The most difficult part of keeping a golf course beautiful is maintaining the bunkers.
With 135 of them on its 27 championship holes, The Legends Golf Club had started to get in over its head a bit.
“Our bunkers had definitely gotten past the point where we really needed to do something to them,” said Ted Bishop, general partner and director of golf at the course since before it opened in 1992.
No better time for a facelift than a milestone anniversary.
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To celebrate its first 25 years, The Legends got a bunker overhaul. Bishop brought in Jim Fazio, who had designed the course a quarter of a century ago, to help come up with a game plan for the renovation.
Work on the project began in February, and 17 of the 77 sand traps on the original 18 holes — the Road Nine and the Middle Nine — were eliminated from the course. The remaining 60 were gutted and redone.
The bunkers on the Creek Nine, built in 1996, are still being redone.
Fazio, who says that bunkers should ideally be redone every five to seven years, places a greater importance on them at courses such as The Legends, which don’t have a lot of trees to help shape the individual holes.
“The bunkers are what attract your eye and tell you where to go if you don’t have a tree-lined fairway,” Fazio said. “We had really good bunkering up there, and what we’re doing now isn’t going to detract from it. It’s just going to save on maintenance cost.”
The cost, Bishop said, was certainly a concern given the shrinking maintenance budgets that many courses face due to gradual decreases in revenue.
With 45 holes (including the 18-hole Dye Par 3 Course) and approximately 300 acres to mow, Bishop was looking for ways to simplify the maintenance while also keeping the course current and playable. This latest renovation should help achieve those aims, he said.
“It’s a big, big property, and it can get very challenging sometimes with manpower and maintenance budgets,” Bishop said. “But I feel really good about where the golf course is from a conditioning standpoint.”
In addition to the bunker work, Bishop also opted to cut back some of the fescue grass that had been left to grow out in some seldom-played areas.
Doing so has helped the course show off some more of its curves.
“We went in and we cleaned up a lot of areas,” Bishop explained. “We cut the fescue down, really exposed the mounding and the contouring that sometimes you lose when you let long grass areas grow up. So I think the golf course just looks a lot cleaner.
“I do think that we’ve returned some of that original look that we had 25 years ago, and the intent is to keep it going forward.”
Several hundred thousand dollars have been put back into the course of late, and while the bunkers were the main project, they weren’t the only one. Lake banks also were cleaned up and several cart paths resurfaced.
The development at The Legends hasn’t been limited to the golf course itself, either. The clubhouse and cart barn have both been expanded since 1992, and the bar and lounge, which had previously been a screened-in pavilion, was enclosed and upgraded in 2008. A banquet hall was added five years ago.
Last year, the club also purchased a food truck, dubbed the Legendary Kitchen, which services both the lounge and the banquet hall on site while also giving the club the ability to go mobile and sell food elsewhere, such as festivals in downtown Franklin).
The course itself, however, is Bishop’s baby, one he’s been nurturing from its inception. He proudly notes that it has hosted more championship tournaments over the past quarter of a century than any other course in the state — everything from Indiana PGA events and the state amateur to the IHSAA boys and girls state championships.
That pedigree is largely due to the quality of the course design — The Legends was chosen as the host of the 1996 Indiana Amateur Championship before it had even opened — but also to the relationship with Indiana Golf, which moved its headquarters to the course from Carmel in 1997.
“That was a thing that really gave our operation a lot of credibility and prestige,” Bishop said.
Though plenty has changed during the first 25 years, Bishop likes where The Legends is heading into its next 25. He loves that the course has managed to remain playable and relevant through all of the changes that it — and the game of golf as a whole — have undergone.
As technological upgrades in equipment have enabled players to hit the ball much farther, some hazards on the course no longer pose a threat — players can now just hit past them. That was part of the reason that certain bunkers were removed this year. Yet The Legends as a whole hasn’t become obsolete, in part because its design and location help it to present golfers with new challenges each round.
“Everybody likes the course, and it’s always been a course that I felt like I never got tired of playing every single day,” Bishop said. “Because the wind is a factor out here, and wind directions change — and with five sets of tees, it can be anything you want it to be.”
The lengths of each of the nine-hole groups at The Legends Golf Club, by tee color:
Gold tees;3,563 yards
Gold tees;3,448 yards
Gold tees;3,581 yards
As part of its 25th anniversary celebration, The Legends Golf Club is introducing Military Mondays starting next week (July 3) and running through the rest of the season.
Anyone who is serving or has served in the military will be able to play 18 holes with a cart for $29 (proof of service is required).
The Legends also will donate $1 from every round the rest of the season to the Indiana PGA Hope program, which was started a year ago to help veterans who suffer from physical and mental disorders.