While world-renowned golf course architect Pete Dye, native of Urbana, Ohio, is famous for designing the Stadium Course in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, the annual home of The Players Championship, the Maple Creek Golf and Country Club, located on the east side of Indianapolis, is actually Dye’s first 18-hole golf course design. Originally opened as Heather Hills Golf and Country Club in 1961, this 18-hole layout was created in partnership with his wife, Alice.
Today, the Maple Creek Golf and Country Club (10501 East 21st Street, Indianapolis, Indiana; 317-894-3343; www.maplecreekgc.com) features small tees and greens, narrow fairways lined with mature trees and natural long grass areas. Multiple bunkers compliment a creek that winds its way through the front nine, which raises the bar, so to speak, for players of all skill levels.
Maple Creek’s website accurately describes the club as “A hidden gem on the Eastside.” This layout is also described as “A shot maker’s course that cannot be overpowered.”
According to Jim Grossi, Maple Creek’s general manager/head golf professional, Pete Dye designed a golf course that will remain forever relevant and never go out of style.
“Maple Creek is a picturesque, traditional and classical setting defined by challenging yet rewarding design features,” states Grossi.
If you are searching for evidence that Pete Dye had a role in designing this golf course, you simply
need to examine how the putting surfaces were built.
“By far, our greens tell the story of Pete Dye and are a preserved piece of history,” adds Grossi. “You will find these original design features prominent in Mr. Dye’s later career work.”
While all 18 holes at Maple Creek are creative designs, the signature hole is the par-five 13th.
“At 13, you fill find great optical design features from the teeing ground as well as the second and optional third shot approach,” reveals Grossi. “This green (at 13) challenges even the most achieved golfer.”
While the 13th hole may be Maple Creek’s signature design, the most memorable shot takes place late in the back nine.
“The view from the 16th tee box boasts one of the most picturesque views in the state of Indiana,” says Grossi.
While Pete Dye designed this great golf course, Grossi says that his superintendent is doing a great job of preserving Dye’s legacy.
“Our superintendent Steve Conlin has always done a tremendous job preserving and manicuring the greens,” says Grossi. “Most notable, this year we have dedicated capital towards a property wide tree-grooming project. The sole purpose is to return the sight lines from tee-to-green that Mr. Dye had originally planned and designed.”
THE LEGACY OF PETE AND ALICE DYE
While Maple Creek is an entertaining destination for golfers, it’s also an appealing destination for golf historians, specifically those who are interested in the golf course designing career of Pete Dye. In many respects, the Maple Creek clubhouse can also be called the Pete and Alice Dye Museum as Maple Creek’s clubhouse is a lasting memorial to the work of both Pete and Alice Dye. In fact, both were named as honorary life members of the club in 1991.
“It’s our job to tell their story,” said Joe Lorenzano, Maple Creek Golf and Country Club’s membership director.
Part of the tribute to Pete Dye starts with the name given to the restaurant inside the clubhouse. It’s called Pete Dye’s Pub. The most popular items on the menu are the pimento cheese sandwiches, pulled pork sandwiches, potato salad, and breakfast sandwiches. On Saturday mornings, biscuits and sausage gravy, a specialty of Pete Dye’s Pub, are served.
After grabbing a bite to eat at Pete Dye’s Pub, take time to peruse the two-story clubhouse. Read the newspaper stories, look at the pictures, and read the plaque tributes from major golf champions like Greg Norman, Tiger Woods, Ben Crenshaw, Arnold Palmer, Rory McIlroy, and Ernie Els.
“I got my love for course design from Pete Dye. Pete is a genius with the environment,” said Norman.
“The way Pete gets on a property and feels it is pretty impressive. His courses built for tournaments are hard, but there’s a good reason behind everything,” said Woods.
“Pete Dye’s courses are like the Star Wars of golf design. And he’s Darth Vader,” said Crenshaw.
“As an architect myself, I’ve admired the unique twists Pete has added to the field of golf course design, with his innovative use of railroad ties, pot bunkers, and fescue grasses. I firmly believe Pete Dye deserves consideration as one of the best course designers of all time,” said Palmer.
“You really have to learn Pete’s courses and have your thinking hat on and be disciplined about where you position your ball. It’s almost like a game of chess with Dye. You have to be very sharp mentally,” said McIlroy.
“I think Pete Dye is a genius. My (golf) game has a love-hate relationship with Pete,” said Els.
On one of the clubhouse walls, there’s a framed story of the Indianapolis Star article from May 21, 1961. This story provided the details on the opening of the Heather Hills Golf and Country Club. There’s also a frame which showcases the original drawings and design of what is now the Maple Creek Golf and Country Club. According to Lorenzano, Alice was usually the one who actually produced the official drawings for the golf courses that Pete designed, after getting some notes from her husband, which were often scribbled on napkins and small sheets of paper.
Also, inside the clubhouse, you’ll see the pin flags from many of the golf courses that Pete designed such as TPC Sawgrass (FL), TPC San Antonio (TX), Trump National Golf Club – Los Angeles (CA), The Ocean Course at Kiawah Island Golf Course (SC), Red Mountain Ranch CC (AZ), Little Turtle Golf Club (OH), and Westin Mission Hills (CA), to name a few. In all, Pete and Alice Dye designed more than 130 courses around the world. The list of countries where Pete designed golf courses includes China, Curacao, Dominican Republic, France, Guatemala, Honduras, Israel, Japan, Italy, Switzerland, and, of course, the United States. There’s also a map which has pins that mark the locations where Pete designed golf courses in the U.S. Not surprisingly, Indiana is the site of many of his golf course creations. He also built a number of courses in South Carolina, Florida, California, and Colorado. In all, he has built golf courses in 28 states.
PETE AND ALICE DYE’S PERMANENT MEMORIAL
As a way to honor Pete and Alice Dye’s lifetime commitment to Maple Creek, both of them have honorary lockers, with their names on them, at Maple Creek in the men’s and women’s locker rooms, respectively. If you open their respective lockers, you’ll find a collection of unopened toiletry and bathroom necessities. Their spiritual presence remains on site.
As you would expect, Maple Creek is one of seven courses that are part of Indiana’s Pete Dye Golf Trail.
So, on your next trip to Indianapolis, take time to play Maple Creek and make sure that you set aside some extra time to learn more about the lives of Pete and Alice Dye. It’s all on display at Maple Creek. And, there’s no charge if you only have time to peruse the two-story clubhouse.
Finally, it’s worth noting that both Pete and Alice were accomplished golfers – possibly Alice more so than Pete. At age 31, Pete qualified for the 1957 U.S. Open at Inverness Club in Toledo, Ohio. While Pete shot 152 (+12) to miss the cut by two strokes, he did manage a better two-round score than 17-year-old Jack Nicklaus who was eight shots behind at 160. As for Alice Dye, her list of golfing accomplishments was lengthy and impressive. After being the captain of the golf team at Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida, she won the 1968 North and South Women’s Amateur, was a member of the 1970 U.S. Curtis Cup team, and won the 1978 and 1979 U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur plus two Canadian Women’s Senior Championships. And, back in Indiana, she won a total of nine Indiana Women’s Golf Association Amateur Championships.