By Joy Neighbors
In celebration of National Golf Month, we'll take an in-depth look at one of the three courses at the French Lick Resort: Valley Links Golf Course and Activities Center.
It was 1907 when French Lick Springs Hotel owner Tom Taggart commissioned Scottish American golf course architect Tom Bendelow to build a championship course for the hotel.
Known for his design style of utilizing natural terrain to create a challenging course, Bendelow designed a course to be enjoyed by all; beginners and advanced golfers. Boasting 18-holes and called The Valley Course, it featured rolling fairways, well-placed bunkers and fescue grass throughout. (During his lifetime, Bendelow designed more than 600 courses, most located throughout the U.S.)
In 2005, the Valley Links Course was remodeled after the Cook Group, Inc. purchased the hotel and grounds. It went from the original 18 holes to a nine-hole family course with a driving range. This par 36-course was developed through a partnership with US Kids Golf, the primary junior golf company in the U.S., to create a kid-friendly course while still presenting a challenge to more advanced players.
According to Alex Whiteman, Golf Group Sales Manager for the resort, “All levels will enjoy this course. We have USGA golf tees on the course, and it’s a championship-like course that offers good distance. You can enjoy playing here if you’re an avid golfer or if it’s just you and the kids, and we encourage family play on Valley Links.”
The Valley Links Course also offers FootGolf, a creative game that combines the components of soccer and golf. “FootGolf is the new craze that’s sweeping the country,” Whiteman said. “It’s where kids can play golf along with mom and dad, but instead of a golf ball, the kids are using a soccer ball that they try to kick into a 21” round hole. The score is kept just like golf and we have a FootGolf hole for each of our regular nine holes.” But don’t assume this is a game just for kids; adults enjoy playing as well. In 2015, the American FootGolf League (AFGL) was recognized as the governing body for the new sport and the Valley Links Course is designated as an AFGL course.
The Valley Links Golf and Activities Center offers several special training programs throughout the year. “We have a First Tee program and PGA Jr League for youth during the summer,” Whiteman said. “We also offer a ladies’ clinic in the summer that includes training with a golf professional.”
The French Lick Resort Golf Academy also provides golf instruction with PGA professionals available for all level of golfers. Full swing and short game analysis is available along with cutting-edge video analysis. The Activities Center is home to a 10-station indoor driving range and indoor/outdoor putting greens. Outdoors, a short game practice green and driving range lets golfers perfect their game. “I’d say 90% of all the (golf) training done at the resort is done here at Valley Links. We have a long driving range and a course that’s great to fine-tune your skills on,” Whiteman said.
Whiteman handles numerous golfing groups each month; those looking to come “stay and play” at the resort. “My job is more of a hybrid-golf position; I do sales, planning and golf. Groups usually contact me by email or phone and we’ll discuss what they want to do. I usually handle groups of 8 or more whose purpose is to come and play, usually a golf trip for 2, 3 or 4 days; their whole agenda is about golf. I handle all of the details from getting their rooms reserved to where they would like to eat, to what course or courses they're playing on what days. And once they arrive, I make sure they have a great time.”
|Valley Links Golf Course|
It’s obvious that Whiteman enjoys it here and when asked what his favorite part of the job is, he smiles, “It’s always busy. I love that I get to play all three courses - that keeps me up-to-date on what’s happening and how to select courses for my groups. I get to meet the people and watch how much fun they have here. And, I get to share my passion for this property; I like that!”
With a picturesque course like Valley Links, it’s easy to see why golfers of all ages enjoy spending time here.
Information on the course:
Valley Links Golf Course
8670 W. State Road 56 (Behind French Lick Springs Hotel)
Open daily 8 a.m. – 8 p.m.
Top 50 Ranges in the U.S., Range.org, 2013