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Jason Thurman

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Is it even worth discussing...
« on: June 12, 2016, 02:52:41 PM »
Otter Creek vs. The Donald Ross Course at French Lick? Two noteworthy day-trip worthy and fairly affordable public-access courses in the southern part of Indiana. I played French Lick last year for the first time and loved it. The renovation work looks awesome and the course was as rambunctious of a Ross as I've seen. I played Otter Creek for the first time yesterday and loved it. It's a lot of fun on a nice piece of land in a charming setting, even if it's not in the same league as TDRCaFL. But would it be fun to discuss whether they're in the same league? Or would it be an exercise in exploring a question we already know the answer to?
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Nigel Islam

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Re: Is it even worth discussing...
« Reply #1 on: June 12, 2016, 05:05:06 PM »
     Jason and I had this discussion last night. I have played both of those courses many times. I feel like French Lick Ross is the better course, but he is dead on in bringing Otter Creek to the attention of the Treehouse. Otter Creek was a Trent course built circa 1960 in Columbus, IN and is still one of the better courses in the state. Certainly when I first started playing the Ross (Hill) course in 2001 it was not nearly the polished product it has become after the Curley/Schmidt renovation.
    Just to be clear, I believe Jason is talking about the North and West nines at Otter Creek.

Ronald Montesano

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Re: Is it even worth discussing...
« Reply #2 on: June 12, 2016, 07:41:06 PM »
How would anyone know, from your thread title, that you were referencing golf, or golf courses, or these two golf courses?


We don't need another threaditor who tosses out ambiguous threadlines for no good reason.
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Jason Thurman

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Re: Is it even worth discussing...
« Reply #3 on: June 12, 2016, 08:04:33 PM »
We just had a five page thread lamenting the absence of Pat Mucci run its course. Instead of participating in that nonsense, I figured I'd do what Pat would do and start an architecture-related thread instead. In true Mucci fashion, I wanted that thread to be focused on specifically comparing two courses in a very limited geographic area that a fairly small percentage of the forum would be able to meaningfully contribute to.


That said, the thread title would have been comprehensive if not for one of its subjects being called "The Donald Ross Course at French Lick." The subject line has a character limit, and for one course to take up that much real estate with its ungodly long name is ridiculous. There's one point for Otter Creek.
"There will always be haters. Thatís just the way it is. Hating dudes marry hating women and have hating ass kids." - Evan Turner

Some of y'all have never been called out in bold green font and it really shows.

Josh Tarble

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Re: Is it even worth discussing...
« Reply #4 on: June 12, 2016, 08:56:39 PM »
I need to go play Otter Creek.  I just haven't made the effort to get down there. 

That being said, I don't think it would have to be THAT good to be in the same league as the TDRCaFL (ha!).  I do really enjoy the DR course a ton, as you said, it's rambunctious and fun and the greens are fantastic.  That being said he has a few weak points:
1.  I think the par 3s, while obviously challenging and unique, are too similar and almost just a novelty.  With all 3 of the long ones being very similar, I think there is would be room for a bit more variety
2.  I think there are a few holes that are saved by their greens out there - mainly 8, 9, 17 but a few others are kind of blah
3.  The par 5s are relatively weak compared to the rest of the course.  They're both pretty good, but in comparison to some of the par 4s, I wish there was a bit more interest.

Richard Hetzel

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Re: Is it even worth discussing...
« Reply #5 on: June 13, 2016, 12:25:23 AM »
I played Otter Creek several years ago, it was a solid course, but IMO won't beat out the Ross Course at FL.
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Nigel Islam

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Re: Is it even worth discussing...
« Reply #6 on: June 13, 2016, 02:17:09 AM »
Its the HILL course!!! Short enough?

Nigel Islam

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Re: Is it even worth discussing...
« Reply #7 on: June 13, 2016, 02:28:37 AM »
I need to go play Otter Creek.  I just haven't made the effort to get down there. 

