Indy Star, Play Smart & You Won’t Suffer at PGC


Golfers who play smart can escape suffering at Purgatory

By Steve Brooks
Star correspondent
July 26, 2003

The name alone can give golfers an overwhelming sense of dread
when playing Purgatory Golf Club.

Throw in more than 125 bunkers and it gets even worse.

But Purgatory isn’t designed to scare away average golfers. The course is challenging, but six sets of tees ranging from 4,500 yards to almost 7,800 yards make it fair for a broad range of handicaps.

“The course was designed to be versatile,” said Mike Merchent, co-owner and director of golf at Purgatory.

“With six sets of tees, you can bring any skill level of golfer out there, and if they select the proper club and with the proper guidance, they can enjoy themselves. People with lesser skills can come out here and enjoy the condition, routing and scenery of the course and not be beaten over the head by it.

“But if you get someone who comes out here and pulls out (his or her) driver on every hole and tries to overpower the course, that person is probably going to get a little frustrated.”

Merchent said the high number of bunkers isn’t meant to demoralize golfers. Six holes have bunkers where the fairway starts to serve as a guide for how the hole should be played.

“Throughout the course, there are some bunkers that frame the hole,” he said. “Some are there to challenge you by asking you to be precise with your tee shot.

“Some are directional, and some serve to provide a little illusion or depth-perception challenge. They function as more than just hazards.”

No. 16, a long par-4 featuring 13 bunkers, is handicapped as the hardest hole. Merchent said three other holes are right up there with it:

  • No. 2, a 462-yard par-4 dogleg left with a lake on the left side of the fairway and bunkers along the right.
  • No. 8, a 487-yard par-4 dogleg right with 10 bunkers.
  • No. 14, a relatively straight 469-yard par-4 with 13 bunkers, including five around the green.

Purgatory also features mounding between the holes, which gives it a feel that golfers are out there all alone. The fescue lining the course has been grown so it’s not impossible to find your ball should a shot go errant.

“You will find your ball,” Merchant said. “You might not have the best lie, but you’ll still have a shot.”