West Baden, Indiana; 888-936-9360, frenchlick.com/hotels/westbaden
Rate: $259 per night
We recommend: summer and fall
Hang a right at the sign and drive to the top of the hill, Kyle says, heading to the 11th hole. This group is going to play up a tee box—and that really means up. Find your phone, too, the forecaddie advises.
Oh, the phones are out. We have been giving our cameras more of a workout than our wedges, which is saying something because the course is tearing apart our golf games. But we’ll trade birdies for the breathtaking vistas just two hours south of Indy at the Pete Dye Course at French Lick, which one golf magazine ranks among the best non-private golf courses in America.
The view from the West Baden Springs Hotel’s interior balcony rooms overlooking the historic atrium are constantly inviting, but outmatched by the course’s 20-mile line of sight. The visual intimidation that has always been Dye’s calling card is on full blast here. Golfers navigate past volcano-shaped bunkers and strive to keep tee shots in the fairway lest they suffer steep drop-offs and shots out of absurdly healthy rough. It’s a true test, too, as the course’s exclusivity ($350 greens fee) means pristine playing conditions. To prep for the lightning-fast greens, try putting on your garage floor.
From the 11th tee box, my Titleist No. 4 appears to hang in the air forever against the wooded, endless backdrop. For a moment, it doesn’t even matter where it lands. West Baden, 888-936-9360
ACE THIS TRIP
Tee times: The greens fee at the Pete Dye is an all-day pass, rare for a nationally acclaimed course. Play 36 holes at minimum. Try for 54. That’s still only half of the course record.
Where to dine: The Pete Dye Mansion atop the course offers a seasonal sunset dinner on Sundays.
Upgrade: You’ll need $10,000 and some pull to check into the Mansion (it’s not advertised), but you can check out the Roaring Twenties–era rooms if the mansion is open. Head up the double staircase and you’re there.