Nestled in Carmel, IN, a wealthy suburban district outside of Indianapolis, is one of the most classic and historic courses of the Midwest. A history loaded with men’s, women’s, and senior major championships, FedEx Cup Playoff events, and the Solheim Cup. Crooked Stick sits just inside the Top 100 golf courses in the United States.
The last PGA event at Crooked Stick was the BMW Championship in 2016, where Dustin Johnson won with a blazing -23. Prior to the tournament, Crooked Stick made some changes to its classic design, in hopes of “toughening” up the course, but I do believe that low score is a reason why the Tour hasn’t been back. We all remember the John Daly run in the 1991 PGA Championship, and the course is now far different from how it played during that event.
I’ve had the opportunity to play many rounds at Crooked Stick in my life and I’ve always loved it there. It’s more than just the aura of being around the place, but the fact that it’s a great layout and design. Starting out of the gate, Hole 1 is probably just about the easiest hole you’re going to get all day. Just a simple, straight-forward 350-yard par 4, but then again, it is kind of like Pete Dye to start off teasing you a little. One thing I love about Crooked Stick is that you’re not stepping up and seeing the same things over and over, for a course sitting in the middle of a city. Each hole has its own shape and different characteristic that sticks out, and makes it different than the others.
One thing that sticks out about Crooked Stick is the greens protection. Pete Dye is known for some funky looking bunkers, but the protection at Crooked Stick comes in more than just bunkers. What makes “The Stick” tough for an average player, who is playing a back tee, is the approach shots into long par 4’s protected by water. Hitting long irons into firm, fast greens is never fun, but when those greens are protected by water on one side and deep bunkers on the other, then it doesn’t make things any easier. Pete Dye designed the approaches into the greens very well, by making the player commit to the shot they are about to hit, because in most situations, there is no bail out.
The pros have obviously made Crooked Stick look easy, but I truly believe the architecture has stood the test of time. It’s a classic design, and unlike other modern designs, it’s not been made unfair through the years or made overly difficult to manage. Good golf shots will be rewarded, and bad shots will be penalized, and there is plenty of that at Crooked Stick.
Crooked Stick offers no elevation changes, or major physical attributes that make it stand apart. With his imagination, Pete was able to carve out deep bunkers, water hazards, and some incredible green complexes to make his Crooked Stick layout one of a kind. Being from Indiana, Crooked Stick is such a special place, because of the Pete Dye name. The soul of Pete Dye’s work is based in Indiana, so it’s always something special to play his masterpieces. Pete Dye considered Crooked Stick his masterpiece. One of my favorite parts of Crooked Stick is hole 18. Not only did Pete and Alice live on this hole, but there is a special characteristic to it. The slight dog-leg right runs along a pond, which makes it a difficult drive and approach into a well protected green. In the pond sits a suggestion box. Yes, in the middle of the pond sits a suggestion box. As his masterpiece, Pete Dye believed Crooked Stick was perfect in every aspect. Therefore, he decided to put a suggestion box in the middle of the pond on 18, because it didn’t need any suggestions or changes. One of my favorite legends in golf.