The Eighth Wonder of the World

by Sam Lacy 27. August 2012 21:12

A great aerial shot of the West Baden Springs Hotel.

The dome at the West Baden Springs Hotel is truly breathtaking.  Once dubbed "The Eighth Wonder of the World," the dome and hotel were officially reopened to the public on September 15, 1902 after the entire structure burned to the ground in 1901.  It is a true technological marvel. It was the largest free-spanning dome in the world from 1902 to 1913 and remained the largest free-spanning dome in the United States until 1955.  There were many that said a dome of that size couldn't be done.  The trusses that hold the dome up were engineered using many of the same principles that a bridge would use.

I found myself looking up at the dome constantly, not quite able to wrap my head around the sheer enormity of the structure.  While the dome was impressive at night, it was even more so in the daylight.  We got some great background information from Dyan Duncan, the Public Relations Manager for the French Lick Resort.  She was kind enough to show us around both the West Baden Springs Hotel and the French Lick Springs Hotel, which together make up French Lick Springs Resort.  Dyan told us about a "secret room" directly underneath the center of the dome that contains paintings of unknown history.  Many history buffs have guessed at the origin of these paintings but nobody knows the entire truth of why they were put there.  Pretty cool!

Following our tour of everything the West Baden Springs Hotel had to offer, Dyan led us over to the French Lick Springs Hotel.  While the history of the West Baden Springs Hotel is incredible, the history of the French Lick Springs Hotel is just as neat, if not more so.  It was built in 1845, burned in 1897, and then was rebuilt, the new hotel even more grandiose than the first.  The hotel is located on mineral springs (now closed) that many in the early 1900's believed to be the cure for many common ailments.  People would travel to French Lick Springs Hotel to pay for mineral water in the hopes that it would cure whatever ailed them.  Unfortunately, as we know today, there wasn't really much healing powers in the water. 

The French Lick Springs Hotel also contains a great casino.  Mac isn't much of a gamer but if we had had a bit more time I may have tried my luck!  The high rollers room had some incredible architecture.  I suggest a walk through there if you get a chance.

Mac and I were lucky enough to see the majorities of both hotel properties and all the amenities that they had to offer.  From some incredible golf courses to one of the most impressive architectural feats I have ever seen, this was truly a trip to remember.  Make a trip to the French Lick Resort in Indiana.  You won't regret it!

*Mac and I would like to acknowledge Michele Bowling's hospitality and help in setting this incredible trip up for us.

The French Lick Springs Hotel.

The original electric switchboard that powered the French Lick Springs Hotel.  Pretty neat.

An old poster in the French Lick Springs Hotel extolling the healing abilities of Pluto Spring Water.

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Breaking 100 at French Lick

Swinging Away at the Pete Dye Course!

by Sam Lacy 27. August 2012 18:56

A statue of the devious Pete Dye with a very appropriate quote.

When the idea for a golf and gaming feature came up in our weekly Monday meeting a few months ago, Mac and I jumped at the chance to put our names next to it.  That meeting several months ago led us to this: a chance to be the first ones on the course at the incredible Pete Dye Course at French Lick Resort.  I have been privileged to play several beautiful courses in my short 26 years but this golf course trumped them all.  The fact that it was the toughest test of golf I had ever encountered did nothing to quell my enthusiasm.  As Mac and I headed out for the course at 7:00 AM, I made a simple goal for myself: break 90.  I learned very quickly, though, that simply breaking 100 would be a much more reasonable goal!

If you don't know much about Pete Dye, simply Google his name.  He was one of the most accomplished and influential golf course designers in the world.  He was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in late 2008.  He no longer designs courses but his influence will live on forever.  If you ever get the chance to play a Pete Dye course, I suggest you take it.  He was the inventor of "volcano" bunkers; these bunkers rise up out of the ground on all sides like volcanoes, and I was lucky to avoid all of them on that day.  

I was joking with Mac on the way to the course that I was going to beat up on him that day.  I'm 30 years younger.  I should beat him, right?  But it turned out that consistency and accuracy won this day.  He beat me by a few strokes.  I had never been on a course where accuracy was so incredibly valuable.  Putting it in the rough off the tee was akin to a one-stroke penalty.  I even elected to hit 3-iron off the tee on a couple of holes just to make sure I stayed in the narrow fairways.  Looking back on it, that was a strategy I should've utilized quite a bit more!

We were extremely lucky to have an interview set up after our round with Jan Tellstrom, the Head Pro at the Pete Dye Course.  I was able to get some great video of Mac and Jan conversing about the history of the course and the resort itself, all set with a beautiful backdrop behind.  Jan noted that the Pete Dye Course is a "destination" course.  People come from all over to play that course and it's brother, the Donald Ross Course.  Jan noted that most people that visit the French Lick Resort (which has a great casino as well) come for the golf and not the gaming.  Sure, they may hit the tables after their round, but the vast majority of singles and groups that visit the French Lick Resort are their for the golf over anything else.

At the end of the day, I was humbled.  Thoroughly worn out and thoroughly humbled.  I came in with a goal to break 90, but that went out the window just a few holes in.  I hoped to hang on to a score in double digits but it wasn't to be.  I do have to say, though, on a course that incredibly difficult, I guess I'll settle for a 102.  I was there more for the experience, and there was plenty of that.  It was a great day on a great golf course.  If you're ever close to French Lick, Indiana, I suggest you make your way over to the golf course and play a round!

 

Taking aim!  This is probably one of those holes on which I should've used a 3-iron!


A beautiful patio.  We could see several holes from here.  Not a bad spot to have a post-round meal.

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Breaking 100 at French Lick

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