hole. Hit your drive straight and do not even think about flirting with the water hazard that runs the entire left side. The par 3 16th is framed by a horseshoe bunker contouring the green left, back and right. The 17th is slightly uphill with heavy woods left. Favor the right side on both your drive and your approach. The 18th is a really cool hole. Dogleg right over gunch with a myriad of bunkers to fly. This is all about how big is your appetite. Cut off too much and you are in a bunker or worse. The approach is uphill to a green that is tucked into a rock bowl with a waterfall shadowing the back third of the green.
Not the toughest golf course, not an architect’s top 100, not a classic design, but it was fun. I would pay to play it again.