13th Hole / Par-3 / 252 Yards

French Lick, Indiana

Architect: Donald Ross

Originally constructed in 1917 the Donald Ross Course at French Lick Resort is one of the most underrated designs from the legendary designer. So much of the existing attention goes to the Pete Dye Course which has hosted a range of recent events. What many may not realize is that the Donald Ross Course hosted the PGA Championship in 1924 won by Walter Hagen.

The Donald Ross Course is just a few miles from the main resort and is set on beautiful rolling terrain. Not overly hilly but enough terrain changes to necessitate careful thinking about where to aim and place one’s ball when playing.

The long par-3 13th was originally designed to play just over 200 yards. The hole has been lengthened to its present length of 252 yards and is often played into the prevailing wind during the prime playing months.

Donald Ross

Donald Ross’ actual drawing of the course (left) and the schematic map of hole 13 (right)

For whatever reason, the long par-3 hole has been relegated to the shadows of modern design. That’s unfortunate because such holes serve a critical role in demonstrating shotmaking dexterity with the longer clubs.

What makes the 13th so challenging?

“Obviously, the mere length is the first thing, but visually, you are staring into the face of one of Donald Ross’ trademark deep grass faced bunkers with not much room for error right,” said David Harner, Director of Golf at the resort since 1987 and an employee since 1976. “The shot is also across a deep ravine.”

A deep bunker guards the entire right side of the green for those who push shots in that direction. Ross also created a green that can bedevil even the best of players.

“The putting surfaces resembles a roller coaster ride,” said Harner. “There’s a 3-foot rise to the front swale — a 3-foot rise to the back swale — and a 4-foot swale at the back fringe. If one looks at the Ross original drawing it will give you a cross section view of what’s there.”

Ross realized marrying length and precision was one true way to separate the more accomplished players from those of lesser skills. The 13th is a testing hole the minute one stands on the tee and surveys what’s needed. Anything short of excellence will be quickly exposed for such deficiencies.