BMW Championship at Crooked Stick
In 1964, Pete Dye built his first great golf course – Crooked Stick, which is ranked in the top 100 golf courses in the country. As Crooked Stick prepares to host the BMW Championship, get to know the grounds – and the man who designed them.
According to Crooked Stick history, this venture was supported by 60 “interested, avid, and maybe crazy golfers” from the Indianapolis area who together formed a corporation to acquire a flat cornfield. The course that rose from that field, one filled with challenges that require the use of nearly every club in the bag, has hosted eight championships, with the ninth to arrive this September – the BMW Championship on the PGA Tour. Read on to take a look inside this members-only club before the big event this fall.
INSIDE CROOKED STICK
The course has a special place in the Indianapolis community, due to its prestigious pedigree and the continued involvement of Dye himself. “Crooked Stick is unique in that it is a limited membership Golf Club,” said Tony Pancake, Director of Golf & Club Operations for Crooked Stick. “People join the Club because they love the game and appreciate the quality of the golf course. They stay members because of the camaraderie of the membership and the shared passion for the game of golf.”
“The greater Indianapolis area is so lucky to have the vision of Pete Dye, the supportive membership of Crooked Stick Golf Club, and a championship golf course that attracts local, national, and International events which brings tremendous economic impact and positive exposure to our community,” said Brent Claymon, Jet Linx Indianapolis Base Partner, and a member of the Crooked Stick Golf Club. “Having Pete still involved in course changes and architectural decisions is very special. Many days during the summer, you will find Pete walking the fairways of Crooked Stick with his dog, Sixty.”
Those original cornfields were molded into wide fairways and fair landing areas, with a high degree of difficulty for second shots. Dye’s design incorporated elements somewhat unfamiliar to the United States, but fixtures across the pond in Scotland: railroad ties, strip bunkers, sand and grass pot bunkers, mounds, and blind spots. “It’s a big, championship style golf course but the defining aspect is the variety of holes,” noted Pancake. “There are long holes, short holes, large greens, small greens, doglegs in both directions, etc. We have approximately 90 bunkers on the golf course and of course some railroad ties which have been a signature of Pete Dye.”
Claymon affirmed the incredible pull of the Crooked Stick course and community, noting it runs deeper than a simple round of golf. “Being a member of Crooked Stick is very special,” he remarked. “Having many professional tournaments is the icing on the cake. Playing golf where the world’s best golfers have teed it up makes for a unique ‘aura,’ but in the end, its really about the membership, camaraderie, and dedication to ensuring Crooked Stick is a first-class golf club.”
A player at Crooked Stick will find that no consecutive holes are laid out in the same direction, forcing constant adjustment and reorientation. Long holes are followed by short holes, which can upend a sense of rhythm. Pete and his wife, Alice Dye, designed Crooked Stick to test a player’s more emotional qualities, like “poise, courage and intelligence,” as well as his or her skill.
“The most recognized hole is #6 because it has so many special features,” Pancake said. “It’s a long par 3 over water with the Pete Dye railroad ties surrounding the lake and the back of the green. It also has a covered bridge and a beautiful Chinqopin Oak tree adjacent to the green.” Pancake forecasts #17, boasting a new lake left of the green, will impact the BMW Championship more than any other hole this September.
For those tuning in to the tournament and watching from afar, Pancake promises an incredible show. “This golf course is a 2nd shot golf course. The fairways are generous, so most players will use drivers off the tee and try to put themselves into position to play aggressively on their approach shots,” he continued. “The par 3 holes will be most difficult. The finish should be exciting with holes #16 to #18 all being fairly long holes with water lurking for any poor shots. Mr. Dye wanted that intimidation factor.”
THE MAN BEHIND THE COURSE
Pete Dye, considered by many to be the most influential golf course architect of the last five decades, is now in his 90’s and still designing golf courses. Dye, himself a championship-caliber golfer from a young age, found himself drawn to the more operational aspects of the game – the design and maintenance of the course.
Now with over 50 years of course design experience behind him, Dye has watched many of the tenants of the game evolve and the number of those still interested in the game increase. “When Alice and I started building courses in the early 1960s, the average age of players was about 40 years old,” he commented. “Very few carts, so players over 60 who could no longer walk quit playing. Now, with carts the average age is over 60 and we have to design holes playable for this older player but challenging enough for low handicappers.”
His contributions to course design include over 110 courses in the United States, including Crooked Stick, and numerous international designs. Pete was honored by the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2008 with the lifetime achievement award, and is only the 5th architect to be inducted to the Hall.
Dye remains a part of the Crooked Stick community, and notes his favorite hole is the 18th. “I like #18 as I see it from my home!” he exclaimed. Dye’s desire to provide a competitive and challenging course remains clear as well. When asked what he feels when watching a professional tournament played on one of his courses, he noted, “I feel the ball is going too far.”
THE BMW CHAMPIONSHIP
Starting Thursday, Sept. 8, the Crooked Stick golf course will play host to the greatest in the game today, as PGA professionals take on the BMW Championship. “Our course is set up for big hitters off the tee,” said Pancake. “We’ll have a terrific leaderboard again, I can just guarantee you. We’re going to have the Mickelsons, the Days, the McIlroys, the Johnsons. The tour pros call this place a bomber’s paradise.”
Jet Linx Indianapolis is proud to be a part of the 2016 BMW Championship, hosting a 17th Hole Skybox for clients and friends. “We love being involved in a tournament with such a strong charitable angle,” said Casey Blake, Jet Linx Indianapolis Base President. “The huge attendance at this event directly benefits the Evans Scholars program, and being a part of that is incredible.”
All proceeds from the BMW Championship support the Evans Scholars Foundation, a group responsible for administering one of the nation’s largest privately funded college scholarship programs that provides full tuition and housing grants to deserving caddies. The program started at Northwestern University in 1930 with only two Scholars, and more than 9,600 young men and women have graduated from the program to date. This year, 835 Scholars are enrolled. The 2012 installment of the BMW Championship brought sensational performances by the best of the best. The event drew a Sunday gallery of 40,000, pushing week-long attendance past 150,000, while raking in $6 million in corporate sponsorship sales and $3 million for the Evans Scholars Foundation. It was named the PGA Tour’s Tournament of the Year.
For those attending the 2016 BMW Championship or tuning in on TV, get ready to watch the strongest PGA players take a Pete Dye’s masterpiece, from tee to bunker and beyond.