Chronicle Tribune, Marion Ind.

Purgatory Provides challenge for golfers

According to religious mythology, Purgatory is where souls pay for their earthly sins so they can gain entry into heaven.

But in more simplistic terms, Purgatory is the name of Indiana’s newest and one of its most challenging 18-hole championship golf courses.

Chip shots

Ready to open Monday, Purgatory Golf Course, 12160 E. 216th St., Noblesville, sits on 218 acres of land along Ind. 37 in Hamilton County. Billed as the golf course where you pay for your sins, Purgatory promises to tempt golfers of all skill levels.

From the back set of tee markers, which are indicated by red, the course plays 7,754 yards. That qualifies as the longest par-72 course east of the Mississippi River.

However, Purgatory features six separate tee stations on every hole, including a far forward set that plays to 4,195 and is the shortest in the state.

“We want it to be a nice golf course that provides people around the area with an experience they will not have anywhere else,” said Mike Merchent, director of golf.

Purgatory clearly has a Scottish-links feel to it with heather grass on every hole. Yet, by true definition it is not.

“You can’t have a links course unless you are on the ocean,” Merchent said. “By definition, links is seaside. But I’m sure people will tag us with that label. Still, the course will play fast and firm, similar to a links style.”

Six holes feature a few trees. Five lakes come into play on five holes. And then there are 127 white-crushed limestone bunkers spread throughout the course.

One hole in particular, the par-3 No.17 that has been dubbed Hell’s Half-Acre, is surrounded by eight bunkers that encompass the hole from tee to green and around. Two full acres of bunkers make the green an island in a sea of sand.

“Every hole is unique, there is no signature hole,” said Marion’s Larry Wilk, who is the course’s assistant superintendent. “A lot of people will say that 17 stands out and is Purgatory’s signature hole. But all 18 are signature in my opinion.”

Several other features set Purgatory apart:

  • Hole No. 13 is a 615-yard par-5 from the tournament tees. However, another tee station farther back makes it a 735-yard beast that requires a 280-yard drive just to reach the fairway and three perfect shots in order to have a birdie putt.
  • Each of the tee stations were laser-leveled with a patented machine from Athens, Ga., before they were seeded in order to smooth out any humps or bumps.
    Just how unique is that? There are only six machines in the world, and the procedure has been done to the tee stations at Augusta National where the Masters is played.
  • A stone wall lined in front of the green on No. 11 offers some definition to one of the shorter par 4s on the course. Despite the appearance, the stone wall does not line any river or lake.
  • About 45 acres of fairways provide generous landing areas. With the course spread over 218 acres – most are built on approximately 150 acres – the golfer enjoys a greater sense of privacy.

“I wanted the holes fare enough apart so you were not playing from somebody else’s fairway,” said Merchent, who assisted course designer Ron Kern.

“We have not had many players yet, but one man from Crooked Stick, which hosted the PGA Championship and U.S. Women’s Open, said he had not seen anything like this in the northern hemisphere,” Merchent said. “I don’t know whether to take that as a compliment or not.

Chronicle Tribune, Marion Ind., Sunday August 20, 2000.