That being said, I don't think it would have to be THAT good to be in the same league as the TDRCaFL (ha!).  I do really enjoy the DR course a ton, as you said, it's rambunctious and fun and the greens are fantastic.  That being said he has a few weak points:
1.  I think the par 3s, while obviously challenging and unique, are too similar and almost just a novelty.  With all 3 of the long ones being very similar, I think there is would be room for a bit more variety
2.  I think there are a few holes that are saved by their greens out there - mainly 8, 9, 17 but a few others are kind of blah
3.  The par 5s are relatively weak compared to the rest of the course.  They're both pretty good, but in comparison to some of the par 4s, I wish there was a bit more interest.


In fairness, the 4th used to be like 175 yards. True about 9 and 17 being saved by the greens. 8 is quite a bit different than it used to be though. I liked the old 8th better. It was shorter, but less of a dog leg, and certainly less bunkering. Before PDFL and Victoria National were built,  Otter Creek and the Hill course were all us Southern Indiana guys had.

Josh Tarble

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Re: Is it even worth discussing...
« Reply #8 on: June 13, 2016, 08:45:47 AM »
Nigel,

I knew the par 3s used to be a bit shorter.  I do love hole 16, it's really good.  I also think 6 is really good, it's just the fact that 4, 6 and 14 are all within 30 yards of each other.  Make one 190ish, one 220ish and keep 14 as 250+.  That's some good variety.

How would you split 10 plays between Otter and French Lick?

JLahrman

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Re: Is it even worth discussing...
« Reply #9 on: June 13, 2016, 12:25:27 PM »
I've only played each once apiece, coming up on about 13 years ago. Honestly I would split it at probably 6-4 or 7-3 in favor of TDRCAFL. I remember liking Otter Creek a lot, seemed to have a lot of good holes and it really fit the property well.

Nigel Islam

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Re: Is it even worth discussing...
« Reply #10 on: June 13, 2016, 12:49:16 PM »
Nigel,

I knew the par 3s used to be a bit shorter.  I do love hole 16, it's really good.  I also think 6 is really good, it's just the fact that 4, 6 and 14 are all within 30 yards of each other.  Make one 190ish, one 220ish and keep 14 as 250+.  That's some good variety.

How would you split 10 plays between Otter and French Lick?


8-2 maybe

JLahrman

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Re: Is it even worth discussing...
« Reply #11 on: November 07, 2023, 10:03:54 AM »
Is it even worth bringing up this post from years ago?


But I finally got my second round in at Otter Creek last weekend on a beautiful early November day in southern Indiana. And I enjoyed the round yet again. The course definitely smells like 1960s RTJ Sr (which it is). It's on a fun piece of property and the greens were rolling great. Wanted to make sure this course stays on everyone's radar, if you're making the journey to southern Indiana to play TDRCaFL and/or TPDCaFL.

Jason Thurman

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Re: Is it even worth discussing...
« Reply #12 on: November 07, 2023, 12:08:21 PM »
Part of what makes this topic curious for me, still: I think Otter Creek is a very good RTJ effort that shows a lot of the hallmarks of his best work. And I think TDRC@FL is a pretty average Ross that's held back a bit by a very severe property. Ross has a far more impressive portfolio overall, and I think it's sorta interesting to compare a course that's not among his best against a course that might be one of Trent's... top 10?


Now, TDRC@FL is still a damn good golf course and one that I'm always happy to visit. I think its drawbacks are largely a function of that severe property - it's a tougher walk with holes that seem to fight the land a bit and a pretty one-dimensionally brutal set of par 3s. But looking at my personal list of courses played, I actually rate Otter Creek a few spots higher. It has flow, cohesive character, a lovely parkland setting, and a handful of really excellent holes. The original RTJ course there is pretty damn cool, especially if you imagine the scale that could be captured with a little renovation work (which has already happened at French Lick).
"There will always be haters. Thatís just the way it is. Hating dudes marry hating women and have hating ass kids." - Evan Turner

Some of y'all have never been called out in bold green font and it really shows.

JLahrman

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Re: Is it even worth discussing...
« Reply #13 on: November 07, 2023, 01:15:23 PM »
Well we're obviously only making the comparison because of geographic proximity, but I agree with your points. My one round at TDRC@FL was in 2003 so it's getting a bit foggy plus I know there has been work done since then, but the wild greens dominate my recollections of the course. And I've never played TPDC@FL.


