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Bearslide Golf Course – Cicero, Indiana…a true Midwest MUST PLAY!

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At o’dark thirty (4:30am) I backed the WRX out of the garage and hustled on up to Cicero, Indiana (North East of Indianapolis, IN) to play the highly regarded, although maybe not well known, Bear Slide Golf Course. Three large coffees and 2 hours 15 minutes later I pulled into Bear Slide’s parking lot.  No sooner than I could get out of my car a golf cart was parked near my trunk. WOW, great service! I met up with some friends who live in Indy. We only have the chance to play golf together a few times a year. I picked the golf course this time, as everything I have read said that Bear Slide Golf Course is a great play.

Someone once told me, "Believe nothing you hear and only half what you read on paper young man." Well, when it comes to Bear Slide believe everything you hear AND everything that you read on paper. I am sure many golfers wonder why the course has a silly sounding name like "Bear Slide". Well, the course is named after nearby Bear Slide Creek and the former use of the land was farming. The name of the farm was Bear Slide Farm. Simple enough huh? Just so you know, we didn’t see any black bears running around, although there are two bear paw prints near the first green. This golf course SIMPLY RULES.

The front nine is a "wee bit" Scottish/Irish style links layout that is pretty much wide open and you can bomb it away. The only real danger is the heather grass and assuming you find your wayward ball, it’s not too difficult to punch it out and advance it at the same time. All of the greens have good undulations that are fair. I noticed that the greens were recently airated (weird time for that around here?) but the holes were super small, unlike the usual large holes and they DID NOT affect anyone’s putting or the green speed. These greens are really NICE. The back nine is very different from the front in that you need to be a little more strategic on where you place your shots. Local knowledge helps on a few holes as well. I didn’t feel that the back nine holes were "tight" in any circumstance (well, maybe #18 off of the tee), but you still had to concentrate on placing your shots well. The only thing that I disliked about this golf course, and I am being picky,  was the silly waste area on the par 4, 13th hole. I thought that the waste area as designed really detracted from the style of the rest of the course. It would look and play much better with some of those tough heathery bunkers or mounding akin to the other holes found elsewhere on the course. This golf course really does rate OVER a 10 on scale of 1-10 in my opinion! If you are anywhere near Indianapolis be sure and pay this place a visit! (if you would like to view larger pics of Bear Slide, go here: www.hetzelfamily.org/golf/bearslide)

Black Tees   6998 (74.1/136)

Blue Tees   6571 (72.0/131)

White Tees   5966 (69.4/122)

Gold Tees   5120 (65.3/111)

Red Tees   4834 (68.2/117)

Hole #1.

Hole #1 green complete with scary "Bear Track" bunkers.

Hole #2 tee box view.

Sunrise on the par 5 #3 hole.

Long, slightly uphill par 4 #5. Tough hole, with a smallish green.

Great hole. Par 4 #9 back to the clubhouse. Scenic.

Tee box view of hole #10. Tighter than it looks, yet no bailout left.

View of shot into the 10th green.

Great short par 4. Better place your tee shot straight at the trap!

Green to previous picture. Hole #10. Your tee shot determines

what you can do for your second shot.

#12 is the only par 5 on the back nine. Wide open off tee. Shot into

the greens demands a lot of accuracy.

Backwards view of hole #12 from #13 teebox.

#13’s large waste area looks nicer on camera than in person.

Par 3 14th hole. Loved the Donald Ross looking green complex.

Short par 4 #15. Maybe the BEST hole on the course. All kinds

of options off the tee! You can make eagle, birdie, par or WORSE

here and all of them with ease!

#15 green.

Downhill target golf par 3 # 16. Another GREAT hole. Although

you cannot tell, there is a narrow bailout area in front and below the stone

wall.

This hole gave us fits. Short, uphill dogleg left par 4 #17. Do NOT

(like I did) hit into that hefty grass bunker on the right!

The MOST INTIMIDATING tee shot on the course, for sure! Hole

#18 is a really tough closing hole.

View from cart path on hole #18. Nice.

The home hole is tucked into the hillside. Don’t bet on getting on

in regulation unless you hit "THE" tee shot.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Courses

Kingston Heath: The Hype is Real

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We touched ground late in the afternoon at Melbourne Airport and checked in very, very late at hotel Grand Hyatt. Don’t ask about our driving and navigating skills. It shouldn’t have taken us as long as we did. Even with GPS we failed miserably, but our dear friend had been so kind to arrange a room with a magnificent view on the 32nd floor for us.

