OTTER CREEK GOLF CLUB
Course Name: Otter Creek Golf Club
Location: Columbus, Indiana, 51 miles south of Indianapolis on I-65 and seven miles due east of downtown Columbus
Year of Design: 1959
Redesigned: The original 18 is comprised by what is now called the North and West nines. In 1995, Rees Jones (with the assistance of Greg Muirhead) built a third nine at Otter Creek known as the East Course.
Owner/Developer: Otter Creek was developed by Cummins, Inc., an engines company, which donated the golf course for the public use of the Columbus community. Cummins, headed at the time by president and CEO J. Irwin Miller (1909-2004), was by far the largest employer in the Columbus area. In 1954, Miller established the Cummins Foundation and in 1957 made an offer to the city that the foundation would pay all the architects fees for new public buildings in Columbus; this generosity also extended to the building of a public golf course. Thus, to this small Midwestern city came not only the building of a championship golf course by America’s premier golf architects of the day but also wonderful news public structures by such notable architects as Eero and Eliel Saarinen, I.M. Pei, Kevin Roche, Richard Meier, Harry Weese, César Pelli, many of which featured interiors designed by Alexander Girard. In 1991 the American Institute of Architects declared Columbus to be America's sixth most important city in terms of architecture. Being located in a place with such a commitment to successful industry and beautiful architecture did a great deal to enhance the status of Otter Creek Golf Club. Not surprisingly, Trent Jones came to be a good friend of J. Irwin Miller. For excellent feature stories from 1967 for the unique cultural characteristics of Columbus, Indiana, and their effects on the building of Otter Creek, see “Skyline rises in a Corn Belt Town,” Business Week (18 Nov. 1967): 138-9.
Number of Holes: Originally 18 with additional 9 added in 1995
Length—Back Tees: 3,678 font nine, 3,485 back nine, 7,258 total
Length—Middle Tees: 3,485 front nine, 3,412 back nine, 6,897 total
Length—Forward Tees: 2,934 front nine, 2,756 back nine, 5,690 total
Course Description: Set among the gently rolling hills of southern Indiana, Robert Trent Jones, Sr., took advantage of the land’s natural contours and the meanderings through the property of the swift-flowing Clifty Creek and Otter Creek to create an exceptionally difficult public golf course, one with numerous doglegs, that requires, and which is nearly always in championship condition.
No. 9—469 par-4
No. 10—472 yard par-4
No. 15—210 yard par-3
No. 16—465 yard par-4
Favorite Holes: The shot par-4s doglegs, all of which move right to left, requiring precise tee-shot placement and exact approaches into small (for Jones), well protected greens.
No. 4—418 yard par-4
No. 6—390 yard par-4
No. 11—341 yard par-4
Par 3 Lengths: 207 (3rd), 195 (8th), 191 (13th), 210 (15th)
Par 5 Lengths: 552 (1st), 616 (5th), 522 (14th), 569 (18th)
Longest Par 4: 472 yards (10th)Shortest Par 4: 341 (11th)
Average Par 4 Length: 419 yards
Chief Hazards: The course has water on six holes, but is not the defining protection. Sand is the chief concern, where yawning bunkers closely guard the greens even more deftly than the fairways.
Major Championships and Title Winners:
1991 U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship (David Berganio, Jr.)
Indiana Men’s State Amateur (held 26 times at Otter Creek)
American Junior Golf Association (AJGA) National Championship (1987, 1990, 2013)
2010 NCAA Women’s Division I Regional Championship
Tournament Qualifying Site: U.S. Open, U.S. Senior Open, U.S. National Public Links Championship
Course Record: 64 by Jeff Overton in 3rd round of 103rd Indiana State Amateur
Course Ranking: Has consistently been ranked as one of the top daily-fee layouts in the nation since it opened in 1964. Golfweek has ranked both the original eighteen and the additional nine at Otter Creek on its annual listing of the “Best Courses You Can Play.”
Anecdote: Robert Trent Jones once said that the 418-yard par-4 4th hole at Otter Creek was the single best hole he ever designed. The hole is a dogleg to the left with trees both left and right and a cluster of three bunkers located in the “cut” of the fairway. From the bend the golfer looks to a raised green fronted by two bunkers with only an eight-yard opening between them. Although not immediately apparent, water encircled much of this green. A push to the right finds Otter Creek and one to the left discovers a holding pond. With the green sloping from right to left and back to front, the putting was slick and three putts common.
Expert Comment: “Otter Creek represents a certain neo-classicism of golf course design that Robert Trent Jones, Sr., TJ had perfected by the time he completed the course in 1964. Almost fifty years later, it remains essentially the same: still long and still challenging even in the wake of club and golf ball advances. That is because “Otter” has always required power in the form of long, straight driving to tame it, and the vast acreage on which it was built allows room for adaptation. Pin placements on the characteristically large, severely sloped putting surfaces can play havoc with any level of skill. There is a distinct right to left flavor of the routing, with the exception of the challenging ninth hole. The holes have become better framed over the years as trees have matured. Gnarly rough in championship set up is the final tweak to dial in the Jones-cherished equation of par being an excellent score on any hole. Otter Creek remains literally a jewel in a cornfield; still remote, and still worth the effort to play.” Dr. Jeffrey Nowak, former assistant golf professional at Otter Creek and current Golfweek’s Best course rater.