Lucas Oil Golf Course – A Hidden Gem in Southern Indiana That’s Reachable from Four States
The Lucas Oil Golf Course has a very interesting history. During the 1930s, English was a thriving town nestled in the rolling hills and fertile valley of southern Indiana, 38 miles west of Louisville, KY. About 1000 residents called English home.
The area was prone to severe flooding, often causing the town to virtually shut down. On June 7th, 1990, the area again flooded, leaving the downtown area under almost 10 feet of water. The town decided that enough was enough and applied to F.E.M.A. for assistance to move the town to higher ground and out of the floodplain. Over the next five years, many businesses were relocated to the “New English” location about a mile east along Hwy 64. The fertile valley along the Three Forks of Little Blue was once again empty.
According to government guidelines, uses for this flood-prone land were going to be limited to something either agricultural or recreational in nature. As part of his course study at Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business, local resident Cary Hammond put forth a business plan to transform the former town into Crawford County’s first and only golf course. He and his friend Mark Megenity began raising money; they recruited friends, neighbors, and just anyone who would listen in hopes that they could scrape together the funds needed to buy enough land for an 18-hole golf course. Their salesmanship paid off, and they were able to raise the capital and move forward with their dream. Through leases and purchases, they were able to come up with 300 acres of land. However, they didn’t have any money left over for the construction of the course.
Award-winning golf course architect Dr. Michael Hurdzan was familiar with the story of English, Indiana, and was intrigued by the idea of transforming an abandoned town in the middle of the Hoosier National Forest into a championship golf course. The topography of the land was unique, and Hurdzan decided to give back to the sport he loves by donating the design services of his Columbus, Ohio, firm. When local businesses found out that Hurdzan was on board, an avalanche of “donations” came pouring in. A local construction company moved the earth at a low cost when they were between jobs. As luck would have it, the company got so caught up in building Old English Golf Course that they decided to donate one crew full-time. A couple of local golf course shapers signed on at a reduced rate, and rental equipment was placed on-site by operators who would donate their time to help build the course. Suppliers of materials and equipment supported the effort by providing their excess inventory at a discounted price.
With virtually no budget for building the course, Hurdzan and his design team used available U.S. Geological Survey maps as a guide and subsequently put together a plan to use the existing bridges as much as possible and work around the wetlands and creeks. They moved the tees and greens above the major flood areas and put in ponds and drainage areas. In fact, drainage was so good at Old English Golf Course that they were open for business when other courses in the area were closed.
Unfortunately, underfunding and poor management of the facility in its early years led to a lot less play, and the course fell into a state of disrepair. As a result, the golf course fell behind on its mortgage and was on the verge of shutting down. Forrest and Charlotte Lucas, founders of Luas Oil Products and Crawford County residents, were two of the original investors and were approached about picking up the mortgage. For the good of the community, they generously agreed, and in January 2012, they acquired ownership of Old English and subsequently changed the name to Lucas Oil Golf Course in August of 2012.
The golf course offers golfers five sets of tees and can play anywhere from 6,617 yards from the tips to 4,652 yards from the forward tees. I found that the Blue Tees at 6,031 yards offered a good challenge and still let me leave with my dignity intact.
Lucas Oil Golf Course takes advantage of the dramatic drops in elevation and features two distinctively different nines. The front nine has two lakes and flowing creeks that come into play on 8 of 9 holes. The back nine is primarily carved from the hills and ridge tops that overlook Dog Creek and Brownstown Creek. As you make your way around the layout, you’ll see that there is not an overabundance of bunkers. There are only 23 scattered throughout the golf course. Be warned, they are strategically placed and come into play more often than you’d like! Be sure to view Number 4 and 7 from the back tees. These Astroturf tee boxes have been built into the side of the mountain to create extra distance and drama. They add over 100 yards to each hole with a drop in elevation from tee to fairway of 100 feet.
Lucas Oil Golf Course starts with a par five dogleg right around a lake. The hole plays 476 yards from the Blue Tees and is most likely a 3-shot hole. Bite off as much of the lake as you dare with your tee shot, and then play your layup shot out to the left as the slope of the fairway will bring it back towards the middle. Good execution thus far will leave a pitch shot of around 100 yards into a green with a lot of slope on the right side and is guarded by a single bunker on the left.
Standing on the tee box on Number 8, you can see that the hole is designed to be a dogleg left. Given that the shortest distance between two points is a straight line and the hole only plays 303 yards from the White tees, most of the guys I play with are going to take dead aim at the green. Be sure not to go too far left, or you risk hitting into the creek.
Numbers 16 and 17 are two holes that, in the words of GM Ron Schitter, are “tricked up,” with plans to redesign them in the next few years to enhance the overall golf experience. Sixteen is a short, 295-yard par 4 from the Blue Tees. It’s a dogleg right, but if you hit driver off the tee, you will likely be in the trees. Of course, if you can hit a controlled fade with your driver, go ahead; otherwise, hit something less. Even though there are trees all down the right side, you need to keep the ball on the right side of the fairway because the fairway slopes to the left and just gets steeper as you go. A well-positioned tee shot will leave a short iron or wedge into a small green that slopes front to back and is crowned in the middle.
Number 17 is a short, 319-yard dogleg right par 4 that was carved into the side of the hill. It requires accuracy off the tee to a very narrow landing area and then an approach shot over an unforgiving ravine to a shallow, well-sloped green. It’s the course’s #1 handicap hole for a reason.
For golfers who want to experience the course more than once, consider one of Lucas Oil’s Stay and Play packages or a season pass. They have two houses available for rent; one that sleeps up to 10 people and one that sleeps up to 12. Each house has 4 bedrooms with two beds in each room as well as queen and twin sleeper sofas. Both have complete and fully equipped kitchens, free WiFi, and satellite TVs in all bedrooms, as well as large screen TV’s outside that are under roof for your enjoyment. Once you’ve checked in, you’ll be assigned a golf cart that you can park at the house and use throughout your stay. Lucas Oil Restaurant, located at the golf course, offers a full-service restaurant and bar if you don’t feel like cooking.
Season passes are available; choose from unlimited play any day, any time or if you’re not a morning person, select a pass that lets you play Mon – Fri any time after 1 PM on weekends and Holidays. There’s also something available for Junior as well!
The clubhouse has been updated over the past few years and now has a large party deck. The restaurant is one of the facilities’ best features and is often full. Once you receive your order, you’ll understand why. It’s reasonably priced, it’s plentiful, and it is absolutely delicious! I highly recommend the tenderloin sandwich; just be sure you’re hungry enough to finish it!
Lucas Oil Golf Course is well worth the visit if you’re in the area. It’s a scenic 30-minute drive from French Lick and a whole lot cheaper! For more information, visit their website at www.lucasoilgolfcourse.com.