(C) Jacob Sjöman. jacob@sjomanart.com

The skyline in Melbourne was amazing, and what a vibrant, multicultural city Melbourne turned out to be when we later visited the streets to catch a late dinner. The next morning, we headed out to one of the finest golf courses that you can find Down Under: Kingston Heath. We had heard so many great things about this course, and to be honest we were a bit worried it almost was too hyped up. Luckily, there were no disappointments.

Early morning at Kingston Heath C) Jacob Sjöman.

Here’s the thing about Kingston Heath. You’re driving in the middle of a suburb in Melbourne and then suddenly you see the sign, “Kingston Heath.” Very shortly after the turn, you’re at the club. This is very different than the other golf courses we’ve visited on this trip Down Under, where we’ve had to drive for several miles to get from the front gates to the club house.

(C) Jacob Sjöman. jacob@sjomanart.com

Nevertheless, this course and its wonderful turf danced in front of us from the very first minute of our arrival. With a perfect sunrise and a very picture friendly magic morning mist, we walked out on the course and captured a few photos. Well, hundreds to be honest. The shapes and details are so pure and well defined.

(C) Jacob Sjöman. jacob@sjomanart.com

Kingston Heath was designed by Dan Soutar back in 1925 with help and guidance from the legendary golf architect Dr. Alister MacKenzie, who added to its excellent bunkering system. Dr. MacKenzie’s only design suggestion was to change Soutar’s 15th hole from a 222-yard par-4 (with a blind tee shot) to a par-3. Today, this hole is considered to be one the best par-3 holes Down Under, and I can understand why.

I am normally not a big fan of flat courses, but I will make a rare exception for Kingston Heath. It’s a course that’s both fun and puts your strategic skills to a serious test. Our experience is that you need to plan your shots carefully, and never forget to stay out of its deep bunkers. They’re not easy.

The bunker shapes are brilliant. (C) Jacob Sjöman.

Kingston Heath is not super long in distance, but it will still give you a tough test. You definitely need to be straight to earn a good score. If you are in Melbourne, this is the golf course I would recommend above all others.

Next up: Metropolitan. Stay tuned!

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Courses

Barnbougle Lost Farm: 20 Holes of Pure Joy

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Another early day in Tasmania, and we were exploring the Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw-design, Barnbougle Lost Farm. The course was completed in 2010, four years after the neighbor Barnbougle Dunes, resulting in much excitement in the world of golf upon opening.

Johan and I teed off at 10 a.m. to enjoy the course at our own pace in its full glory under clear blue skies. Barnbougle Lost Farm starts out quite easy, but it quickly turns into a true test of links golf. You will certainly need to bring some tactical and smart planning in order to get close to many of the pin positions.

The third hole is a prime example. With its sloping two-tiered green, it provides a fun challenge and makes you earn birdie — even if your tee and approach shots put you in a good position. This is one of the things I love about this course; it adds a welcome dimension to the game and something you probably don’t experience on most golf courses.

(C) Jacob Sjöman. jacob@sjomanart.com

The 4th is an iconic signature hole called “Sals Point,” named after course owner Richard Sattler’s wife (she was hoping to build a summer home on the property before it was turned into a golf course). A strikingly beautiful par-3, this hole is short in distance but guarded with luring bunkers. When the prevailing northwesterly wind comes howling in from the ocean, the hole will leave you exposed and pulling out one of your long irons for the tee shot. We left No. 4 with two bogeys with a strong desire for revenge.

Later in the round, we notice our scorecard had a hole numbered “13A” just after the 13th. We then noticed there was also an “18A.” That’s because Barnbougle Lost Farm offers golfers 20 holes. The designers believed that 13A was “too good to leave out” of the main routing, and 18A acts as a final betting hole to help decide a winner if you’re left all square. And yes, we played both 13A and 18A.

I need to say I liked Lost Farm for many reasons; it feels fresh and has some quirky holes including the 5th and the breathtaking 4th. The fact that it balks tradition with 20 holes is something I love. It also feels like an (almost) flawless course, and you will find new things to enjoy every time you play it.

The big question after trying both courses at Barnbougle is which course I liked best. I would go for Barnbougle Dunes in front of Barnbougle Lost Farm, mostly because I felt it was more fun and offered a bigger variation on how to play the holes. Both courses are great, however, offering really fun golf. And as I wrote in the first part of this Barnbougle-story, this is a top destination to visit and something you definitely need to experience with your golf friends if you can. It’s a golfing heaven.

