As its name implies, Purgatory Golf Club in Noblesville, Indiana, is a course that challenges yet rewards those who humbly, yet confidently, go there to golf.
Branded as ‘more Heaven than Hell, Purgatory Golf Club is one ‘helluva’track. It’s scenic, fun, well-designed and well worth a visit.
Purgatory was designed by locally-based architect, Ron Kern, and opened in 2000. With six sets of tees, it measures 7,754 yards from the far-reaching ‘Purgatory’ tees (including a 741-yard par 5). That makes it the longest course in Indiana, and gives it claim to being ‘the longest non-mountain, par 72 in the world.’
While few golfers will play from the farthest-back Purgatory tees, or 7,268-yard black tees, most will choose from the 6,796 blue through 4,562 forward-most yellow tees. In doing so, golfers will thoroughly enjoy Purgatory’s horizontal variation of tee placements. That, along with distance, makes the course play very differently, and as easily or as difficult as you want, just based on tee choice.
Some stately trees preside over a few holes, but it’s the more than 125 crushed-limestone, white sand bunkers, graceful prairie grasses, low-lying scrub and four connected lakes that will catch your eye and perhaps your golf ball, too.
One of the most talked about holes is the par 3, 17th. Dubbed Hell’s Half Acre, it’s an island of green amid a sea of bunkers. It’s one of the few holes requiring a forced carry by players from all tees, except the yellow, where golfers are gifted with a surprising yet fun, chip or strong-arm putt from the tee.
Among my personal favorites are the par 4, second hole, which is a dogleg left along one of the lakes; the straight-away, par 5, ninth hole; and the par 4-3-5 string of holes 11, 12 and 13. However, truth be told, I really like all 18 of Purgatory’s golf holes.
The course also has a beautiful, upscale clubhouse facility, expansive practice range and large putting and short-game practice greens.
Purgatory is the dream project of owners Michael and Tenna (pronounced ‘Tina’) Merchent. Mike was interested in owning a course and was keeping an eye on the local market when 218 acres of area farmland were listed for sale. Mike worked with the local zoning board to secure the appropriate land-use approvals, purchased the land and hired Kern, a third-generation golf architect and area resident. Kern created the plans, designed the drainage, did the routing and oversaw the construction from start to finish.
“I knew Ron could do the best job for us,” Mike said. “We are like-minded on a lot of things. He is an artist at heart, as well as ASGCA engineer, so he had his hands on everything related to the development of the course.”
The Merchents also have put a lot of themselves into the course and facilities. Mike knows the club inside and out and is dedicated to ensuring its legacy through his promotion of junior golf and a quality golf experience for all visitors. He and Tenna had the course blessed by her Catholic priest uncle when it opened. She named all the holes individually, tapping Dante’s 14th century poems for inspiration. She also assisted in the clubhouse design and has photographed the course, like a first-born baby, compiling text and amazingly beautiful hole-by-hole photos into a self-published Purgatory Golf Club book.
In addition, the staff, led by General Manager Brian Rhodes and Director of Golf John Stutz, reflect the Merchents’ passion and enthusiasm. The result is a grand golf club, worthy of its heavenly associations and Latin scorecard motto “Tempur in nortrum situm bene prematur” or “Time spent here will be time well rewarded.”
All golfers will fully appreciate how the forward tee placements ‘level the playing field,’ without compromising the experience of better players playing from other tees.
Maybe that’s part of Purgatory’s spiritual reward. Simply by virtue of its design, and without you even thinking about it, the course helps all golfers, regardless of ability, manage their game to achieve, dare I say, heavenly scores!
For more information, visit www.purgatorygolf.com