A little renovation work would go a long way in bringing some attention to Otter Creek. But I don't even think the carpet in the pro shop has been renovated since 1964. Nor has much in Columbus been renovated since 1964. So I'm not sure if course renovation work is realistically on the horizon.


Although, travel tip - for a relatively unknown town of less than 50,000 people, there are a lot of really cool buildings designed by well known architects: https://columbus.in.us/guide-to-the-architecture/

PCCraig

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Re: Is it even worth discussing...
« Reply #14 on: November 07, 2023, 02:56:24 PM »
And I think TDRC@FL is a pretty average Ross that's held back a bit by a very severe property.



Say whaaaaaaat?!
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Jason Thurman

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Re: Is it even worth discussing...
« Reply #15 on: November 08, 2023, 08:59:19 AM »
LOL do you think I'm underrating it? You think it's shoulder-to-shoulder with Ross' best work? Because I think that's a much more controversial take than what you quoted...
"There will always be haters. Thatís just the way it is. Hating dudes marry hating women and have hating ass kids." - Evan Turner

Some of y'all have never been called out in bold green font and it really shows.

Brian Finn

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Re: Is it even worth discussing...
« Reply #16 on: November 08, 2023, 09:20:41 AM »
LOL do you think I'm underrating it? You think it's shoulder-to-shoulder with Ross' best work? Because I think that's a much more controversial take than what you quoted...
You called it a "pretty average Ross."  Disagreeing with that (which I do) certainly doesn't mean "it's shoulder-to-shoulder with Ross' best work."  I'd very roughly estimate that it falls in the 50-75 range among Ross courses, which I would argue makes it far from average.  It's at least a Doak 6, possibly even a 7.  Granted, Ross designed a large number of 6s, but the average Ross course (among 400+) is probably a 4 or so.
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ward peyronnin

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Re: Is it even worth discussing...
« Reply #17 on: November 08, 2023, 09:25:50 AM »
 Otter Creek IS a solid golf course. To me it is a slog like so many RTJ courses tho and exhibits little charm while presenting the usual forced carries and point to point shot making one expects. It does suffer a bit from being a championship course in a small town with a muni course budget.
The Ross is a better than average Ross that does suffer a bit from a couple of holes being shoe horned in to a tight propeerty. However I do not get the severe terrain knock. I think it provide some very satisfying views of the beautiful extant hardwood forest surrounding the property and pleasing perspective where entire segemnts of the varied slopes and contours of several holes present relationship/connections to entire segments of golf course. Were that so then Camargo would not hold it's elevated reputation as the highest rated Raynor(which is my real objection to that track but apparently not for many golfers). Also the Ross bunkering(many cross) has been restored strategically and artistically which is fun and pleasing.
   
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Tim Martin

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Re: Is it even worth discussing...
« Reply #18 on: November 08, 2023, 09:38:38 AM »
Otter Creek IS a solid golf course. To me it is a slog like so many RTJ courses tho and exhibits little charm while presenting the usual forced carries and point to point shot making one expects. It does suffer a bit from being a championship course in a small town with a muni course budget.
The Ross is a better than average Ross that does suffer a bit from a couple of holes being shoe horned in to a tight propeerty. However I do not get the severe terrain knock. I think it provide some very satisfying views of the beautiful extant hardwood forest surrounding the property and pleasing perspective where entire segemnts of the varied slopes and contours of several holes present relationship/connections to entire segments of golf course. Were that so then Camargo would not hold it's elevated reputation as the highest rated Raynor(which is my real objection to that track but apparently not for many golfers). Also the Ross bunkering(many cross) has been restored strategically and artistically which is fun and pleasing.

Ward-Iím not aware of any list where Camargo is rated higher than Fishers Island.

