David Cannon  /  Getty Images file
Katrin Nilsmark of Sweden plays the treacherous par 3 6th hole during her visit to Crooked Stick Golf Club on Sept. 8, 2004 in Carmel, Indianapolis.
By Golf Publisher Syndications
updated 3/20/2006 2:20:37 PM ET 2006-03-20T19:20:37

Few states take their basketball - especially their college basketball - more seriously than Indiana. And this year, the home state of the Hoosiers is also the venue for the NCAA men's college basketball Final Four.

After a major renovation and revitalization of Indianapolis' downtown in the mid-1990s, the Circle City offers some big-city entertainment served up with a hearty helping of Hoosier hospitality.

And surprisingly, Indy also offers some of the highest-quality, most accessible golf courses of any major metropolitan area in the Midwest. Along with reasonable rates and copious tee times, Indy has as much (if not more) shopping, dining, nightlife and culture as many "traditional" golf-getaway destinations - plus, this year, that little hoop party.

Big names

Pete Dye, one of the most prolific and imaginative American golf-course architects of the past half-century, has a home in Indianapolis, and he has designed more than a few of the best courses in the area.

Whether you measure by name or by novelty, Dye's Brickyard Crossing Golf Course is arguably the king of the Indy golf scene. The Champions Tour stops here, and pros from all tours come to play when they're in town. The course lies adjacent to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and four of the holes are actually located in the infield of the storied track. The course is also home to a golf academy and 108-room inn.

When it opened in 2000, Purgatory Golf Club in Noblesville was the longest non-mountain golf course in the world at 7,754 yards. That didn't last long, given the subsequent rush to lengthen courses to counter fast-moving technology. Still, this Ron Kern design - replete with 133 sprawling, crushed-limestone-filled bunkers, six sets of tees and endearing underlying tones of dark humor - is well worth the short drive from Indy.

In 1998 Dye and protégé Tim Liddy turned 238 acres of land that had once been part of Fort Benjamin Harrison into the critically acclaimed The Fort Golf Resort. As part of a larger 1,700-acre historical nature preserve, The Fort offers pristine golf along with some of the most unique golf lodging in the state: Benjamin Harrison House, where visiting military dignitaries used to stay. The park also has miles of hiking, biking, and horseback-riding trails.

A number of soon-to-be classics opened in 1999, including Whistling Straits and Bay Harbor. Coming in fourth in Golf Digest's 1999 "Best New Course" list was The Trophy Club in Lebanon. Tim Liddy's first solo effort presents golfers with snaking table-top fairways, intriguing and vexing greens, and fescue rough worthy of a Scottish links course.

Munis - really!

One great thing about Indianapolis golf is that even the top-flight daily-fee courses listed above won't break the bank. But if you really want a deal - and some excellent golf - check out the city's enviable collection of municipal courses. Yes, munis.

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Even here Pete Dye has had a large hand in building Indy's golf tradition. His Eagle Creek Golf Club offers 36 holes, a wide variety of hole designs and a pedigree worthy of far pricier (heck, even private) clubs. Eagle Creek was once recognized by Golf Digest as one of the top 25 public courses in America, and in 1982 it hosted the USGA Public Links Championship. And at $21-$43 a round, it's a deal that can't be beat.

Coffin Golf Club is another muni beauty. Thoroughly renovated in 1994 by Liddy, Coffin doesn't have the length of Eagle Creek, but it's got another defense: claustrophobic fairways closed in on all sides by trees, water, and rough. If you're scared of tight places, this is one Coffin that might give you the creeps.

Out on the town

Compared to the Indianapolis of the 1980s, the Circle City of today feels like a completely different place. The famed Circle around which the downtown was built is now home to Circle Centre Mall, chock-full of upscale shopping, dining and entertainment. Just north of downtown is The Fashion Mall at Keystone Crossing, where the big-name designer brands live.

When you're not on the course or crying over your bracket at the RCA Dome, there are plenty of diversions available.

