My residence in Indiana started some 12 years ago due to a job as an assistant golf professional at a private Pete Dye course. The good thing about my job was I had the pleasure of playing 4 of the 7 courses on the Pete Dye Golf Trail. The bad thing was I didn’t have much free time to explore the myriad of destination towns Indiana has to offer. My visit to Mystic Hills in the northern town of Culver allowed me to revisit the good and alter the bad of my old career.
Culver, on beautiful Lake Maxinkuckee, is a mere 2 hour drive from where I live in Noblesville; a northeastern suburb of Indianapolis. With a tee time all set for 9:30 my friend Derek McClain and I planned on arriving early to eat some break…er I mean, do some research on the town of Culver. The “sinful french toast” (grilled homemade cinnamon roll) at Cafe Max was as advertised and Derek’s blueberry oatmeal pancakes and turkey sausage were a huge hit as well. For an after round stop it was highly suggested to checkout the Cornerstone Cafe.
The unassuming clubhouse, while cozy, wasn’t the norm compared to other courses on the trail. When we dropped our clubs and noticed gas carts I was a bit apprehensive. I’ve had the pleasure of playing a lot of golf courses and gas carts are usually a giveaway that a course is less than superb. Boy, was my assumption wrong this time. From the clubhouse manager Shirley to the superintendent Earl, you could tell this was a family affair and that they take great pride in their course. The laid back family nature of the course and town in general was a sentiment echoed by PGA Head Golf Professional Dave Pugh in the video below.
The family nature of the course actually started with the design team. While Pete Dye is the namesake of the trail and gets most of the credit his wife Alice has been instrumental in many of his designs, even suggesting what turned into the famous island green on the 17th at TPC Sawgrass. Alice deserves a big “thank you” for pushing Pete to take on the Mystic Hills project as chronicled in this video (see the video at the bottom of the post) produced for the Pete Dye Golf Trail website. The Dye Designs family had another member at Mystic Hills, Pete & Alice’s son P.B. This is the only course on the trail that P.B. assisted with and one of the few co-designs between them in the nation.
Mystic Hills also has another unique touch, skull tee markers. Skull shaped tee markers seemed to be an odd choice for the 6,800 yard Dye tees as the course didnt play long or extremely tough. With that being said the majority of players would be wise to stick to the 6,200 yard black tees. The markers were a neat touch however that garnered lots of attention from all who saw pics of them. For $10 you could even pickup a skull shaped divot repair tool, a unique souvenir to say the least.
The front nine was billed as the flat, links style nine. While it was flatter than the back nine it wasn’t links style, but did have some rolling terrain including a hilltop tee box on #2. The par 3 third was a standout hole. Most Pete Dye courses have great par 3′s and Mystic Hills didn’t disappoint in that regard. As I got out of the cart on #6 I wondered aloud where I was going to hit the ball off the tee with the huge tree guarding the left side. The ninth was the best hole on the course albeit not the most visually spectacular. I was impressed with how playable the long prairie grass was and how easy it was to find errant shots. The only drawback to the front was the close proximity of a few holes causing a slight wait for play to clear after errant tee shots.
The back nine held its billing as the hilly nine with elevation changes of 50 feet on a few holes. #13 was the best golf hole on the back by far with a tee shot out of a chute of trees. Both #15 and #18 stood out due to a severe downhill and a severe uphill elevation change respectively. The main drawback of the back was #11. A big bog of cattails left little room to design the hole and in turn it felt out of place. I preferred the style and design of the holes on the front and think reversing the nines would make the course better overall. If you get the chance to tee off on #10 first let me know your thoughts on this in the comments below.
Overall Mystic Hills was a treat. Sure it didn’t have paved paths all the way around like The Fort. Sure it didn’t have GPS in the carts like at Brickyard Crossing (the lack of sprinkler heads with yardages was frustrating however) What it lacked in amenities it made up for on the greens. The putting surfaces were pristine and a good deal better than both aforementioned Dye Trail courses I played this year. A huge credit goes out to Earl Ogle the superintendent for the superb course condition during one of the hardest weather seasons Indiana golf has seen in a while.
Whether you are an Indiana resident looking for a one day getaway or an out of state guest chipping away at the Pete Dye Golf Trail, Mystic Hills and the town of Culver will be a welcome stop to check off your respective lists.
To read my playing partner Derek McClain’s post about the trip you can visit his personal blog.