Jason Thurman

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Re: Is it even worth discussing...
« Reply #19 on: November 08, 2023, 12:48:33 PM »
LOL do you think I'm underrating it? You think it's shoulder-to-shoulder with Ross' best work? Because I think that's a much more controversial take than what you quoted...
You called it a "pretty average Ross."  Disagreeing with that (which I do) certainly doesn't mean "it's shoulder-to-shoulder with Ross' best work."  I'd very roughly estimate that it falls in the 50-75 range among Ross courses, which I would argue makes it far from average.  It's at least a Doak 6, possibly even a 7.  Granted, Ross designed a large number of 6s, but the average Ross course (among 400+) is probably a 4 or so.


I don't think the average Ross is a 4. I think one of the greatest achievements of Ross' career is that he basically didn't build mediocre courses. There would have to be a lot of 3s and 4s in his portfolio to drop his average that low. So surely you could name a couple of them if you think the average Ross is a 4. I can't.


The "worst" Ross I've seen is probably Granville or Dennison or whatever it's called now. Even that course, with its bastardized routing and century of architectural neglect, is still comfortably a 4 in my book and arguably a 5.


Ward's take is interesting. I just don't see the "slog" at Otter Creek. With modern techology, the course is pretty damn sporty in my mind. And where are all the forced carries?


Hole 4 on the West, obviously, has one. The very short par 5 that follows asks you to fly your wedge approach about 45 yards over the bunkers that front the green or you'll need to get up and down. I guess I'm a masochist but I would call these two of the coolest holes on the course. 1 on the North 9, another short 5, requires a carry of about 13 yards over the creek on the approach. I guess you need to fly it about 70 yards to reach the fairway on 2 on the West. I believe this is a comprehensive list of forced carries at Otter Creek...


By comparison, TDRC@FL requires carries at 4, where even the white tees require a 150 yard ball uphill to clear the bunkers well short of the green. There's another at 6, to clear the ravine that separates the tee from the green on another 200+ yard par 3. Then there's the shot over the ravine at 8 - it's 120 yards or so if you position your tee shot absolutely perfectly. You have to clear the water on the tee ball at 11 - this is at least as intimidating a tee shot as the aforementioned 2West at Otter. There's another huge carry on another huge par 3 at 13. Even the meager 16th is an all-carry par 3 and would be the longest forced-carry at Otter Creek. And 17 throws a topshot bunker at you off the tee, just for "fun."


Objectively, there are more forced carries, and carries of greater severity, at TDRC@FL as compared to Otter Creek.


I also think it should be noted - TDRC@FL (par 70) rates 75.7/149 from the back tees, and 70.4/139 from the blacks. Otter Creek (par 72) is 75.8/139 from the tips, and 71.8/128 from the blues. These numbers suggest that the two courses pose a similar challenge to the strong player, but that Otter Creek is quite a bit more accommodating to a weaker player. We usually value courses that walk that balance architecturally... but we also usually value Ross over Jones.


This is why I think this topic is interesting - these broad brush criticisms that are often true of RTJ's work, and the broad brush praises of Ross' best traits, just don't hold up when applied to these two courses specifically.
"There will always be haters. Thatís just the way it is. Hating dudes marry hating women and have hating ass kids." - Evan Turner

Some of y'all have never been called out in bold green font and it really shows.

Tim Martin

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Re: Is it even worth discussing...
« Reply #20 on: November 08, 2023, 01:57:03 PM »
LOL do you think I'm underrating it? You think it's shoulder-to-shoulder with Ross' best work? Because I think that's a much more controversial take than what you quoted...
You called it a "pretty average Ross."  Disagreeing with that (which I do) certainly doesn't mean "it's shoulder-to-shoulder with Ross' best work."  I'd very roughly estimate that it falls in the 50-75 range among Ross courses, which I would argue makes it far from average.  It's at least a Doak 6, possibly even a 7.  Granted, Ross designed a large number of 6s, but the average Ross course (among 400+) is probably a 4 or so.


I don't think the average Ross is a 4. I think one of the greatest achievements of Ross' career is that he basically didn't build mediocre courses. There would have to be a lot of 3s and 4s in his portfolio to drop his average that low. So surely you could name a couple of them if you think the average Ross is a 4. I can't.


