A Course Steeped in History
Work began on the par-71 IU course is 1954 and it opened three years later. Former Indiana coach Jim Soutar designed the championship course with the help of Paul “Pooch” Harrell, former coordinator of the university’s athletic facilities.
The land on which the course was built had been owned by IU since the early part of the 20th Century and Harrell estimated the cost of building the course to be about $175,000, excluding the clubhouse. That cost was a fraction of what was required to build a championship-caliber golf course in the 1950s.
One reason the IU course was cost effective was that little had to be done in the way of planting trees and moving dirt. No tax money was required for the construction with expense being covered by student fees.
Each day during construction Harrell could be seen aboard a bulldozer featuring root rakes that yanked up the stumps of the trees after the forest had been leveled with chainsaws. Even today there are modest low spots where trees once stood before being removed and replaced by posh fairways. These fairways were kept in pristine conditions through the use of a built-in watering system, and the necessary irrigation came from the waters of Griffy Lake, which recently had become a municipal reservoir.
The original clubhouse was in a small block building adjacent to where the IU Foundation building now stands. The first hole was what now is No. 2 and the ninth hole returned to the clubhouse and is now the 10th hole. When a new clubhouse was built in 1978 the par-five that originally had been No. 18 became No. 1. The number of every hole on the course changed.
Perhaps the most famous landmark at the IU course is a pair of rust-covered basketball standards that for years marked the two ends of the Assembly Hall court. The once red standards rest amid weeds not far from the No. 1 green, often unnoticed by golfers headed for the second tee.
In the 1950s the Hoosiers needed a top-flight golf course because other Big Ten schools had some of the best layouts in the country. Ohio State’s Scarlet course and the University of Michigan’s course both were designed by Alister Mackenzie, the architect of such national favorites as Augusta National and Cypress Point.
Former IU golf coch Owen “Chili” Cochrane and Souter often would stroll back iinto the woods of the old Fee farm seeking ideas for the course layout. Souter began to lay out the course in his mind and on paper and then would relay his ideas to the IU draftsmen, who were in charge of providing the action prints of the layout. The two coaches reportedly sashayed so deeply in the woods one day that they became lost among the trees and could not retrace their steps for hours.
Modern golfers who strike their ball deep in the trees can relate to their dilemma.