Next course up: Kingston Heath in Melbourne.

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Courses

Barnbougle Dunes: World Class Golf

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We arrived to Launceston Airport in Tasmania just before sunset. Located on the Northeast Coast of Australia’s island state, Tasmania, Barnbougle is almost as far from Sweden as it gets… yet it immediately felt like home when we arrived.

Launceston Airport, Tasmania. (C) Jacob Sjöman. jacob@sjomanart.com

The drive from the airport was just over an hour, taking us through deep forests and rolling hills before we arrived to Barnbougle Golf Resort, which consists of two courses — The Dunes and Lost Farm — a lodge, two restaurants, a sports bar and a spa. Unfortunately, it was pitch black outside and we couldn’t see much of the two courses on our arrival. I would like to add that both Johan and I were extremely excited about visiting this golf mecca. We later enjoyed a tasty dinner at the Barnbougle Lost Farm Restaurant before we called it a day.

The locals at Barnbougle Dunes. (C) Jacob Sjöman. jacob@sjomanart.com

The next day, we woke up early and got out to The Dunes Course as very first guests out. Well, to be quite honest, we weren’t actually the first out. There were a few locals — Wallabies, lots of them — already out on the course. The natural landscape at Barnbougle is fantastic and my cameras almost overheated with the photo opportunities. After two intense hours of recording videos and producing photos both from ground, we headed back to Lost Farm for a wonderful breakfast (and view). After our breakfast, it was time to try our luck.

“Tom’s Little Devil.” Hole No.7 at Barnbougle Dunes. (C) Jacob Sjöman. jacob@sjomanart.com

Before describing our experience playing the courses, I would like to mention about Richard Sattler, a potato farmer and owner of Barnbougle. In the early 2000’s, Richard was introduced to U.S. golfing visionary Mike Keiser, who had heard about his amazing stretch of farmland in Tasmania and came down to visit. Mike convinced Richard that Barnbougle (which at that stage was a potato farm and still grows potatoes and raises cattle today) might be perfect for creating a top quality golf course.

After an introduction to well renowned golf architect Tom Doak and the formation of a partnership with former Australian golf pro and golf architect Mike Clayton, the development of the Barnbougle Dunes Course commenced.

The walk between the 4th and 5th holes. (C) Jacob Sjöman. jacob@sjomanart.com

Featuring large bunkers dotted between fun rolling fairways shaped from the coastal dunes, Barnbougle Dunes offers the golfer some tough challenges, in particular on the first nine. This is indeed a course that will entertain all kinds of golfers.

After our round, we looked back at some fantastic highlights such as playing the iconic 7th hole, a short par-3 called ”Tom’s Little Devil,” as well as the beautiful par-4 15th. We were just two big walking smiles sitting there in the restaurant to be honest. Lets also not forget one of the biggest (and deepest) bunkers I’ve seen at the 4th hole. The name of the bunker is “Jaws.” Good times!

As a small surprise for Johan, I had arranged a meeting after our round with Richard Sattler. Richard, ever the farmer, entered the car parking just in front of the clubhouse in a white pick-up van with a big smile un his face. We talked to Richard for almost 30 minutes. He is an extremely humble man and left such a warm impression on us. Richard explained the Barnbougle story: how it all began and the property today.

To me, this is a high-end golf destination offering something very unique with two world-class courses in Barnbougle Dunes and Barnbougle Lost Farm, both ranked in the top-100 greatest golf courses by Golf Digest and Golf Magazine (U.S.). With the courses located just next to each other, it’s probably one of the best golf resorts you can find down under and a golf resort that I would like bring my hardcore golfing friends to visit. Everything here is exceptional with the resort providing spacious rooms, comfy beds, good food and spectacular views.

(C) Jacob Sjöman. jacob@sjomanart.com

Barnbougle Dunes is a real treat to play for any golfer and will leave you with a sweet golfing memory. Compared to the golf courses available on the more remote King Island, Barnbougle is accessible (given Tasmania is connected by better flight connections) and the hospitality and service at is much more refined.

The golf resort is one of the absolute best I’ve been to. I can also highly recommend playing Barnbougle Dunes; I had great fun and you can play it in many ways. Tomorrow, we will be playing and experiencing the other course at Barnbougle: Barnbougle Lost Farm, a Bill Coore/Ben Crenshaw course with 20 (!) holes.

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