The "worst" Ross I've seen is probably Granville or Dennison or whatever it's called now. Even that course, with its bastardized routing and century of architectural neglect, is still comfortably a 4 in my book and arguably a 5.


Ward's take is interesting. I just don't see the "slog" at Otter Creek. With modern techology, the course is pretty damn sporty in my mind. And where are all the forced carries?


Hole 4 on the West, obviously, has one. The very short par 5 that follows asks you to fly your wedge approach about 45 yards over the bunkers that front the green or you'll need to get up and down. I guess I'm a masochist but I would call these two of the coolest holes on the course. 1 on the North 9, another short 5, requires a carry of about 13 yards over the creek on the approach. I guess you need to fly it about 70 yards to reach the fairway on 2 on the West. I believe this is a comprehensive list of forced carries at Otter Creek...


By comparison, TDRC@FL requires carries at 4, where even the white tees require a 150 yard ball uphill to clear the bunkers well short of the green. There's another at 6, to clear the ravine that separates the tee from the green on another 200+ yard par 3. Then there's the shot over the ravine at 8 - it's 120 yards or so if you position your tee shot absolutely perfectly. You have to clear the water on the tee ball at 11 - this is at least as intimidating a tee shot as the aforementioned 2West at Otter. There's another huge carry on another huge par 3 at 13. Even the meager 16th is an all-carry par 3 and would be the longest forced-carry at Otter Creek. And 17 throws a topshot bunker at you off the tee, just for "fun."


Objectively, there are more forced carries, and carries of greater severity, at TDRC@FL as compared to Otter Creek.


I also think it should be noted - TDRC@FL (par 70) rates 75.7/149 from the back tees, and 70.4/139 from the blacks. Otter Creek (par 72) is 75.8/139 from the tips, and 71.8/128 from the blues. These numbers suggest that the two courses pose a similar challenge to the strong player, but that Otter Creek is quite a bit more accommodating to a weaker player. We usually value courses that walk that balance architecturally... but we also usually value Ross over Jones.


This is why I think this topic is interesting - these broad brush criticisms that are often true of RTJ's work, and the broad brush praises of Ross' best traits, just don't hold up when applied to these two courses specifically.


I agree with Jason that the ďaverageĒ Ross is higher than a 4. If the subject course was not tampered with to the point that wholesale changes were made it is closer to 6 than 4.
« Last Edit: November 08, 2023, 02:50:17 PM by Tim Martin »

JLahrman

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Re: Is it even worth discussing...
« Reply #21 on: November 08, 2023, 02:14:17 PM »

Oh man now I am so glad I revived this thread!

Ward's take is interesting. I just don't see the "slog" at Otter Creek. With modern techology, the course is pretty damn sporty in my mind. And where are all the forced carries?

Hole 4 on the West, obviously, has one. The very short par 5 that follows asks you to fly your wedge approach about 45 yards over the bunkers that front the green or you'll need to get up and down. I guess I'm a masochist but I would call these two of the coolest holes on the course. 1 on the North 9, another short 5, requires a carry of about 13 yards over the creek on the approach. I guess you need to fly it about 70 yards to reach the fairway on 2 on the West. I believe this is a comprehensive list of forced carries at Otter Creek...


If you want to get ticky-tack, and who doesn't love to get ticky-tack, the second hole on the West has a forced tee shot over the creek, and possibly another to the green if you put your tee shot on the left side of the fairway. But it's a short par 4, 341 from the tippy-tips. Is six sets of tees an RTJ Sr. feature?


But apart from that I think Jason listed all the forced carries. There are probably a few too many greens with 4 o'clock / 8 o'clock bunkers, but I wouldn't call those forced carries.

