Home-course advantage means something different to each of Johnson County’s high school boys and girls golf programs.
What Indian Creek players refer to as its shot-making comfort zone could be a layout entirely unfamiliar to those lining up putts for programs at Whiteland and Greenwood.
The alliance between high schools and local courses is a tradition dating back to the 1930s in Indiana.
Member schools have used golf facilities in their area dating back to Lafayette Jeff capturing the first boys state championship in 1932, according to IHSAA commissioner Bobby Cox.
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It’s a relationship which benefits both players and courses.
“From the kids’ standpoint it’s hugely important. Golf is probably the only sport at the high school level where the school doesn’t own the venue,” said Mike David, executive director of the Indiana PGA Section.
“From a facilities standpoint they understand the importance of, A) building the next generation of players, and, B) establishing a long-term relationship with those players and their parents, as well.”
In most cases the high school pays for the right to practice and host matches. Typically, schools negotiate pricing arrangements with area courses, with middle school teams often included in the arrangements.
For example, Franklin Community High School annually pays $1,400 to Hillview Country Club, Franklin athletics director John Regas said. The breakdown is $400 for each high school team and $300 per middle school squad.
Indian Creek has a similar arrangement with Tameka Woods Golf Club in Trafalgar. The school pays $1,000 per year, $400 per high school team and $200 for the middle school team, according to Jim Hague, director of golf operations at Tameka Woods.
But a few high schools are fortunate and don’t have to pay at all.
Edinburgh is one of the rare exceptions, according to athletics director David Walden.
The Lancers boys and girls squads split time between Deer Valley Golf Course, which was opened in 1986 by the family of Edinburgh coach Doug Weddle, and Timbergate Golf Course, which is owned by the town of Edinburgh.
At both courses, however, Edinburgh players are told to avoid league play.
“We don’t have a driving range at Deer Valley, so we’ll go to Timbergate to hit balls,” Weddle said. “We split our practice time and we split our home matches between the courses.”
Trojans also use two courses
Center Grove is the other county program that splits time between two local courses. The Trojans play home matches at Hickory Stick Golf Club and practice at both Hickory Stick and Dye’s Walk Country Club.
Center Grove pays a $3 fee to Hickory Stick per player, per round whether it’s practice or a match.
It practices at Dye’s Walk for no charge.
Jim Williams, who coaches the Trojans’ boys and girls teams, said the right to play at Dye’s Walk comes from what he calls “sweat equity.” That comes in the form of players performing volunteer work at the course, whether it’s spreading mulch during spring break, washing and drying the electric carts or any other number of errands.
The change of scenery between Dye’s Walk and Hickory Stick benefits both girls and boys programs, Williams said.
“It gives us two different courses to play. Dye’s Walk is more traditional with tree-lined fairways and is kind of tight,” he said. “You have to change up and hit either an iron or 3- or 5-wood off the tee in some cases.”
Meanwhile, Hickory Stick challenges golfers differently with numerous bunkers and mounds.
One course, two teams
Greenwood Community High School’s boys and girls teams use Hickory Stick for practices and home matches.
The Woodmen pay $3 per player, per practice and per home match, to play at the course.
“That’s a great deal for the school,” Greenwood athletics director Rob Irwin said. “I love it that we’re out there.”
Amber Pasel, the course’s head golf professional since 2012, welcomes the teams.
“Our focus is to grow the game of golf. I remember back in high school bonding with the staff and workers at our home course,” said Pasel, a 2005 graduate of Western High School, the girls state championship team her freshman year and runner-up her sophomore and senior seasons.
“Both Center Grove and Greenwood have such good kids, and I would say we have a good relationship with them. The athletic directors and coaches at both schools do a really good job of getting me their wish list over the winter to see what dates work best for them to be on the course here.”
Whiteland uses The Legends Golf Club in Franklin as its home course after previous affiliations with Valle Vista Golf Club in Greenwood and Hillview Country Club in Franklin.
Whiteland pays just $1,000 per year for the boys and girls teams to play, Whiteland athletics director Ken Sears. The figure is determined, in part, by the number of junior memberships players purchase at The Legends. The school receives steeper playing discounts for memberships.
“Since they have 27 holes plus a par-3 (course) they are very accommodating to us,” Sears said. “Our head coach (Dan Gibson) and assistant coach (Tony Clecak) both work there, so we have unlimited access to driving range and practice areas, as well.”
WHERE THEY PLAY
The home courses for practices and matches:
Center Grove – Dye’s Walk Country Club / Hickory Stick Golf Course
Edinburgh – Deer Valley Golf Course / Timbergate Golf Course
Franklin Community – Hillview Country Club
Greenwood – Hickory Stick Golf Course
Indian Creek – Tameka Woods Golf Club
Whiteland – The Legends Golf Club