Located within a 247-acre property on the outskirts of Lebanon, The Trophy Club course is a mid-1990s Tim Liddy design that’s routed around the meandering waters of Prairie Creek.
The tree-lined perimeter of the layout separates it from the surrounding farmland but there are few trees within the interior of the property, except for along the shaded banks of the creek. A lack of housing, or any other distractions for that matter, is also a welcome bonus.
Fescue and bluegrass native areas frame the bent grass fairways, some of which measure in excess of 60 yards in width, and these wide playing corridors ensure the average golfer doesn’t spend too much time looking for lost balls – though player might have to sharpen up their sand playing skills as it’s a very heavily bunkered layout.
Highlight holes on the outward half include the par five 2nd, which crosses the creek, and the left doglegging short par four 5th. On the inward half, the uphill par five 11th features a split fairway with centre line bunkers and the par four 18th narrows quite a bit as it veers right towards the home green, with five large bunkers to the right and out of bounds on the left.
The Trophy Club sits on a mostly flat piece of land in central Indiana wedged between the new highway (I-65) and the old highway (US-52) and bisected by a running creek that cuts a small valley and comes into play on several holes, mainly on the back nine. The course is routed out in open space with few trees in play, leading often to windy conditions which can make the course quite difficult when the wind kicks up. Most greens are fairly large and undulating; the architect, Tim Liddy, was once a protege of Pete Dye’s, and that association shows in the style of the greens and approaches. Distance control and proper shot shaping are required to get close to pins and course management is a must with most holes presenting several strategic options. Visually, the course can be difficult because of the lack of defined landmarks on the horizon and uncertainty around distances to the many twists and turns of the fairways.
My personal favorite holes include #2, a long, winding par five over the creek that presents the player with a bevy of layup options and angles into the green, #5, a driveable par four with a huge, mounded fairway for those who choose to lay up, #11, a reachable par five with bailout areas galore, #12, a quirky short par four along a pont, and #17, a par three to a very well-bunkered green. I greatly dislike the stretch of #7-#8, however, as they are on as unremarkable terrain as you’d ever find on a golf course, and seem forced in to complete the routing, and thus lower the golf course a notch in rating.
Played October 12 & 18, 2008
Jeff: I read your review and saw the posted dates -- just curious to know -- is there a stature of limitations between the time someone plays a course and when they actually post information about it? Your time at The Trophy Club is nearly 10 years prior to your actual posting.
Interesting because of the lack of quality for two holes -- you pushed the overall rating down a notch. Given the length of time might it be possible you underplayed the fine elements Liddy did include? The quality of The Trophy Club comes from the fact that the layout is located on nearly dead flat land and the overall character of the totality of the holes is done extremely well.
Real time reviews, in my mind, carry the most weight simply because they are evaluating a plethora of key elements as they are now in the present sense. Curious to get your thoughts on my statement and how others see such situations.
James, I appreciate the response! I'm having a little bit of deja vu, as we and others had a similar conversation a while back on another one of my reviews for Pinehurst No. 2. I'll paraphrase what I wrote there and elaborate further below:
"As I see it, a review is a review and a ranking is a ranking - and the two are distinct. While the site's rankings do tie to the course's current identity, a user's individual review reflects his/her own experience on a course."
I get the sense that we have different perspectives on how relevant recency is when it comes to one's impression of a golf course, and a lot of that is probably based on our life experiences. You're the most prolific reviewer on this site by a wide margin, and as a journalist and panelist, you clearly have the opportunity to (in a non-COVID world) travel and review probably dozens of new courses every year, as well as revisit many you've already played. As a non-panelist - this site is the only place I do any kind of reviewing of courses - who does not work in the golf industry as well as a new father, I don't get the opportunity to do anything like that more than a couple of times in any given year; as such, a number of my reviews here are based on rounds from long ago. With that in mind, your (admittedly very polite) criticism of my reviews that aren't timely feels a bit unfair. This site does not specifically call out any kind of statute of limitations, only requiring that you've played the course to write a review, so I imagine that leaves it up to us reviewers to decide what is worthy. (Or it's a question for the editors.)
Generally, my criteria for evaluating a course on this site is whether the routing of the course is the same as when I played it, so in cases like my review of Pinehurst No. 2 where the course has changed pretty significantly since I played it, I am forthright about when I've played a particular course in order to establish context. Additionally, before writing any review, I do a fair amount of research to refresh my memory of the course where it needs refreshing and to learn if any significant changes were made since I played it. I generally obsess over good golf courses, so if a course is worthy of listing on this site, I probably remember it fairly well - though that's not always the case.
As far as the Trophy Club is concerned, I did happen to make four loops of the course on the couple of days I played it, so I do recall most of the course fairly well. I stand by my opinion that those two holes don't particularly fit, especially the par four seventh. It's kind of crammed in the corner of the property, and I recall feeling like it was particularly bland and out of place, though perhaps that's entirely because the rest of the course was done so well. From my research, that hole has not changed since I last played it. I disagree that the overall property is "dead flat", as most of it features a bit of topography as it slopes down to the creek that bisects it. I don't find it a coincidence that the seventh hole is at the farthest point on the property from that creek.
What many people may not realize is that the State of Indiana is blessed with an array of top quality public facilities. Many might make an erroneous conclusion that given the general assumption that the Hoosier State is overwhelmed by flat terrain and that the nature of the golf would likely be filled with simply boring predictable flat designs. That's not the case with the upper echelon of courses and The Trophy Club -- located just outside of Indianapolis -- is a remarkable effort for the wide diversity of holes encountered.
The course is located on nearly 250 acres of land and the best part is the freedom to enjoy the layout without being bombarded by distractions such as housing. Tim Liddy, a protégé of Pete Dye, gives ample room off many of the tees but there's always a preferred side to play nearly all the holes. To succeed at The Trophy Club requires constant adjustments -- no set manner with a routing that's simply top tier because there's no predictable patterns to hone in on when playing.
I don't like using the terminology "links like" because it can easily convey a false connection but Liddy has certainly added elements to The Trophy Club that give that sort of impression. The putting surfaces are well contoured but not to such an excess to be bordering on the putt-putt variety. The juxtaposition of the different grass types also makes for a splendid contrast between the carefully prepared areas and those utterly natural.
Candidly, the greater Indianapolis area has a number of quality daily fee public course options. The main weakness of The Trophy Club is that the quartet of par-3 holes is not really differentiated as much as I'd like to see. That doesn't mean the holes per se are poor -- but having a really short offering along with a very long one would have worked much better.
Too often people think of American golf being the domain of the coasts -- both east and west. However, the heartland of America is blessed with a number of outstanding courses and for those able to get to Indiana -- be sure to spend plenty of time in around Indianapolis.
The Trophy Club is not only a quality design but it provides some of the best value in all of American golf too. A winner on all accounts.
by M. James Ward