Brian Finn

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Re: Is it even worth discussing...
« Reply #22 on: November 09, 2023, 10:55:57 AM »
LOL do you think I'm underrating it? You think it's shoulder-to-shoulder with Ross' best work? Because I think that's a much more controversial take than what you quoted...
You called it a "pretty average Ross."  Disagreeing with that (which I do) certainly doesn't mean "it's shoulder-to-shoulder with Ross' best work."  I'd very roughly estimate that it falls in the 50-75 range among Ross courses, which I would argue makes it far from average.  It's at least a Doak 6, possibly even a 7.  Granted, Ross designed a large number of 6s, but the average Ross course (among 400+) is probably a 4 or so.
I don't think the average Ross is a 4. I think one of the greatest achievements of Ross' career is that he basically didn't build mediocre courses. There would have to be a lot of 3s and 4s in his portfolio to drop his average that low. So surely you could name a couple of them if you think the average Ross is a 4. I can't.

The "worst" Ross I've seen is probably Granville or Dennison or whatever it's called now. Even that course, with its bastardized routing and century of architectural neglect, is still comfortably a 4 in my book and arguably a 5.
You make several good points, particularly about the ďaverageĒ Ross course, and I admit I missed on my estimate at 4, but it made me take a fresh look at his list of courses.

Looking at Golfweekís most recent T200 classic, Ross has:
ē   28 courses in the T100 (7.46 avg GW score, 7.07-8.50 range)
ē   35 among 101-200 (6.71 avg GW score. 6.45-7.05 range)
ē   Altogether, those 63 courses have a 7.04 avg GW rating
Pretty incredible depth and quality. 

Iíve played 17 of the 63, and my average for those is right around 7, so my own experience is in line with the GW results.  Iíve played another 40 Ross courses, with 19 in the 6-7 range, 12 in the 5-6 range, and 9 at 4 or below.  The experience at these last 9 are what made me jump to the conclusion that the ďaverageĒ Ross was around 4, but looking at the GW list and my own suggests it is likely much higher.  Of course, we are all likely experiencing some amount of selection bias, but perhaps I overestimated the impact of that as well. 

So, between GW and my own list, I can cover 103 courses, fewer than 20 of which are 5 or lower.  Assuming GW has the top end well-covered, what do the other ~300 Ross courses look like?  How many more 6s are there? 

I realize this has been covered many time on gca in the past, but I am always amazed at the volume of high quality courses Ross designed.  It seems even as a huge fan, I had underestimated his full body of work. 

Now, I want to dig into the RTJ side of this discussion.  I am fascinated by the man, his work, and especially peopleís perception of his courses.  Iíll have to post again on this later. 

PS - If Denison (Granville) is the "worst" Ross you have seen, you are extremely lucky.  I hold that course in pretty high regard, mostly choosing to ignore the 4 terrible new holes.  The rest of it is terrific.
« Last Edit: November 09, 2023, 11:01:27 AM by Brian Finn »
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Ryan Hillenbrand

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Re: Is it even worth discussing...
« Reply #23 on: November 09, 2023, 08:23:22 PM »
Just played French Lick last weekend and maybe I went in with low expectations, but I was really impressed. Granted they made me take a cart but elevation didnít seem any worse than a place like Pasatiempo or Lawsonia.
The greens reminded me at times of Prairie Dunes.


The closest, best Ross to me in St. Louis has been Cedar Rapids but French Lick gives it a run for its money IMO.


Based on a thread I found that Tom Doak started several years ago I think he had the Ross course in the 20-30 range of his best courses?

Ken Fry

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Re: Is it even worth discussing...
« Reply #24 on: November 10, 2023, 07:49:25 AM »

A little renovation work would go a long way in bringing some attention to Otter Creek. But I don't even think the carpet in the pro shop has been renovated since 1964. Nor has much in Columbus been renovated since 1964. So I'm not sure if course renovation work is realistically on the horizon.



Columbus has had a lot happening on the golf scene the last few years.


Tim Liddy completed a total redo of Harrison Lakes Country Club:
https://www.golfcoursearchitecture.net/content/harrison-lake-enters-first-season-following-tim-liddy-renovation


And Otter Creek is currently having work done:
https://www.golfcoursearchitecture.net/content/otter-creek-selects-fuller-and-kite-to-update-robert-trent-jones-design


The same owner for both facilities.  Bob Haddad purchased Otter Creek from the city.  Donít underestimate those smaller Indiana towns!


Ken


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