Pete Dye Course Captures Golf Digest Honor

Combine legendary golf course designer Pete Dye with the scenic French Lick location and the result was pretty much guaranteed to be a winner. The latest affirmation is a Golf Digest ranking (No. 93) on the list of America's 100 Greatest Courses.

The publication's biennial review of America's greatest courses appears in the February 2013 issue. Established in 1966, it is the game’s oldest course rankings list and considered the leading symbol of golf course excellence in the industry. Golf Digest used over 1,100 members of its Course Ranking Panel and asked each to submit ballots based on seven criteria including shot values, resistance to scoring, design variety, memorability, aesthetics, conditioning, and ambience.
 
“We are very honored to be recognized by Golf Digest as one of America’s 100 Greatest Courses,” said Dave Harner, director of golf for French Lick Resort. “This ranking is a testament to the vision of our late founder Bill Cook, Steve Ferguson and the legendary Pete Dye who together developed arguably one of the most visually stunning courses in America solidifying French Lick Resort as one of the elite golf resort destinations in the country.”
 
Bill Cook, the late founder of Cook Group Inc, together with Steve Ferguson, chairman of the board, acquired the historic French Lick Springs and West Baden Springs hotels in 2005 and immediately began restoring the properties including the already popular Donald Ross golf course. They brought in Pete Dye, a native of Indiana, to design and develop the next great “must play” course, which has succeeded in putting French Lick Resort on the map as one of the country’s leading golf destinations.
 
Ron Whitten, Golf Digest senior editor of architecture, describes the Dye course as  “A mind-boggling creation by octogenarian architect Pete Dye, it sits on perhaps the highest point in the state, a mountaintop leveled and transformed into a spider web of terraced fairways and perched greens guarded by every kind of bunker imaginable, from sand traps and waste areas to pot holes to puckered ones dubbed volcano bunkers. We predict a PGA Championship for this course.”
 
Golf Digest’s list of America’s 100 Greatest Courses only includes 18 public or resort facilities. The Pete Dye Course joins just three other Midwest public/resort courses that made the elite list including Whistling Straits and Blackwolf Run in Wisconsin, and Arcadia Bluffs in Michigan.
 
 
 

 

Bill Cook: Recollections of an Indiana Icon

In mid-year 1999 (with about 15 months under my belt at the Indiana Chamber), I learned that Bill Cook had been selected as the organization’s Business Leader of the Year. Despite 15 prior years of newspaper and other interviewing experience, I was one nervous guy heading to the office of the Bloomington entrepreneur and community stalwart.

You see, Cook was not especially fond of doing interviews. He was a little reluctant this time also, but agreed with the coaxing of longtime friend and business partner Steve Ferguson — a true Indiana Chamber champion for many years. Before getting down to the business of discussing business, we talked about some of his passions. These included the drum and bugle corps championships (Cook used to drive the bus for the Star of Indiana group that he founded), flying planes, owning a basketball team in Manchester, England and more. I think the casual conversation relaxed me more than him.

The news of Cook’s passing last night was a shocker. I pulled out that November 1999 article. You can read from many sources about Cook’s long list of accomplishments, but some of the words he shared with me a dozen years ago still resonate. Asked what it takes to build a business or restore a historic building, he said:

"It’s a matter of risk taking and being prepared to make decisions and make them quickly. Our approach to business over the years has been that we believe in trying almost everything if it involves medicine. We found out you can’t second guess whether any product is going to be essential."

As for the decision-making, Cook added, "I found you can’t do that with a committee; it has to be done personally. My personal belief is that many people use committees as a cop-out. I just never believed seeking a consensus was the best way to go. You have to have enough of an ego to believe you’re right some of the time. I don’t think I’m different than anyone else. I do like to take risks and the potential benefit that means."

At the time, Cook was in the process of making twice-a-week or so trips from Bloomington to oversee renovation of the historic West Baden Springs Hotel. That, of course, eventually became part of the French Lick Resort complex that attracts visitors from near and far for golf, gaming and more.

In 1999, Cook called the project "fun" but admitted he had questioned what he had gotten himself into.

"It was a labor of love. It was also an ego trip. The scope of this thing was so big it challenged my comprehension … I didn’t really think I wouldn’t complete the building though."

The late Myles Brand, former Indiana University president, described a familiar scene at board of trustees meetings that involved Cook.

"Bill would sit back, listen, think, scribble things on his pad and then come up with an idea no one else thought of. Bill goes right to the heart of the matter. When he speaks, we all listen."

They listened for a long time and the legacy of Bill Cook will carry on for many years to come.