The Indianapolis Children's Museum is the largest museum of its kind in the world, offering 11 major displays throughout its 400,000-square-foot interior. The Indiana State Museum contains everything from a walking tour through state history to an IMAX theater to high-tech exhibits on the making of The Lord of the Rings films.

If you like big engines as much as you do electric golf carts, visit the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame and Museum after your round at Brickyard Crossing.

Two parts of town stand out for dining and nightlife. In the Keystone Crossing area, try the Bonefish Grill and Sullivan's Steakhouse. In Broad Ripple you'll find the best ethnic food in town, as well as loads of bars and clubs where students from Butler University and IUPUI party.

Nightlife and lodging

Broad Ripple is the place to be for bar bands and college crowds. At the unique Murat Theater you might see Miss Saigon one night and rock out to Elvis Costello or Sheryl Crow the next.

For a more intimate scene, try the Slippery Noodle Inn. The oldest continually operated bar in the state, it hosts live blues seven nights a week, starting at 8 p.m. Not for nothing was the Slippery Noodle named 2003 Blues Club of the Year by the Blues Foundation: If there's a big-name musician in concert anywhere in the city, you might just find him or her here jamming with the band in the wee hours

Indy abounds with lodging in all price ranges. If you're traveling with family, you'll want the Holiday Inn Select North, home to the 50,000-square-foot Caribbean Cove indoor water park, complete with kids' island, waterslides and tubing river.

Any opinions expressed above are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of the management. The information in this story was accurate at the time of publication. All contact information, directions and prices should be confirmed directly with the golf course or resort before making reservations and/or travel plans.

If you go:

Golf
Brickyard Crossing
4400 W. 16th St.
Indianapolis, IN
Green fees: $70-$90
Phone: 317-484-6572
Web:
www.brickyardcrossing.com

Coffin Golf Club
2401 Cold Spring Road
Indianapolis, IN
Green fees: $21-$40
Phone: 317-327-7845
Web:
www.coffingolf.com

Eagle Creek Golf Club
8802 W. 56th St.
Indianapolis, IN
Green fees: $21-$43
Phone: 317-297-3366
Web:
www.eaglecreekgolfclub.com

The Fort Golf Resort
6002 N. Post Road
Indianapolis, IN
Green fees: $39-$52
Phone: 317-543-9597
Web:
www.thefortgolfcourse.com

Purgatory Golf Club
12160 E. 216th St.
Noblesville IN
Green fees: $45-$60
Phone: 317-776-4653
Web:
www.purgatorygolf.com

The Trophy Club
3875 N. State Road 52
Lebanon, IN
Green fees: $45-$60
Phone: 765-482-7272
Web:
www.thetrophyclubgolf.com

Dining, lodging and nightlife
Bonefish Grill
4501 E. 82nd St.
Indianapolis, IN
Phone: 317-863-3474
Web:
www.bonefishgrill.com

Bonefish Grill
4501 E. 82nd St.
Indianapolis, IN
Phone: 317-863-3474
Web:
www.bonefishgrill.com

Holiday Inn Select North
3850 Depauw Blvd.
Indianapolis, IN
Phone: 800-80-800-800 or
317-872-9790
Web:
www.ichotelsgroup.com

Murat Theater
502 N New Jersey St.
Phone: 317-231-0000
Web:
www.murat.com

Slippery Noodle Inn
372 S. Meridian St.
Phone: 317-631-6974
Web:
www.slipperynoodle.com

Sullivan's Steakhouse
3316 86th St.
Indianapolis, IN
Phone: 317-580-1280
Web:
www.sullivansteakhouse.com/Indianapolis

More information
CVB: indy.org

Any opinions expressed above are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of the management. The information in this story was accurate at the time of publication. All contact information, directions and prices should be confirmed directly with the golf course or resort before making reservations and/or travel plans.

Our golf bloggers spend a great deal of time traveling from course to course (what a life!). Here’s a selection of their top tips for travelers - where to stay, great restaurants, over-rated destinations, and more!

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