When I think of the U.S. Hickory Open Championship, visions of a great old Donald Ross courses start dancing in my head.
There isn't a better place to hold the tournament than the restored 6,885-yard, par-70 Donald Ross course at French Lick Resort in southern Indiana.
The allure of the resort and course is so strong that the combination attracted the largest field ever for the championship, which is set for July 11-13.
The 2011 U.S. Hickory Open, which is run by the Society of Hickory Golfers, will host 81 hickory golfers from 27 states, as well as Canada and Australia.
Hickory golf events are quite a sight. Golfers playing with hickory clubs tend to dress the part, wearing knickers, plus fours, dress shirts and ties straight from the 19th century.
The French Lick Resort is a perfect place for an old-school gathering of golf nuts. Its rich history has been enhanced by a massive $500 million renovation since 2005, spearheaded by the Cook Group Inc. of nearby Bloomington, Ind. The West Baden Springs Hotel, circa 1902, once again shines as "the Eighth Wonder of the World," thanks to its awe-inspiring six-story atrium and ornate decor. The picture below is a view from a room balcony.
The historic Donald Ross course at French Lick Resort (see photo here) underwent a recent $4.6 million restoration project that has brought the course back to Ross's original plans. The course was site of the 1924 PGA Championship won by the legendary Walter Hagen and hosted other golf greats and celebrities such as Gene Sarazen, Chick Evans and Bing Crosby.
The Ross doesn't offer the eye-candy of its sister Pete Dye course, yet its arguably even more fun to play. The hilly terrain never allows for a friendly lie.
The nearby luxurious French Lick Springs Hotel, another historic building dating to the turn of the last century, now offers a monstrous 51,000-square-foot casino featuring 1,300 slots and 41 table games.
History truly will be alive next week in French Lick.