Culver Academies Golf Club
Indiana, United States of America

Though twenty-seven holes were routed by one of the master architects of all-time, only nine were built. However, those nine occupy the most exhilarating portion of the property, as evidenced in the photograph above of the 4th hole.

In 1922, the prestigious Culver Academies contacted the firm of Langford & Moreau to inspect 250 acres near their campus. The property was a mix of woodlands, orchards and pasture. Dramatic in parts, the property also afforded views over Lake Maxinkuckee, the second largest lake in Indiana. Such was the property and its potential, Langford & Moreau came back with a plan of 27 holes, linked with a nearby inn. Though this was the roaring twenties and though the owners of the Academy, Edwin and Bertram Culver, wanted first class golf brought to this area, the Culver family decided to take a more measured approach. For the time being, they asked Langford & Moreau to forgo a link with the inn and to focus first on nine holes. Construction began in the fall of 1922 on the nine holes that were at the center of the property and the holes opened for play in the late spring of 1924. Eight years later, the Culver familycarefully considered pursuing the construction of a second nine holes from Langford & Moreau’s original 27 hole routing. However, the breadth and depth of the Great Depression ended such hopes. Then came World War II, during which time the bunkers were never tended, which ultimately led to all the bunkers being grassed in. Also, at that time, mowing restrictions were implemented and the size of the putting surfaces gradually was reduced.

Craig Disher provides this aerial of the Culver course in 1951. As the holes were played at that time, the dogleg left 1st is seen in the lower left of the photograph, followed by the two one shotters in opposite directions, the great dogleg left 4th, then up the 5th. The 6th hole is in the top right of the photograph and the 9th parallels the 5th.

Langford & Moreau spread 29 bunkers across the original nine holes. Today, the formations of the bunker walls are very much in evidence, alas still with no sand in what was the bottom of the bunker. Langford was famous for building deep bunkers (i.e. true hazards) and to be in a bunker depression today still requires much talent and thought on one’s recovery due to the invariably steep grass wall. Thus, though the sand is long gone, the placement where the bunkers once occupied remains hazardous and the golfer of today does well to avoid these locations. A greater loss to the integrity of this first rate Langford design is the loss in putting surface size, as we see below.

(Please note: the holes are numbered in the sequence as to how the holes were played when the course opened in 1924. Reference is then made as to where these nine holes fitted in Langford’s original 27 hole routing).

Holes to Note

First hole, 505 yards, (10th); The property that the golf course occupies could be termed ‘rambunctious’. Yet so skillful is Langford’s routing that every hole fits in well without a single hole fighting the terrain. No telling the routing a lesser architect may have devised. On the most abrupt piece of the property, Langford positioned the tee for this hole, right before a sharp sixty foot drop off. Every shot goes challenged at Culver and a seven foot bunker wall was built up to protect the best/shortest angle toward the green. If the golfer can carry this feature, it is downhill the last 100 yards to the green – a classic risk-reward conundrum.

The tee is perched high above the fairway. One of the unreclaimed bunkers is found on the inside of the dogleg.

Farther ahead in the fairway, this intimidating seven foot bunker face rises up…

…protecting the short way to the green.

Second hole, 170 yards ( 11th); A stunningly manufactured green site, all the great Redan characteristics are present: the high slope on the right front, the angle of the green from front right to back left and the green itself which feeds away toward the back left. The fronting bunker was nearly eight feet deep and back bunker wasover ten feet deep, a frightening thought when one remembers that the sand wedge was yet invented when the course opened. Golfers of the day laid open the face of their niblick to get the required height for their recovery shot. Still, the chance for a successful up and down from either bunker was remote. Golf was treated far more as an adventure back in the roaring 1920s, an attribute sorely missing from many modern courses that lack similar inspiration.

The thrilling Redan at Culver. Long admirers of Macdonald and Raynor’s work, Langford & Moreau were undoubtedly influenced in their creation of this hole by Chicago Golf Club’s own manufactured Redan hole, which Raynor completed several months before construction began here.

Langford & Moreau’s bunkers often had rolling faces, as seen here at the fronting Redan bunker.

Just over the Redan is even worse (!) than being short.

Third hole, 140 yards (8th); The prospect of restoring greens to their full size can be a daunting task at most courses as it involves moving sprinkler heads and/or reseeding, sometimes necessitating that the greens/course be closed. Such is not the case at Culver as there are no sprinkle heads on the entire course – only the greens and tees are watered and that is done by hand. The type of grass that was once putting surface has never been altered – it has been simply allowed to grow taller as the putting surfaces shrunk in size by approximately 35%. Thus, though not inconsequential, the ‘only’ work required to expand a green like the third is to change gradually the mowing pattern and slowly expand the green back out to its original size. Also, as the putting greens are presently maintained at around a’6′ on the stimp meter, the recaptured putting areas would quickly play at the pace of the existing greens.

As one sees in the photograph above, many of the best hole locations both left and right have been lost with time. Three large bunkers once nearly encased this green.

Standing at the back left corner of the green pad, all of the grass in the foreground of the photograph above was putting surface in the 1920s. Note the bold slope in the green that was once used to propel tee balls to these back left hole locations. If only this putting surface could be recaptured!

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