Purgatory looks to enlighten golfers

This article appeared in the Noblesville Ledger on May 16, 2003

Golf course seeks lighted practice range, new clubhouse to host events.

By Diana Lamirand

May 16, 2003

NOBLESVILLE — Hamilton County’s reputation for being a premiere golfing destination could get even better if plans to build a lighted practice range at Purgatory Golf Course get approved.

“The golf industry is one of the key markets for the Hamilton County Convention and Visitors Bureau,” said director Amy Vaughan.

The bureau successfully markets combined golf and hotel packages to patrons in Indiana, Michigan, Illinois and Ohio.

“We’ve really established quite a niche . . . we’ve had some customers even compare it to Myrtle Beach.”

Purgatory owners Mike and Tenna Merchent want to build a 15,400-square-foot clubhouse to host business conferences and wedding receptions and a partially enclosed lighted practice range on their 218-acre golf course at 12160 E. 216th St. The course was ranked as one of the top-10 golf courses in Indiana in the May issue of Golf Digest.

“We plan to construct a high-quality facility,” Jim Shinaver, the Merchents’ attorney, told the Hamilton County Plan Commission Tuesday night. Purgatory’s clientele have repeatedly asked for a lighted practice range, he said, and Merchant is interested in offering nighttime lessons year-round.

“It’s most important to learn how to play golf during the winter time so you can actually play during the summer,” Mike Merchant, a 15-year golf teacher and director of golf at Purgatory, told the commission. “It’s a superior way to learn to play.”

Scott Steger, a PGA golf instructor at Pebble Brook Golf Club, said he knew of only two other lighted practice ranges in Hamilton County: Noblesville Golf and Batting Center in Noblesville and Ironwood Golf Club in Fishers.

Shinaver said the Merchents sent notices to nearby neighbors about the plans for Purgatory and invited them to a recent informational meeting. About 10 homeowners, the closest living within a quarter-mile north of the golf course, attended the meeting and most were “very much in support of it,” he said.

Lighting for the practice range, installed on 40-foot poles, will be shielded and directed down and out. They’ll be turned on from 6-10 p.m., and they will not shine into neighbors’ homes, said Tenna Merchent. Lighted sidewalks and landscaping will accent the stone and log timber clubhouse and the parking lot will also be lighted.

There will be no light spillover into anyone’s home, said Mike Merchent, and illumination from the course will be “no different than normal moonlight.” The partially enclosed practice range, which will not be heated, will provide golfers a way to hit from a sheltered tee to the outside. In inclement weather, the garage doors on the building will be closed and golfers will hit into a net, he said.

After a brief discussion on how the new lighting might affect area residents, the Hamilton County Plan Commission Tuesday night gave a favorable recommendation to the Merchents’ request for a special-use variance. The Hamilton North Board of Zoning Appeals will consider the same request at 8 p.m. Tuesday.

The Merchents hope to break ground in July and complete the project in February.