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Luck of the Irish! The Warren Golf Course at Notre Dame

The Golden Age of golf architecture can be summarized rather simply with the following statements:

    • Form follows function.
    • A round of golf should be a pleasurable experience.
Even if the great Donald Ross at times may have deviated from these truths, it was because the natural terrain provided unique opportunities. The forefathers of design didn’t buy and truck a county’s worth of fill to create their courses. Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw understood these simple truths when they undertook the design at The University of Notre Dame’s Warren Golf Course. I am also quite certain the Coore/Crenshaw team had a few ‘golden rules’ to follow. Simply put, we’ll never see the famed Golden Domers slap a ‘Play Like Champions Today’ sign, step through a tunnel to an artificial turfed, domed stadium. A bulk-headed island green on the Warren Course would fit in the South Bend campus as well as Seattle’s Space Needle.

The Warren Course reflects a harmony not found in most recent architecture. The surrounding elements are natural, a rhythmic progression from Judge Clyne’s Starter Cottage to the heroic carry over the Juday Creek at the 18th tee. Be prepared for a visual throwback experience loaded with traditional stimuli.

Since opening in 2000, Golden Domers have relished the modest green fee achieved through the foresight of Coore/Crenshaw. The team focused on long-term maintenance issues and building a course a modest-sized crew can preserve. Non-Domers can walk weekdays for just under $40; alumni can tee it up for just $35. Chalk another $10 for weekends and holidays, but it is still a bargain well worth the drive from Chicago.

While settling the afternoon’s game on the first tee, you’ll notice the scorecard and tee marker reflect no par value, much like Scotland’s treasured Muirfield. What Coore and Gentle Ben have accomplished is a template every teaching professional harps to at least 80% of the golfing population: “Play within your own game and set a personal par for each hole.” One could back it up on 2, 6, 12, and 18, and The Warren could reflect the equivalent of a par 75 for the average player. One can just as easily play the foreword tees and play the Warren Course at a sporty par 69. Either way, just tally the whacks it takes to get around.

Other vintage features on the teeing ground include roll-o-matic 1950’s style ball washers (also seen at the Glen Club) and the wooden sandboxes used for teeing it up. OK, no sandboxes. But hey, they would fit right in.

The Warren Course’s rectangular teeing ground provides a level footing aligned to logically attack it. The 372-yard opening hole has a network of trouble awaiting a pulled drive. This green, like the seventeen that follow, provides plenty of contours to tickle the flat stick. Strolling on through the opening sequence you are met with prevailing winds and broad-shouldered landing areas. At the 143-yard 4th, another throwback awaits—a postage stamp green, fortified with deep uncompromising bunkers. Again, Coore/Crenshaw echo the Golden Age with various regional grasses collaring the sandy waste hollows.

The bunkering at Notre Dame is reminiscent of the black and white photographs Sleeping Bear Press compiles in The Links by Robert Hunter. Bunkers number 81 at the Warren Course, and cap off each hole’s intricacies. The wispy golden leaves of grass flash the yellows, oranges, and browns presenting erratically natural lengths that collar each trapping.

At the turn, you might find yourself looking for a shade tree to cut up that Michigan apple and regroup for the back. The French Country style clubhouse at Notre Dame’s Warren Course is a treat for the purist. The halls are lined with past golf champions at ND and a pro shop with Notre Dame items for the whole family. The clubhouse also affords a wonderful view of the finishing hole. An after-round beverage on the deck is a no-brainer. The snack shop is just that, a little counter where you can load up on carbs and calories at the turn. Just like the entire ND campus, the clubhouse emits an air of class and tradition; you might be tempted to pull out a pair of plus fours and a couple Spaulding Dots. Resist that knicker temptation, please!

The clever 495-yard tenth is a delightful three-shooter from the tips, or a hearty two shot 435-yarder on the closer ground. The carry bunker on your right rarely enters play and should be used as your right goalpost. The approach exposes the frailties of a crumbling swing with a diagonal creek bisecting the bailout area to the green. Cedar and scrub oak frame much of the inbound nine. The terrain begins to dip and rise presenting hanging lies and peripheral challenges.

Progression steps to the foreground on the tee at the 216-yard 11th hole. The knobby green is hipped with cannily set bunkers and greets wayward passes with all the warmth of a DMV clerk. In addition to the knobs, a snake-like ridge requires a premium on a well-lagged putt in order to take the hole. For those chasing the cup from the rough—take a hard look at that mammoth green. A bad break here could lead to three or four tries with the short stick.

The 149–197 yard 14th, a Redan hole, is just another example of the Warren’s increasing pressure on shot value. A well-struck draw might put you in scoring position, but cut that first swat right and risk a bunker-to-bunker flop.

At the 16th tee, Juday Creek necessitates a reasonably forced carry to a fade-friendly landing area. A deep trap fronts the prize; timbers and thick shag flank this elevated green. Playing just 345 yards from the tips, this hole proves a sustained barrage of long iron approach shots are not the only means to test a golfer’s intestinal fortitude.

Coming home from the 434-yard back tee at ND brings the spread to just less than 6800 yards. Here the Juday Creek carry requires some titanium, while another creek meanders along the entire left side eating dimpled nuggets like a snake on a black rat. The cedar-dotted 18th further peels design’s onion. Courses needn’t be overly sculpted; the clever line of play and ticklish greens at the Warren are sweet release for the traditionalist.

Memories are plentiful on South Bend’s famed campus, and with some thanks to team Coore/Crenshaw, the Fighting Irish have a new tradition to experience, which may take their minds off the gridiron rebuilding lumps in 2002.

For more information contact:
The University of Notre Dame
Warren Course
110 Warren Golf Course Clubhouse
Notre Dame, IN 46556
(219) 631-4653
Tee times accepted for alumni and general public.
Carts never required.
Fairway – Fescue
Greens and tees – Bent

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Last Updated: 7/11/02