I’ve already posted about the Pete Dye and Donald Ross courses at French Lick, but there is a third course that is now affiliated with the resort, Sultan’s Run Golf Club. Since we were going to have a free afternoon on the day we arrived at French Lick Resort we decided we may as well give this course a look.
Once we checked in at the resort’s West Baden Springs Hotel we dropped our bags off, grabbed a quick wrap and headed to the course. Keith was nursing a bad back and wanted to save his strength for the 36 hole marathon the next day so he hit the casino while Corey and I made our way over to Sultan’s Run which is just about 25 minutes from the hotel.
Prior to its life as a golf course the property at Sultan’s Run was just that . . . Sultan’s run. Supreme Sultan was a legendary horse that sired a record number of World Champion American Saddlebred horses and this land is where he worked and played. In 1992 golf course was opened and then a few years later in 1996 Tim Liddy, the course architect, was brought back in to do some tweaking and really polish off his design. Recently the course was acquired by French Lick Resort and is now part of their, uh, stable . . . I guess I’ll stick with the horse theme for that.
Once we arrived and checked in we loaded our bags onto a cart and headed to the tee. As much as I prefer to avoid golf carts, it was a steamy day in the mid 90s so walking and carrying our bags was not very appealing. Even a golf addict has their breaking point.
This was our first round of the French Lick portion of our trip so I didn’t really know what to expect in the way of terrain. It didn’t take long for us to realize that this part of the midwest was not very flat as we reached the 2nd tee box and found a par 3 that played WAY downhill. Immediately following that hole we came to a short par 4 that played a bit uphill and had a fairway that tilted down to the left. This type of rolling terrain and treelined fairways was not what I was expecting at all. The photo below was taken from the 3rd tee.
The course continued to delight us as our expectations were amply exceeded with each new hole we played. Considering that this course was added to our itinerary as an afterthought we were getting far more than we had bargained for and were giddy with glee about it. The hole I liked the best on the front side is the 326 yard 7th hole that plays to a par of 4. The tee shot temps player to blast a driver down into the valley near the green or leaves the option of laying up to the top of the hill and having a 120 yard shot into the green. The photo below was taken from the 7th tee.
After trying to hit the bold tee shot, but missing, I was left with the same approach shot that I would have had with a conservative play off the tee . . . about 120 yards downhill to the green as illustrated in the photo below.
Sultan’s Run offers a few intimidating shots as well. The tee shot on the 9th requires a carry over a creek and temps the player to take a line down the left side of the fairway that challenges the bunkers for a shorter approach into the green. Conservative shots that go too far to the right will run out of fairway. Below is a look from the 9th tee box.
The 12th hole is another downhill par three with the green perched on a peninsula extruding into a lake. It plays 191 yards from the Gold tees, but with the downhill its a little less. We also learned that a low knock down shot to the right of the green may get a good kick to the left and be in ideal position for a front hole location.
Below is a look from the rear of the 13th green back down the hole. This is a nice uphill par 5 that plays downhill on the tee shot and uphill on the approach. I really liked this hole but couldn’t exactly put my finger on why.
The course ends with a great par 4 that we played from 412 yards and allows the player to really get aggressive with their drive if they wish. As illustrated in the photo below players have to option to take a line as far to the right as they dare. Those who bite off more than they can chew will end up hitting their approach shot from one of the bunkers that runs along the right side of the fairway.
The green at the 18th hole backed by a huge rock formation that has been made into a waterfall. By time we reached this point in the course Corey and I were so hot all I gave serious consideration to walking right under that stream of water.
What an enjoyable surprise Sultan’s Run was. We had no expectations going into this course and it ended up being a ton of fun. Sure, there are a couple of pedestrian holes on the course, but the property is really good for the most part and I think Tim Liddy did a heck of a job in getting some really fun holes out of the site. I hate to sound clichéd, but Sultan’s run is a course that can be played and enjoyed by all skill levels. There are only a few really challenging tee shots for the high handicapper and single digits will have fun with the risk/reward holes and gauging distance on the uphill and downhill shots. Considering that the green fees is $60 (including cart . . . if you want one that is) for weekend play this is a great value and I’m really glad that it worked out for us to add it to our French Lick visit.
One last quick note about the West Baden Springs Hotel. This is one seriously cool hotel. It is an architectural marvel that is shaped like a circle with a huge dome and the story of how Bill Cook of Cook Medical saved it from ruin is nothing short of inspiring. Below is a shot of the lobby taken from the balcony of my room.
And her is a shot of the dome from the inside of the building. It really does not do the dome justice at all, but it was very difficult to capture with a camera.
West Baden Springs is a really cool hotel with great rooms and a several restaurants on site. The casino may be over at the other French Lick Resort hotel, but this one is definitely the place to stay in my opinion. One of the coolest hotels I’ve stayed in.