Golf Course Review: Otter Creek Golf Course
A pure, special, memorable, challenging, and fun golf course
The Otter Creek Golf Course (www.ottercreekgolf.com; 812-579-5227) in Columbus, Indiana is well known as the home of many Indiana State Amateur golf tournaments. For years, it was an 18-hole course, designed by Robert Trent Jones, Sr., which was opened in 1964. In 1995, his son Rees Jones designed a third nine-hole layout at Otter Creek. With that, the original 18-holes became known as the North and West Courses. The ‘new’ nine-hole layout -- the East Course -- is a true treasure of a golf experience. If you only have time to play nine holes on your next trip to Otter Creek, pick the East Course. While many traditionalists favor the North and West Courses which are a pair of dynamic tracks, the East Course has its own special attributes which put it in a class by itself.
It’s worth noting that the Otter Creek Golf Course experience starts when you step foot on the property. As you approach the pro shop, which sits atop a small hill overlooking the 27-hole layout, you can’t help but notice the driving-range complex which is a short trek from the clubhouse. What gets your attention about this setting is the group of flags next to the driving range that honor and pay homage to the key ‘players’ that ‘support’ the game of golf at Otter Creek. In addition to the Star Spangled Banner, the other flags on display are from the USGA, PGA of America, First Tee, City of Columbus, Otter Creek GC, American Junior Golf Association, and the State of Indiana. As you look at the driving range and practice putting green, the presence of those flags brings a degree of class and respect to both the game of golf and the entire Otter Creek Golf Course. At Otter Creek, the game of golf is honored every day and those that play golf at Otter Creek respect the degree of integrity that the game demands and deserves.
As for the East Course, this par-36 layout is as good a nine-hole course as you will find anywhere in the U.S. There are two words which best describe the East Course: ‘strong’ and ‘spirited.’ Frankly, the East Course deserves another nine holes of a similar design which would make it one of the finest 18-hole golf courses in the Midwest. The setting for golf at the East Course is pure and pristine. It’s the kind of place where the robins land on each tee to ‘welcome’ you to their home; where the Par Aides are always filled with water; where the water coolers have plenty of cool, refreshing water; and where there’s no outside noise caused by nearby planes, trains, and automobiles. On the East Course, there are pastoral sightings of cornfields and country barns, which confirm Otter Creek’s peaceful, rural setting. Simply put, this piece of property was destined to be a golf course. And, thanks to the creativity of Rees Jones, it is.
Like many great courses, you need to play it a few times to realize where to hit the ball and where not to hit the ball. For instance, at the 1st hole, try to carry the tee shot far enough to catch the downhill slope in the fairway, thereby giving you a shorter approach shot. At the par-four, dogleg 3rd hole, there’s no need to hit a driver off the tee, as this hole is all about getting in position for the second shot over the water to the green. At the par-four 7th hole, when the wind is in your face, it becomes a very long par four, so the best advice is to treat the hole like a par five and try to ‘birdie’ it, but be content with a bogey. At the par five 8th, it looks reachable in two on paper, but the presence of a meandering stream that cuts across the fairway in front of the green causes you to think twice about trying to find the putting surface in two. You will be better off reaching the green with a driver, six iron, and wedge combination. As for the left-to-right, uphill, dogleg, par-four 9th, it demands a strong tee shot and at least a long iron to reach the green in regulation. Beware of any cross breeze which will push or pull any wayward approach shot into the tall grasses that line both sides of this fairway. If your ball lands in those tall strands of grass, your ball is almost certainly lost, but the 9th fairway is wide enough to be considered fair and not penal.
All in all, the East Course at Otter Creek is the type of place which you want to play again, immediately after walking off the 9th green. After all, any golf course that is classified as a true treasure of a golf experience is worth finding and enjoying. I did and you should, too.
Based on my experience: I would play the course again.