Chariot Run is Way Ahead of the Field
Southern Indiana Course Puts Golfers in the Driver’s Seat
Have you ever walked off the 18th green at a top-ranked golf course and told yourself, “Never again.” The truth is, many of the layouts that land on the “Best of” lists in state, regional and national golf magazines are not designed for the average player in mind. Chariot Run, an equestrian-themed public course in Southern Indiana, bucks that trend by offering a challenging but fair test both accomplished golfers and novices, alike, can enjoy.
Consistently positioned as one of the region’s top public championship venues and ranked in 2018 as Indiana’s No. 4 “Best Course You Can Play” by Golfweek, Chariot Run delivers an upscale experience that won’t break your confidence or wallet. One circuit around the track and you’ll understand why most folks who play here are ready to get right back in the saddle for a victory lap as soon as their round is done.
Located just 30 minutes across the river from downtown Louisville in Laconia, IN, the distinct American links-style layout opened in 2002 as part of Caesars Horseshoe Indiana. VICI Golf Property acquired the course from the casino in 2017, bringing with it a level of customer service, playing conditions and amenities that rival most high-priced private clubs.
Chariot Run was crafted by Bill Bergin, a touring professional who played in three U.S. Opens, two British Opens and more than 50 PGA TOUR events. However, it was his job as a teaching pro — and consequently, the insight it provided of the abilities of everyday players — that shaped his design philosophy. “Our golf courses are, without question, demanding for the best golfers,” Bergin said, “yet fun and fair for the majority of golfers who step onto the first tee.”
Those two words, fun and fair, best characterize Chariot Run. The layout is routed in all directions over the property, which was once farmland. And while the course takes its theming from horse racing — a cultural mainstay in the region — Bergin channeled the old courses of Scotland when designing it. Wide, rolling fairways are lined with tall, brown fescues and high-lipped bunkers are well-grown along their edges. There are very few trees, and hence little buffer against occasional stiff breezes. What differentiates Chariot Run from the links-style courses found across the pond are lateral water hazards that border eight holes. Fortunately, just about every hole or shot, for that matter, offers a safe or conversative side to aim for away from trouble.
The green complexes at Chariot Run feature understated swales and mounding, and allow for a variety of approach-shot options, especially bump-and-runs. And the bent grass putting surfaces, themselves, are very quick and undulating and offer perhaps the purest rolls of any course in the Hoosier State.
Chariot Run measures 7,246 yards from the championship tees and, when the wind picks up, can be a formidable challenge for scratch golfers. Four additional sets of markers afford average and beginning players an opportunity to choose a distance best suited for their skill set, with the middle tees or “whites” at 6,174 yards being a good compromise for most mid-handicappers.
The ebb and flow of the layout is outstanding, with each hole transitioning nicely from short and long par 4s, to easy and difficult par 3s, to heroic par 5s that can be reached in two for those with a gambler’s mentality. There simply are no weak “links” here, just a collection of 18 magnificent holes each providing their own rewards and risks off the tee and on approaches.
Number 1, a 429-yard par 4 from the middle tees, gets you out of the starting gate fast. The hole bends to the left and hugging the inside corner sets up the best and closest approach to the green. A lake on the right doesn’t really come into play off the tee, but it does run the entire length of the green. Admittedly, the view from the tee box can be a little intimidating at first because of the high, wispy brown grasses that outline the hole. But just remember there’s a lot of freshly-mowed fairway ready to accept drives that aren’t perfectly hit.
Every course should be designed with at least one great short par 4. The 334-yard No. 6 checks that box, tempting players to challenge the sharp dogleg right with a drive over the corner to set up an easy chip shot. Just be sure to clear the large and menacing trap that protects the inside elbow. The safer play off the tee is middle-right just past the bend, but not too far to bring the water hazard that protects the left side into play. The approach, usually a wedge, is played uphill to a green protected dead in front by a very deep pot bunker.
The front nine wraps up with the difficult par-4, 411-yard No. 9. A creek winds down the entire left side of this slight dogleg left and two large bunker complexes squeeze the fairway about where most drives should land. The green is well-protected with sand left and right, and a pond off the back left edge.
The 462-yard No. 11 is a classic risk-reward par 5. The tees are perched atop the property’s highest elevation, and from them you can actually see all the way to the green. The ideal drive will travel up the left side of the fairway avoiding the trees and grassy heather that line the right side. If you strike it well enough, your ball will catch the downhill ridge and the resulting roll can shorten the hole by some 50 yards or more. The second shot presents two options: you can go for the elevated, well-bunkered narrow green in two or play more cautiously to the open fairway that extends left of the green.
Bergin double-downed at No. 13, giving golfers another fantastic short par 4. This unique, 308-yarder plays slightly uphill to a fairway split in two by a large, ominous bunker. The tee shot can either be played to the left which leaves a short chip or to the right where you’ll be left with a blind second shot of about 75 yards. If played downwind, a third option of trying to drive the green comes into the equation.
The homestretch at Chariot Run begins at No. 15, perhaps the most picturesque par 3 on the course. The green is set below the tee box area and is protected by a creek in front and to the right. Trees and white fencing run down the right side and deep bunkers protect the left, right and back of the green.
The par-5, 458-yard No. 18 was obviously designed to settle side bets. Golfers must clear a small pond off the tee and avoid a creek that runs up the entire right side of the fairway. The hole moves slightly to the right and is all uphill, and trying to reach the green in two is complicated by another pond on the right side of the green and a single bunker on the left. How you play the hole might well determined who in your foursome wins, places or shows.
It’s hard to emphasize enough the stirring beauty Chariot Run provides, let alone the attention to detail and friendliness displayed by the staff. It’s this triple crown that makes a round here truly an unforgettable experience, one with enough of kick to satisfy golf thoroughbreds yet tame enough for the rest of us to make it back to the stable without being thrown for a loop.