This is the first winter in memory that I haven’t been on a golf course at least once a week. In fact, I’ve not wandered onto a course all season. However, I’ve seen guys on Prides Creek Golf Course in Petersburg, Ind., in the snow hitting orange balls at invisible white flags, while kids are sledding down the dam.
By the time you read this, let’s hope we’ve been able to get in some golf, as the weathermen all say a change is a comin’. We all have our favorite and comfortable places that we play. But every golfer I know loves to get out to a new challenge, if not once a week, at least once a month. Here are two quaint suggestions for courses that are opened to Evansville golfers thanks to Interstate 69. If you live on the East Side, you can travel to each of these courses in about a half an hour, no more sitting behind or dodging coal trucks on Highway 57.
I grew up being lugged along with my father to Oakland City (Ind.) Golf Club. Of course, I fell in love with the place. It is where I learned to love the game. I spent time with my hero and when I grew tired, I’d hang around the clubhouse and eat hamburgers until he finished. If you choose to get off I-69 at exit 33, good food and fun golf still await.
Board of Directors Secretary LuAnn Buck says, “It’s just a fun place, like a family.” She’s right. Most of the players are diehards. This is their course. They take pride in that and protect their facility. Patron pride in the course is warranted.
“We’ve taken this harsh winter and been busy planning our events for the season,” adds Buck. Oakland City Golf Club is very social to say the least. With an active bar and restaurant, there is always someone hanging out wanting to talk or get a card game going. According to Buck, on any given Saturday night they may serve as many as 80 steaks to an appreciative crowd of golfers and travelers who have discovered the weekly feast.
Let’s not forget golf. The track is a short (2,883 yards) nine-hole par 35 layout. Sound easy? Perhaps, but it will fool you. The layout makes the course easy to adapt to any level of player. I grew up with the opinion that this was a “grip it and rip it” course. No finesse needed. That certainly isn’t the case if you are wanting to score.
The trick at “Oakland” is to hit the postage stamp greens. Most players from there can hit greens anywhere from learning how to navigate these tiny gems. So while the kids were “swinging away,” the money players were learning how to hit targets and to putt on the slick greens. No, you won’t walk away from the course feeling like you were beat up, but you’ll know you had a good time and your belly will thank you.
Just 13 miles up the interstate to exit 46 is another homey nine-hole layout at Prides Creek Golf Course in Petersburg, Ind. It is a gorgeous place year round, wrapped around the 90-acre Prides Creek Lake. The lake comes into play on all but one of the holes and so do the views.
One of my favorite spots is on the clubhouse veranda. As the sun comes up or goes down I can’t think of a better spot for a cup of coffee or an adult beverage. There’s always someone to chat up too.
When Prides Creek Golf Course was opened in 1991, Pike County was the last county in the state to have a course. I remember my father, Howard, and his friends laying out plans on the dining room table back in the 1970s, trying to figure out how to put together a course. They stuck with it and it all came together on a unique combination of public land, private funds, and matching grants.
According to Board Treasurer Mike Voyles of Petersburg, “When we opened the course there weren’t as many facilities. Then came the course-building boom and we had to make some changes to compete. And when the economy tanked we had to take action.”
What happened next is a testament to the place and the dedication of its clientele. “We raised enough cash in donations to replace our fairways with Bermuda grass (in 2011),” says Voyles.
The results were taken to immediately and attendance is up. “We try each day to be the best little nine-hole golf course we can. The facility is something we are very, very proud of now,” says Board Secretary R.C. Klipsch of Petersburg.
This, too, is a social place; it is also a place where you can go out alone and feel one with the surroundings. As far as the former goes there are several weekly opportunities to hang with the locals. Perhaps the hottest ticket, the Friday night couples league, attracts anywhere from 15 to 30 couples to enjoy a low intensity and friendly competition.
It is a layout that appeals to all types of groups. Retired couples, factory outings, traveling men’s and women’s groups from area courses and lots of community youth outreach is the norm. The play is challenging, but the yardages are within all age ranges. If you’ve got a massive slice, you may want your scuba gear. I can’t imagine how many golf balls are in the lake. The greens are ample, perhaps a tad slow, but always well kept. Those fairways? A brilliant investment. Even the most persnickety player is now playing the ball down all the time. Play smart and the water is easily avoided. If you go all out you may set a course record or you may run out of golf balls and shred your scorecard.
The clubhouse now sports a restaurant, “Sweet Stuff on the Greens.” So when you get finished hacking around, loosen your belt with a sandwich and some amazing cheesecake. A beer to celebrate or drown your sorrows is always a good call.
Both Oakland City Golf Club and Prides Creek Golf Course are open to all. Tee-times suggested, particularly on weekends.
For more information on Oakland City Golf Club, call 812-749-3923; Prides Creek Golf Course, call 812-354-3059 or visit pridescreekgolf.com.